Making your own cranberry sauce is a simple process with a couple of significant advantages. Homemade cranberry sauce contains less sugar compared to the canned variety, and you have the freedom to customize it to your liking. You can add a splash of Grand Marnier for a touch of elegance or infuse it with warm, savory notes using allspice and nutmeg.
While many associate cranberry sauce primarily with turkey or ham, it can also elevate numerous desserts, such as Cheesecake or ice cream. Additionally, it pairs wonderfully with roast pork, various types of meat, and sandwiches like Pan Con Pavo. For more cranberry-inspired recipes, check out our Cranberry Relish, Cranberry Chutney, and Cranberry Apple Sauce. Homemade cranberry sauce not only enhances your holiday meals but also provides endless possibilities.😉
- What is Cranberry Sauce?
- Brief Highlights of Our Cranberry Sauce Recipe:
- What to Eat With Cranberry Sauce
- Cranberry Sauce Ingredients
- Tools you'll need
- How to Make Cranberry Sauce
- How to Serve
- How to Store & Re-Heat
- Make-Ahead & Freeze
- Tips for Making The Best Cranberry Sauce
- More Favorite Recipes:
- 📋 Recipe
What is Cranberry Sauce?
Cranberry sauce is a condiment or side dish commonly served with Thanksgiving and Christmas meals in many parts of the United States and Canada. It is made primarily from cranberries, a type of tart red berry native to North America. The sauce is typically prepared by cooking cranberries with sugar and water or orange juice until the berries burst and the mixture thickens.
Cranberry sauce can be served in various forms, ranging from a smooth and jelly-like consistency to a chunky and relish-like texture, depending on personal preferences and regional variations. Some recipes may also include additional ingredients like orange zest, spices, or other fruits to add flavor complexity.
Cranberry sauce adds a sweet and tangy element to holiday meals, which complements the savory flavors of roasted turkey or other main dishes. It can be served cold or at room temperature and is often used as a condiment to enhance the overall taste of the meal. Homemade cranberry sauce is quite popular, but commercially prepared versions are also readily available in stores.
Brief Highlights of Our Cranberry Sauce Recipe:
- Taste: This cranberry sauce recipe offers a delicious blend of flavors. It combines the tartness of fresh or frozen cranberries with the sweetness of brown sugar and freshly squeezed orange juice. Adding spices like cinnamon, star anise, allspice, and nutmeg lends warm and aromatic notes to the sauce. The orange zest adds a citrusy brightness, and a hint of kosher salt balances the overall taste.
- Texture: The texture of this cranberry sauce is a perfect balance between smooth and chunky. As the cranberries burst during cooking, they release their natural pectin, helping the sauce thicken. This results in a slightly chunky sauce with a pleasing combination of whole and broken cranberries, providing both texture and bursts of cranberry flavor.
- Method: The recipe involves simmering a combination of cranberries, sugar, water, and various flavorful ingredients. Using orange juice, zest, and spices infuses the sauce with complexity and depth of flavor. The simmering process allows the cranberries to break down and meld with the other ingredients, creating a luscious sauce. The recipe is straightforward and can be adjusted to your desired level of sweetness by varying the amount of brown sugar used. It's a versatile and homemade alternative to store-bought cranberry sauce, perfect for holiday meals or any occasion.
What to Eat With Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry sauce is a versatile gluten-free side dish that can pair with Thanksgiving dinner's various rich side dishes or add a flavor boost to next-day turkey sandwiches. The tangy spread can be more than just a tasty holiday accompaniment. Cranberry sauce is a multipurpose, vegan condiment that you can serve with:
- Appetizers: Cranberry sauce pairs nicely with cheese platter such as baked brie.
- Roasted meats: The acidic notes in cranberry combined with the floral aromatics of an orange is a perfect match for caramelized meats and pan juices, like roasted chicken.
- Breakfast: Spoon sauce over pancakes; use it as a toast spread or tangy yogurt topping.
- Desserts: Add sauce to cheesecake or vanilla ice cream for a bright, tart, fruity note.
- Smoothies: Frozen cranberry sauce is a great way to give your morning smoothies a boost of vitamins C and A. Freeze leftover sauce in an ice cube tray for easier blending.
Cranberry Sauce Ingredients
Note: The full ingredients list is provided in the recipe card below.
- Cranberries: The main ingredient is the sauce's tart and fruity base.
- Brown Sugar: Adds sweetness and depth of flavor to balance the tartness of the cranberries.
- Water: Helps create the right consistency for the sauce and aids in the cooking process.
- Cinnamon Stick: Imparts the sauce's warm, spicy flavor, complementing the tart cranberries.
- Star Anise: Adds a subtle licorice-like flavor and aroma, enhancing the overall complexity of the sauce.
- Ground Allspice: Contributes warm and earthy notes to the sauce, enhancing its flavor profile.
