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Cranberry Apple Jello Salad + Other Thanksgiving Side Dish Ideas

October 31, 2023

Cranberry Jello Salad in Glass Bowl

A quick and easy recipe for a great Thanksgiving side dish....this Apple Cranberry Jello Salad is a perfect alternative to ordinary cranberry sauce on the big day!

COOK + BAKE   |   Updated October 29, 2023

Cranberry Apple Jell-o Salad topped with walnuts to accompany Thanksgiving dinner.

The menu at Thanksgiving is pretty predictable for most families.

Oven-roasted turkey.

Creamy mashed potatoes and gravy.

Homemade stuffing.

That being said, it can be fun to switch things up as well. One of my favorite ideas for updating the Thanksgiving menu is sautéing green beans with bacon and onions. So good.

If traditional cranberry sauce doesn't excite you or you're just looking for something a bit different, this Cranberry Apple Jell-o Salad is for you. This is not just your average "jello salad" where you add just a can of fruit to prepared jello mix. It is a really delicious way to enjoy your cranberry sauce with a punch more flavor.

This recipe for cranberry apple jello salad has been made in my family for years and it is always a welcome (expected) addition to the Thanksgiving table. It may very well be an “old family recipe” you remember being served in your home, too.

While I’d love to think it was something my grandma created, the recipe exists all over so it most likely came on the back of the Jello box or a can of pineapple. But it has that classic, old-fashioned recipe flavor that makes you think back to family dinners of long ago.

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Cranberry Apple Jello Salad with walnuts and pineapple - perfect side dish for Christmas dinner.

Why I Think You’ll Love This Recipe

Aside from that “made-by-grandma-so-it-has-to-be-good” flavor, there are a few other reasons I think you’ll make this Cranberry Apple Jell-o salad again and again.


There is so much to do when preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners that sides and desserts like Pumpkin Pie that can be prepared in advanced are appreciated. This recipe can be made even two days before you need it.


You literally prepare Jell-o, stir the additional ingredients in, and let the refrigerator do the work of setting it all. Ten minutes of prep time is all you need.


The bright pop of vibrant red is a welcome visual addition to the holiday table.


What you put the jello in is entirely up to you. The recipe is written for a 9x13 Pyrex baking dish, which is especially convenient for a potluck or when there is going to be a lot of people gathering around the table. But you could also make it in a fancy Jell-o mold or serve it in a decorative bowl.


Apples and cranberries may just be one of my favorite combinations of flavor, especially in the late fall and winter. My rustic apple cranberry pie is one of my go-to dessert recipes and I will normally give any recipe a try that pairs these two fruits.

What Else to Serve

Cranberry Apple Jell-o salad is delicious year round with any type of meat. We typically serve it along with our Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas ham or prime rib. Chicken, roast beef, or pork are all equally delicious.

As for the sides, again, anything goes….creamy mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables. You name it and this jello can happpily sit alongside it!

More Holiday Side Dishes You Might Enjoy

Cranberry Apple Jell-o salad served in a glass bowl.

What You’ll Need

Ready to make this cranberry salad? Here are the ingredients you'll need:

  • raspberry jell-o
  • crushed pineapple – Look for pineapple in juice, not heavy syrup to add flavor and texture. And don’t forget to add the juice!
  • whole berry cranberry sauce
  • apple – Choose your favorite variety. We normally grab a red delicious, but any flavor will do. Granny Smith and Golden delicious will have a bit more tang that you may or may not prefer. And it's up to you if you peel the apple or leave the skin on.
  • walnuts - 100% optional…they add a great fall flavor and texture, but the salad is delicious without them, too.

How to Make It

For your convenience, a full ingredients list and instructions are available further down in this post with the printable recipe.

The entire recipe can be prepared easily in a glass 9x13 inch baking dish (or a fancy jello mold if you have one).

The jello gets dissolved in boiling water before adding the can of whole berry cranberry sauce, can of crushed pineapple, and one diced apple. Top with a sprinkling of walnuts if you’d like and then pop it uncovered into the refrigerator to set.

