Recipe: Very Basic Cranberry Sauce

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(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

If you’re cooking for the first time this Thanksgiving, or if you’re intimidated by the whole menu, you may be tempted to open up a canned cranberry sauce. Don’t. Cranberry sauce is by far the easiest part of the Thanksgiving spread to make yourself, and there’s a big payoff in taste.

Cranberry sauce also usually tastes better the day after it’s made, so you can make it ahead and have one less thing to worry about. Cranberries are high in pectin, so a quick simmer with water and sugar is all you need for a basic sauce. This recipe doesn’t include the fancy fixings some people add like walnuts or coconut. I’ll leave that up to you. If only the turkey would be this easy!

I did add a couple of optional flavorings; some may prefer to leave these out. If you want some spice, simmer with a cinnamon stick or a couple cardamom pods.

What are your favorite ways to flavor basic cranberry sauce?

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Very Basic Cranberry Sauce

Makesabout 2 cups


  • 1 cup


  • 1 cup


  • 12 ounces

    fresh or frozen cranberries (about 3 cups)


  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a simmer and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

  2. Add the cranberries and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until they pop open and became translucent, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the liquor, if using.

Recipe Notes

More Ways to Flavor Cranberry Sauce:

Spices: Add a cinnamon stick, cardamom pod, or slices of fresh ginger to the water and simmer with the cranberries. Remove before serving.

Vanilla: Add a vanilla bean to the water and simmer with the cranberries. Remove before serving.

Citrus Zest and Juice: Add the peel of an orange (and the juice, if you want) to the water and simmer with the cranberries. Remove the peel before serving.

Liquor: Stir in 1 tablespoon of rum, brandy, or whiskey to the finished cranberry sauce.

Dried Fruit: Add a handful of chopped dried figs or cherries with the cranberries and simmer.


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