How to Make Cranberry Sauce for Thanksgiving

Updated 11/25/19

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Making your own cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving is almost as easy as opening a can of the jellied kind and sliding it onto a plate. Seriously, this might be the easiest dish to make on the entire Thanksgiving table. If you’ve offered to bring something to a potluck and aren’t confident in your cooking skills, bring cranberry sauce. If you’re catering your meal and want to add a little homemade touch, make cranberry sauce. If some of your guests hate the canned stuff, make some of your own and serve two cranberry sauces on your holiday table. Make yourself cranberry sauce even if it’s not Thanksgiving! Once you’ve tasted this, you’ll want to keep a jar in your fridge all year round to put on everything: turkey sandwiches, Greek yogurt, grilled cheese, smoothies—the list goes on and on. 

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All you need to make fresh cranberry sauce are fresh cranberries, sugar, and water. That’s it. You can jazz yours up a bit by adding a strip of orange zest, a pinch of pumpkin pie spices, a stem or two of rosemary or thyme, but that’s just gilding the lily. What this cranberry sauce delivers is pure, straight, classic Thanksgiving flavor that goes with everything on the table, and maybe a few things off the table, too.

Try stirring a spoonful of homemade cranberry sauce into a steaming cup of hot apple cider, hot chocolate for a fruity holiday treat, or into the bottom of a flute of dry champagne for a festive cocktail.

Eat it with pie, or serve on top of vanilla ice cream for Thanksgiving ice cream sundaes. Think beyond the turkey: you can have a very cranberry Thanksgiving, and you’ll love every single second of it. Here's how to make it:

Dissolve the Sugar

In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar until the sugar is mostly dissolved. 

Add Cranberries

Pour an entire 12-ounce bag of fresh or frozen cranberries into the pot and stir well. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until the cranberries are very soft.

Turn Up the Heat

Turn the heat to medium-high and cook while stirring until the cranberries begin to burst and the sauce becomes thick. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool — the sauce will be very hot, so don’t taste yet!

Try Before Serving

Once the cranberry sauce has cooled off a bit, taste for seasoning. If it’s a bit too tart for your tastes, add a few tablespoons of simple syrup, light corn syrup, honey or maple syrup. Add salt and spices as desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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