How To Make Cranberry Sauce


This is another one of those recipes that’s so easy you wonder why we buy this pre-made. Two ingredients and 15 minutes work, and it’s better than anything in a can. Courtesy of my mother-in-law, Nancy.


1 package (12 ounces) fresh or frozen whole cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water


Dump all the berries into a colander.

Go through and pick out any that are split, discolored or badly shriveled up.

Rinse the berries under cold water. Get right in there with your hand and really stir them around under the running water.

Set the berries aside and put the sugar and water in a pan and stir.

Put the sugar water over high heat until the sugar is dissolved and the water starts to boil. Then add the berries and stir.

Bring the water back to a boil, and leave the heat up high until the berries start to pop. You’ll hear them if it’s not too noisy in the kitchen. It’s not as loud as popcorn, but sort of sounds the same.

Once the berries start popping, stir and reduce the heat to a simmer. (That’s still bubbling, but just barely.) Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Important safety tip from Nancy: If you are using a fine china or glass serving dish — she got this as a wedding gift 47 years ago — put a metal spoon in the bowl before adding the hot food. This will help dissipate the heat, and keep the glass from cracking from the stress of the temperature difference.

Pour the cooked cranberries into the bowl and even out the top.

Let the berries cool to room temperature before removing the spoon, then refrigerate for several hours so it will gel up.

And that’s it.

Tomorrow I’ll have the smooth version, like the jellied kind in the can. (The way cranberry sauce is supposed to be. Please don’t tell Nancy I said that.)

Cranberry Sauce: Traditional

Cranberry Sauce: Traditional


  • 1 package (12 ounces) fresh or frozen whole cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water


Rinse berries in cold water. Sort through and pick out any that are split, shriveled, or not ripe -- meaning they're much lighter in color than the rest.

Mix the sugar and water in a pan and stir, then put on high heat until it comes to a boil. Add the berries and stir, then bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the berries start to pop.

Pour the cooked cranberries into a serving bowl and even out the top. Refrigerate until set.

NOTE: If you are using a delicate glass bowl, set a large metal spoon in it before pouring in the hot berries. The metal will diffuse the heat, protecting the glass so it doesn't shatter from thermal shock.


  1. My mom has always made her own cranberry sauce. I think the only main difference between hers and yours is that Mom puts some orange zest in hers, and a little bit of baking soda to keep them from foaming up so much. It looks so pretty, doesn’t it?

    Also, no big winter dinner would be complete at our house without mustard pickles and chow. Mmmmmmm.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I, too, use the zest of an orange in my cranberry sauce. Because I have zested orange, I use the juice, too, and make up the additional liquid needed with water.

    I like the jellied sauce, too. In fact, I’m going to make some today. Yum!

  3. Linda Goossen says:

    I make mine with 1# fresh cranberries, 1 large orange, peeled, 1 large apple. Cut up the orange and apple, combine with the cranberries, and 1 C. sugar. Marinate overnight.

    Dissolve 1 large package Strawberry Jello with 1 C hot water, pour over cranberry mixture, cool.

    I bought a beautiful dish for mine last year, which will be passed on to the kids, and in 46 years, it will be an heirloom, unless someone drops it!

    I quit buying the canned variety, because I like the fresh better, and no one really liked the canned stuff. Even the cats won’t eat it!

  4. Linda Goossen says:

    I forgot to say that I chop the cranberries in the blender! I don’t think a whole cranberry would be very good….bitter!


  5. Melissa, for the foaming my MiL just gave it a stir before transferring to the serving dish. And by the way, what’s “chow”?

    Anon, I like the idea of replacing the water with OJ. I’ll have to remember that next time.

    Linda, the whole berries aren’t bitter at all. I suspect it’s because they pop and let all the sugar in. But I prefer the texture of the stained kind better anyway. That will be up later today.

  6. The MiL got fancy with our cranberry sauce this year and used a recipe from “Gourmet” that called for port (and citrus, too). It was good, but I prefer my cranberry sauce to be more . . . tame. Actually, the only thing I like to taste like liquor is, uh, LIQUOR. I’m happy to drink it, but don’t like to eat it.

    So this recipe looks good to me. Except I second (or would it be third or fourth?) the addition of orange. Just because I love citrus.

  7. Don’t forget the other changes, Kristin. Like picking the damn things from the yard, getting the bottled water from in town because the cistern has dead bats in it again, leaving the heat on high because otherwise it’ll freeze up instead of simmering, etc. etc. etc.

