Use leftover cranberry sauce to make these two delicious, low-effort desserts

This no-bake cheesecake and cran-orange muffins balance cranberries' natural tartness with sugar

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Food Editor

Published November 29, 2020 5:30PM (EST)

Cranberry Sauce (Getty Images)
Cranberry Sauce (Getty Images)

Growing up, we were a two cranberry sauce household on Thanksgiving. Some family members preferred the sauce made with real berries that had been boiled down and sweetened. Others like the Ocean Spray jellied variety — the sliceable kind that comes out of the can. Me? I like both. 

Cranberry sauce is the underrated MVP of the holiday table. It provides some much needed acidity and tartness to a meal that's basically layers of butter, cream and animal fat. But it's also one of those sides that is better in small doses, so there tends to be a lot of cranberry sauce, especially the full berry variety, left the next day. 

Sure, you can toss it on a killer leftover sandwich (here's our guide to making the perfect one, by the way), but you can also reserve some for two delicious baked goods that won't feel like a rehash of Thanksgiving.

They're also both pretty low-effort — the no-bake cheesecake requires one bowl and no oven time, and the cranberry muffins come together in less than 30 minutes — which is a welcome after all the preparation for the big meal.


RECIPE Cranberry and Lemon No-Bake Cheesecake 
Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 pre-packaged graham cracker pie crust
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 8 ounces of mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups of sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon zest
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup of leftover cranberry sauce
  • Whipped cream for serving

1. In a large bowl, whip together the cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, sweetened condensed milk, orange zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract together until fully combined and fluffy.

2. Fold the mixture into the graham cracker crust. 

3. Take dollops of the cranberry sauce and spoon them onto the top of the cheesecake. With the end of a spoon, swirl the dollops together slightly to create a marbled effect.

4. Place the cheesecake in the freezer for at least two hours. Remove, slice and serve with whipped cream. 

RECIPE: Cranberry and Orange Muffins 
Makes 12 muffins 

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons of orange zest 
  • ½ cup of leftover cranberry sauce

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Combine the egg, sour cream, butter, zest and vanilla. 

2. Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredient, then fold in the cranberry sauce. 

3.. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 350° for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack.


By Ashlie D. Stevens

Ashlie D. Stevens is Salon's food editor. She is also an award-winning radio producer, editor and features writer — with a special emphasis on food, culture and subculture. Her writing has appeared in and on The Atlantic, National Geographic’s “The Plate,” Eater, VICE, Slate, Salon, The Bitter Southerner and Chicago Magazine, while her audio work has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered and Here & Now, as well as APM’s Marketplace. She is based in Chicago.

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