Recipe: Make your own goddamned cranberry sauce

Cranberry sauce
The finished cranberry sauce. See how fancy it looks?

You’ve got a potluck coming up for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas, and everyone has been tasked with bringing something. “Oh, no!” you think. “I can’t cook, and I don’t want my family, colleagues or fellow inmates to know I can’t feed myself!” Well, hurry on up and write your name on the potluck sign-up sheet next to “cranberry sauce,” because we’re going to talk you through this. It’s going to be OK.

Most packages of fresh cranberries already come with instructions for how to make cranberry sauce that uses the entire quantity of berries in the bag. Why? Because it’s stupidly easy, and because it’s what most of the people purchasing these bags of cranberries are no doubt doing. You’d think it would be a complicated process, what with the final result looking sort of like a jelly, but you’d be wrong. If you’ve got a medium-sized saucepan and a bit of time the day before, you’ll be set.

Cranberries, before they become cranberry sauce. They’re tough little orbs, and it’s hard to imagine they’ll quickly transform into cranberry sauce with little effort. But they do!

For a recipe, I’ve pinched the ratios from the side of a bag of cranberries and given you a few quick ways to punch it up. It doesn’t get much more basic than this.

Basic Cranberry Sauce


  • 1 cup (250 mL) water
  • 1 cup (250 mL) white sugar
  • 12 oz (340 grams) fresh cranberries


  1. Open the bag of cranberries and give them a rinse.
  2. Combine water and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the cranberries to the boiling sugar water and bring it back up to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Give it a stir every few minutes. Don’t be surprised if the berries start to pop and burst as they cook. That’s how they mash themselves into a pulp.
  5. Turn off the heat and stir again with a fork, crushing berries that haven’t popped during cooking.
  6. Let it cool before serving to your very impressed guests. You can also refrigerate it and use it the next day with dinner, then the day after with leftovers.


So many cranberries
Bags and bags of fresh cranberries at my local grocery store. There’s a good chance that almost all of these will be turned into cranberry sauce within weeks. Because it’s just so easy.


Tinkering with a basic cranberry sauce recipe accomplishes two things:

  1. It makes it taste interesting/memorable.
  2. It proves to doubters/haters that you didn’t just dump it out of a can, then mash it up with a fork to trick people into thinking you made it.

And so, some very simple changes you can make:

  1. Stir in a bit of Grand Marnier or Cointreau, but don’t go overboard. And this is a modification best saved for a meal at home without kids. Your office may not approve. Or maybe your office would love it. You know best.
  2. Microplane (it’s a very fine grater, as seen here) a wee bit of citrus zest and add it at the end. Half a teaspoon is probably plenty. A little bit of zest goes a long way. Depending on what you feel like, you can try lemon, lime or orange zest.

See? Easy. And what do you do if you have some leftover cranberry sauce after the big event? Try it spread on a turkey sandwich, or maybe use a bit of it on top of a bowl of cold vanilla ice cream. It can also work in a trifle.

Got any other suggestions for ways to punch up a basic cranberry sauce? Leave a comment below!

So good luck, you! Go get ‘em, tiger!

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