The Best Homemade Cranberry Sauce Ever

Cranberry Sauce and Sugar CookiesI know many people will not agree with me, but one of my favorite things about the holiday is cranberry sauce. I love cranberry sauce but sometimes when it comes out of the can, it does just look like red gelatinous goo. A really good homemade cranberry sauce can be so good, you can even use it a jam on toast or biscuits. I know you are probably skeptical, but this is the best homemade cranberry sauce recipe that I have ever tried. Compared to the stuff out of the can, you can hardly believe its meant to be the same thing.

How to make the best homemade cranberry sauce

I have tried and reviewed many recipes for homemade cranberry cause. After trying many I took the best from each and tweaked it to make my own. In my house, it is only my husband and myself. He is not a cranberry sauce fan, so this is a fairly small recipe. It can easily be multiplied however.

Sugar and spice and all things nice.

If you have ever tried cranberries, you know they can be a bit ….. sour, tart, bitter. I am not sure what the correct word is, but they are best if they have some sugar or spice. You do need to add a little sweetness to make a great cranberry sauce.

For this recipe, I used white sugar, but feel free to try other sugars and sugar substitutes. You can use brown sugar, maple syrup, honey or other sweeteners. Please note, some artificial sweeteners cannot be cooked. Some can be cooked, but some cannot be. If you are using one that shouldn’t be heated, try adding at the end, after you have cooked the cranberries.

If you choose to use another sugar or sugar substitute, keep in mind that many of them actually taste much sweeter than white sugar. I recommend starting with just a bit, and gradually add more until you get the level of sweetness you want.  If using artificial sweeteners, make sure it can be heated or add it after the cooking process.

I have tried many recipes where you dump cranberries into a pot, add water and sugar and boil it. That does work, and it is still better than the canned stuff, but we can do so much better. For this recipe I cook the water and sugar first to make sure that the sugar dissolves properly. Trust me, it does make it better.

I used 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar. I know that sounds like a lot of sugar, and it is. This recipe as is, does make a sweet sauce that can also double as a cranberry jam for toast. Adjust the sweetness level to your own preference.

The Thick and The Thin of It

Some people like their sauce fairly runny, other prefer it very thick. Neither is wrong nor right, it is about personal preference. Cranberries have a natural pectin. As you boil them, the berries pop open and release the pectin. The longer you cook them, the more they burst open, the more the water evaporates and the pectic does its job and thickens more. If you like a thicker sauce, cook it longer.

Fresh or Frozen


When making cranberry sauce you can use fresh or frozen berries. Frozen berries are picked and frozen at their best, so they are still very good to use. I prefer to defrost them first, but they can be cooked from frozen. It just may take a bit longer to boil down if you start with frozen berries.

Let’s Change it up

Orange ZestI love Cranberry orange flavor, so I add orange juice to the water at the start and then add some orange zest at the end. You can make all kinds of adjustments thought to make this your own. You can add lemon juice or zest to make it a cranberry lemon flavor. It will be a bit more tart, but good. Add other fruits like blueberries to add sweetness, or dried fruits like raisin, currents, etc. for added richness. Spice it up with allspice, nutmeg, or cinnamon. Go nuts and add some chopped pecans, walnuts, or almonds. Have fun, experiment and make this your own.


Ingredients2 Cups of Cranberries

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Juice from one orange or 1/2 cup orange juice (optional)
  • 2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • Orange zest from orange (optional). You can leave the recipe plain for add the orange or you can add berries, dried fruit, spice, or chopped nuts)


  1. Place the cranberries in a colander and rinse. Pick out any damaged or bruised cranberries and discard them.
  2. Pour water, sugar and orange juice into a medium sauce pan oh medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Add the cranberries. Stir occasionally until it returns to boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for approximately 10 minutes until the cranberries burst and you reach the desired consistency. Remember the sauce will thicken further once it cools.
  4. Add in any additional ingredients that you choose to add. I added the zest from the orange that I used.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat, but let the cranberry sauce cool completely in the pot. Once cooled, transfer to a bowl with a lid and keep it in the refrigerator.


Cranberry sauce is great with turkey or in turkey sandwiches later. It is also great on toast or biscuits. I actually tried it over some chocolate ice cream and it was delicious. Almost a black Forrest taste.

If you try this recipe, let me know in the comments. Tell me what you thought. Did you try any add ins? If so, what did you add?

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