Looking for a classic Cranberry Sauce recipe? You've found it! This delicious recipe uses simple ingredients and couldn't be easier to make. You can even prepare it in advance ... perfect for a stress free Thanksgiving, Christmas, or holiday meal!
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If there's one Thanksgiving side dish that tends to get neglected, it's definitely the cranberries. Which makes me sad, because I love that tangy sauce so much!
Let's face it, holiday meals are a lot of work to prepare. Even though it's a labor of love, it's hard to resist a shortcut, which is why it's so tempting to reach for a can. But fresh sauce is so much better!
So skip the can, and make this scrumptious homemade Cranberry Sauce from scratch instead! This recipe is just about as classic and traditional as it gets, and you only need three basic ingredients and a few minutes to make it.
You won't be able to resist the tasty tart-sweet flavor of this delicious sauce. It truly is the perfect counterpart to a heavy holiday meal!
Ready to start cooking? Keep reading for all the details, plus lots of helpful tips and tricks!
The best thing about this recipe? You only need three ingredients (four if you count the water) to make it!
- Cranberries - You'll need fresh cranberries, of course. Look for them in your grocer's produce section starting in October. Make sure to pick over the berries and give them a good rinse before starting. Frozen berries will work, too.
- Sugar - This recipe calls for basic granulated sugar, and it's a must for balancing the tart berry flavor. Other sugars and sweeteners may also be used ... check out the Variations section below for ideas.
- Water - A little water helps create the yummy sauce and ensures it doesn't get too thick.
- Salt - Adding just a pinch of salt enhances all the other flavors. I recommend using kosher salt.
By the way, this recipe is naturally vegetarian, vegan, dairy free, and gluten free. It also fairy plain and doesn't have any extra ingredients which picky eaters might turn up their noses at ... all of which means everyone at your table will enjoy it!
You'll Also Need
To wash the cranberries, you'll need a colander or strainer. These fine mesh strainers are perfect for the job! To cook the sauce, you'll also need a medium pot, preferably one with a heavy bottom. This small dutch oven is similar to the one I used.
How to Make Cranberry Sauce from Scratch
Making Cranberry Sauce is so much easier than you'd think! You'll find a detailed recipe card below, but here's an overview of the steps:
- Combine ingredients. Begin by adding the cranberries, sugar, water, and a pinch of salt to your pot. Stir well.
- Bring to a boil. Next, bring the ingredients to a boil over high heat. Keep a close eye on the sauce as it heats up, and make sure to stir frequently.
- Simmer the sauce. Once the sauce comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Then continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the cranberries have softened and most have popped. It should take about 10 minutes. As it cools, the pectin contained in the berries will naturally thicken the finished sauce.
And that's really all there is to it ... time to enjoy your wonderful fresh Cranberry Sauce! Wasn't that simple?
Tip: If you're as big of a fan of this sauce as I am, make a double batch! There are so many delicious ways to use leftovers, and I'm sharing lots of tasty tips below.
If you're looking for a twist on this simple recipe, then make sure to check out my Cranberry Orange Sauce, Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce, and Cranberry Relish recipes, too. They're all just as easy to make and even more flavorful!
Feel free to experiment with this basic Cranberry Sauce recipe, too. It's super easy to zhoosh up by including an extra ingredient or two:
- Fruit - Add a chopped apple or pear, a cup of blueberries, raspberries, or chopped pineapple, or a handful of dried fruit, like raisins, cherries, or apricots. Fresh or candied ginger would also work, and a diced hot pepper (such as a jalapeño or serrano) could be added for a little sweet heat.
- Nuts - Stir in chopped pecans, walnuts, pistachios, or other nuts near the end of the cooking time.
- Zest - Mix in fresh orange zest along with the other ingredients.
- Juice - Replace some or all of the water with orange juice or apple juice. Make sure to cut the sugar in half, too.
- Spices - Including warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and allspice adds a wonderful complex flavor.
- Sweetener - Replace the granulated sugar with brown sugar or another sweetener, such as honey or maple syrup.
- More / Less Sweet - You can easily adjust this recipe's sweetness by using more or less sugar. Just keep in mind that fresh cranberries are very bitter, so you might need more sugar than you think.
- Sugar-Free - Swap in Splenda, Truvia, or another sugar substitute.
It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without this classic sauce, although it's lovely at Christmastime, too! Save time before a big meal by preparing this recipe three to four days ahead of time, then serve it alongside your favorite holiday dishes:
- Sourdough Stuffing
- Classic Bread Stuffing
- Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes
- Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes
- Mushroom Gravy
- Onion Gravy
- Wild Rice Salad
- Roasted Root Vegetables
- Glazed Carrots
Of course, you can't forget the main course! Try serving it paired with a special holiday entrée, like Mushroom Wellington, Vegetable Pie, Mushroom Strudel, Vegetable Wellington, or Roasted Vegetable Tart.
This quick and easy Cranberry Sauce will stay fresh for about one week when stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator. You can also freeze leftovers for up to three months.
How to Use Leftovers
Have leftover sauce? Lucky you! Serve it over pancakes or waffles, with Greek yogurt and granola, on poundcake, as a sandwich spread, and so much more. You can also use it to make this Cranberry and Brie Grilled Cheese, Cranberry Jalapeño Dip, Cranberry Parfait, and Baked Brie, or serve it with these Leftover Stuffing Muffins.
Looking for more cranberry ideas? You'll love these recipes, too!
- Cranberry Walnut Cookies
- Cranberry Moscow Mule
- Cranberry Orange Overnight Oats
- Cranberry Mimosas
- Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries, Pecans, and Blue Cheese
- Cranberry Sage Stuffed Acorn Squash
- White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies
- Kale Salad with Cranberries
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Cranberry Sauce is typically served at room temperature or cold. Although you can certainly enjoy it warm, it's best to let it cool a bit before serving, because the sauce will thicken as it cools.
If your Cranberry Sauce tastes bitter, stir in a little extra sugar while still hot and try adding a pinch of salt. If the sauce has already cooled, stir in maple syrup or honey to taste.
Cranberry Sauce has a sweet-tart flavor. While it shouldn't taste sour (try adding more sugar if it does), it definitely has a tangy flavor.
If your Cranberry Sauce is too thin, try cooking it for an extra five minutes. Most of the cranberries should have burst when it's ready, and the natural pectin in the berries will cause the sauce to thicken as it cools.
If your Cranberry Sauce did not gel, you probably didn't cook it long enough. Fresh cranberries contain pectin, which helps the sauce thicken. However, in order for the pectin to do its job, the cranberries need to soften and burst so they can release the pectin. Try cooking your sauce for another five minutes or so.
You can make homemade Cranberry Sauce up to one week in advance. Store it in an airtight container in your refrigerator so it stays fresh.
- 1 (12-ounce / 340 gram) bag cranberries
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- pinch kosher salt
- Medium Pot
- Pick over cranberries, then rinse under running water.
- Combine cranberries, sugar, water, and salt in a medium pot. Stir well.
- Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.
- Reduce heat to a simmer, then cook sauce until cranberries have softened and mostly burst, stirring frequently (about 10 minutes).
- Cool sauce before serving or refrigerate until ready to eat. Enjoy!