Old School Cranberry Jello Salad

Today I’m sharing a recipe that I’ve been eating at Thanksgiving dinners for so, so, many years. My grandma made this, my mom made this, and now I often make it too.

I guess that’s why I’m calling this an “old school” recipe because it’s been in my family for three generations . . . and because it’s a jello salad. I’ve noticed that those humble jello salads don’t have the same popularity as they used to.  In fact while chatting with my adult daughter the other day the subject of jello came up and after some thought she said, “I don’t think I’ve ever bought jello”.

But then she changed her mind and said, “Oh wait, maybe I bought some in college once to make jello shots.”

And that’s how it is for jello these days. That’s quite a contrast to some of the old cookbooks I sorted through that belonged to my mother, many of which were little pamphlets, and some of which dated all the way back to the 1930’s and 1940’s (her mother’s), and all of which had lots of recipes and ideas for using jello. I think they considered it quite a wonderful modern convenience back then!

A favorite family recipe for three generations, this cranberry jello salad is a perfect side dish for fall family gatherings.

I find I don’t use jello as much as I did 30 years ago either. Most of the time I try to keep my focus on more natural ingredients now.

BUT, once in awhile some of those reliable and trusty recipes with jello still come in handy for holidays or potlucks as they usually travel well and are flavors that work for all ages.

And that’s why when Thanksgiving rolls around I still like to make this cranberry jello salad. It gives us the cranberry flavors associated with this fall holiday without having to resort to those rather odd wiggly slices of jellied cranberry from the can.

How To Make Cranberry Jello Salad

This salad starts with 3 oz package of raspberry jello. Stirred into the jello are a can of crushed pineapple, some ground cranberries, and ground orange slices.  A bit more sugar is added to offset the tartness of the cranberries.

How to make a cranberry jello salad

The original (really old school) recipe had you grinding your cranberries and orange in a meat grinder, and yes, that’s just what my mom did! She had this metal contraption that attached to the edge of the table and she would grind up those cranberries and the orange slices.

I’m thankful for my food processor that now handles this step in a flash. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve also changed the amount of sugar added to this recipe. The original version added another whole cup of sugar, but I’ve found much less is needed. I now add just 1/2 cup.

I always make this the night before too as it takes about 8 to 10 hours for this salad to fully gel, AND I make it directly in the bowl it will be served in.

Recipe for cranberry jello salad

So if you’re looking for a different way to serve up the cranberries this fall, this somewhat sweeter version might be just what you’re looking for. It’s stood the test of time in our family for over 50 years!

Here’s how to do it:

Cranberry Jello Salad

An old school version of a cranberry salad that lends a little extra sweetness to the tartness of cranberries.
Prep Time10 minutes
Yield: 10 servings
Author: TheMakeYourOwnZone.com


  • 3 oz pkg Raspberry Jello
  • 1 cup Hot Water
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Cold Water
  • 1 8 oz can Crushed Pineapple
  • 1 cup Fresh Cranberries
  • 1 small Clementine or Mandarin Orange (or 1/2 a regular size orange)


  • Empty the package of jello into a bowl.  (This can be made directly in the bowl you wish to serve the jello in).
  • Add the cup of hot water and stir to dissolve the jello.
  • Add the 1/2 cup of sugar and stir to dissolve.
  • Add the 3/4 cup of cold water and stir.
  • Add in the can of undrained crushed pineapple.
  • Place the cranberries in a food processor.  Peel the orange and add the orange sections to the food processor too. (If you don't have a small clementine or manadarin orange, just use 1/2 of a regular size orange). Process for about 30 seconds to grind the fruit.
  • Add the ground cranberries and oranges to the jello mixture and stir.
  • Place the jello mixture in the refrigerator to gel. This will take about 8 to 10 hours.

Need a few more bright ideas?
Sign up for the monthly email newsletter to learn about my latest content and tips for frugal homemade living.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Oh, golly, I found this recipe to be pretty darn close to the cranberry salad enshrined in my mom’s recipe box. And yes, I grew up with grandmas’ recipe ,- also grinding the cranberries in the old meat grinder as well! We put finely chopped nuts and celery in it along with the pineapple and lemon jello. I subbed orange or raspberry jello, instead of the ubiquitous lemon jello that was used for so many jelled salad recipes in the hey days of Jello. At any rate this Thanksgiving we will be serving this along with the must have dollop of mayonnaise. It just isnt right without the mayo.

    1. No, you do not cook the cranberries for this recipe. You can simply put the fresh cranberries into the food processor to process them into small pieces and then add them to the jello mixture.

  2. This was great. I practiced first and made a second one for Christmas dinner. Loved it, and easy to make

  3. I have been making this salad for at least 45 years. Recipe was in a local newspaper. My recipe has a half of an apple and pecans. I always make it at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Family always looks forward to eating this salad.

    1. I know this type of recipe has been around a long time. My recipe is a slightly updated version of the one my grandmother was making 50 years ago too!

  4. Hi, Bev! I have also been making this salad for about 15 yrs every Thanksgiving & Christmas. My recipe also calls for some finely diced celery & pecans. So good on toast or biscuits the next day. Or on turkey or ham sandwiches. Oh, dear. Now I’m hungry. Happy holidays!

    1. The celery and nuts sound like an interesting addition (maybe to make it a bit more like a Waldorf salad). I might have to give that a try!