Recipe: Easy Cranberry Sauce

Recipe: Easy Cranberry Sauce
A bag of fresh or frozen cranberries, a few everyday ingredients and a saucepan is all you need for this quick recipe. (Stacey Little / Southern Bite)

OK, I have a confession to make. Years ago, I made the promise that there would always be canned cranberry sauce at my house after a tragic accident that included molten cranberry goo, a blender, a white kitchen and an innocent little dog. (Don’t worry; the dog wasn’t harmed.)

Well, I’ve reneged on that. The thing is, I was trying way too hard to make cranberry sauce. Way. Too. Hard. In reality, it’s not hard at all. A bag of fresh cranberries, a few everyday ingredients and a saucepan is all you need.

This simple, easy, quick recipe is done in about 10 minutes and produces a thick, rich, amazingly flavorful cranberry sauce that’s the perfect complement to your Thanksgiving meal.

Can I use frozen cranberries?

You bet you can. Just thaw them first. You’ll need about 4 cups. In fact, I always recommend buying a few extra bags of fresh cranberries at the store when they’re in season and popping that whole bag in the freezer for the times when you can’t get fresh.

Can I make cranberry sauce in advance?

Heck, yes. I actually recommend it. The flavor improves over time and cranberry sauce is the perfect dish to make in advance to save you time on Thanksgiving Day.

How can I get the bitterness out of my cranberry sauce?

OK, this one is a little more complicated, but bear with me a second.

The bitterness that you taste in cranberry sauce is the result of the naturally occurring tannins in the cranberries. When we cook them, those cranberries burst and release those tannins. Some folks really love the tart/bitter flavor of cranberries. Others not so much.

Amazingly flavorful cranberry sauce cooks in only 10 minutes. (Stacey Little / Southern Bite)

There are a few things we can do to help with the bitterness, but, unfortunately, I’ve not ever found a surefire way to eliminate it completely.

To start, we add a little salt. The salt helps to make the sugar taste sweeter, masking a little of the bitterness.

Some suggest that adding a small pinch of baking soda helps by limiting the acid in the sauce. And while tannic acid is what makes up some of the tannins in cranberries, it’s not all tannic acid. So, while adding a pinch of baking soda will help, it won’t eliminate it all. Just keep in mind it needs to be a small pinch. Also, the sauce will foam up when you add it but will eventually dissolve.

Others say that aging the cranberry sauce a bit will allow the tannins to soften. I do think that makes a little difference, so it’s another reason I recommend making cranberry sauce in advance. It will keep in the fridge for seven to 10 days or in the freezer for up to six months.

Cranberry sauce too thick? Too thin?

Cranberries have a relatively large amount of pectin in them compared to some other fruit. This pectin is what combines with acid and sugar to thicken the sauce. The same thing is what makes jelly set.

If you don’t cook it long enough, the pectin won’t have enough time to thicken the sauce. So if it’s too thin, simply cook it a little longer.

If you find the sauce too thick, add a little more orange juice (or water) until you get to the consistency you want.

Can I strain the sauce?

Absolutely. If you’re not a fan of the skins remaining in the sauce, pour the sauce through a fine mesh sieve or strainer to filter them out. Just do it while the mixture is still warm. It will thicken as it cools, which will make it harder to get through the sieve. You might also have to give it a little help by pressing the sauce through the sieve with the back of a wooden spoon.

Keep refrigerated for seven to 10 days or in the freezer for up to six months. (Stacey Little / Southern Bite)

Easy Cranberry Sauce

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Serves: 8


  • 1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt


  1. Rinse and drain the cranberries.
  2. In a medium sauce pan, over medium heat, combine the cranberries, orange juice, sugar and brown sugar.
  3. Bring to a simmer.
  4. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the cranberries have burst and the mixture has thickened – about 10 minutes.
  5. Add a pinch of salt and stir to combine.
  6. Allow to cool. Sauce will thicken as it cools.
  7. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 10 days or freeze for up to six months.

This recipe originally appeared on For more great recipes, visit the website or check out ”The Southern Bite Cookbook.”

Related Stories