When you’re ready to serve, the jello can be cut into 12 squares and served straight from the baking dish or “broken apart” and served in a fancy bowl as I did here. Either way, it is a welcome addition to your meal anytime of the year.

Recipe Variations

I think we are always looking for ways to make a recipe our own or to use the ingredients that we have available. And luckily, that is possible with this Cranberry Apple Jell-o Salad recipe.

  • Feel free to substitute a different flavor of jello if you’d like. Actually, the original recipe calls for one box of lemon and one box of raspberry, but I don’t know that I’ve ever tasted it made that way. You could also use cranberry, cherry, or strawberry jello if you’d like.

  • Skip the nuts if you don’t like them or have an allergy. Or try pecans instead of walnuts.

  • Or divide the recipe into two smaller dishes and leave the nuts out of one.

  • Add mandarin oranges, but be sure to drain them well before mixing in.

  • A little orange zest makes a nice garnish and adds a hint of citrus.

  • Many people add finely chopped celery for additional crunch.

Old-Fashioned Cranberry Apple Jello Salad for Thanksgiving


This cranberry apple jello salad is a perfect alternative side dish to your traditional cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving.

Makes about 12 servings



  • 2 - 3 ounce packages of raspberry jello
  • 1 - 14 ounce can whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 1 - 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple
  • 1 Red Delicious apple, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


STEP 1: In a glass 9x13 inch baking pan, mix the two packages of raspberry jello with 2 cups of boiling water. Stir to dissolve completely.

STEP 2: Add the can of whole berry cranberry sauce and stir until it is broken apart and mixed into the dissolved jello.

STEP 3: Pour in the can of crushed pineapple along with the juice and the diced apple. Top with the walnuts sprinkled over the top.

STEP 4: Place the dish into the refrigerator until it is chilled and set, at least six to eight hours, but preferably overnight. Cover it with plastic wrap after the jello has set.

The jello salad should last between five to seven days, or until you notice it starting to look watery in the pan. Store it in the baking pan topped with plastic wrap or in an airtight container.

Frequently Asked Questions


I am all about using as many fresh ingredients as possible, but after a little research I learned that for this recipe, fresh pineapple is a no-go. There is a chemical in fresh pineapple that prevents the gelatin from setting up correctly, so your jello will not become solid. The very high heat during the canning process kills this chemical which is why canned pineapple works.


Again, no. The jellied sauce is too thick and does not mix in correctly. Plus, the whole cranberries add to the taste and texture of the side dish.


Great question! My guess is that maybe cranberry jello was hard to find at the time this recipe was written? You’re welcome to use cranberry flavored jell-o if you’d like, but the raspberry flavor actually pairs really well with the cranberry, apple, and citrus flavors in the recipe.


Jello normally sets up in two to four hours. But since this has all the added ingredients you’ll want to give it extra time to be sure that it is solid. It should be chilled at least six to eight hours, but overnight is best.


When you thaw the frozen jello, it will become watery and breaks apart into clumps. So maybe the flavor will still be there, but it won’t be appetizing to eat.

The combination of tart cranberries and sweet crisp apple mixed with hints of citrus and nut make this Cranberry Apple Jello Salad a winner for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I hope you'll be able to share in my memories of sitting down to othis side dish during the holidays.

Cranberries are a Hit Around the Holidays. Here are a few more recipes you might like to try:

  • Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

  • Pumpkin Spice Cranberry Muffins

  • Apple Cranberry Pie

  • Cranberry Chocolate Chunk Cookies


    Sautéed Green Beans with Garlic and Parmesan by Ella Claire & Co.  |  Cranberry Apple Jello Salad by anderson + grant  |  Roasted Honeynut Squash by Inspired by Charm

    Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes by Freutcake  |  Maple Glazed Roasted Carrots by Boxwood Avenue  |  Fool-Proof Crescent Dinner Rolls by Handmade Farmhouse

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