  8. I have a dish just like Nancy’s! It was a “wedding gift” from the store where we bought our first set of furniture. That was 41 years ago!

    Drew, check out this site for the definition of “chow chow” — it’s a relish.

  10. B. Cool, that recipe does look good! :) It’s nothing like what Chow is in my neck of the woods, though. It’s particularly good with pork. Mmmmmm, now I’m hungry for chow.

  11. B., do you still use yours? Oh, and thanks for the chow recipe. All I could think of was “bachelor chow” … you know, Hamburger Helper.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I made the jelled sauce last night. In a word, it’s incredible. I’m imagining it with cream cheese on crackers or a bagel or on a sandwich with roasted chicken or turkey or ham. It’s not as thick as that from the can, and I suppose either more sugar or gelatin might thicken it. But, it’s so good as it is that I’m not tempted to fiddle with it.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Oh, in this batch, I used all orange juice for the liquid.

  14. All orange juice? I don’t think I would have gone all the way on the first try. But now that you’ve said it works, I’ll give that a try next time.

  15. I made it just now with a roasted chicken and green salad for lunch. Delicious!!! I can’t believe it jelled so nicely. There must be a lot of natural pectin in the berries. I see no need for jello, for heaven’s sake. Although, orange zest sounds delicious.

    It tastes exactly like the lingdon berry preserves we buy for $6 a jar. Guess what I’ll be putting in the freezer this week? 12 batches of this stuff.

  16. Kate, if you haven’t already made it, wait until tomorrow. I’m way behind on getting everything posted, but I’ve got the “smooth” version just about ready to go. That’s the one I’d put in jars and use on toast. (And did someone say on bagels with cream cheese? Totally trying that one.)

  17. Stephanie says:

    I have been making the cranberry sauce for family dinners since I was 12. I love cranberry sauces and each year I make one batch regular and one batch different. Once I used pomegranate juice and it was amazing. For an adult version I’ve put an ounce of rum in it at the end of cooking.

  18. Does the rum keep it from gelling? I did a glaze once with sugar, OJ and rum, and no matter how much sugar I added it stayed liquid.

  19. Ummm, Drew, isn’t sugar considered a liquid?

  20. Stephanie says:

    Drew, so long as you only use a little bit of alcohol, it won’t keep it from gelling. Those cranberries are freaking pectinful (trademark Stephanie).

  21. Barb, I wouldn’t have thought so. I can see how it might be counted that way in certain types of recipes, but when making a frosting or glaze the sugar is the solid.

    Stephanie, I’m thinking with the other suggestions to substitute OJ for the water, maybe I’ll replace some of the juice with Grand Marnier.

  22. Stephanie says:

    Drew, the Grand Marnier sounds good. If you want a Cran-Raspberry taste, why not some Chambord? I can’t try that because while I love raspberries (favorite candy is See’s Raspberry Cream) my husband has a aversion to them. I think it’s in his head because he can’t even eat the artificial flavored raspberry stuff.

  23. Dixie Amazon says:

    I use port wine for half or all of the liquid. Yum!

  24. Dixie, you just reminded me of something I haven’t had since I was a kid. My parents always got port wine cheese around Christmas time. I can’t remember the last time I had any. I really hope I’m not disappointed when I go get some.

  25. Concetta says:

    I told you I was really enjoying my stroll around your site! I poked into your Thanksgiving recipes because (of course!) Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I refused to eat the can-shaped cranberry sauce that was always on our table. Ewww. Didn't discover that I LOVE all things cranberry until years later when I learned to cook for myself. I love cranberry sauce made this way. Love. But I offer you an alternative for those days when you want a different depth of flavor. I think I could probably eat this every day – especially at breakfast smeared on top of a homemade pumpkin roll. Ahhh. I certainly AM thankful. :o)


    1 12-ounce container frozen cranberry juice cocktail, thawed
    1 cup water
    1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
    1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
    1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
    1 6-ounce package dried cranberries
    1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    Bring first 5 ingredients to boil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add dried cranberries; cook 2 minutes. Add fresh cranberries; cook until berries pop, stirring occasionally, about 9 minutes.

    Transfer to bowl. Cover; chill overnight. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep chilled.) Discard cinnamon. Serve cold or at room temperature.

    Makes about 4 cups.

    Eat well. Be happy.

Tip Jar

Like what you see? Buy me a drink.