Making your own cranberry sauce is almost as easy as opening a can of the jellied kind and sliding it onto a plate. If you’ve offered to bring something to a fall potluck or Thanksgiving dinner and aren’t confident in your cooking skills, volunteer to bring a versatile condiment like cranberry sauce. If you’re catering your meal and want to add a little homemade touch, a homemade cranberry sauce is just the recipe (plus, it isn't time intensive to make).
That said, once you’ve tasted this homemade recipe below, 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.
Shopping List for Homemade Cranberry Sauce
All you need to make fresh cranberry sauce are fresh cranberries, a sweetener of your choice (sugar, maple syrup, honey, agave, for example), 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 fall-friendly flavor that goes with everything on the table.
Try stirring a spoonful of homemade cranberry sauce into a steaming cup of hot apple cider or into the bottom of a flute of dry champagne for a festive cocktail.
How to Make Cranberry Sauce
In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sweetener until it's mostly dissolved (start with less sugar if you're watching your sugar intake—you can always add more later).
Pour an entire 12-ounce bag of fresh or frozen cranberries into the pot and stir well. Reduce the heat to low and cook, occasionally stirring, for about 10 minutes until the cranberries are very soft.
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 it to cool—the sauce will be very hot, so don’t taste yet!
Once the cranberry sauce has cooled off a bit, taste it 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 it until ready to serve. For a cranberry sauce recipe spiced with cinnamon and orange zest, for example, try this recipe from Cookie + Kate.
How to Serve Cranberry Sauce
Serve cranberry sauce hot or cold, and store leftover sauce in the fridge for up to a week in an airtight container.
Potential Health Benefits of Cranberry Sauce
Although you can buy pre-made cranberry sauce at your nearest grocery store, whether in jellied, or whole-cranberry form, the store-bought stuff is almost always loaded with sugar. One way to control the amount of sugar in cranberry sauce is to make it yourself. This way, you'll also reap cranberries' wellness benefits: Fresh cranberries are packed with hydrating water, fiber, vitamins (including vitamin C for healthy skin, muscles, and bone), and minerals that contribute to a healthy metabolism and heart health.