Smoked cranberry jalapeno poppers are a great holiday appetizer.
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Cranberry Jalapeno Poppers

Kick up seasonal flavors with Cranberry Jalapeno Poppers filled with tangy cream cheese, savory cheddar, and tart cranberries, all hugged in smoky bacon. Bring a little heat to your next holiday party with this fun twist on a barbecue favorite. Combining the easy process of smoked jalapeno poppers with the familiar flavors of cranberry jalapeno dip, this is a mashup that will totally deck the halls.

Cranberry jalapeno poppers are the festive twist to the classic appetizer.

Nothing disappears faster than a tray of jalapeno poppers. From classic smoked jalapeno poppers and loaded baked potato poppers to these dried cranberry studded stars, they’re beloved for a reason. Aside from the fact that each bite is cheesy bacon, these are incredibly simple to make and extremely smoky, making them an ideal appetizer.

So pour yourself a bourbon, fire up the smoker, and let’s stuff some chiles instead of stockings.

Grab a plate of these cranberry jalapeno poppers.

Why This Recipe Works

Smoked jalapeno poppers are cooking over charcoal.

Substitutions and Variations

  • Goat cheese makes these extra rich and tangy and pairs well with the cranberries. Instead of eight ounces of cream cheese use four ounces of room-temperature cream cheese and four ounces of room-temperature goat cheese. 
  • Bring texture and a nutty element. Add finely chopped walnuts, pinenuts, or pecans to the cream cheese filling. 
  • Switch up the aromatics. Finely chopped shallots, minced garlic, and chives all work well in this recipe. You can also add a sparing amount of finely minced or grated fresh ginger.
  • Give these a hint of citrus. Orange zest or lemon zest are a delicious addition, especially paired with the goat cheese option.
  • Switch up the cheeses. Gruyere, pepper jack, Monterey jack, and Asiago are all great options.
  • Make these a triple threat of smoky flavor. Stir minced chipotles in adobo to the cream cheese filling. These pair well with the cranberries. 
  • Instead of jalapenos, use mini sweet peppers. This is a great option for those who don’t enjoy any heat.
  • Sweeten up the filling a little. Drizzle in a little honey. For an extra kick use hot honey. 
  • Season the bacon with a sprinkle of your favorite rub. A sweet flavor profile is recommended such as a signature sweet and smoky rub. Go light because both the bacon and cheese are salty.
Here are the ingredients for the filling.

Ingredients for Cranberry Jalapeno Poppers

  • Jalapenos – Make sure you’re using larger, straight jalapenos for this recipe.
  • Bacon – Thin-cut bacon is a must for wrapping these. Stretching the bacon around for wrapping is much easier than thicker slices, which can tear or unwrap.
  • Cream cheese – Use room temperature cream cheese to start, which needs to be sitting on the counter for about an hour before you mix.
  • White cheddar – Shredded white cheddar adds a sharp, aged flavor that enhances the overall mix. As suggested above, feel free to experiment with other cheese pairings.
  • Scallions – Fresh bites of green onions compliment everything else, adding a bright, grassy note. Chives would also be a great component.
  • Dried cranberries – These are sweet, and add some great texture.
  • Cranberry juice – Use just a little to add more sweet and tart notes to the filling.
Mix the filling ingredients until it's smooth.

