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Holiday Cranberry Curd Tart

Bright holiday flavor with a buttery graham crust.

When it comes to combining looks and flavor, a fresh cranberry curd tart recipe takes the cake. Here, a silky, sweet-tart homemade cranberry custard combines with buttery graham crust for a beautiful dessert. 

cranberry curd tart decorated with orange and rosemary and fresh cranberries

Cranberry Curd Tart Recipe Notes

This recipe makes a deliciously tart, sweet dessert. Plus, with its stunning color, this tart has a real “wow” factor as well. Tart and bright, the silky cranberry custard gets paired with a graham cracker crust for a new essential holiday dessert.

The only arguable downside of using a graham cracker crust for this cranberry curd tart is that it will crumble and thus needs to be served in the tart pan. I see no problem with this. A standard nine-inch pie plate will be perfect, and pretty porcelain tart pans abound.

But if you want to serve a tart that stands on its own without being in a dish, try this pâte sucrée tart shell. (And make some butter cookies with the scraps while you’re at it!)

cranberry curd tart recipe ingredients

Adapting This Cranberry Tart Recipe

This holiday cranberry curd tart recipe owes its genesis to the New York Times’s cranberry curd tart recipe from David Tanis. David Tanis is a “cook’s cook.” An alum of Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse, David Tanis expertly creates elevated, seasonal home cooking that seems to elevate produce without being fussy or complicated. His cookbooks are excellent.

I adapted the NYT cranberry curd tart recipe by swapping out the crust. The original recipe calls for a hazelnut tart crust which, while no doubt delicious, is fussy and a bit time consuming to make. Instead, I use a graham cracker crust. Why?

  1. A graham cracker crust is practically effortless, and
  2. The sweet,  buttery wheat flavor, with just a hint of salt, makes an outstanding complement to the tart cranberry custard.

The “rightness” of a graham cracker crust makes sense here. This is a bright, almost citrus-sweet curd with great tartness. In other words, key lime pie‘s cousin. And we all know that key lime pie loves a graham cracker crust.

cranberries in pot with sugar and orange peel for curd

How to Make This Cranberry Curd Tart: Recipe Steps

This festive tart recipe boils down (hee hee) to three steps: the crust, the cranberry sauce, and the curd.

  1. First, make the graham cracker crust. It is very simple. Pulse graham crackers in a food processor with the sugar and salt until finely ground. Add melted butter, stir, press the graham crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of a pie plate, and bake.
  2. Simmer the cranberry sauce ingredients, then strain into a gel.
  3. Combine the cranberry gel with eggs and butter and cook until thickened.
  4. Pour the custard into the graham cracker crust, and bake for 10 minutes to set.

cranberry curd tart being made

How to Make the Cranberry Curd Custard

You can make the cranberry curd custard essentially by combining strained cranberry sauce with butter and eggs, simmering, then letting it set up for 10 minutes in the oven. Easy! But there are a few tips.

  • Make sure to stir the custard a lot once it goes on the stove to finish. You do not want bits of scrambled egg. (But if that does happen, don’t worry. Just strain it through a fine mesh strainer.)
  • This cranberry curd tart will keep in the refrigerator for several days, making it a perfect make-ahead holiday dessert recipe. Bring it to cool room temperature before serving for the best flavor.

Homemade cranberry curd tart

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cranberry curd tart recipe

Holiday Cranberry Curd Tart

This bright, silky cranberry curd tart recipe is an unexpected beauty, fit for Thanksgiving or Christmas dessert and easy to make, with a buttery graham cracker crust.
Prep Time40 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keywords:: christmas, cranberry, cranberry curd tart, cranberry custard tart, dessert, graham cracker crust, holiday dessert ideas, tart
Servings: 1 x 9" tart
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Ingredients 

For the Graham Cracker Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (from 9 crackers, or one sleeve)
  • 5 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Cranberry Curd Custard and to Finish the Tart

  • 12 ounces (1 bag) fresh cranberries, picked over
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 orange, peeled and juiced
  • 4 ounces (1 stick; 8 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks

Instructions

For the Graham Cracker Crust

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Make the graham cracker crumbs by pulsing them in a food processor with the sugar and salt until finely ground. Pour into a mixing bowl. Add the melted butter to the graham cracker crumb mixture. Stir to combine fully.
  • Gently but firmly press the graham crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of a pie plate.
    TIP: I use a 9-inch standard tart pan. Depending on the size and depth of your tart pan or pie plate, you may not need all of the graham cracker crumbs. Get a nice, even layer, but don't make it too thick.
    PRO TIP: Use the bottom of a measuring cup as a flat surface when pressing the crumbs into place.
  • Bake the graham crust for 15 minutes, until toasted light brown. Cool to room temperature. (Note: The tart shell can be made one or two days in advance and kept, wrapped at room temperature.)

