The World's Easiest Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving is easy to make, and even easier to tweak to your tastes.

Photographs and video: J. Kenji López-Alt

Why It Works

  • Cranberries are high in pectin, which helps them set naturally into a jelly without the need for any other thickeners.
  • Orange zest and cinnamon are natural flavor pairings for cranberries, enhancing and complementing their tartness.

Making homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving isn't just extremely easy—it also lets you customize your sauce however you like it. In this version, we add a little orange zest and a stick of cinnamon to the sauce, since their flavors complement the tart berries, but you can add anything you like.

If you're looking for more specific directions for cranberry sauce variations, you can check out our recipes for Spiced Red Wine Cranberry Sauce, Cranberry Sauce With Candied Pecans, Apple-Orange Cranberry Sauce, and Pear and Ginger Cranberry Sauce.

Cranberry sauce keeps extremely well in the fridge, and it can be made at least a week before Thanksgiving and refrigerated until you're ready to set the table.

Recipe Facts

Active: 15 mins
Total: 45 mins
Serves: 8 to 12 servings

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  • 1 (12-ounce; 340g) bag fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar (5 ounces; 140g)
  • 1/2 cup water (4 ounces; 115g)
  • 2 strips zest and 2 tablespoons (30ml) juice from 1 orange (optional)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • Pinch kosher salt


  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until berries start to pop. Press berries against side of pan with a wooden spoon and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until berries are completely broken down and achieve a jam-like consistency, about 10 minutes total. Remove from heat and allow to cool about 30 minutes. Stir in water in 1-tablespoon increments to adjust to desired consistency. Cranberry sauce can be served immediately or stored in the refrigerator for several months.


Special equipment

3-Quart Saucier

Make-Ahead and Storage

Cranberry sauce can be made and refrigerated in a sealed container for at least one week before Thanksgiving, or frozen for several months and defrosted to serve.

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