basic cranberry sauce



Cranberry sauce is one of those items that, while it is super easy to make, I usually end up reaching for the store version of it. There is something about that weird, gelatinous, ridged sauce that I like. Frankly, it’s probably all the sugar. It took me a while to warm up to homemade cranberry sauce, but I was glad once I did. This is a very basic recipe, but you can jazz it up any way you’d like to. I prefer mine as is, but hey, to each his own. Another great thing about it, is that you can make it up to a week ahead of time.



Basic Cranberry Sauce

makes about 2 1/4 cups


  • 12 oz of cranberries, fresh or frozen // Rinse well, and discard any that seem soft. A perfectly ripe cranberry should feel smooth and hard and bounce if dropped – this is how they test them before packaging
  • 1 cup sugar // This makes a pretty sweet sauce, similar in sweetness to the kind that comes in a can. You can adjust this down to 1/2 cup or up to 1 1/2 cups depending on how sweet you like it
  • 1 cup of water
  • zest from one orange // You won’t be able to really taste the orange, but it will give the sauce a little something extra. If you want a cranberry-orange sauce, substitute orange juice for the water
  • pinch of salt
  • Optional: pecans, raisins, currants, blueberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice


  1. In a medium pan, combine the cranberries, sugar, water, orange zest, and salt. Place on medium-low heat.
  2. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until all of the cranberries have burst. You’ll hear them hissing, then a popping noise. Make sure that you stir it enough so it doesn’t get burnt to the bottom of the pan.
  3. As the cranberries become soft, use your spoon to mash them up. [If you want super smooth sauce, you can use an immersion blender and then press it through a sieve.] Continue cooking until the sauce seems slightly thicker. It will thicken up a lot when it cools.
  4. When done, remove from the heat and stir in any of your optional ingredients. Let cool slightly, then transfer into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator until use.

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