This gorgeous creamy Cranberry Pie with gingersnap crust is a show-stopping holiday dessert that tastes as good as it looks. It's intensely creamy, perfectly tart and looks so festive on a holiday table with its bright pink hue. Perfect for the holidays!
The holidays are also known as pie season in our family. But this pie is unlike all the rest.
With a gingersnap crust and smooth, tangy cranberry curd filling, this creamy cranberry pie is a fun twist on key lime pie that will completely steal the show this Thanksgiving.
Think of it as Key Lime Pie's older, more sophisticated sister. She's all dressed up in her holiday best, and she's ready to party!
It's my all time favorite dessert to make this time of year and is one of my most popular holiday recipes.
What makes this pie special is the combination of the smooth, puckery filling paired with the crunchy, buttery, spiced gingersnap crust.
Change up your usual pie routine and make something unique this holiday season! This delicious cranberry pie is easily one of the prettiest and most impressive holiday dessert recipes you could possibly make.
I'll be honest - this is not a beginner recipe, but don't let that intimidate you. Just know it will require some time, patience and a little bit of culinary knowledge. Be sure to plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time.
This pie is the perfect dessert to make in advance because it needs plenty of time to set up and is usually best served the next day.
Watch my video tutorial before you start, and if you'd prefer a more beginner-friendly recipe, try this Cranberry Frangipane Tart instead. It's an easy dessert recipe that's just as delicious and is made entirely in a food processor.
Why this recipe works
- It's like key lime pie, but all dressed up for the holidays.
- A rich, creamy, tangy curd filling in a buttery gingersnap crust.
- A show-stopping presentation with its bright pink color.
- Best made at least one day in advance.
- Guaranteed to be the most unique dessert on the table!
- Gingersnap Cookie Crumbs - The amount of gingersnap cookies needed for the crumbs will vary depending on the brand you use. About 3 cups of loosely packed cookies produced enough crumbs for me, but it's best to buzz the cookies up in the food processor first, then measure. You can also use graham cracker crumbs or vanilla wafer crumbs instead.
Skip the homemade crust if you're short on time and use a store-bought graham cracker crust instead to cut down on time.
- Fresh Cranberries - The tart cranberries are what give this pie its signature flavor and hue. Use fresh if you can, but frozen cranberries can be used as well. You'll need 1 12-oz bags or about 3 cups cranberries.
- Meyer Lemons - These a cross between lemons and Mandarin oranges. They're tart like lemons, but just a hint sweeter, more floral and more interesting. In my grocery store, they're sold in a bag (not loose) and are located by the other bagged fruits. If you can't find Meyer lemons, substitute equal parts lemon and orange zest, as well as equal parts lemon and orange juice.
- Eggs - You will need 3 large eggs and 2 yolks to make the filling. Don't throw away your egg whites - make a batch of pignoli cookies with them instead!
- Butter - Unsalted butter is always best for baking so you can control the salt, but you can use salted butter. Just be sure to omit the added salt in both the gingersnap crust and cranberry filling.
- Sugared Cranberries - These are an optional but highly recommended garnish. The pie is pretty on its own, but it really sparkles and comes alive with a few of these sparkling sugared cranberries scattered on top. They make a great garnish for cocktails like this cranberry clementine spritzer and make a tasty snack as well!
*Full ingredient list with quantities in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Food Processor - You'll need will need this for both making the crust and the filling. You can use a blender in a pinch, but a food processor will be easier and produce better results.
- Stand Mixer or Hand-held Electric Mixer - You will need to beat the cranberry filling
- 9-inch Pie Plate - You can use a regular or deep-dish pie tin for this recipe. You can also make it in a 10 or 11 inch tart pan.
- Baking Sheet - I always place my pies on top of a sheet pan to catch any spills and make clean-up easier, but this is optional.
- Wire Rack - This is helpful for placing the bottom crust to cool after taking it out of the oven.
- Candy Thermometer - Not essential, but can be helpful for determining when the curd has thickened.
- Double Boiler - This is a heat-proof bowl set over top of a pot of gently simmering water. You will need this to gently cook the cranberry curd.
- Fine-Mesh Strainer - This is used to strain the curd so that it's silky smooth.
- Rubber Spatular - Used to press the cranberry curd through the strainer.
Step by step instructions
I highly recommend watching this video tutorial on Instagram before making this pie. It's really helpful to see all of the steps in action.
Please read the recipe all the way through before starting.
Make the Crust
Use the food processor to blitz the gingersnaps into cookie crumbs first, then measure out 2 cups to use for the recipe and proceed.
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Add gingersnap cookie crumbs, melted butter, brown sugar and salt to a food processor.
- Pulse until the crumbs are evenly moistened, then transfer to a deep 9-inch pie dish. Use a measuring cup to press the crumbs firmly into the bottom of the pan and up the sides.
- Bake for 13 minutes or until crisp and slightly darkener. Let cool.
Tip: If the crust falls off the sides, use the measuring cup to gently press it back into place while still hot.
Crust can be baked up to 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
Make the Filling
The creamy cranberry filling is thickened three different ways: the natural pectin in the cranberries (like cranberry sauce), eggs (like custard) and butter (like a beurre blanc sauce). You're essentially making a cranberry curd (like a lemon curd).
