Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) are a ruby-red berry typically served as relish on tables during the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.

These fruits can also be candied, juiced, or baked into muffins. What’s more, their high fiber content and unique plant compounds may boost your health (1, 2).

However, only 5% of cranberries sold are consumed raw. As such, you may wonder if you can eat them right out of the bag (3).

This article explains whether it’s safe to eat raw cranberries.

raw cranberries in a colander Share on Pinterest
Claudia Lommel/Stocksy United

Cranberries are generally considered safe whether they are cooked or raw.

However, because of their notoriously bitter, sharp taste, most people prefer not to eat them raw or unsweetened.

This bitterness is due to the high tannin content of cranberries. Tannins are a plant compound also found in high amounts in coffee, wine, and dark chocolate (2, 4).

Stomach upset

While eating raw cranberries is safe, too much of the fruit may cause stomach upset (5).

If you’re pressing raw cranberries into a juice, drink it in moderate amounts. One serving is typically considered 4 ounces (120 mL).

Too much cranberry juice may cause stomach cramps or diarrhea, especially in children. This is because fructose, the type of sugar found in fruit, may have a laxative effect in large doses — though specific research on cranberry juice is lacking (5).

Other precautions

People taking blood thinners like warfarin should speak with their doctor before eating a lot of cranberries, as this fruit may affect how your liver breaks down medications. As a result, you may bruise or bleed more easily (6).

However, some findings suggest that this drug interaction occurs only with excessive doses of 4–8 cups (1–2 liters) of cranberry juice, or 3-gram doses of cranberry extract, per day (6).

Cranberries are also high in oxalates, a naturally occurring compound that may cause kidney stones when combined with calcium. Although research is mixed, it’s safest to avoid large amounts of cranberries if you have a history of kidney stones (6, 7).

summary

Eating raw cranberries is safe in moderate amounts, but you might find them unpalatable. People taking blood thinners should speak with their doctor first.

It’s important to clean cranberries well before eating them.

To do so, wash them in a basin of cold water, then dump them into a colander. After placing the washed berries out on a clean towel to dry, pick through and discard any leaves or soft or damaged berries.

If you have too many fresh cranberries, you can freeze them for up to a year. After cleaning, simply place them in an airtight container or bag in your freezer.

You can enjoy raw cranberries whole, juiced, or dropped into smoothies, baked goods, or other recipes that call for sharp-bitter notes.

How to find them

You can buy raw cranberries at some farmers markets when they are in season or purchase them frozen at your local grocery store.

Fresh cranberries contain pockets of air within the fruit’s membrane that gives them a little bounce when you squeeze them. This air also allows the fruit to float in bogs during harvesting.

Meanwhile, cranberries that are less fresh simply smush when you press them.

summary

Raw cranberries work well in smoothies, baked goods, and several other dishes. Just be sure to wash them before eating.

Cranberries are more than just the makings of a sweet sauce. You can add them to smoothies or salads, or eat them whole.

Eating raw cranberries is safe and easy, though their sharp, bitter flavor isn’t for everyone. Be sure to clean and sort them thoroughly.

You should also consume them in moderation, especially when juiced, as excessive amounts of juice may cause stomach upset or interfere with medications like warfarin. Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns.