Homemade Cranberry Sauce

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No Thanksgiving plate is complete without it.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Photo: Jennifer Causey; Food Stylist: Torie Cox; Prop Stylist: Claire Spollen
Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
55 mins
Yield:
Serves 6 (serving size: 1/3 cup)

Put down the can, and give this simple cranberry sauce recipe a whirl. A good Thanksgiving spread has a mix of the classics—some bring a sense of family tradition; others are there to please the crowd. This bright and vibrant Homemade Cranberry Sauce brings the best of both worlds.

Simple enough, but still made from scratch, it might give grandma's cranberry salad a run for its money. Plus, it's just tart and sweet enough to be the perfect people-pleaser.

This Thanksgiving side is simple. Whether you use frozen cranberries or fresh, it's important to allow the cranberries to split in the cooking liquid. This ensures they soften and release pectin for thickening. When it's time to refrigerate, be sure to let it chill completely for a firm consistency.

This cranberry sauce is good served warm, cold, or at room temperature and best shared with those you love around the holiday table.

What's In Cranberry Sauce?

This cranberry sauce recipe is fairly streamlined. It calls for cranberry, light brown sugar, and a bit of citrus. Salt helps to balance the sweetness, and cinnamon brings a warm spice note. Pecans are also called for; they provide a nice textural contrast. But you can skip them entirely or opt for another nut or crunch toppings, like pumpkin seeds.

cranberry sauce ingredients

Courtney West / Southern Living

How To Make Cranberry Sauce

Making homemade cranberry sauce can be rather straightforward and simple, as this recipe demonstrates. You just need to get the cranberries, sugar, and orange juice bubbling so that berries will swell and burst. That doesn't require a lot of babysitting. Here's a bit more about the process.

Step 1. Add ingredients to a pan

In a medium saucepan, combine the cranberries, orange juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Bring to a boil.

cranberry sauce in pan

Courtney West/Southern Living

Step 2. Let boil on high

Once you get the cranberry sauce mixture boiling, let it boil for about 3 minutes. Stir occasionally. You don't have to stir too much though. Just let the berries and mixture boil for a few minutes.

Step 3. Simmer

After the sauce has been boiling for a bit, reduce the heat to medium. Let the sauce cook and bubble away for another 15 minutes. You can stir occasionally, and do keep an eye on it. You want to make sure the cranberries have burst and that the syrupy liquid of the sauce is coming together.

Step 4. Prepare to serve

When the sauce is thickened up nicely, remove the saucepan from the heat, and pluck out the cinnamon stick. Stir in the pecans, then pour the cranberry sauce into a heat-safe bowl or dish. Let the cranberry sauce cool at room temperature for 30 minutes. If you prefer a cold cranberry sauce, let it cool for about 30 minutes, and then chill in the refrigerator until time to serve.

What's The Difference Between Cranberry Sauce And Cranberry Jelly?

Good question! They're often used interchangeably, but they really describe two different dishes.

Cranberry jelly is thick and solid. It's the stuff that slips out of a can and retains the ridges. Cranberry sauce, on the other hand, is much looser and gooey. It shouldn't be thin and liquid-y, like a soup, but it will be pourable, or spoonable, whereas cranberry jelly needs slicing.

Can I Use Fresh Cranberries Instead Of Frozen?

If you're looking at this recipe close to Thanksgiving, you're probably seeing loads of fresh cranberries at the store and wondering if you can use those for cranberry sauce instead of frozen. The answer? Absolutely. In fact, you don't need to adjust anything you do in this recipe, but keep an eye on the sauce during the simmer stage. Cranberry sauce made with fresh berries may thicken just a bit faster because there's less liquid.

Ingredients

  • 1 (12-oz.) pkg. frozen cranberries (about 3 cups)

  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar

  • 1 cup fresh orange juice (from 2 large oranges)

  • 1 tsp. kosher salt

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

Directions

  1. Stir together cranberries, sugar, juice, salt, and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan. (Reserve pecans.) Bring to a boil over high; boil, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring often, until most of the cranberries have burst and liquid is syrupy, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove and discard cinnamon stick.

    cranberry sauce in pan

    Courtney West/Southern Living

    Stir in pecans. Transfer mixture to a heatproof bowl.

    cranberry sauce in pot with pecans

    Courtney West / Southern Living

    Let stand 30 minutes, or cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 1 week.

    homemade cranberry sauce

    Courtney West / Southern Living

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