Sam Sifton's Basic Cranberry Sauce

Kate Williams

Yes, cranberry sauce is a given. You probably make a homemade version to accompany its canned brethren in order to appease the most strident of canned-sauce believers. But often homemade cranberry sauce recipes include a cascade of spices, fruits, and nuts to distract from the fact that the sauce is simply a frozen bag of bouncy fruits cooked up with far too much sugar.

In Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well, Sam Sifton offers a straightforward yet well-balanced Basic Cranberry Sauce to counter all of those overwrought bowls of relish. It is simply cranberries cooked quickly with orange juice, zest, and just enough sugar to counter the berries' tartness.

Why I picked this recipe: Simple, well-made cranberry sauce should enhance, not distract from the rest of the meal. Sifton's recipe offers just that.

What worked: As promised, this basic sauce was easy, quick, and tasted great next to a slice of turkey smothered in gravy, as well as on a leftovers sandwich the next day.

What didn't: The sauce needed just a pinch of salt in my salt-loving opinion.

Suggested tweaks: Yes, this recipe is easy to tweak/enhance, but I'd suggest making it as is for the purest cranberry flavor.

Reprinted with permission from Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well by Sam Sifton. Copyright 2012. Published by Random House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Recipe Facts

Active: 20 mins
Total: 0 mins
Serves: 6 servings

Rate & Comment


  • 1 12-ounce bag fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup orange juice, preferably fresh squeezed
  • Zest of 1 orange, or to taste


  1. Place cranberries in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and pour over these the sugar and orange juice. Stir to combine.

  2. Cook until sugar is entirely melted and cranberries begin to burst in the heat, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir again, add zest, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes longer, turn off heat, cover pan, and allow to cool.

  3. Put cranberry mixture in a serving bowl, cover, and place in refrigerator until cold, at least 2 hours, or until you need it.