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Homemade Cranberry Sauce: Basic Recipe and Variations

Updated on November 23, 2011
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?

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    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 5 years ago from New Jersey

      Hi vespawoolf. Orange peel will certainly add much more flavor and a nice zing. I will keep this idea in my back pocket. They never know what I am going to throw in next! And this would be a great surprise.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      I love whole berry sauce with orange peel to make things even more interesting. Thanks for the recipe!

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 5 years ago from New Jersey

      nifwlseirff, I am sure it can be done. However the issue I forsee is that dried cranberries are often sweetened, so you would have to guesstimate how much sugar to add. Also, I would not know how much liquid to use since most of it would be soaked up from the cranberries reconstituting. But give it whirl.

      I often buy extra packs of fresh cranberries when they are in season and freeze the packs for future use. This may help if dried is your best option throughout the year.

    • nifwlseirff profile image

      Kymberly Fergusson 5 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

      Do you think I could make cranberry sauce from dried cranberries? I can much more easily source these than fresh or frozen.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 5 years ago from New Jersey

      Hi starstream! You can absolutely use sugar substitute. You will have to play it by ear in terms of how much to use though. I was contemplating making this with Stevia since that is my new go to sweetner. But the type of sweetness is so different from regular cane sugar that I was not sure if it would become too sweet. Try it out and see what happens!

    • starstream profile image

      Dreamer at heart 5 years ago from Northern California

      Can I make this recipe with sugar substitute? I have some fresh/frozen cranberries in my freezer.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 5 years ago from New Jersey

      frogyfish, no problem. I am actually going to have to use my own recipe again. I made two bags of cranberries for sauce this year, but instead of keeping it partially whole berry, I went for straight jellied. The result: only one dish full of cranberry sauce. Thanks goodness I keep frozen bags around. Good luck with making additions to your own sauce.

    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 5 years ago from Central United States of America

      You have some good additions to cranberry sauce...I make whole berry sauce sometimes, but never thought about adding other ingredients. Will have to remember your recipe! Thanks!