Easy Cranberry Sauce | Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes
Easy Cranberry Sauce
Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes
We’re all about easy, homemade goodness; and today we’re making cranberry sauce.
Our recipe for Easy Cranberry Sauce is a game-changer for your holiday season. No more store-bought canned stuff, because this homemade version is simple, tasty, and the ultimate recipe from our stash of the Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes!
This recipe is a particular favorite of our mom’s. She sticks to a strict gluten free and dairy free diet, so there aren’t as many Thanksgiving side dishes for her to get excited about as there once was. But this easy cranberry sauce is naturally gluten and dairy free, and it’s unbelievably delicious– especially served alongside a beautifully brined holiday turkey.
Cranberry Sauce| Thanksgiving Side Dishes
Ingredients for Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- Water: The water serves as the foundation, providing a liquid medium for the cranberries to cook and soften.
- Granulated Sugar: White sugar, acting as the sweetener, not only enhances the overall flavor but also helps to mellow the natural tartness of the cranberries. As it cooks, it will contribute to the thickening of the sauce as well.
- Fresh Cranberries: The tart cranberries bring vibrant color, a burst of tangy goodness, and the primary flavor to the sauce. As the berries breakdown during the cooking process, natural sugars will be released and combine with the granulated sugar to thicken the cranberry sauce.
This recipe doesn’t require any fancy or special equipment, but there are a few run-of-the-mill kitchen supplies that will make your holiday cooking experience go a little more smoothly and efficiently. If you don’t already own them, here are the supplies we suggest adding to your kitchen for this recipe:
- A thick bottomed saucepan or dutch oven. I’ve used this Non-Stick Dutch Oven by Caraway and an enameled dutch oven (like this Amazon Basics 6-Qt. Dutch Oven). They both get the job done (and there are pros and cons to both), but I personally preferred the heavier-duty dutch oven for this recipe. I felt like the cranberry sauce cooked so much more evenly with no burning on the bottom of the pot.
- Nylon Potato Masher. It’s not an absolute necessity, but why not make the job so much easier for less than $10 and 2-day shipping? I made my first few batches using the backside of a wooden spoon to smash the cranberries, and that was fine. But I do prefer this mashing tool over the wooden spoon, because it gets the job done a lot more efficiently.
- A Food Mill. This isn’t something that I’ve personally used… yet. But I intend to buy one by Christmas dinner (at the latest) this year! This specialty food processor is for those of us who really don’t like having big chunks of cranberries in the sauce (*raises both hands*). They range from simple rotary mills, like this OXO Good Grips Food Mill, to really big, fancy electric ones like this Electric Food Milling Press and Straining Machine.
Variations | Cranberry Sauce
I’m more of a traditionalist when it comes to cranberry sauce. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with this recipe! I’ve scoured the internet, and here are several delicious-sounding ways to jazz up this recipe for classic cranberry sauce. If you try one, be sure to let us know in the comments. I’d love to hear how it turns out!
1. Orange-Cranberry Sauce: Add a burst of citrus by incorporating orange peel (orange zest) or fresh orange juice into your cranberry sauce. The citrus is a great way to complement the tartness of the cranberries, creating a vibrant and flavorful variation.
2. Cinnamon-Infused Cranberry Sauce: Enhance the warmth of your cranberry sauce by adding a cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon. This cozy spice adds depth and a hint of sweetness to the classic recipe.
3. Ginger-Spiced Cranberry Sauce: Infuse your cranberry sauce with the warmth of fresh ginger. Finely grate or mince ginger and simmer it with the cranberries for a zesty and slightly spicy twist.
4. Cranberry-Apple Sauce: Combine the tartness of cranberries with the sweetness of apples for a delightful duo. Add diced apples to the sauce for a chunky texture and a harmonious blend of flavors. Alternatively, try replacing half of the water with apple juice or apple cider.
5. Maple-Syrup Cranberry Sauce: Swap out some or all of the granulated sugar for pure maple syrup. This variation offers a natural sweetness and a distinct maple flavor, the perfect way to elevate your cranberry sauce to a new level.
