Cranberry Sauce – No holiday would be complete without this vibrant red sauce with a burst of sweet-tart flavor and a touch of orange, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. It makes a great accompaniment for proteins, desserts, and breakfast oats.
You won’t be buying a cranberry sauce can anytime soon after learning how to make this SUPER quick and easy homemade version. And when I say homemade, you can easily customize it according to your palate. Just awesome!
Since we’re months away from Thanksgiving, I’m already imagining holiday dishes to pair with this luscious red sauce. A pop of sweet-tart flavor in your savory holiday dishes is all it takes to take it a notch higher! And hey, isn’t that dark red sauce pretty enough in the midst of all those beige and brown dishes? 😉
A special sauce often made with fresh or frozen cranberries boiled in a sugar and water mixture. Commonly used as a condiment in North America and in the U.K; and being served along with sumptuous dishes like Roasted Turkey, especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
What’s pretty interesting too is that the taste of the fresh cranberry sauce would vary depending on its location. North Americans prefer their sauce sweeter with a hint of tartness. While Europeans generally prefer it slightly sour-tasting.
Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions
You just need a few basic ingredients to make this easy cranberry sauce. And these are:
- Cranberries – you can use frozen or fresh cranberries for this recipe. Though frozen cranberries are cheaper and more accessible, still nothing beats fresh cranberries in terms of flavor and color.
- Sugar – since cranberries are tart as lemons, we’re gonna need sugar to balance it out. For healthier sugar substitutes, you may opt to use honey, maple syrup, or blue agave syrup. However, the flavor and consistency will be a little different.
- Brown Sugar – has a richer flavor compared to white sugar because of the added molasses. Plus, it gives the nice gooey consistency to this homemade cranberry sauce when melted.
- Water – we need water to dilute the concentrated flavors of sugar and cranberries and to adjust it to the right consistency.
- Orange Juice – cranberry sauce with orange juice is surprisingly a delicious ensemble. If you want to add more orangey flavors, just swap 1/2 cup of water with orange juice.
- Orange Zest – the zest gives this fancy sauce a sweet and flavorful hint of orangey freshness.
- Cinnamon – the distinct flavor of sweet and woody notes of this spice interestingly can make any dessert flavorful and scrumptious.
- Nutmeg – blends well with cinnamon adding warm, aromatic, and nutty flavor with subtle notes of clove adding richness to any dish and desserts.
- Vanilla Extract – all you need is a vanilla bean pod and some vodka to make it from scratch. Here’s a detailed instruction on How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract.
- Grand Maniere – this is optional but it really brings out the best flavor of the cranberries. Vodka and limoncello are great substitutes if you don’t have Grand Maniere at home.
- Low Carb and Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce – On a diet? Good for you! You can still treat yourself with this homemade sugar-free cranberry sauce made with erythritol, monk fruit, or sucralose. Absolutely guilt-free!
- Sweet and Spicy – Habanero to your Cranberry Sauce? Oh yes! The contrasting flavors are amazingly out-of-this-world delicious and exciting.
- Add More Flavors and Textures – You can add your favorite nuts like toasted pecans, cashew, or walnuts for added texture. Or add more fruity notes with currants, raisins, and blueberries for more explosion of wonderful flavors. 😉
It is best to make the Cranberry Sauce ahead to give it enough time to set and to fully incorporate all the flavors. I actually find it more flavorful the longer it’s stored in the fridge.
- Transfer the sauce to an airtight container or glass jar.
- Refrigerate – it can stay fresh inside the fridge for about 2 weeks.
- Freeze – can be stored in the freezer for about 4-6 months.
Pro Tip: Do the same storing instruction with leftover cranberry sauce. Just thaw overnight inside the fridge when ready to serve.
Tips in Making the Best Cranberry Sauce
- Add more sugar and a dash of salt if the sauce is a little bitter.
- Use honey for the last-minute addition of sugar to prevent having gritty texture from unmelted granulated sugar.
- Don’t skip on the orange juice and Grand Maniere. Both really elevate the flavor of the cranberry sauce.
- Cranberries are really tart and need a lot of sugar to compensate for the flavor. It might get too thick because of too much sugar. Fix it with more water or orange juice to thin out both the flavor and consistency.
- If it gets too runny, just add a cornstarch slurry or gelatin to get the right consistency you’re looking for.
Cranberry sauce can be an amazing topping to bread toast and cakes like New York Cheesecake and Pound Cake. A decadent filling to pies and sandwiches as well. Also, a magnificent condiment to savory dishes like Meatballs, Roasted Turkey, and other Thanksgiving dishes.
Cranberries are naturally tart and bitter. If you find your sauce still a little bitter, you can just fix it with a little salt, sugar, and spices like nutmeg and cinnamon.
It’s pretty easy to fix up your cranberry sauce. If it’s too thick, just add more water or orange juice to the mix. Thin sauce? Fix it with some gelatin or cornstarch slurry.
Thanksgiving Recipes that Pairs Well with Cranberry Sauce
Add Cranberry Sauce to any of these Thanksgiving recipes below to make them more extraordinary and fancy.
- Brown Sugar Glazed Ham
- Smoked Turkey
- Prime Rib Roast
- Pork Tenderloin
- Beef Tenderloin Roast
- Ashanti Chicken
- Swedish Meatballs
- Spiced Roast Turkey
- Steak Kabobs
- Smoked Beer Can Chicken
What to do with the Leftover Cranberry Sauce?
Leftover cranberry sauce can be a luscious topping, dip, or filling to the following recipes below.
More Sauces You Can Try
How to Make Cranberry Sauce
- Add all the ingredients – into a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. (Photo 1)
- Cook and Stir – Let it cook stirring occasionally until the cranberries will start to pop. Keep stirring and if desired mash berries with a wooden spoon and continue to cook until most of the berries have been scattered open and sauce that’s to look like jelly – about 8-10 minutes. (Photo 2)
- Turn stove off – remove from heat and let it cook.
- Add vanilla extract or liquor (Grand Maniere) – You may add vanilla extract or liquor (Grand Maniere). Adjust consistency with a tablespoon or more of water.
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup (250 mL) water
- ½ cup orange juice
- 4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- ½ tablespoon cinnamon spice
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Optional (Grand maniere )
- Add all the ingredients into a medium sauce-pan and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.
- Let it cook stirring occasionally until the cranberries will start to pop. Keep stirring and if desired mash berries with a wooden spoon and continue to cook until most of the berries have been scattered open and sauce that’s to look like jelly – about 8-10 minutes.
- Turn stove off, remove from heat and let it cook.
- You may add vanilla extract or liquor (Grand Maniere ). Adjust consistency with a tablespoon or more of water.