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Traditional Cranberry Sauce

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No holiday meal is complete without traditional cranberry sauce. It’s a staple on Thanksgiving tables throughout the United States.

Pin Traditional Cranberry Sauce to make later.

Traditional cranberry sauce in a serving dish.

If you’ve never made cranberry sauce before it’s one of the easiest things you’ll ever make. 3 ingredients, that’s all, and about 15 minutes to make.

This cranberry sauce can be made in advance, actually, it should be, because it has to chill. The minimum chilling time is a few hours but I’ve made it a day or two in advance of the holiday with success.

Make-ahead dishes take so much stress out of the holiday meal and a homemade cranberry sauce from scratch is so much better than the canned variety.

It’s a vegan and vegetarian cranberry sauce too, making it perfect for guests with alternative diets.

Cranberries in a saucepan with water and sugar on a stovetop.

You will know when you cranberry sauce is getting close to done when you hear and see the tart berries popping. It won’t be a loud pop but pay attention to the mixture. You don’t want to burn it.

If you’re planning to add any of the additional flavors mentioned here, do so while the mixture is still warm. Except for the nuts, add those after you take the sauce from the stove. 

What can I add-in to Cranberry Sauce?

I love a straight-up traditional cranberry sauce but over the years I have experimented with some other flavors. They include:

  • Orange – Cranberry works well with orange and adding a bit of orange zest or juice brightens the sauce.
  • Lime – Lime and cranberry are another delicious citrus combination. Add some zest and a squeeze of juice.
  • Cinnamon – The warmth of the spice brings a comforting touch to the meal. Start with a teaspoon, taste, and go from there. Too much is overpowering.
  • Raisins or currants – They add a bit of sweetness to combat the tart cranberries.
  • Pecans or walnuts – Add texture to the sauce with nuts. This was my Mom’s favorite add-in.

By adding the zest, cinnamon, raisins or currants just as the berries begin to pop, you infuse the mixture with the additional flavor. Start easy with the zest and spice and taste as you add. Too much will overpower the cranberry flavor. 

Don’t add in all mentioned above, only add in what will work together. Pecans and cinnamon would be a lovely dual addition as would citrus and raisins, and even pecans. 

Another idea is to combine the mixture in one saucepan and then divide it in half before you begin cooking it. Keep one traditional and the other can have additional flavor. It’s a good option for those who really prefer a traditional sauce but give guests a choice.

Traditional Cranberry Sauce Twitter image.

If you like cranberry you this panko-crusted chicken with maple cranberry sauce uses dried cranberries and is a delicious fall meal. This cranberry vanilla liqueur makes a wonderful holiday hostess gift and uses fresh cranberries.

Traditional Cranberry Sauce Pinterest image.

Monday Holiday Side Dish Recipes:

Traditional cranberry sauce in a serving dish.

Traditional Cranberry Sauce

Yield: 2 ¼ cups
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 18 minutes

Traditional cranberry sauce is a staple on holiday dinner tables.


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 (12 ounce) package fresh cranberries


    1. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to boil before adding cranberries, return to boil.
    2. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 18 Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 46Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 0gSugar: 11gProtein: 0g

Nutrition information automatically calculated. Recipe author has not checked the calculations.

Did you make this recipe?

I'd love to hear about it! Please leave a comment below or share it on Pinterest!

Kate Sabella

Thursday 12th of November 2020

It's impossible to go back to canned cranberry sauce after making it homemade! So, so good!


Sunday 8th of November 2020

Cranberry sauce gets such a bad rap during the holidays. They really are delicious. I am adding this our menu for the holidays. It looks so bright and delicious.

Jessica Formicola

Wednesday 4th of November 2020

You just can't beat homemade cranberry sauce! I can't wait to try this recipe for Thanksgiving!


Tuesday 3rd of November 2020

I've been using this as a base recipe (from the bag) for years!


Tuesday 3rd of November 2020

I've never made homemade cranberry sauce but it looks super easy! I need to give it a try.

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