This Classic Cranberry Sauce Recipes Is Everyone's Go-To (2024)

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The go-to classic, make-ahead cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinner.


Elise Bauer

This Classic Cranberry Sauce Recipes Is Everyone's Go-To (1)

Elise Bauer

Elise founded Simply Recipes in 2003 and led the site until 2019. She has an MA in Food Research from Stanford University.

Learn about Simply Recipes'Editorial Process

Updated October 27, 2023

91 Ratings

This Classic Cranberry Sauce Recipes Is Everyone's Go-To (2)

In This Recipe

  • Perfect for Turkey

  • Swaps and Subs

  • Make-Ahead

  • Storing and Freezing

  • Love Cranberries? Try These Recipes!

Do you like cranberry sauce? My father can't get enough of it during the holiday season. He'll even stock up on fresh cranberries when they become available in late October, and freeze them to eat all year long.

I think he looks forward to Thanksgiving just because he knows he can have as much cranberry sauce as he wants with his slices of turkey, and plenty leftover for turkey sandwiches.

When he finally runs out of frozen cranberries sometime in May, he'll start buying the cans. He'll hide the cans in a remote corner of the pantry and eat up the canned cranberries all by himself. Yes, he's a little obsessed.

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For me it's been an acquired taste. As a kid I just couldn't understand why something so beautifully garnet colored didn't taste like berry pie filling!

Cranberries are tart, very tart, and need sugar to balance their tartness. But even with the sugar, the tartness comes through. As an adult, I have come to love cranberry sauce in all forms, including a cranberry relish that you don't even have to cook.

This Classic Cranberry Sauce Recipes Is Everyone's Go-To (4)

Cranberry Sauce Is Perfect with Thanksgiving Turkey

Cranberries are absolutely perfect with turkey. Sort of like lemons and chicken. Something about the flavors, they're just made for each other. Which is why the sauce is so good to spread over turkey in your leftover turkey sandwiches.

The following is a simple and easy recipe for cranberry sauce, one that you can easily dress up with extras. If you have a favorite way of making yours, please let us know about it in the comments!

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Cranberry Sauce Swaps & Substitutions

  • Stir in any of the following at the end of cooking: pecans, orange zest, raisins, currants, blueberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice.
  • For a stronger orange flavor, decrease the amount of water in the recipe to 1/2 cup and add 1/2 cup orange juice.
  • For a reduced-sugar cranberry sauce, use half the amount of sugar called for, then taste and add more as needed. Also reduce the amount of water to 1/2 cup, adding more as needed if the sauce seems too thick.
  • To make sugar-free cranberry sauce, substitute a sugar replacer like Splenda or Truvia for the sugar.

How Far Ahead Can You Make Cranberry Sauce?

For the best consistency, make sure the cranberry sauce is thoroughly chilled before serving so it has time to set up. Making it the day before Thanksgiving gives it plenty of time to chill and saves you a task on the day itself.

You can make this cranberry sauce up to 1 week before serving.

Your Make-Ahead Thanksgiving ScheduleREAD MORE:

How to Store & Freeze Cranberry Sauce

Refrigerate leftover cranberry sauce for up to 2 weeks. Or freeze the sauce for up to 6 months.

Love Cranberries? Try These Recipes!

  • Cranberry Relish
  • Apple Cranberry Chutney
  • Cranberry Glazed Meatballs
  • Cranberry Orange Nut Bread
  • Cranberry Upside Down Cake

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Cranberry Sauce

Prep Time5 mins

Cook Time15 mins

Total Time20 mins

Servings9 servings

Yield2 1/4 cups

The recipe calls for a cup of water. You can easily substitute that with 1/2 cup of orange juice and 1/2 cup of water if you want to increase the orange note in the sauce (cranberries and oranges play well together!)

You can also reduce the sugar if you want. Start out with half as much and add more if you think it needs it. If you use less sugar, reduce the amount of water you add as well.


  • 1 cup (200g) sugar

  • 1 cup (250ml) water

  • 4 cups (one 12-ounce package) fresh or frozen cranberries

  • Optional: pecans, orange zest, raisins, currants, blueberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice


  1. Rinse the cranberries:

    Place the cranberries in a colander and rinse them. Pick out and discard any damaged or bruised cranberries.

  2. Boil the water with sugar:

    Put the water and sugar in a medium saucepan on high heat and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar.

    This Classic Cranberry Sauce Recipes Is Everyone's Go-To (6)

  3. Add the cranberries, cook until they burst:

    Add the cranberries to the pot and return to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until most of the cranberries have burst.

    This Classic Cranberry Sauce Recipes Is Everyone's Go-To (7)

    This Classic Cranberry Sauce Recipes Is Everyone's Go-To (8)

  4. Stir in the mix-ins, if using:

    Once the cranberries have burst you can leave the cranberry sauce as is, or dress it up with other ingredients. We like to mix in a half a cup of chopped pecans a pinch or two of orange zest.

    Some people like adding raisins or currants, or even blueberries for added sweetness. You can also add holiday spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice. If adding spices, start with a pinch of each and add more to your taste.

  5. Cool:

    Remove the pot from heat. Let cool completely at room temperature, then transfer to a bowl to chill in the refrigerator. Note that the cranberry sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.

    Did you make the recipe with any special twists? Tell us about it and leave a comment below!