how to make Cranberry Jalapeno Poppers

  1. Mix together the cranberry cream cheese filling. Make sure that your cream cheese is at room temperature. Mix the cream cheese until it’s a little lighter and smooth and then mix in the cranberries, white cheddar, scallions, and cranberry juice. Give it a taste and drizzle in a little honey if you want it sweeter. 
  2. Slice the jalapenos in half lengthwise. Use a metal teaspoon or grapefruit spoon to gently scrape out the seeds and membranes. 
  1. Fill the cavity of each jalapeno and spread it out. Be careful not to overfill the jalapeno half, only going up to the edge. You can use a piping bag or plastic bag with the corner snipped to make this process go faster. 
  2. Carefully wrap each jalapeno popper in bacon. Make sure all of the filling mixture is completely covered if possible. To help prevent the bacon from unwrapping try and have both ends of the bacon at the bottom of the jalapeno.
  3. Allow the cranberry jalapeno poppers to refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. This step is optional, but it will help the bacon form its new shape and prevent it from tearing during the smoking process. Make sure to see the tips for preparing these ahead of time.
Smoked the cranberry jalapeno poppers at 250°F.
  1. Preheat the smoker to 250°F. Place the poppers on the grill with the cut side facing up. Allow them to smoke for about 1 ½ hours, or until the bacon is almost crispy.
  2. Crisp up the bacon. Increase the heat to 350°F and allow the poppers to cook for another 15 minutes or until the bacon is crisped to your preferred texture.
  3. Let them cool for a few minutes before diving in. We know that the smell of smoked jalapenos and bacon combined with that soft bubbly filling is calling your name. Let them rest for about five minutes before taking that big bite. Your taste buds will thank you.
Low smoking temperatures prevents the cheese from oozing out of these jalapeno poppers.

Important Tips

  • These can be prepared a day or two in advance up to the point of smoking. Follow the directions up to wrapping them in bacon. Once they have been wrapped in bacon place them either onto a baking sheet, covering them with plastic wrap, or into an airtight container. Make sure they are cheese-side up.
  • For the best texture skip the thick-cut bacon and use a thinner cut bacon. This will allow the fat to render during the slow and low smoking portion and the bacon to crisp up when you increase the heat.
  • Charcoal Grill method: Set your grill up for indirect cooking, sprinkling your favorite wood chips over the charcoal. Place the jalapeno poppers on the cooler side of the grill. If doing this on a kettle-style grill, place them on the outer circumference with the charcoal in the center. 
  • Gas Grill method: preheat your grill to 250°F not igniting all of the burners. Create a foil pack with about a cup of wood chips. Use a knife to carefully pierce the foil 2-3 times. Place the pack on an ignited burner and allow it to begin smoldering before placing your jalapeno poppers on the cooler side. 
  • If possible allow the cranberry jalapeno poppers with cream cheese to refrigerate for at least thirty minutes. This will let the flavors of the filling meld while also letting the bacon soften and conform to its new shape. Many jalapeno popper recipes will have you use toothpicks to hold the bacon in place. You risk not only tearing the bacon with this method but also letting some of the filling spill out. This chilling method eliminates the need for toothpicks.
  • Don’t add salt to the cream cheese filling. The bacon and shredded white cheddar add enough salt without making these overly salty. 
  • Make sure that the filling is completely wrapped in bacon. As the poppers smoke the filling will begin to bubble and could spill over. This helps prevent that.
This cranberry jalapeno popper is ready to come off the smoker.

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Smoked cranberry jalapeno poppers are a great holiday appetizer.

Cranberry Jalapeno Poppers

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Kick up seasonal flavors with Cranberry Jalapeno Poppers filled with tangy cream cheese, savory cheddar, and tart cranberries, all hugged in smoky bacon.

  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: About 5-6 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temp
  • ⅓ cup finely diced cranberries
  • ½ cup shredded white cheddar
  • 2 scallions, diced
  • 2 tablespoons cranberry juice
  • 8 jalapeno peppers
  • 16 slices thin cut bacon

Instructions

Notes

  • Don’t add salt to the cream cheese filling. The bacon and cheeses are salty already, and I’ve found it’s overwhelming.
  • Prepping ahead of time actually improves the result, allowing the bacon to hold it’s wrapped shape and giving the flavors a chance to meld.
  • You always want to make sure all of the cream cheese mixture is completely covered in bacon before smoking. The cheese will start to bubble and can potentially leak out, which is very common.
  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 90 minutes
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Smoking
  • Cuisine: Side Dish, Appetizer
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