Cranberry Jalapeño Dip is one of my all-time favorite holiday appetizers! People go CRA-ZY for this stuff! Fresh cranberries are chopped up with jalapeños, green onions, and mint (or cilantro) to be salsa-like, then it's served over whipped cream cheese with crackers. It tastes so FRESH, and is perfectly festive for the holidays because it's red, green, and a lil sparkly! Perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years Eve.
1/4teaspooncardamom*optional; can replace with cinnamon
16ouncescream cheesesoftened (2 blocks)
crackers or baguettesfor serving
Set out 2 blocks of cream cheese to soften on the counter.
Make the cranberry mixture: Add 12 ounces cranberries to a food processor. Roughly chop 2 green onions, both the white and the green parts, all the way to each end, and add it to the food processor.
Slice 2 jalapeños in half lengthwise. Use a small knife to carefully remove the white membranes and all the seeds. Roughly chop the jalapeño halves, and add to the cranberries.
Roughly chop a handful of mint leaves and pack them into a 1/4 measuring cup. Keep chopping until you have a packed 1/4 cup. Add to the food processor. (see note for alternative herb ideas, this dip is also GREAT with cilantro.)
Chop the lime in half and squeeze all of the juice into the food processor.
Add 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon cardamom. (It is quite subtle, but if you really don't like cardamom, skip it and increase your cinnamon to 1/2 teaspoon).
Use the pulse button on your food processor to chop the cranberries and other ingredients. Pulse in 1-2 second intervals. Scrape down the sides occasionally. You do not want to pulverize or puree this mixture; we are going for a chunky salsa texture. Stop when you have homogenous small pieces. (This is why I take the time to roughly chop most of the veggies before adding them to the food processor: I don't want any big chunks.)
Optional: At this point, you can cover and refrigerate the cranberry mixture for 4 hours or up to 2 days. This helps marry the flavors. (I tried both marinating and eating a batch right away, and didn't think it was such a big difference that I'm calling this a mandatory step. If you have time, do it, if not, don't sweat it. It is handy to have it made ahead of time though, especially for a holiday party!)
Whip the cream cheese: Add 2 blocks of softened cream cheese to a large bowl or stand mixer.** Beat with the whisk attachment (if you have one) until it is smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides.
Set a strainer over a bowl. Add the cranberry mixture to the strainer. There should be plenty of juice that lands in the bowl below. Add 2 tablespoons juice to the bowl with the cream cheese. Beat the juice into the cream cheese, scraping the sides, until is it smooth, soft, and creamy.
Spoon the cream cheese onto a plate or shallow bowl and spread it around, making a well in the middle. (Serving this in a pie plate is handy, especially if you are traveling.) Add all the strained juice back into the cranberries and stir. Spoon the cranberries over the cream cheese.
Serve with crackers, pita chips, pretzels, or toasted baguette slices. I love butter crackers like Ritz or Club crackers. If you like pita chips, try Stacy's Cinnamon Pita Chips, it's a great sweet addition. Pretzel crisps (those large, flattened pretzels) are great for dipping. If you do baguettes, toast the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet at 450 degrees F for 5-7 minutes, flipping each toast once halfway, until crisp.
Storage: Store leftovers in a covered tupperware in the fridge. If it is very juicy, you might consider straining it before storing, or strain before serving again.
*As written, this recipe trends in the "sweet" direction. The mint, cinnamon, and cardamom contribute to this. I love how fresh it tastes. Traditionally, this recipe calls for cilantro instead of mint, which I also LOVE. It gives the dip more of a savory twist. If you want to take the dip in that direction, make these changes:
1/4 cup cilantro (to replace mint)
1/2 teaspoon cumin (to replace 1/4 teaspoon each cinnamon and cardamom)
Consider reducing the sugar to 1/2 cup, but taste it and see what you like.
**You can skip these whipping steps if you are in a hurry! Simply open your block of softened cream cheese, set it on a plate, and dump the cranberry mixture over the top. I prefer a smoother, creamier texture, (and it's easier to dip into) which is why I beat it first, but it's not totally necessary if you are in a hurry.