- Nutmeg: Provides a warm and slightly sweet spice flavor, which pairs well with the cranberries.
- Orange Juice: Adds a citrusy brightness and natural sweetness to the sauce.
- Oranges, Zested: The zest of the oranges adds a burst of citrus aroma and flavor, enhancing the orange element.
- Kosher Salt: Enhances all the flavors in the sauce, balancing the sweetness and spices.
Tools you'll need
How to Make Cranberry Sauce
Note: The full instruction is provided in the recipe card below.
Combine cranberries, light brown sugar, salt, allspice, nutmeg, star anise, cinnamon stick, orange juice, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking to break up the cranberries.
Boil until sauce has reduced slightly and thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Adjust sweetness with more sugar if needed. Remove from heat and let cool completely. The sauce is ready to be used or served, or it may be covered and stored in the refrigerator for later use.
- Cranberry: This recipe calls for fresh cranberries, but if you only have frozen ones, you can certainly use those instead.
- Sugars: We used Brown sugar to provide a deeper flavor, but you can use granulated. Substitute the sugar for honey, maple, or your favorite sweetener; start from ½ cup and then adjust to taste.
- Spices: This recipe used a combination of cinnamon, allspice, star anise, and freshly grated nutmeg to create a flavorful and fragrant dish. However, you can substitute your favorite warm spices to suit your taste; just use a good quality spice blend for the best results. If using clove, I recommend using 3 whole cloves or ¼ teaspoon ground.
- Fresh Orange Juice & Zest: The fresh orange juice and zest acidity help balance the sweetness, creating a more well-rounded dish. You can substitute fresh orange juice with store-bought orange juice.
- Sugar-free Cranberry Sauce: Replace the sugar with Allulose or your favorite sweetener.
- Cranberry Relish
- Cranberry Apple Sauce
- Spices: Experiment with spices like cinnamon, cloves, allspice, or nutmeg to infuse warm, aromatic flavors into your sauce.
- Nuts: Chopped nuts, such as pecans or walnuts, can add a delightful crunch and earthy flavor to your cranberry sauce. See our Cranberry Apple Sauce recipe.
- Fruit Additions: Enhance your cranberry sauce with other fruits like apples, pears, or even dried fruits like raisins or apricots for added complexity.
- Alcohol: Aside from Grand Marnier, you can incorporate other spirits like brandy, whiskey, or even red wine for a sophisticated touch. Just be cautious with alcohol amounts if serving to all ages.
- Maple Syrup: Substitute some or all of the sugar with maple syrup for a unique sweetness and depth of flavor.
- Heat: If you enjoy a bit of heat, consider adding a pinch of red pepper flakes or a small amount of minced jalapeño for a spicy cranberry sauce.
- Fresh Herbs: Fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme can provide a savory twist to your cranberry sauce.
- Ginger: Fresh or ground ginger can add a zesty and slightly spicy kick to your sauce.
- Honey: Swap out some or all of the sugar with honey for a different level of sweetness and flavor.
- Vanilla: A touch of vanilla extract can impart a subtle, sweet undertone to your cranberry sauce.
- Chutney Style: Make it more of a chutney by adding diced onions and vinegar for a tangy, savory element. 👉👀Check out our Cranberry Chutney recipe.
- Texture: Adjust the texture to your liking by blending it smooth for a jelly-like consistency or leaving it chunkier for a relish-like texture.
Remember that cranberry sauce is quite versatile, and you can get creative by combining multiple variations. Feel free to adapt these ideas to create a cranberry sauce that perfectly complements your holiday meals or culinary creations.
How to Serve
You may think it's just for turkey or ham, but cranberry sauce can be used in many desserts, like cheesecake or ice cream. It is also a delicious accompaniment to Dry Brined Turkey with Gravy, Roasted Chicken, roast pork, other meats, and sandwiches like Pan Con Pavo.
How to Store & Re-Heat
To store cranberry sauce, let it cool, transfer it to an airtight container, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. To reheat, use the microwave or stovetop, add a bit of liquid if needed, and adjust seasonings before serving.
Make-Ahead & Freeze
Homemade cranberry sauce can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The flavors will actually meld and develop better over time, so it's even better to make it a few days ahead of when you plan to serve it. Cranberry sauce can be frozen for up to 3 months.
To thaw cranberry sauce, simply remove it from the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight or defrost it in the microwave. Once thawed, the sauce may be slightly grainy, but this is normal. Simply stir the sauce until it is smooth.
Tips for Making The Best Cranberry Sauce
- Use Fresh Cranberries: Whenever possible, use fresh cranberries for the best flavor and texture. They are widely available in the fall and early winter.
- Rinse and Sort: Before using fresh cranberries, rinse them thoroughly and discard any damaged or shriveled berries.
