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Homemade Cranberry Sauce: Basic Recipe and Variations

Updated on January 10, 2022
StephanieBCrosby profile image

Stephanie Bradberry is an educator herbalist, naturopath, and energy healer. She loves being a freelance writer and whipping up recipes.

Homemade cranberry sauce
Homemade cranberry sauce | Source

Thanksgiving is about one of the only times we think about making cranberry sauce. While it is easy to go to the store and buy some whole berry or jellied cranberry sauce, it is much more satisfying to know you made it yourself and controlled what went in it. Below is a basic recipe for cranberry sauce along with some slight variations.

Preparation Time
Cooking Time
5-7 min.
15-20 min.
Beginning of cooking process
Beginning of cooking process | Source
End of cooking process
End of cooking process | Source

Basic Recipe

  • 1 12 oz. package of cranberries
  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 cup water


1. Add cranberries, sugar, and water to a pot.

2. Bring to a boil

3. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes.


  • Be careful that the pot does not boil over.
  • If you hear a strange sound and think about dropping to the floor, it is not firecrackers. It’s the berries bursting open.
  • Do not overcook the berries.

Straining Process
Straining Process | Source

Whole Berry or Jellied?

If you want the truly homemade feel, go for keeping your sauce whole berry. That means once you are done cooking the sauce and let it cool, you transfer it to the container of choice.

However, if you like your sauce smooth and free of seeds and skin, you can go for jellied sauce. The main method is putting a strainer over a big bowl (as shown right) and using the back of a spoon to strain through the mesh. You can also use an immersion blender to pulverize the skin and seeds, but often there are remnants. This would be a blend between whole berry and jellied sauce.

Variation 1

If you like a really fresh twist to your cranberry sauce, add the following to the basic recipe:

  • 1 orange, zest and juice
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice


1. Add these items after the first five minutes of cooking.

2. Then cook for an additional 15 minutes.


I like using a microplane to zest citrus fruit. It makes the job very easy.

Variation 2

Add the following to the basic recipe:

  • 1 apple (chopped)


1. Add the apple after the first 10 minutes of cooking.

2. Then cook for an additional 10 minutes.


Choose an apple that is firm. I recommend McIntosh because it is firm and is both sweet, a little tart, and crisp. A variety like Golden Delicious is way too soft and will basically disintegrate by the end of cooking.

Variation 3

Add and/or substitute the following to the basic recipe:

  • Substitute half of the water for Ginger ale or Sprite
  • 1 apple


1. Cook for 20 minutes (if only adding soda)

2. Add the apple after the first 10 minutes of cooking.

3. Then cook for an additional 10 minutes.


Be careful as you add the soda, as it will fizz and bubble up.

Which kind of cranberry sauce do you prefer?

See results

© 2011 Stephanie Bradberry


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