Classic Cranberry Sauce

Classic Cranberry Sauce

Okay, so about every food blog in America probably has a recipe for cranberry sauce. I would love to jump up and down wearing star spangled cowgirl boots and yell, “But I have the best cranberry sauce recipe on the planet, so use my recipe!”  (Yes, I would be wearing other clothes besides the cowgirl boots.) The neighbors would probably close their blinds and mumble something like, “I wish her husband would get her on some kind of medication.”

Truthfully, I do not believe that there is an ultimate cranberry sauce recipe. I’ve had lots of different kinds of cranberry sauce and not a single one of them was awful. Even the stuff in the can, ‘whole berry’ or ‘jellied’, is good. I didn’t even know for the first 25 years of my life that anyone ever made their own cranberry sauce. I thought it only came in a can. How sad is that?

Then one day while I was grocery shopping I picked up a bag of cranberries and turned it over. Low and behold there was a recipe for cranberry sauce. There were only three ingredients listed for the recipe: cranberries, water, and sugar. I looked up suspiciously as if maybe I was on Candid Camera or something.  Seriously? Only three ingredients?  So I went to find a can of cranberry sauce. Ingredients: cranberries, corn syrup, water. Oh. I left the store with the bag of cranberries AND the stuff in the can (just in case things didn’t work out).

Well, I followed the very easy directions on the back of the cranberry package and everything worked perfectly. At the Thanksgiving table that day, I proudly passed around my homemade cranberry sauce. When the dish got to my Mom, she looked at me and said, “Terri, I’m sorry, but do you have any of the cranberry stuff in the can?” I didn’t even try to find the hidden camera this time. There are just some things in life that are so, so predictable. “The smooth kind, not the one with the lumps in it,” she called as I was heading into the kitchen.  I retrieved the ‘smooth’ cranberry sauce from the cupboard, opened the can, slid the jellied mass out onto a plate, sliced it into tidy little slabs and took it back to the table. Mom smiled and said thank you. I smiled back.

So, just in case you want to make your own cranberry sauce, here is the basic recipe and a few ideas to add a different taste to it.  Cranberries have a lot of pectin in them, so they will thicken naturally during the cooking and cooling processes. The cranberries pop while they are cooking, which is kind of fun to hear.

Print green and blue-1Classic Cranberry Sauce

Prep Time: 7 mins | Cook Time: 15 mins | Total Time: 1 hr (includes cooling time) | Yield: 4 cups

What’s a turkey dinner without cranberry sauce? Fresh, homemade sauce is very easy to make and definitely trumps the canned stuff.


  • 1 (12 ounce) bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar


  1. Rinse cranberries in a sieve under cool running water. Drain. Pick over cranberries, removing any soft or damaged berries.
  2. Put cranberries, water and sugar together in a medium sauce pan. Stir to combine. Heat over medium high heat until bubbly. Lower the heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
  3. If the cranberries splatter while they are cooking, set a pot lid at an angle on the pot so that it will catch the splatters while still allowing steam to escape. Some berries will not pop open. You can leave these as they are or pop them by pressing them against the side of the cooking pot with the back of a spoon.
  4. Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


  • For something a little different try this very delicious Cranberry Compote.
  • Use fruit juice in place of water. I have used orange juice and like the subtle flavor that it brings. Choose whatever fruit juice you like or have on hand.
  • Add a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg to the sauce before cooking.
  • Add other fruits to the sauce such as an apple, orange, or pear. Cook as directed above.
  • Change your sweeteners. Instead of white sugar try brown sugar, 1/2 cup agave, or 1/2-3/4 cup marmalde.
  • Get a little wild and add some chopped jalapeno.

Let me know how things work out. Leave your suggestions in the comment section. It will be fun to see what others do to make a great tasting cranberry sauce.

100 out of 100 chickens say eat more turkey.

 You may also like:

Cranberry Compote
Cranberry Compote
Fruit and Juice Brined Turkey
Fruit and Juice Brined Turkey
Pumpkin-Cranberry Muffins
Pumpkin-Cranberry Muffins


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