Follow each step carefully.
- Add the cranberries, 1 cup granulated sugar and ¼ cup water to a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring it up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the berries burst open and the mixture thickens, about 15-20 minutes.
Tip: The texture should resemble fresh cranberry sauce.
- Puree in the food processor (or blender) until it's as smooth as possible. This may take a good 3-4 minutes. *Be careful whenever blending hot liquids.
- Add the eggs, egg yolks, Meyer lemon juice and zest (or lemon and orange juice and zest), salt, and remaining ½ cup sugar to the food processor and pulse a few times to combine.
- Scrape the cranberry mixture into a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (don't let the bowl touch the water) over medium to medium-low heat.
- Stir the mixture constantly with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom of the bowl, until it significantly thickens (or reaches 165°F on a candy thermometer).
Don't rush this step - it's essential to getting the filling to set up. It can take up a good 15-20 minutes to set, so be patient. The goal is to prevent the eggs from scrambling, which can happen if the heat is too high or the mixture isn't stirred enough. Make sure you continuously scrape the bottom of the bowl and don't let the temperature get too high to fast.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Set a fine meshed strainer over a medium bowl, then pour the curd through.
- Press with a rubber spatula to make sure you get as much of the curd through as possible while leaving the bits of cranberry skin and coagulated egg in the strainer. Let cool until just barely warm.
- Beat the cranberry curd with an electric mixer on medium-high speed. Add softened butter one piece at a time, making sure each piece of butter is fully incorporated before adding in the next.
Your butter MUST be softened to room temperature before adding it to the WARM curd so it blends in smoothly. If either the butter or cranberry curd are too cold, the butter will clump up and not blend in. Warm the mixture up for 10 seconds in the microwave or on the double boiler, then try again.
- Continue beating the curd until all of the butter has been incorporated and it looks a few shades lighter in color, about 5-6 minutes.
- Pour the curd into the prepared gingersnap crust and smooth out the top. Gently tap the pie pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles, then cover with aluminum foil, being sure not to touch the top of the pie with the foil so that it the top of the filling remains smooth.
- Chill until firm, at least 10 hours, but overnight (24 hours) is best to ensure the curd sets up and gets firm.
Pie can be made up to 3 days ahead. Keep chilled until right before serving.
- Garnish with sugared cranberries and serve cold with plenty of fresh whipped cream!
Tips for success
- The amount of gingersnap cookies needed for the crumbs will vary by brand. Blitz up about 3 cups of loosely packed cookies in the food processor, then measure out 2 cups for the crust.
- You can use a store-bought pie dough or crust in place of the homemade Gingersnap Crust to make it easier.
- Make sure the cranberries get nice and thick when they cook down with the sugar. The mixture should resemble cranberry sauce or jam and be thick, not liquidy.
- Always use caution when blending hot liquids. Do not use a bullet-style blender or any blender that does not allow steam to escape or the pressure will cause it to explode upon releasing. Let the mixture cool down, make sure there is room for steam to escape and cover the processor with a towel to be extra careful.
- Really take your time and make sure the cranberry curd properly thickens. Keep stirring and scraping until it resembles pudding.
- Be sure to incorporate the butter slowly, one piece at a time. If your butter starts to melt, the mixture is too hot. If the butter won't incorporate, then either the mixture or your butter is too cold.
- Make sure you give this pie a MINIMUM of 10 hours in the refrigerator to chill, but it may need more. I highly recommend making it at least one day in advance.
After indulging in a huge meal, I can't think of anything more welcome and refreshing than this pie! It's perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Friendsgiving celebrations and other holiday parties!
It's so rich and flavorful that just a skinny slice will do the trick!
I love to garnish and dress it up with sugared cranberries. They add such a pretty sparkle to this already gorgeous bright pink pie. It's such a fun and tasty garnish to add a little shimmer to the top of the pie!
There's no doubt this creamy cranberry pie will stand out on the dessert table amongst the classics, like apple pie, pecan pie and pumpkin pie.
Don't skip the whip! This pie is so tart and tangy that it really needs the cool, mellow whipped cream to balance it out.
To make fresh homemade whipped cream
- Add 2 cups of cold heavy cream and 1 tablespoon powdered sugar to a medium bowl, then beat with an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks.
- Add a dash of vanilla extract and continue whipping for another few seconds or until stiff peaks form.
Like any pie, this creamy cranberry pie is delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!
Yes. You can use a store bought graham cracker crust or regular pie crust, as long as it is fully cooked, because this pie does not get baked.
You can also use graham crackers, vanilla wafers or any other crisp cookie to use in place of gingersnaps to make the crust. Just be sure to use 2 cups of cookie crumbs.
Your pie didn't thicken for one of 3 reasons: The cranberries were not cooked down enough before being blended, the curd was not properly thickened, or it did not have enough time to set up the in refrigerator.
Yes. In fact, it has to be made ahead. It needs at least 8-10 hours to set up in the refrigerator to ensure it holds its shape once sliced. It's best made 1-2 days in advance.
Yes. Just use a gluten free gingersnap or other gluten free cookie in the crust. The filling is gluten free. You could even make this as a crustless cranberry pie, which would eat more like a cranberry pudding.
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