For the Cranberry Curd and to Finish the Tart

  • Lower the oven to 350°F. In a medium pot, heat the sugar, cranberries, orange juice, and orange peel. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have popped and softened and the mixture has become a jammy sauce, about 10 minutes.
  • Discard the orange peel. Spoon the cranberry sauce into a fine mesh strainer set over a clean mixing bowl. Use a spoon to gently press and stir the liquids through the strainer. Take care not to burn yourself on the hot sauce!
    Discard the seeds and solids. Whisk the butter into the warm cranberry liquid/gel.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, beat the eggs and egg yolks together. Whisk about a third of the strained cranberry into the eggs to temper, then add the tempered eggs into the rest of the strained cranberry. Whisk to combine.
  • Return the cranberry custard to the sauce pot. (Wipe clean if necessary.) Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until thickened and large, lazy bubbles form, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Immediately cool the cranberry curd to room temperature.
    PRO TIP: There are a couple of ways to do this. One is by putting the pot in an ice bath and stirring constantly. You can also pour the curd into a wide bowl or casserole pan and stir. It will have cooled enough when steam no longer comes off the curd.
  • Pour the cooled curd into the pie shell and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake for 10 minutes to set the curd. Cool on a rack.
    Store at room temperature for up to 24 hours, or in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Bring to cool room temperature to serve.
    TIP: Don't cover the cranberry curd tart if you refrigerate it. The custard will form condensation, which could drip water onto your smooth pink custard.

Notes

A stunning cranberry curd tart makes a festive alternative to traditional holiday pies. This recipes requires a bit of a three-step process: make the crust, make the cranberry gel, make the custard and bake. 
But the result is well worth it! Garnish with candied cranberries, sliced orange, or even some fresh rosemary sprigs.

10 comments

  • 5 stars
    This worked out very well for me. Note that I don’t think it is not enough custard to fill the crust to the brim of a 9″ pan. If you want that I would recommend using a smaller one. The flavor is very good and it looks so pretty.

  • 4 stars
    The taste is wonderful and it’s so pretty! I’ve made it twice now, using different pie pans and strainers, and both times it came out shallow. Like it was a base, waiting for meringue or something to go on top. For a fuller-looking tart, maybe I should double the filling? Or use a much smaller pie pan?

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Gail! I am glad that you’ve enjoyed it thus far, despite it seeming a little under-filled. I am going to make it again in the next week or two and see what happens on my end. The custard is meant to only be about 3/4″ high in the pie plate or tart shell, not to the brim. May I ask what size pie plate you used? I’m interested to dive into this, and will be more specific (and possibly adjust) my recipe. Thanks so much for this helpful comment.

      • The first time, I cheated and used a store-bought graham cracker crust; that foil pan was 9 inches for sure. The second time, I made a crust from scratch and put it into a 9-inch ceramic pie dish with noticeably sloping sides. Perhaps I erred by running the crust up too high in the pie pan, making it look like there was too little custard? I certainly squeezed as much cranberry through the strainer as I could, and scraped off the outside of the strainer as well to get every last bit.

  • 5 stars
    This tasted fantastic. I admit that I was lazy and did not strain the cranberry sauce because I thought it might look and taste good chunky. It did taste good, but the look was definitely not beautiful! That said, that is my own fault. The recipe worked very well and we loved the flavor. Will make this again soon the right way! haha!

  • 5 stars
    My family enjoyed this tart. My tart pan was larger, so the filling was a little shallow, next time I would use more cranberries. I needed to modify the recipe to make it vegan, so I made the following changes, used oil instead of butter in crust, used vegan butter in filling (only had enough for the filling), replaced the eggs with a 1/4 cup of applesauce and 1 tsp tapioca.

  • francés

    5 stars
    Christmas-y key lime pie 🙂 Fantastic!!

  • 5 stars
    I made this as an early Christmas dessert for my family because I am not really a cookie person (I know. crazy, right?). We loved this, and have to say it is one of the prettiest desserts I’ve ever made. I took several pictures!! Wish I could share!

  • Penelope W.

    5 stars
    This is so gorgeous and tastes wonderful. I thought custard was silky and light, with good cranberry flavor.

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