An Easy Cranberry Sauce Recipe and 4 Unexpected Twists

Cranberries are must-have Thanksgiving staple. No matter what else gets included in the holiday spread, you’re bound to find a bowl of the deep, gem-red, antioxidant-powered berries at every holiday table.

It’s so ubiquitous that everyone seems to have their own go-to cranberry sauce recipe to compliment all the turkey and potatoes. For some, that means a treasured family recipe passed down through generations; for others, the “recipe” is to shake a can of cranberry sauce onto a platter, complete with the ridged imprints from the inside of the can (no judgement!).

This year, challenge yourself to think outside the can with these twists on the classic cranberry sauce recipe. Starting with a simple base to get you going, we’ll then move onto the sweet, the spicy, and everything in between.

The basics

If you usually rely on pre-made or canned cranberry sauce for your Thanksgiving table, this easy recipe will convince you to go the homemade route every year from now on. It doesn’t take too long, and it’ll make 2–3 cups.

12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup orange juice
Zest of 2–3 oranges
3/4 cup brown or white sugar

Combine all ingredients in a pot. Stir everything together over medium-high heat. After about 5–8 minutes you should have a thick, jam-like consistency; if necessary, you can flatten still-plump cranberries with the back of a spoon or a spatula. If the sauce is still watery, continue cooking for another 3–5 minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a splash of water or orange juice. When finished cooking, let cool and then store in the fridge in a sealed container for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to 4 months.

Ginger zing

Now that you’ve mastered the basics, it’s time to play around a bit with the flavors. Fresh ginger gives this recipe a bright zing, and as an added bonus, ginger is known to help settle the stomach (something we all could use at the Thanksgiving table).

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds fresh cranberries
1–2 ounces ginger, peeled and chopped finely
3/4 cups light brown sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
pinch of sea salt

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the cranberries and quickly pan-roast them, stirring frequently until they start to give off liquid and break down. Add the ginger, brown sugar, orange juice, orange zest, and salt, and reduce the heat to a simmer.

Cook for approximately 25–30 minutes, stirring ocassionally. If the mixture dries out too much and starts to stick, add a small amount of water and continue cooking. The final result should be a thick purée with some of the cranberries still intact.

Get fruity

This sweet rendition of the classic Thanksgiving side takes all the summery flavors of a blueberry jam and transforms it into a cozy fall sauce. If you have any leftover, this tastes great on waffles or pancakes the next day.

12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 cup orange juice
3/4 cups organic sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
6 ounces fresh blueberries

Rinse and drain the cranberries and set them aside. Next, bring the orange juice and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add the cranberries, reduce the heat and simmer the mixture for about 10 minutes, until the cranberries have burst and the sauce has slightly thickened.

Stir in the cinnamon and nutmeg, and remove the mixture from the heat. Add the blueberries and stir them in, smashing a few as you go. Transfer the sauce to a serving dish and allow it to cool before serving.

Spike it

This one is definitely a cranberry sauce for the adults table, only. Because you can always use more wine on Thanksgiving!

1 tablespoon vegetable oil or other neutral cooking oil
2 cups cranberries
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cups dry red wine, such as Pinot Noir
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder
Large pinch of Chinese five-spice powder or cinnamon

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cranberries and fresh ginger; stir until cranberries begin to burst, about 3 minutes. Add wine and sugar; boil until mixture is reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes.

Add crystallized ginger, curry powder and five-spice powder or cinnamon. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill. Serve sauce cold or, if desired, rewarm over low heat, stirring often. The sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to three days.

Spice it

If you’re looking to (literally) spice up your Thanksgiving table, look no further than this jalapeño cranberry sauce. Pro tip: if you want to add even more heat, leave a few of the jalapeño seeds in the mix, rather than discarding—the more seeds, the hotter the sauce.

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup sherry or apple cider

Rinse berries in cold water; drain. In a saucepan, mix water and sugar; stir to dissolve sugar. Bring to boil. Add cranberries, jalapeño peppers, and lemon juice, and return to boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sherry (or apple cider) and stir well. Remove from heat and let cool completely at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for up to three days.  

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