Cranberry Sauce: the easy recipe for a classic Thanksgiving dinner side dish

Total time: 20 Min
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 8 people
By Cookist
1 cup
1 cup
Fresh cranberries
12 ounces
Orange zest
2 tsp
Kosher Salt

No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without a side of homemade cranberry sauce to dollop over your roasted turkey. This delicious, classic Thanksgiving recipe is incredibly easy to make and adds a fantastic sweet flavor that's a perfect complement to all the savory items on the table.

Cranberry sauce is different from cranberry relish – the latter is served raw and tends to be a lot tarter than cranberry sauce. Cooked cranberry sauce is tart but beautifully sweet, and can easily be customized to make it even more flavorful. Serve it chilled or at room temperature with your Thanksgiving turkey, pork or chicken, and use the leftovers on everything from sandwiches to waffles, on toast, as a glaze for roasts, and more!

This traditional recipe for cranberry sauce made with sugar as we know it today did not become popular until the 19th century when farmers began dry-harvesting and picked cranberries by hand. This dish became even more rooted in the Thanksgiving meal tradition in the early 1900s when farmers developed a bog harvesting, making the process faster and easier, while also making it easier to market canned cranberry sauce.

Can I Use Fresh or Frozen Cranberries for Cranberry Sauce?

Either fresh or frozen cranberries can be used to make cranberry sauce. Frozen cranberries are usually less expensive than fresh ones, so it's entirely up to you which ones you choose.

Tips for the Best Cranberry Sauce

Don't have white sugar? Brown sugar will taste just as good in your cranberry sauce.

For extra flavor, you can swap out some of the water for orange juice.

Another great way to add more flavor to your cranberry sauce is to mix in ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, lemon zest, maple syrup, or a dash of rum, bourbon, or vanilla extract.

If your cranberry sauce is bitter, add some juice like orange juice or apple juice, or a tablespoon of maple syrup or honey. Don't use sugar as you'd need to reheat the sauce to get the sugar to dissolve properly.

If you have leftover cranberry sauce, use as a garnish for roasts, as a condiment in burgers or Thanksgiving sandwich, turn it into a salad dressing, or add it to oatmeal, yogurt, or spread it over toast, waffles, or pancakes.


Can I Make Cranberry Sauce Ahead?

Of course! Cranberry sauce can be made up to one week ahead of time.

How to Store Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Keep your homemade cranberry sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week, just be sure to let it cool completely before refrigerating it.

Can I Freeze Cranberry Sauce?

You can definitely freeze cranberry sauce. It will keep for up to 2 months when frozen.

How to Make Cranberry Sauce


Place sugar and water in a saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the cranberries and cook for 10 minutes, or until they burst open.


Add the orange zest and salt. Take the pot off the heat.


Cool the sauce completely, then serve the cranberry sauce chilled or at room temperature or store for later use.


Granulated white sugar is the go-to for most cranberry sauce recipes. You can use other types of sugar if you prefer.

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