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How is lingonberry different from cranberry?

Lingonberries and cranberries are both small, red berries that grow in cooler climates and have a tart, acidic taste. However, there are some key differences between these two fruits.

Origins and Cultivation

Lingonberries, also known as cowberries or partridgeberries, are native to northern Europe and Asia. They grow wild in boreal forest and tundra regions. The main commercial producers of lingonberries are Sweden, Finland, Russia, and Canada.

Cranberries are native to North America and are mainly cultivated in the United States and Canada. Wisconsin and Massachusetts are major producers of cranberries in the US. Commercial cranberry cultivation takes place in constructed bogs.

Plant Differences

Lingonberries and cranberries come from different plant families:

  • Lingonberries are from the heath family (Ericaceae). The lingonberry plant is a short, creeping evergreen shrub.
  • Cranberries are from the heather family (Vaccinium). The cranberry plant is a low-growing, vining evergreen shrub.

Here is a comparison of some physical characteristics of the two plants:

Characteristic Lingonberry Cranberry
Height 6-8 inches Up to 2 feet
Leaves Small, oval Small, narrow
Flowers White or pale pink bell-shaped Light pink

So lingonberry plants tend to be lower growing than cranberry plants. Lingonberries also have bell-shaped flowers, while cranberries have more open flowers.

Fruit Differences

When it comes to the berries themselves, here are some of the ways lingonberries and cranberries differ:

  • Size – Lingonberries are smaller, about 0.2 – 0.4 inches diameter. Cranberries are larger, 0.6 – 0.8 inches.
  • Shape – Lingonberries are rounder, while cranberries are more oblong or oval shaped.
  • Color – Fully ripe lingonberries are bright red. Ripe cranberries are a darker ruby red.
  • Taste – Lingonberries are tart with more complex, aromatic flavors. Cranberries have a one-note tartness.
  • Acidity – Lingonberries are moderately acidic with a pH around 2.9-3.5. Cranberries are very acidic, with a pH of 2.3-2.5.
  • Brix (sugar content) – Lingonberries have a lower sugar content at 6-9 Brix. Cranberries are slightly higher at 7-13 Brix.

Nutritional Value

Both lingonberries and cranberries are high in vitamin C and antioxidants. Here is a comparison of some of the main nutrients found in 100 grams of each berry:

Nutrient Lingonberry Cranberry
Calories 53 46
Carbs 11g 12g
Fiber 5g 4.6g
Vitamin C 35mg 13mg
Manganese 0.7mg 0.3mg

So lingonberries contain slightly more vitamin C, fiber, and manganese compared to cranberries per 100g serving. But both provide powerful antioxidant phytonutrients.


Lingonberries and cranberries have some similarities and differences in their culinary uses:

  • Both are often cooked into sauces or compotes to be served with meat.
  • They can be made into fruit preserves like jellies, jams, and chutneys.
  • Cranberries are commonly juiced and dried as well. Dried cranberries are widely used in trail mixes and cereal.
  • Lingonberry juice is less common. The berries are more often preserved whole.
  • Lingonberries are popular baked into tarts, pies, pancakes, and desserts.
  • Cranberries are mainly used in holiday cooking and baking like Thanksgiving dishes and Christmas cookies.
  • Lingonberries are used to make Scandinavian dishes like Swedish meatballs.
  • Cranberries pair well with poultry like turkey, chicken, and game birds.

So while both berries work well in sweet and savory preparations, lingonberries are favored more in desserts and iconic Nordic cuisine. Dried cranberries have become a standard pantry item, while dried lingonberries are less common outside northern regions.

Availability and Storage

The seasonal availability differs between lingonberries and cranberries:

  • Wild lingonberries are hand picked in late summer and early fall. Their fresh season is short.
  • Cranberries are harvested from late September through November. They have a longer fresh season.
  • Lingonberries are seldom found fresh outside northern regions. They are widely sold frozen or as preserves.
  • Fresh cranberries are available in most grocery stores globally. Dried cranberries and cranberry juice are year-round pantry staples.

For storage, cranberries keep fresh in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. Their resilient skin protects them from getting mushy. Lingonberries are more delicate and tend to lose firmness after 5-7 days refrigerated.

Lingonberries and cranberries both freeze very well either whole, puréed, or juiced. The berries retain nutrition and flavor frozen for up to a year.

Health Benefits

Lingonberries and cranberries provide unique health benefits:

  • Antioxidants – Both are loaded with polyphenol antioxidants that combat cellular damage from oxidative stress. These include anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, quercetin, and benzoic acids.
  • Anti-inflammatory – Their antioxidants are shown to reduce inflammation associated with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and cognitive decline.
  • Urinary tract health – Cranberries are most famous for preventing UTIs and bladder infections. Their proanthocyanidins help stop bacteria like E. coli from adhering to urinary tract walls.
  • Oral health – Lingonberries contain antibacterial agents that suppress growth of plaque-causing bacteria like Streptococcus mutans, reducing risk of cavities and gingivitis.
  • Blood sugar control – Compounds in lingonberries boost insulin secretion and sensitivity. This helps regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Digestive health – The fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants in both berries support regularity, gut bacteria balance, and overall digestive function.

So while both berries have antioxidant power, cranberries may offer more specialized UTI protection, and lingonberries show greater blood sugar benefits.

Potential Side Effects

Lingonberries and cranberries are both considered safe for most people to consume. However, there are some things to keep in mind:

  • Their high oxalate content may worsen kidney stones or gout symptoms in sensitive individuals.
  • The berries may interact with certain medications like blood thinners and NSAIDs.
  • Some people may experience mild digestive upset if they eat the raw berries in excess.
  • Allergic reactions are possible but very rare.

Key Differences

In summary, here are some of the notable ways that lingonberries differ from cranberries:

  • Lingonberries grow wild, cranberries are commercially cultivated
  • Lingonberries are smaller, rounder, and softer
  • Lingonberries have a more complex, subtle flavor
  • Lingonberries contain more vitamin C and manganese
  • Lingonberries have stronger antidiabetic properties
  • Cranberries have greater UTI-fighting abilities
  • Lingonberries are harder to find fresh outside northern regions
  • Cranberries have become a mainstream commercial berry crop


Although lingonberries and cranberries share some common characteristics, they have distinct origins, physical attributes, flavors, uses, and health benefits. Cranberries tend to get more broad commercial exposure globally, but lingonberries hold iconic status in Nordic cuisine and traditional medicine. Both berries are nutrition powerhouses with unique antioxidant compounds that offer a range of health-promoting effects.