Best Ever Cranberry Sauce (Hall of Fame version)

by Dorothy Reinhold on November 14, 2020

Print This Post Print This Post Best Ever Cranberry Sauce: The title says it all about this iconic holiday condiment. Winner in countless taste tests over the years, this is my most-requested version. Don’t show up to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner without it, and make this a week ahead of your big dinner, for best flavor.

Best Ever Cranberry Sauce is a classic at the Thanksgiving table — lightly sweet, spiced, cooked gently just until the berries are tender. It will be your most requested version!

Don’t even think of showing up for Thanksgiving or Christmas without this gem for the holiday feast. It takes only minutes to make, and is head-and-shoulders above any canned version. It is my most requested recipe for cranberry sauce, and is in the hall of fame for my family.

Will you trust me if I ask you to branch out a little in your Thanksgiving Day meal? It won’t be painful, I promise, and it will be delicious.

pile of fresh cranberriesDo NOT buy a can of cranberry sauce to serve with your turkey. Instead, buy a bag of fresh cranberries, and make my favorite sauce, which is a lightly sweet, spiced version. It takes all of 15 minutes to make it, so don’t even think of using lack of time as an excuse!

I’ve experimented with dozens of versions of cranberry sauce over the years – with Port, with Grand Marnier, with blueberries, with cherries, with raisins and nuts, making it a chutney, with sour cream and onions – even doing a cranberry sauce taste test with three different versions a few years in a row. While the taste tests were certainly fun and delicious, it soon became clear that everyone kept reaching for the same dish repeatedly, year after year.

This is the hands-down most requested recipe. If you make it a week or more before your dinner, the flavors will meld nicely. This is important, so don’t make it last minute if you can possibly make it earlier.

Best Ever Homemade Cranberry SaucePut down that can. You can do better!

Cranberry Sauce with 2 bags of cranberries behind it

Best Ever Cranberry Sauce — Hall of Fame version

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: Serves 6

Best Ever Cranberry Sauce — Hall of Fame version

Best Ever Cranberry Sauce: The title describes this iconic holiday condiment. Winner in countless taste tests over the years, this is my most-requested version. Don’t show up to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner without it, and make this a week ahead of your big dinner, for best flavor.


  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
  • Zest of 1 orange (orange part only)


  1. In a 2-quart heavy saucepan, add sugar, water and spices and cook, stirring often, until sugar dissolves, syrup is clear and comes to a rolling boil, about 3 minutes. In a colander, rinse and pick over the cranberries to remove any mushy ones. Add cranberries to boiling syrup and continue cooking, uncovered, just until they begin to pop, about 3-5 minutes (set the timer). Be careful not to cook them too long or they will get mushy.
  2. Remove from heat, stir in orange zest and cool to room temperature, uncovered. Ladle into clean jars or plastic containers, label and refrigerate until ready to serve. You may serve it cold straight from the fridge, or serve it at room temperature, which is my favorite way.
  3. Makes about 2 1/2 cups sauce, enough to serve 6.


Recipe source: Dorothy Reinhold | Shockingly Delicious

Cook’s trick: Make two batches and stick one jar of it in the back of the refrigerator, to be discovered two months later. It will be an utterly delicious cook’s treasure!

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Cranberry Mimosas on the blog Shockingly DeliciousWhat else to do with Best Ever Cranberry Sauce

  1. Make these Jaw Droppingly Good Cranberry Mimosas the next day. Put your feet up and enjoy your weekend!
  2. Eat with grilled sausages
  3. Eat with roast pork or roast chicken
  4. Mix equal parts with mayonnaise for a sandwich spread
  5. Make an oil and vinegar salad dressing and stir a bit of  Cranberry Sauce in for a lightly sweet dressing

Other recipes for your Thanksgiving feast

Coffee-Toffee Pecan PieCheese Herb Potato Gratin (looks fancy, but easy to make)

Garlic and Herb Potato Gratin

Dorothy’s Southwest Stuffing

Blue Ribbon Coffee-Toffee Pecan Pie

This recipe for Best Ever Cranberry Sauce was originally published Nov. 19, 2010, and has been updated and refreshed for republication today.
The prior photo is below, for posterity. 🙂
Best Ever Cranberry Sauce

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Nena November 26, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Still my favorite. Happy Thanksgiving to the entire staff at


Dorothy Reinhold November 27, 2014 at 5:38 am

Thank you Nena!


Allison November 25, 2014 at 8:59 am

I made this last night but tripled the recipe because I bought the Costco size cranberries… the sauce isn’t really thick like in your picture… will it thicken in the fridge or do you have any suggestions? Should I blend up some of the cranberries and reincorporate them? The flavor is great but the consistency seems off – thanks!


Dorothy Reinhold November 25, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Mine thickens in the refrig. If yours doesn’t, then take a tater masher and take a coupla swipes through it to break some up. That should do it. But really, mine always thickens up in the refrig.
(As I am thinking about it, if you tripled the recipe and put it all in one pot, I am sure your cooking times would need to increase slightly. But it won’t matter…you made them and they’ll be fine. Just smash a few up until it gets to the thickness you like.)