    This Classic Cranberry Sauce Recipes Is Everyone's Go-To (9)

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
0g Fat
27g Carbs
0g Protein


Nutrition Facts
Servings: 9
Amount per serving
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g0%
Saturated Fat 0g0%
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 2mg0%
Total Carbohydrate 27g10%
Dietary Fiber 1g5%
Total Sugars 24g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 5mg26%
Calcium 4mg0%
Iron 0mg1%
Potassium 31mg1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.

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This Classic Cranberry Sauce Recipes Is Everyone's Go-To (2024)


Why won't my cranberry sauce set? ›

One possibility is that you may not have used enough sugar: Sugar helps the sauce firm up, so be sure to use the full amount called for in a recipe. Another possibility is that the cranberries need to boil for longer, releasing their pectin and ensuring a jelly consistency.

What is cranberry sauce used for Thanksgiving? ›

Cranberry sauce can be used with a variety of meats, including turkey, pork, chicken, and ham. Cranberry sauce is often eaten in conjunction with turkey for Christmas in the United Kingdom and Canada or Thanksgiving in the United States and Canada, and it is only rarely eaten or served in other contexts there.

How do you eat homemade cranberry sauce? ›

Crantastic! 12 Ways to Enjoy Your Leftover Cranberry Sauce
  1. Make the ultimate… grilled cheese! ...
  2. Pour it over your… pancakes! ...
  3. Spoon it into… muffins! ...
  4. Roll it up in... cinnamon rolls! ...
  5. Stir it into... yogurt! ...
  6. Whip it into a… smoothie! ...
  7. Top your… toast! ...
  8. Bake it into… homemade pop tarts!

Do you serve cranberry sauce hot or cold? ›

Is cranberry sauce supposed to be hot or cold? Either! Some prefer to have it served fresh and warm, straight out of the pot, while others need it completely cooled down to enjoy the flavours. Personally, we prefer cooled sauce.

How do you get the bitterness out of cranberry sauce? ›

Add A Splash Of Vinegar

While citrus is a natural pairing for cranberry sauce, bright, savory vinegars like sherry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and apple cider vinegar play well with the bitter-tart berries. Start with a little, then add more gradually. It's easy to overdo it when in comes to bold vinegars.

Why does my homemade cranberry sauce taste bitter? ›

Dear Evelyn: I had the same problem when I first started making my own cranberry sauce. I found out that you should cook them just until they pop. Further cooking will make them bitter, and once that happens, you need to start again.

What's the difference between cranberry sauce and cranberry jelly? ›

And deep down, they are not so different after all: Whole cranberry sauce indeed involves whole berries. Jellied cranberry sauce goes through much the same process, but it is heavily strained, removing elements of nature — skin, seeds — that would impede its perfect silken texture.

Why do Americans eat cranberry sauce? ›

According to Wick, the tart fruit became popularly used to create cranberry sauce for turkey and other types of meat in the late 17th century. Within a hundred more years, cranberry sauce became a staple dish in the U.S., with its popularity taking off even more throughout the 19th century.

How do you reduce tartness in cranberry sauce? ›

While you won't taste it, salt helps equalize the sweet-tart flavor of your cranberry sauce while making it a better pairing for the rest of your savory sides and, of course, the turkey.

Is it OK to eat a can of cranberry sauce? ›

It's perfectly fine to serve up cranberry sauce — whole berry or jelled — straight out of the can. But in my experience, heating the canned sauce up takes its flavor to the next level. Plus, it becomes a little more aesthetically pleasing.

What pairs well with cranberry sauce? ›

Similar to a low-sugar jam or preserves, cranberry sauce is intensely flavored and delicious with meats, especially pork or pot roast. It also fares well with cheese, in desserts, and in quick breads.

What cheese goes with cranberry? ›

If you want to know what to do with leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving or Holiday dinner, Cranberry Grilled Cheese with white cheddar or Brie or both is the superior way to use a few tablespoons of it.

How do most people eat cranberry sauce? ›

The traditional way of serving jellied cranberry sauce is sliced into rounds. With the column set on its side, slice into ¼-inch thick rounds and then arrange the slices on a serving platter. Serve the slices plain, garnished as desired, or read on for easy upgrades.

How do I thicken up my cranberry sauce? ›

The sauce will thicken as it cools. If you want a cranberry mold that holds its shape, continue to boil the mixture so that more pectin is released from the fruit, additional water evaporates, and the sauce becomes thick enough to set into a firm gel.

How long does cranberry sauce last once opened? ›

When to Toss Cranberry Sauce. Cranberry sauce will last for two hours at room temperature. Homemade cranberry sauce will last in the fridge for 10 to 14 days. Canned cranberry sauce that has been opened will last up to a week in the fridge.

What happens if cranberry sauce doesn't thicken? ›

You may have added too much liquid to the cranberries. In addition to pectin, cranberries contain water, which means you only need to add a splash of liquid to get the cooking going. Add too much and you'll be stirring at the stove much longer than expected. Again, more time on the stove will fix this problem.

How do you thicken cranberry sauce after it cools? ›

The sauce will thicken as it cools. If you want a cranberry mold that holds its shape, continue to boil the mixture so that more pectin is released from the fruit, additional water evaporates, and the sauce becomes thick enough to set into a firm gel.

Will cranberry sauce thicken as it cools? ›

How to Thicken Cranberry Sauce. If you prefer thicker cranberry sauce, simply simmer the sauce a little longer on the stove – but keep in mind that it will thicken as it cools.

How do you thicken cranberry sauce without gelatin? ›

In a small cup make a slurry with cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Whisk cornstarch mixture into cranberry sauce and cook, whisking, until sauce thickens. Taste and add more sugar, if necessary.


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