Cranberry Baked Ricotta with Maple Pecans is an easy entertaining appetizer or dessert. The ricotta bake comes together with ricotta, orange, eggs, maple syrup, cranberries, and thyme, with cinnamon maple syrup candied pecans on top. Simple and delicious spread on bread, crackers, or cookies -- or eaten all on its own.
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Why You're Going to Love This
So easy. Just throw everything in a bowl, stir it together, put it in the oven, then go on living your life until it’s golden brown and puffed up. It’s that easy.
Perfect for entertaining. A ricotta bake is an elegant dish for entertaining because it's very versatile. It's excellent with bread. And cookies. And apple slices. And since it bakes into a cheesecake-esque texture, it’s also quite delicious eaten with a spoon.
Fall flavors. Maple syrup, orange, cinnamon, pecans, AND cranberries. Does it get much more fall--licious than that? (Answer: no).
It’s an appetizer. It’s a dessert. It’s both! This baked ricotta is savory enough to be a starter and sweet enough to close out your dinner party.
Make ahead. This is an easy dish to mark off your to-do list early in the day. Just mix everything together, cover it up, and throw it in the fridge. Take it out about 30 min before putting it in the oven. The maple pecans take literally 5 minutes while the ricotta bake is cooling.
What is baked ricotta?
If you know about ricotta, then you know it’s soft and creamy. And you might be most used to having ricotta as the fluffy filling in lasagna and other baked pasta dishes.
But when you whip up ricotta with an egg and a few simple ingredients, then bake it, you get a warm, rich, delicious spreadable cheese. Lots of folks go the savory route with their baked ricotta adding flavors like parmesan cheese, garlic, red pepper flakes, even marinara (doesn’t that sound gooooddd?).
I took this ricotta bake in the sweet direction, as I so often do, and added maple syrup for sweetness, orange zest for brightness, and cranberries for a juicy burst of flavor. You can serve baked ricotta as an appetizer, cheese course, or dessert. It’s nice with crackers, crusty bread, cookies, pretzels, fruit — or on its own. And when it’s cold, it’s almost a little cheesecakey. Just a little knowledge for later, when you go to the fridge “just to see if there’s anything good in there.” If there’s leftover baked ricotta in there, there’s something good in there, alright.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
Ricotta. This recipe uses whole milk ricotta. You could use a lower fat version, but the texture may not be quite as luscious. Also, buy the best ricotta you can afford. Store-brand ricotta tends to be grainier. It should be smooth and creamy-- not grainy or chalky. However, if store-brand ricotta is all you can find, or you realize after opening that the ricotta you bought is grainier than you would like, I recommend whizzing it up in a food processor or blender for a few minutes until the ricotta is luscious and creamy.
Orange zest. The infusion of orange zest throughout this ricotta bake is a lovely counterpart to the maple and cranberries. But you could use the zest of any kind of citrus or orange extract. I wouldn’t add orange juice since it would thin the ricotta mixture.
Wondering what to do with that zested orange you have now? Well, you can eat it :). Or… since apple tastes amazing with this baked ricotta — you can toss apple slices in the juice to keep them nice and fresh.
Maple syrup. I love using maple syrup as a natural sweetener, whenever possible. Honey would also work well. You can also use plain sugar or brown sugar — you just might need to add another ½ tablespoon, since maple syrup and honey are sweeter than sugar.
Dried cranberries. The dried cranberries get lusciously plumped up during baking, adding juicy bursts of flavor to every bite. You can use any kind of dried fruit you like.
Fresh thyme. A little herby note is a nice counterpoint to the sweet orange and cranberry. And thyme fits the bill perfectly. Rosemary would also be nice. If you don’t have fresh thyme, you can use dried. Just substitute one teaspoon of dried for one tablespoon of fresh herbs.
How to Make Cranberry Baked Ricotta with Maple Pecans
Preheat the oven to 425. Spray a small 1 quart baking dish with cooking spray.
Place the ricotta, orange zest, eggs, 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, and thyme in a medium bowl and whisk until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Stir in the cranberries.
TIP: If the ricotta is grainy, you can place the ricotta, orange zest, eggs, maple syrup and thyme in a food processor and process for a few minutes until the mixture is smooth. Then stir in the cranberries.
Pour the ricotta mixture into your prepared baking dish.
Bake for about 40 minutes until the top is golden brown. The ricotta bake will puff up in the oven, then fall after you remove it.
While the baked ricotta is cooling, prepare your maple pecans. In a small skillet over medium heat, add the pecans, salt, cinnamon, and maple syrup. It will bubble up and get foamy. Stir until the syrup reduces down and becomes thick and glossy.
Immediately pour the maple pecans over the ricotta bake.
Serve with crackers, bread, cookies, fruit, or pretzels. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Since it’s a soft, cheesy spread, you can spread this cranberry baked ricotta on:
You sure can! Even though you may never get the baked ricotta back to the same soft consistency it was when it first came out of the oven, it’s still quite delicious reheated. You can warm it up in the microwave or the oven for about 10 minutes at 425. Also, just FYI, it’s pretty good cold. By the light of the refrigerator. When no one is watching. So I hear ;).
You can store your baked ricotta covered in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Yes, baked ricotta freezes quite nicely. Just wrap it in plastic and again in foil. Thaw in the refrigerator.
Hungry for more Easy Appetizers?
Cranberry Baked Ricotta with Maple Pecans
- 15 oz. whole milk ricotta
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup pecans
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
- Preheat the oven to 425. Spray a small 1 quart baking dish with cooking spray.
- Place the ricotta, orange zest, eggs, 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, and thyme in a medium bowl and whisk until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Stir in the cranberries.
- TIP: If the ricotta is grainy, you can place the ricotta, orange zest, eggs, maple syrup and thyme in a food processor and process for a few minutes until the mixture is smooth. Then stir in the cranberries.
- Pour the ricotta mixture into your prepared baking dish.
- Bake for about 40 minutes until the top is golden brown. The ricotta bake will puff up in the oven, then fall after you remove it.
- While the baked ricotta is cooling, prepare your maple pecans. In a small skillet over medium heat, add the pecans, salt, cinnamon, and maple syrup. It will bubble up and get foamy. Stir until the syrup reduces down and becomes thick and glossy.
- Immediately pour the maple pecans over the ricotta bake.
- Serve with crackers, bread, cookies, fruit, pretzels. Store any leftovers covered in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.