This easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce is simple to make with just 4 ingredients, including real, fresh cranberries. It is fresh, sweet, and just the right amount of tart, and is a beautiful addition to every holiday table.
Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce
This homemade cranberry sauce is easy to make with real fresh cranberries and just three more simple ingredients. it's the perfect way to cut through the richness of a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, and adds a gorgeous pop of ruby-red color and flavor to every bite.
I can confidently say this is the BEST cranberry sauce you will ever have the pleasure of eating. I was an adamant cranberry sauce hater until this recipe. And now we look forward to making it every year for the holidays, and the kids argue about who gets to scrape the pot clean to eat every last drop.
While canned cranberry sauce is okay in a pinch, it can't hold a candle to this gooey, sweet, and just a little tart homemade version. And with an easy recipe like this one, it's a traditional must-have for every holiday table.
How Do You Make Homemade Cranberry Sauce Thicker?
As cranberry sauce cools, it will continue to thicken. So if your cranberry sauce is just a little bit runnier than you'd like before popping it in the refrigerator, no worries. It will thicken up as it chills.
You could use a cornstarch slurry while cooking to thicken it up. However, for this version, we just keep simmering it down until it thickens without any cornstarch or additives. It seems runny until it quite suddenly thickens up on you. So paying attention while it's simmering and stirring often is a must.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce Variations
- Orange juice - Many cranberry sauce recipes also have orange in them. Use orange juice instead of apple juice for some orange flavor in your sauce.
- Orange zest - Add 1 to 3 teaspoons of orange zest to add even more fresh orange flavor.
- Water - In a pinch, you can use water instead of apple juice.
- Maple Syrup - Instead of sugar, you can use all maple syrup.
- Honey - Honey can be used in place of maple syrup and/or sugar. Be aware that honey is sweeter than both maple syrup and sugar.
- Cinnamon - Add a dash of cinnamon for an extra warm, festive flavor.
- Vanilla - After removing from heat, you can add a teaspoon of vanilla extract for that warm, familiar flavor.
- Bourbon - Use half bourbon, half apple juice to give it a unique twist.
Can I Use Frozen Cranberries?
For this purpose, yes! Freezing and unfreezing cranberries can change their texture when they're no longer frozen. However, since we're cooking this down to a thickened jelly-like consistency, it won't matter.
Can You Make Cranberry Sauce Ahead of Time?
Yes! This is a simple recipe to make ahead, and it keeps for a pretty long time covered in the refrigerator! Make up to 5 days in advance.
What to Do with Leftover Cranberry Sauce
This recipe makes a pretty decent sized batch. If you have some leftover, definitely don't throw it away! It's a versatile dish that's delicious in lots of different foods. Here are some ideas.
- Leftovers - Just reserve the same meal! That's what we do the first day after the holiday before we start getting creative.
- Sandwiches - Use on leftover turkey or ham sandwiches instead of mayo.
- Pancakes or Waffles - A perfect festive topping for your favorite pancakes or waffles. Scoop on your cranberry sauce and add some extra maple syrup and whipped cream, if desired.
- Crackers - Smear some on crackers for a quick snack that even the kids will love.
- As a Dip - Serve over a block of softened cream cheese or baked brie for a delicious, creamy dip.
- Yogurt or Cottage Cheese- Swirl into your favorite yogurt or cottage cheese for a fruity, sweet, and tart addition.
- Biscuits or Cornbread - Smear some on a flaky biscuit or piece of cornbread for a sweet treat. Even better if it's warm and buttered too!
- Cheesecake - Instead of classic cherry on top of cheesecake, try this cranberry sauce, like this decadent no bake white chocolate cheesecake with cranberry.
- Meatballs- Mix equal measure of barbecue sauce or chili sauce with leftover cranberry sauce in the slow cooker. Stir in meatballs and slow cook for some sticky and sweet glazed meatballs.
More Holiday Dinner Recipes You'll Love
- Cranberry Relish - an even easier, uncooked cranberry recipe for the holidays.
- Candied Sweet Potatoes - sweet potatoes glazed and crusted in brown sugar for a side that is so good it could be dessert.
- Brussels Sprouts Gratin - cheesy, creamy, savory brussels sprouts with shallots baked to bubbly perfection with a crispy topping.
- Bourbon Glazed Carrots - sauteed carrots with a sweet and savory bourbon glaze.
- Southern Corn Pudding - one of our family favorites. This soft spoon bread is cheesy, soft, tender, warm, and loaded with bursts of juicy sweet corn.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce Video
Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- 1 12 ounce bag fresh cranberries
- 1 cup apple juice
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ½ cup sugar
- Add cranberries and apple juice to a large pot.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- When cranberries begin to burst, add maple syrup and sugar. Stir to combine.
- Return to a simmer, and continue cooking for about 20 minutes until sauce has thickened slightly.
- Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Make Ahead: Make your sauce up to 3 to 5 days ahead of time. Store covered in the refrigerator. Before serving, you can stir a little to lighten up the texture.
- Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 7 to 10 days.
- Freezer Directions: Transfer cooled cranberry sauce to a freezer safe baggy or container and seal. (I recommend laying flat in a large freezer bag). Freeze for up to 3 to 6 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
UPDATE INFO: This recipe was originally published in October 2016. It has been updated with new tips and video and republished in November 2023.
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