- Balance Sweetness: Cranberries are tart, so balance their natural acidity with the right amount of sugar. Taste as you go to achieve the sweetness level you prefer.
- Add Citrus: Citrus zest or juice, such as orange or lemon, can add brightness and complexity to your cranberry sauce. It pairs well with cranberries' tartness.
- Spices: Experiment with spices like cinnamon, cloves, allspice, or nutmeg for added depth and warmth in your sauce.
- Texture Variation: Decide on the desired texture – smooth, chunky, or somewhere in between. Adjust the cooking time and technique accordingly.
- Liquid Choices: Instead of plain water, consider using fruit juices (e.g., orange juice) or liqueurs (e.g., Grand Marnier) for added flavor complexity.
- Fruit Additions: Enhance your sauce with other fruits like apples, pears, or dried fruits for unique flavors and textures.
- Nuts: Chopped nuts, like pecans or walnuts, can provide a delightful crunch and earthy flavor.
- Alcohol: Incorporate spirits like brandy or red wine for an extra layer of sophistication. Be mindful of alcohol amounts if serving to all ages.
- Adjust Seasonings: Taste and adjust the seasonings before serving. You might need to add a bit more sugar, citrus, or spices to achieve the perfect balance.
- Cooking Time: Don't overcook the cranberries; they should burst and soften without turning into mush. Follow your recipe's recommended cooking time.
- Cooling and Setting: Cranberry sauce will continue to thicken as it cools, so don't worry if it seems a bit thin while still hot.
- Make Ahead: Making cranberry sauce a day or two ahead of your meal can allow the flavors to meld and develop further.
- Storage: Store leftover cranberry sauce in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or freeze it for longer-term storage.
My cranberry sauce is too tart. How can I sweeten it without overdoing it?
You can gradually add more sugar, honey, or maple syrup to taste. Start with a small amount and taste as you go until you reach the desired sweetness level.
My cranberry sauce is too thin/runny. How can I thicken it?
Return the sauce to the stove and simmer it uncovered over low heat for a few more minutes. This will help reduce the liquid and thicken the sauce. Alternatively, you can mix a small amount of cornstarch with cold water to create a slurry and stir it into the sauce, then simmer until it thickens.
My cranberry sauce is too thick. How can I thin it out?
Simply add a small amount of water, fruit juice, or even wine to the sauce and stir until it reaches your desired consistency.
My cranberry sauce has a bitter taste. What can I do?
Bitterness can sometimes occur due to overcooking or using too much citrus zest. To counteract it, try adding a bit more sugar, a splash of citrus juice (like orange or lemon), or a touch of honey to balance the flavors.
My cranberry sauce has too much liquid. How do I fix it?
If the sauce has too much liquid, you can continue simmering it over low heat to reduce and thicken it. Alternatively, you can strain the excess liquid and use it for other purposes, such as a flavorful syrup for beverages.
My cranberry sauce is too chunky. How can I make it smoother?
If you prefer a smoother texture, you can use an immersion blender or a regular blender to puree the sauce until it reaches the desired smoothness.
My cranberry sauce is bland. How can I enhance the flavor?
To enhance the flavor of bland cranberry sauce, consider adding more citrus zest, spices (like cinnamon or cloves), or a splash of flavored liqueur (e.g., Grand Marnier). Taste and adjust the seasonings until it suits your preference.
My cranberry sauce is too spicy. What can I do to mellow it out?
To tone down excessive spiciness, you can add more sugar or a dairy product like cream or yogurt, which can help balance the heat. Be sure to taste and adjust gradually to avoid making it too sweet.
Can I fix burned cranberry sauce?
Unfortunately, burned cranberry sauce is challenging to salvage. It's best to discard any burnt portions and start fresh with a new batch.
How can I store cranberry sauce, and how long does it last?
Store cranberry sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. If you want to keep it longer, you can freeze it for several months.
More Favorite Recipes:
- Easy Savory Cornbread with Cheese and Anise Seeds
- Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows
- Mashed Potatoes
- Sausage Cornbread Stuffing
- Crispy Roasted Potatoes
- Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey and Cinnamon
Easy Cranberry Sauce
- 2 (12 ounces each) fresh or frozen Cranberries washed and dried
- 2 cups brown or light brown sugar , depending on the level of sweetness you desire
- ¼ cup water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 pieces star anise
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg , freshly grated
- 1-½ cups freshly squeezed orange juice or storebought bottle
- zest from 2 oranges
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- Combine cranberries, light brown sugar, salt, allspice, nutmeg, star anise, cinnamon stick, orange juice, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking to break up the cranberries.
- Boil until sauce has reduced slightly and thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Adjust sweetness with more sugar if needed. Remove from heat and let cool completely. The sauce is ready to be used or served, or it may be covered and stored in the refrigerator for later use.
All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.