Traditional Cranberry Sauce

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No holiday meal is complete without a Traditional Cranberry Sauce recipe. It’s a staple on Thanksgiving tables throughout the United States.

Pin Traditional Cranberry Sauce to make later.

Cranberry sauce in a serving bowl.

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Why You’ll Love This Recipe

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.

It’s a vegan and vegetarian cranberry sauce which makes it perfect for guests with alternative diets.

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.

You will know when your 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.

Traditional cranberry sauce in a pan on the stove.

What can I add-in to Traditional 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 recipe. 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.

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. 

Tips and Suggestions

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 everything 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 for this traditional cranberry sauce 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 prefer a traditional sauce but give guests a choice.

If you like cranberry 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.

Did you make this recipe? If so, please leave a comment and 5-star review on the recipe card below. If you really love this recipe, please share it on your social media!

Traditional Cranberry Sauce

Traditional cranberry sauce is a staple on holiday dinner tables.
5 from 10 votes
Prep Time3 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time18 minutes
Course: Side Dishes
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6


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


  • In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to boil before adding cranberries, return to boil.
    1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 1 12 ounce package fresh cranberries
  • Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time.

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  1. 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.

  2. Cranberry sauce is my favorite! I am loving all of the add in suggestions. I may have to try them all.

  3. I love homemade cranberry sauce. It’s so much better than the canned stuff. This sounds delicious.

  4. How easy and delicious! I never made it from scratch but I will now. We usually get a deli made kind that has orange and pecans in it….they call it Cranberry Celebration lol

  5. I always make my own cranberry sauce using this recipe but subbing oj for the water. I still have to open a can of the jellied stuff though for my hubby or he pouts LOL.

5 from 10 votes (10 ratings without comment)

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