How to Make Cranberry Sauce

This is the year, my friends. This is the year you’re going to do it. You’re going to put aside the can opener, step away from the kitchen counter with purpose, and stride toward the stove top. And 20 minutes later, you will say, “Hey! I can make cranberry sauce, dangit! I rule Thanksgiving! I rule THE WORLD!”

And when your friends and family have one tantalizing taste of your homemade cranberry sauce, they’ll agree with you. Guaranteed.

How to Make Cranberry Sauce - Got 20 minutes? Make homemade cranberry sauce that beats the socks off of any you'll find in a can. It freezes beautifully, too. Whip some up now and freeze it for the big day!

If you haven’t made cranberry sauce, I have to tell you this: it is SO super easy. How easy, you ask? THIS easy.

How to Make Cranberry Sauce - Got 20 minutes? Make homemade cranberry sauce that beats the socks off of any you'll find in a can. It freezes beautifully, too. Whip some up now and freeze it for the big day!

Even though there are endless wonderful variations of cranberry sauce out there, really you only need four things: fresh (or frozen) cranberries, sugar, water, and some orange zest or lemon zest. And then you need a saucepan, a stove, a spoon, and about 20 minutes.

Here’s the step-by-step.

Find the cranberries in most any produce section. Ocean Spray sells bags of 12-ounce berries, or you may be able to find some in the organic section of well-stocked grocery stores. I found a local(ish) variety that I couldn’t resist.

Take a quick look at the berries. You want the majority to be firm and smooth. If you find several mushy – or even moldy, ack! – berries, it goes without saying that you’ll want to pass on that bunch.

Before cooking, rinse the berries and sort through, discarding any super-mushy or obviously unripe berries.

Now, you’re ready to cook! Place a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add 3 cups of berries,  1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, and 2 teaspoons of orange zest (you can also go with 1 – 2 teaspoons of lemon zest if you prefer).

How to Make Cranberry Sauce - Got 20 minutes? Make homemade cranberry sauce that beats the socks off of any you'll find in a can. It freezes beautifully, too. Whip some up now and freeze it for the big day!

Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until the sauce comes to a boil.

How to Make Cranberry Sauce - Got 20 minutes? Make homemade cranberry sauce that beats the socks off of any you'll find in a can. It freezes beautifully, too. Whip some up now and freeze it for the big day!
Continue to let the sauce boil until the sauce gets juicier and the berries burst and break down, about 15 minutes or so.

How to Make Cranberry Sauce - Got 20 minutes? Make homemade cranberry sauce that beats the socks off of any you'll find in a can. It freezes beautifully, too. Whip some up now and freeze it for the big day!

And you know what? That’s pretty much it. There’s your sauce!

One more crucial step, though. Taste the sauce! I suggest you start out with a fairly low amount of sugar because cranberries can differ in sweetness. Now’s the time to taste it and, if it’s too tart, add more sugar about a tablespoon or two at a time until the sweet/tart balance is just right. Individual tastes can vary, but I like it to be sweet with just a little teensy bit of puckery tartness that lingers.

Once you’ve found the perfect amount of sugar, stir and cook for another minute or so to make sure the sugar dissolves.

Remove from heat and let cool, then spoon into your serving container or an airtight container for storing.

How to Make Cranberry Sauce - Got 20 minutes? Make homemade cranberry sauce that beats the socks off of any you'll find in a can. It freezes beautifully, too. Whip some up now and freeze it for the big day!

The cool thing about homemade cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving is that you can make it WAY ahead of time. It’ll keep nicely in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze it for a month or more. Just pull it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge a couple of days before Turkey Day and voila! You’re done!

Once you make cranberry sauce at home, you’ll likely want to play around with the recipe. Here are a few ideas:

Print Recipe

How to Make Cranberry Sauce

Got 20 minutes? Make homemade cranberry sauce that beats the socks off of any you'll find in a can.

Yield: About 3 cups of sauce

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cranberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar + additional sugar if needed
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1 cup water

Directions:

  1. Rinse and sort the berries - if any are super mushy, discard them.
  2. Place a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add cranberries, 1/2 cup sugar, orange zest, and water.
  3. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce comes to a boil.
  4. Continue to boil until the sauce gets juicier and the berries burst and break down, about 15 minutes
  5. Taste for sweetness. If it's too tart, add more sugar - about a tablespoon or two at a time - until the sweet/tart balance is just right for you.
  6. Once you've found the perfect amount of sugar, stir and cook for another minute or so to make sure the sugar dissolves.
  7. Remove from heat and let cool, then spoon into your serving container or an airtight container for storing.
  8. Keeps for up to one week refrigerated in an airtight container, or for up to two months in the freezer.

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4 Responses to “How to Make Cranberry Sauce”

  1. Mary @ Fit and Fed posted on November 28, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    Been making my own cranberry sauce for ages. So easy! In fact my kids have taken over this particular recipe now– it’s an easy Thanksgiving recipe for the younger set to start off with.

    • Karen Troughton replied on December 1st, 2013 on 12:16 pm

      Thanks, Mary! Getting the kids involved with this one is such a fabulous idea.

  2. Melita posted on December 3, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    Great recipe! I have used one very similar for many years, and have tried to cut down on sugar. Since the sugar causes it to “gel” making it hard to cut back much, I recently tried a waterless recipe. Just the berries and (less) sugar, which sauces up once the berries pop. Turned out great! I confess that I do add a spoonful or two of orange juice concentrate because I like the fruit sugar and orange flavor with the cranberries.

  3. Cranberry lover posted on November 16, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    I love your recipe for cranberries! Their so delicious! Thanks for sharing your great recipe! :)

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