Tips to Make Cranberry Sauce – Fresh, Yummy, And… Well-timed

Chances are homemade cranberry sauce will ruin your Thanksgiving day.

Like the year I wanted to make it myself. And I postponed and postponed and postponed. Until I woke up from my postponing wonderland. It was almost lunch time, 24th of November. Rush to the grocery shop. Canned sauce out of stock.

The result: Plain desolate slices of turkey laying in my family’s festive dishes; no berries companionship for Thanksgiving dinner—small village, tough life.

What about that other time when I prepared it too early? My culinary adventure ended up with a snowy mantle of polka dots adorning the vibrant purple color.

Real homemade cranberry sauce is super easy to prepare and super delicious to taste.

All right. But mess up the timing, and you’ll spoil your Thanksgiving feast.

Not this year!

Want to know two methods I recommend? Keep reading…

2 Ways to Make the Best Homemade Cranberry Sauce of Your Lifetime

Here you’ll find the following two versions of the most delicious cranberry sauce recipe, with ingredients and directions for 3-4 cups—plus some tested extras:

  1. Cranberry sauce #1: homemade in advance.
  2. Cranberry sauce #2: homemade the last minute.
  3. From basic to “Wow”

Cook your berry topping either a few days in advance or on the 24th of November. Both ways, it’ll taste so good that your dears won’t leave any for turkey leftovers.

Cranberry Sauce #1: Homemade in Advance

Fresh cranberry sauce keeps for quite a while since it contains sugar.

Not for so long that you can eat it the next February—yes, done it. Even if your forgotten cranberry sauce looks ok and doesn’t fizz, it shouts ‘health hazard’ from the rooftops.

The following version should last for about 7-10 days in the fridge and 1 month in the freezer.


  • 4 cups (1 12-oz package) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 3/4 to 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water


1. Wash cranberries

Empty a bag of cranberries into a colander. Don’t eat ’em all—2 or 3 is ok.

Wash and let drain.

2. Bring water and sugar to boil

Put the water and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan over high heat and boil.

Keep on stirring to dissolve the sugar.

3. Add cranberries, cook until they pop

Remove from heat and add the berries.

Return to a boil.

Lower the heat and simmer until the cranberries soften and then break down. This will take about 5 mins if using frozen cranberries or 8-10 mins if using fresh.
If it seems too thick, add more liquid.

4. Let cool

Remove the pot from heat. Let cool completely at room temperature, then transfer to a bowl to chill in the fridge. Note that the cranberry dressing will continue to thicken as it cools.

An early preparation is only one way to make your cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving turkey. The second is a last-minute fresh dressing.

Cranberry Sauce #2: Homemade the Last Minute

Did you know making homemade cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving day is as simple as warming up the microwave and pressing a few buttons?

And you can make it just 2-3 hours before serving.


  • 4 cups (1 12-oz package) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 3/4 to 1 cup sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup water


1. Combine ingredients

Mix together cranberries, sugar, and water in a glass microwave container. It must be at least twice as deep as ingredients.

2. Cook covered

Microwave covered for 6-8 minutes on High. Stir twice until mixture boils and cranberries pop.
Frozen cranberries will take 2 to 3 minutes longer to cook.

3. Cook uncovered

Microwave uncovered another 2-3 minute on high until mixture coats the back of a spoon.

4. Let cool

The mixture should already be thickening to a sauce/jam consistency, for these cranberries release pectin when popping. Although it’ll thicken even more as it cools, if you like it thicker stir well and microwave a minute or so more with a vented lid.

Leave berries whole or purée to desired consistency with a food processor or blender. Let cool to room temperature.

Then, set in the fridge for an hour or two.

From Basic to “Wow”

Cranberries, sugar, and water. Both versions of Thanksgiving favorite topping combine these three magic ingredients only.

You can unleash your creativity and dress up the basic recipe with extras, too.

Spices or fruit, your choice.

For example: Fresh orange and lemon zests add a nice citrusy kick; likewise, dried fruits like raisins, cherries, or figs give the sauce extra sweetness. A tablespoon of brandy, rum, port, or even bourbon at the end can add a fun twist.

The Ultimate Speed-light Cranberry Delicacy

How would you like to hear another secret for the fastest cranberry topping in the world?

Turn off the heat.

Here’s a third no-cooking option: cranberry chutney.

Try the recipe of cranberry-orange chutney from BJ’s Wholesale Club. Tart, sweet, and with chopped walnuts.


Check out other great tips for a terrific Thanksgiving:

Image titled 'Tips to Make Your Best Homemade Cranberry Sauce with Perfect Timing'
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Hi, I am Stefania, hearth and keyboard behind Tipsographic, a free online resource for everybody interested in project management and agile. I specialize in project management tips, tools, and tricks. When I'm not writing, you can find me road cycling around Tuscany or spending time with friends and family.

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