6. Jalapeño Cranberry Sauce: Add a spicy kick to your cranberry sauce by incorporating finely chopped jalapeños. The heat contrasts beautifully with the tartness of the cranberries, creating a bold and unexpected flavor. Keaton makes a delicious jalepeño cranberry salsa each Christmas, and it’s amazing– so this would be the first variation I’d suggest trying!
FAQs | Making Cranberry Sauce at Home
Can I use frozen cranberries instead of fresh ones? While fresh cranberries are recommended for optimal flavor and texture, you can use frozen cranberries as a substitute. Keep in mind that frozen cranberries may require a slightly longer cooking time.
How far in advance can I make homemade cranberry sauce? Homemade cranberry sauce can be made up to a week in advance. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This allows the flavors to meld and intensify. Be aware that the cranberry sauce does take on a gelatin-like texture, just like store-bought. Take this into account when choosing the storage container.
Can I use less sugar for a healthier version? Yes, you can adjust the sugar to suit your taste preferences. However, sugar not only adds sweetness but also provides the perfect balance to the tartness of the cranberries. Be cautious when reducing sugar to maintain a pleasing flavor. This may also affect the texture and yield a more liquid, sauce-like cranberry sauce (rather than a gelatin-like texture that would hold it’s shape).
Can I make cranberry sauce ahead and freeze it? Yes, cranberry sauce freezes well. Allow it to cool completely before transferring it to a freezer-safe container. Thaw in the refrigerator before serving at room temperature.
How long does homemade cranberry sauce last? When stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, homemade cranberry sauce can last up to two weeks. Always check for signs of spoilage, such as off smells or mold.
What if my cranberry sauce is too runny? If your cranberry sauce is too runny, continue cooking it uncovered to allow excess liquid to evaporate. Alternatively, you can mix a small amount of cornstarch with water and add it to the sauce, then simmer until it thickens.
Can I use leftover cranberry sauce in other recipes? Absolutely! Use cranberry sauce as a topping for desserts, a glaze for meats, or a flavorful addition to sandwiches. Get creative and explore various culinary possibilities. One of our favorite ways to use up any leftovers is in this recipe for Turkey Cranberry Sliders— yum!!
More Side Dishes for a Holiday Feast
These are some of our very favorite side dishes for any holiday meal, whether it’s our traditional Thanksgiving menu, Christmas feast, or the Easter potluck. It’s pretty much always the same, delicious spread made up of these must-have dishes:
- Green Bean Casserole
- Rolls or French Bread
- Sweet Potato Casserole
- Pecan Pie
- Chocolate Pecan Pie
- Brined Turkey
- Mashed Potatoes
Delicious Thanksgiving Meal Side Dishes
How to Make Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- 24 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups water
- Rinse the Cranberries:
Place the fresh cranberries in a colander and rinse them under cold running water. Remove any stems or debris.
- Combine Water and Sugar:
In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups of water and 2 cups of granulated sugar. Stir well to dissolve the sugar.
- Bring to a Boil:
Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring the water-sugar mixture to a boil. Stir occasionally to ensure the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Add Cranberries:
Carefully add the rinsed cranberries to the boiling mixture. Stir gently to combine.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the cranberries simmer in the liquid. Stir occasionally and allow the cranberries to burst and the mixture to thicken. This usually takes about 10-15 minutes. I like to use a masher to gently mash the cranberries as they burst.
- Cool and Thicken:
Once the cranberries have burst and the sauce has thickened to your liking, remove the saucepan from heat. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. If you are planning to serve warm and fresh, omit the next step.
Allow the cranberry sauce to cool to room temperature before covering and refrigerating. It will continue to set as it chills.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 233Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 5mgCarbohydrates: 60gFiber: 3gSugar: 54gProtein: 0g
Ashton • Keaton • Mia
Co-Owners at Keat's Eats
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