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Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce (With 7 Flavor Variations)

It's so easy to make homemade cranberry sauce that once you try it, odds are you'll never buy canned sauce again.

We'll answer some common questions and walk you through a super easy recipe with cranberries, water and sugar. Then we'll share some creative flavor variations to brighten any holiday meal.

cranberry sauce

Homemade Cranberry Sauce Q&A

You can pop open a can of the infamous jellied cranberry sauce, release it with a “plop” into your serving bowl. There it will sit, largely ignored, on the holiday table.

OR – you can take advantage of the fall cranberry sales, and make up a homemade cranberry sauce that your family loves. It's your kitchen, so you can try different flavors until you find a favorite.

How do you thicken the sauce (why does it gel)?

Cranberries are loaded with natural pectin. Pectin is a gelling agent. The longer your sauce is cooked, the more pectin is released from the cranberries. If your sauce is too sloppy, try a longer cooking time.

How many cups are in a 12 oz bag of cranberries?

A 12 ounce bag of cranberries holds about 3 cups of raw cranberries. This cooks down to about 2 1/2 cups of sauce.

Can cranberry sauce be frozen?

Yes, both the cranberry sauce and the fresh cranberries can be frozen. This recipe works with fresh or frozen cranberries.

It's a great item to make ahead, because you can store it in the refrigerator for several weeks. For longer storage, use the freezer or can the sauce.

cranberry sauce in mason ajr

Canning Instructions

Fill 8 ounce or pint jars, allowing 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.

See “How to Can Food at Home” for more detailed canning information.

Should the sauce be served hot or cold?

There's nothing wrong with serving your sauce warm, but in most cases it's served at room temperature or cold. As the sauce cools, the natural pectin in the cranberries thickens it.

But what do you eat cranberry sauce with?

Traditionally, we pair cranberry sauce with a holiday turkey, but we also enjoy it with chicken and pork. It's amazing how it brightens up a meal as a side dish to chicken and broccoli casserole.

If there are leftovers, include some sauce as a topping for your turkey sandwich.

For an easy appetizer, spread cranberry sauce over a brick of cream cheese, sprinkles with some nuts, and serve with crackers. If you have a little more time, try baked phyllo shells stuffed with a mix of cream cheese and crabmeat, topped with cranberry sauce.

If you like cheesecake, puree the sauce until smooth and swirl it into your favorite no bake cheesecake recipe. Alternatively, use it as a topping for your favorite plain cheesecake or vanilla ice cream.

easy cranberry sauce

How to Make Cranberry Sauce from Scratch

Before you start cooking, rinse your cranberries and pick out any damaged fruit.

To make a basic cranberry sauce recipe, combine sugar and water (1 cup each). Bring to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cranberries, and cook on low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce starts to thicken.

Remove from heat and allow to cool completely, or serve warm. Transfer to a sealed container for storage in refrigerator or freezer.

Flavor Variations

  1. Cranberry Orange Sauce – Substitute orange juice for water, and add 1 tablespoon orange zest.
  2. Maple Cranberry-cherry sauce – Add 1 cup tart cherries (fresh or frozen) and 1/2 cup maple syrup.
  3. Apple-cranberry sauce – Substitute apple juice for water, add one diced fresh apple.
  4. Pineapple-cranberry sauce – Drain juice from 16 ounce can of pineapple chunks. Add enough water to make one cup. Cook juice/water, sugar and cranberries as above. Stir pineapple chunks into cranberry mixture.
  5. Red wine cranberry sauce – Add 1/2 cup dry red wine and a dash of black pepper (optional).
  6. Spiced cranberry sauce – Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon each salt, allspice, nutmeg and cloves
  7. Gingered orange cranberry sauce – Grate in 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger root, 1/2 teaspoon orange zest. Substitute 1/2 cup orange juice for 1/2 cup water.

Need Low Carb Cranberry Sauce?

Instead of sugar, sweeten with Swerve sugar replacement or other no calorie sweetener. Swerve measures one for one and works well for many ketogenic recipes.

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The Easiest Cranberry Sauce (With 7 Flavor Variations)

A super easy cranberry sauce recipe with just 3 ingredients, plus creative flavor variations including cranberry-orange, maple cranberry-cherry, cranberry-apple, pineapple-cranberry, red wine cranberry, spiced and gingered cranberry-orange.

  • Author: Laurie Neverman
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 20 servings 1x
  • Category: side dish
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 12 ounce (3 cups) cranberries, fresh or frozen

Instructions

  1. Before you start cooking, rinse your cranberries and pick out any damaged fruit.
  2. To make a basic cranberry sauce recipe, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cranberries, and cook on low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce starts to thicken. (Watch out for splatters from popping berries.)
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely, or serve warm. Transfer to a sealed container for storage in refrigerator or freezer.

Notes

Flavor Variations

  1. Cranberry Orange Sauce – Substitute orange juice for water, and add 1 tablespoon orange zest.
  2. Maple Cranberry-cherry sauce – Add 1 cup tart cherries (fresh or frozen) and 1/2 cup maple syrup.
  3. Apple-cranberry sauce – Substitute apple juice for water, add one diced fresh apple.
  4. Pineapple-cranberry sauce – Drain juice from 16 ounce can of pineapple chunks. Add enough water to make one cup. Cook juice/water, sugar and cranberries as above. Stir pineapple chunks into cranberry mixture.
  5. Red wine cranberry sauce – Add 1/2 cup dry red wine and a dash of black pepper (optional).
  6. Spiced cranberry sauce – Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon each salt, allspice, nutmeg and cloves
  7. Gingered orange cranberry sauce – Grate in 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger root, 1/2 teaspoon orange zest. Substitute 1/2 cup orange juice for 1/2 cup water.

Keywords: cranberries, Thanksgiving. Christmas, holiday

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8 Comments

  1. Hi Laurie, great recipe and who knew you could do so many variations, lol. I have been making my own cranberry sauce ever since I can remember, probably right after I tasted the canned store bought, :-). But now I can try to spice things up a bit.

    Thanks again
    Shelagh

    1. Mom always did the basic recipe, although I do remember a couple of years where she bought a can of the jellied sauce on sale. I remember being somewhat fascinated as a child with the odd red tube of food. Now that the boys have decided they like cranberries, we’ve been doing some experimenting.

  2. Hi, Laurie,
    Here’s my basic recipe for whole berry cranberry sauce:
    4 cups organic fresh cranberries
    12 oz (1 can) organic frozen apple juice concentrate (do not dilute)
    Combine in saucepan and cover. Heat slowly to low simmer and cook until berries are tender. Can hot or cool.
    Yield: 3 half pints plus about 1/4 cup for sampling.
    Variations:
    Tangerine (1)—whole segments peeled (segment skins) or juice and pulp plus whole (outer) peel cut as for marmalade; cook with cranberries
    Kumquat (several)—slice crosswise, seed; use raw as garnish on sauce in serving dish
    Cindy

  3. I make a cranberry pear sauce every year at this time and we often eat it as a jam or jelly. It had become a family favorite. Two Bartlett Pears and a bag of cranberries, 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 cup Apple juice. When I am making my homemade Apple sauce I add 1 bag of Cranberries to a batch and we get CranApple Sauce. When they have Cranberries on sale during the holidays I stock up and throw several bags in my freezer so when I need to make another batch…I have them.

  4. Recipe for cranberry sauce seems relatively easy. After making whole cranberry sauce can you use it in a congealed salad recipe? Thank you.

    1. I don’t know what you mean by a congealed salad recipe. The texture of the finished sauce is similar to commercial whole berry sauce, not the jelly like sauce with a uniform texture and no visible berries.

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