Happy Thanksgiving!


Tina November 19, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Are these best served warmed or cold?


Dorothy Reinhold November 20, 2014 at 5:44 am

Cranberry sauce is served cold or at room temperature. I recommend room temp.


scott November 27, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Serve cold? If not, specifically how should this dish be prepared prior to serving?


Dorothy Reinhold November 28, 2013 at 3:48 am

You may serve it cold or at room temperature.


Cheri Hanson Husted November 24, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Let the cooking begin!


Liz November 21, 2013 at 7:58 am

Lovely recipe and I love cranberries. Thank you.


Dorothy Reinhold November 21, 2013 at 8:59 am

Me too! One of my favorite things about November-December…


Caitlin November 19, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Hi! I made this sauce yesterday for a holiday dinner at work tomorrow. I took your advice and made an extra batch for my own Thanksgiving which is in another week. My question is, with the time that the ingredients have to mingle in the fridge, do the flavors mellow, or intensify? I like spices and can handle a heavy hand with them, but I tasted the sauce last night while it was still warm and WOW. It was good but very spiced. I loved it but am concerned that other’s may have less, how shall I put this – tolerance for such sassy spices 🙂


Dorothy Reinhold November 19, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Interesting you say that. I don’t think it is overly sassy (love your word!). However, you are right…people have different tolerances for flavors of all kinds. I think it mellows as it ages. I happen to think the canned version is nearly tasteless…it tastes of sugar and not too much else. I also think this tastes different by itself than with food. You put it on the fork with some roast turkey and mashed taters and then let’s talk! Hope your friends and family like it!


Erica October 29, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Can you can this recipe?


Dorothy Reinhold November 1, 2013 at 11:53 am

You will have to ask a canning expert that question. I do not want to tell you yes and have it be unsafe! I know you can keep it in the refrig for months (I do this each year), and I know you can freeze it.


alizabeth November 19, 2012 at 11:52 pm

I just made it. Hopefully the flavors will meld enough by Thursday! I’m very excited. I found I love cranberry sauce! Who knew. BTW, I only boiled the berries for a 2:10. Is that enough? I just heard a few pops but wanted it to be al dente, so to speak. The berries were still whole and round (Did I cook them enough? Do they break down and get mushier in the frig?). Anyway, the suspense was killing me so I mashed some up. Was that ok??? It looks good, now, but I don’t know how they would have come together after a couple of days in the frig. Thanks. They taste great, already.


Dorothy November 20, 2012 at 6:35 am

Give it a taste. If you like the berries as is, leave it. If you think they are not cooked enough, put it back on the stove and boil for another minute. No need to mash them, but since you did already, that’s OK. Just for next time. But truly, anything you want to do to this sauce will be fine.


alizabeth November 20, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Thanks, Dorothy. It tastes delicious! I can’t wait. I guess the berries just soak in the sugar and spices and orange and don’t need to cook all that much. Delicious. thank you so much.
Every other recipe asks to boil for ten minutes or more. Why is that do you think???

P.S. Happy thanks giving. 🙂


Dorothy November 21, 2012 at 6:35 am

The long boiling called for in other recipes means the berries will break down completely, and you’ll have pretty much a mushy cranberry sauce like the consistency you get from canned sauce. This recipe wants the berries just popped, so the skin is just broken, which allows the sugar syrup to penetrate and infuse it. But if you prefer the mushier consistency, you can certainly cook it longer. So glad you like the flavor! I like to have this on hand all year long for roast chicken, etc. It’s good with EVERYTHING!


Brooke B November 17, 2012 at 11:14 am

i KNEW you would have a good cranberry recipe! i am going to go make it right now for Thanksgiving… will keep you posted.
ps. i’ve done the brandy/ cranberry for years and it never seems to be that big of a hit ! xo


Nancy@acommunaltable November 22, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Beautiful photo!!! This is very similar to my traditional sauce – like you I am always experimenting – this year added dried sour cherries, tangerine juice and port to the sauce.

Excellent advice as well, there is no reason NOT to make this sauce!!


sippitysup November 22, 2010 at 6:32 pm

You cooks trick just reminded me of something. I froze a batch of cranberry sauce LAST year and it’s still in the freezer. It can’t still be good can it? GREG


Nena November 22, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Ok Dorothy…I am going to trust you this week and put down the can and try it fresh…I’ll let you know.
…And thank you for all the joy you bring my kitchen. Happy Thanksgiving


Dorothy November 22, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Oh Nena, once you make your own cranberry sauce, you will never go back to the can! I promise!


nena November 21, 2011 at 3:39 pm

You are so right!!!….364 days later I am looking for this recipe – Again, Happy Thanksgiving 2011


Lonna Bear November 18, 2016 at 11:00 am

Funny, I made this one year, and though it was good, I missed my canned jelly cranberry, and had it the next year. I must weird, I just really love it!


Dorothy Reinhold November 19, 2016 at 8:54 pm

We like what we like, eh? Why not serve both? I often make 3 versions of cranberry sauce and we have a taste-off.


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