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Cranberry Vanilla Bean Caramel

November 23, 2011

I think I might need a caramel intervention.

I can’t stop making and eating caramel this fall. On cupcakes. With pudding. In my morning breakfast yogurt. With my fingers. (What?)

Cranberry Vanilla Bean Caramel

In the last recipe I mentioned that I made cranberry caramel, but I think it got a little outshined by the pumpkin pie pudding. So I decided to feature the caramel on it’s own because, you guys – this stuff is amazing. Life changing. Soul saving. Heavens open up and sing when you taste it. It’s that good.

I know it’s the day before Thanksgiving and you already have a million things to make between today and tomorrow, but if you find yourself with a spare hour or so, make this cranberry caramel. It’s sweet and tart. Flecked with vanilla bean. It has so many layers of flavor and it tastes great on almost anything. If it was legal, I would run off to Vegas and marry it. (Sorry, husband.)

Cranberry Vanilla Bean Caramel

This caramel is extremely versatile because i’s firm, yet soft and spoonable straight out of the fridge, making it a perfect topping for cold desserts (like pumpkin pie pudding). Warmed, it would be fantastic drizzled over pumpkin or pecan pie, or just plain vanilla ice cream.

Or if you come back next week I’ll give you another recipe you can use it for. One with chocolate.

That is, if you don’t eat it all with a spoon first.

Cranberry Vanilla Bean Caramel

Cranberry Vanilla Bean Caramel

Adapted from Annie’s Eats
Makes about 1 1/4 cups

A word of caution: Making caramel is tricky. Have patience and have all of your ingredients ready to go. Caramel also gets very, very hot. Much hotter than boiling water. It will spatter, so be careful. Wear long sleeves, use a deep pan or pot, and do not try to taste the hot caramel no matter how much you want to! David Lebovitz has some great tips for making caramel.


1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh cranberries, chopped


Split vanilla bean, scrape seeds into cream. Chop cranberries. Set aside.

Cook sugar in a deep saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a spatula until sugar has melted. Once melted, STOP stirring. Continue to cook sugar until it is deep amber in color and smells caramelized. Remove from heat and immediately add cream. (Caution: Sugar will bubble violently, be careful!) Sugar will likely sieze and harden at this point. Place back over med-low heat and stir occasionally until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Add chopped fresh cranberries. Return to low heat (do not boil) and cook, stirring frequently, until caramel darkens and tastes slightly tart from cranberries, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat, cool 5 minutes. Use as is with cranberries, or strain through a mesh sieve for a smooth caramel. Use immediately or store in a covered, heat-proof container in refrigerator. Keeps for several weeks.

  1. November 23, 2011 3:07 pm

    mmmmm this caramel looks delicious!! beautiful shots! happy thanksgiving to you :)

  2. November 24, 2011 6:11 pm

    I’m quite sure I need this. Now.

  3. The Teenage Taste permalink
    November 27, 2011 12:29 pm

    I can totally relate. This fall I learned to make salted caramel sauce from scratch and fell in love! It’s just too good!

  4. Joanna permalink
    November 29, 2011 10:30 pm

    Looks SO GOOD! Any tips for straining it through the mesh sieve? I’m picturing a big mess to clean up…

    • The Craving Chronicles permalink*
      November 29, 2011 10:35 pm

      Joanna, it’s not as bad as it sounds. I set my mesh sieve / fine strainer over a large measuring cup or small bowl and poured the caramel through. It’s a fairly runny caramel when warm. If you have a large strainer, use that. If you only have a small one, go slowly and maybe work in batches. If you wanna skip the potential mess, feel free to leave the cranberries in. It tastes fabulous either way :)

  5. November 30, 2011 3:28 pm

    That is such an awesome idea and I love your photos. The caramel looks so incredibly decadent. Do you think a little addition of cinnamon would work in it?

    • The Craving Chronicles permalink*
      November 30, 2011 3:35 pm

      I think cinnamon works in everything, so I say go for it! In fact, I might have to try that in the next back I make too. I can’t get enough cinnamon in my life.

  6. November 30, 2011 9:32 pm

    Wow, what an interesting recipe!! I’d love to try this very soon!!

  7. Cathy permalink
    November 30, 2011 11:42 pm

    Love this recipe! Do you think you could use crasin’s for this. I live in Australia and finding cranberries is next to impossible! Thanks.

    • The Craving Chronicles permalink*
      December 1, 2011 9:34 am

      I don’t think the result would be the same if you used Craisins (dried cranberries). Dried cranberries are much sweeter than fresh and they don’t have any juices to release, so I don’t think you would get the same sweet/tart flavor in the finished caramel. It’s too bad you can’t find fresh cranberries in Australia! Perhaps a splash of unsweetened cranberry juice (just a tablespoon or so) would work instead? Let me know how it turns out if you try it!

  8. December 1, 2011 7:47 am

    This looks so rich and the combination of flavors MUST be great!!!!

  9. simplystated4us permalink
    December 2, 2011 2:26 pm

    Reblogged this on simplystated4us and commented:
    I have wanted to try and make caramel but looking for that extra something special. This is it! It may just make my 25 Days of Cookie list even though it technically isn’t a cookie.

  10. December 2, 2011 3:32 pm

    Great idea! I’ve never considered caramel with cranberries. Perfect for the season. Thank you. Can’t wait to give it a go.

  11. Hannah permalink
    December 5, 2011 8:39 pm

    Looks Awesome! Can I sub vanilla extract for the vanilla bean though? I cant find one anywhere.

    • The Craving Chronicles permalink*
      December 5, 2011 9:14 pm

      Using vanilla extract should be fine. Stir it in at the very end of cooking. 1 or 2 teaspoons should do it!

  12. December 13, 2011 2:04 pm

    i love the addition of the vanilla bean – flavor AND it looks beautiful. What a clever and unique interpretation of caramel!

  13. December 15, 2011 12:35 am

    Hi Theresa, Sorry this comment is so late, but didn’t want to pass up the chance to thank you for emailing me the recipe to this caramel sauce. It was a hit at Thanksgiving and leaving the chopped up cranberries in the sauce took it over the top. I am definitely keeping this recipe in my repertoire!

  14. December 22, 2011 7:24 pm

    Yes, yes, heck yes! I’d like to stick my face in this jar right now!

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