Team Homemade Cranberry Sauce: an updated classic

In my book, the highlight of Thanksgiving food is the sides. Thus, I’m the kind of person who wants multiple types of cranberry sauce on my Thanksgiving table. Typically the food is so rich, dense, and butter-filled, that I will panic if I don’t see some sort of acid (cranberry sauce, mustard, vinegar based salads) present on the table the balance it out (read give me the capacity to eat more). 

In the past I have been gravely disappointed upon arriving as a guest to a dinner to find a sad, saccharine-sweet, can-ribbed mold flung onto some far corner of the table as an after thought. Canned cranberry sauce is the enemy. Dinner ruined. I am 100% team homemade sauce, if that means I have to bring my own, I’ll do it. It requires the least amount of work, it can be done in advance, and you probably already have all the ingredients in your pantry (save for the cranberries which you can find most places during the holidays). 

Cranberry sauce is basically just a quick jam. Cranberries have natural pectin in them which bursts forth once they boil and snap open. If you make too much of this (you can never have enough), it also works great as a pie filling or ice cream topping. This year, I made a lot. Some to eat standing over the stove, some for Thanksgiving, some for others, and some to save in the freezer for Christmas.

The below recipe is easy to play with. Don’t like the taste of orange? Great. Omit that and up the water content by a splash or two. Don’t have access to dried cherries? Substitute other dried fruits. Like a crunch in your sauce? Throw some toasted hazelnuts or almonds on there to top it off. Want some heat? Add a tsp of red pepper flakes.


  • 12 oz (340g) fresh or frozen cranberries (not canned)
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries (if you can’t find these, you could use dried cranberries, I’ve also used diced dried mission figs)
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced 
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1. See all the above ingredients? Toss them all into a sauce pan over high heat and bring to a boil. If you’re trying to do minimum kitchen clean up, you don’t have to clean out your measuring cup if you measure the sugar first, dump it in, then the maple syrup, dump that in, and then use the 3/4 cup water to swish out the rest of the maple syrup that sticks to your measuring vessel. You’re welcome. 

2. Anyway, bring all of that to a boil until the cranberries burst open. Then lower to a simmer. The next bit is really up to you. If you like a runny cranberry sauce, don’t simmer for long. I like mine very chunky and jam-like, so I simmer it for 8-10 min. 

You can save this in the fridge for up to 5 days before the festivities, freeze it, or eat it immediately. 

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