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Classic Cranberry Sauce

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  • Prep 30 min
  • Total 2 hr 0 min
  • Servings 16
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Cranberry sauce will always have a spot on our Thanksgiving table. Adding the welcoming sweet-tart flavor and gorgeous color to the mix of brown turkey and rich, savory sides makes the meal sing. With just 3 ingredients, you can make this homemade cranberry sauce ready in a snap. It’s so easy, you’ll never go back to canned. And…best news ever…it can be made ahead to take the pressure off the big day.
Updated Oct 23, 2023
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Why is My Homemade Cranberry Sauce Runny?

Start with the pan size called for in the recipe, and boil as directed, for the right amount of water evaporation to take place. Boil the cranberries until they begin to pop (their skins pop as they crack or burst open). The more you let them crack, the smoother your cranberry sauce will be, but the thicker it can become. After one hour of chilling, the cranberry sauce will be runnier than if it’s left to chill the full 3 hours.

What Can I Do with Leftover Cranberry Sauce?

There are so many great ways to enjoy homemade cranberry sauce—you might want to make a double-batch! Spread it on bread for leftover turkey sandwiches, Spoon it over a block of cream cheese or a log of goat cheese, for a scrumptiously easy appetizer. Serve it with pancakes, waffles or as an ice-cream topping, for a delicious change of pace from the usual toppings.

Where Can I Find Fresh Cranberries?

Fresh cranberries are usually only available fall through the holidays. Grab a bag (or two). Look for them in the produce section of larger grocery stores. If you can’t find them fresh, some stores might freeze them to keep them fresh, so check the frozen aisle as an alternative. Choose bags that contain firm, plump, shiny red cranberries.

How Long Can Fresh Cranberries Be Stored?

Fresh cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator up to 1 month. Rinse them off before using them. You can also freeze cranberries up to 12 months. You don’t need to thaw them before using but rinse them off before adding to your recipes.


  • 1 bag (12 oz) fresh or frozen cranberries (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water


  • 1
    Place cranberries in a strainer; rinse with cool water. Remove any stems or blemished berries.
  • 2
    In 3-quart saucepan, heat sugar and water to boiling over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Boil 5 minutes.
  • 3
    Stir in cranberries. Heat to boiling over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Boil about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cranberries begin to pop. Cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Pour into serving dish. Cover and refrigerate about 1 hour or until thickened or 3 hours or until chilled.

Tips from the Betty Crocker Kitchens

  • tip 1
    Make sauce as directed, adding 2 teaspoons grated orange peel with cranberries.
  • tip 2
    Be sure to cook the cranberries until they pop (which means their skins burst or crack open) to release the natural pectin, which thickens the sauce.
  • tip 3
    This fresh and easy cranberry sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance, to take the pressure off the preparations on Thanksgiving! Be sure to cool and refrigerate as directed, pouring the sauce into the dish you’ll serve it in.
  • tip 4
    Wondering what else you can make ahead of time for Thanksgiving? Check out our?48 Hours of Thanksgiving Cheat Sheet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should homemade cranberry sauce be served cold?

You’ll want to cool your homemade cranberry sauce to room temperature first, as hot liquids can crack pretty serving dishes! After that, chilling it will not only help the cranberry sauce thicken and gel, but it preserves it as well. If you’re making it the same day, you can choose if you want it runnier or more set up, depending on how much time it gets in the refrigerator. Or you can make it in advance, which will let it gel as much as possible, and then either serve it cold, straight from the fridge, or at room temperature by taking it out of the fridge about 1/2 hour before serving!

Can easy cranberry sauce be made ahead?

Yes, it can, and it’s a perfect way to take the heat off preparing a big meal! Follow our Step by Step Guide to pulling off a spectacular Thanksgiving meal.

What Can I Do with Leftover Cranberries?

Since fresh cranberries are only available for a short time, and can easily be frozen, be sure you have enough on hand for all your holiday needs! See How Long Can Fresh Cranberries Be Stored? above. Try them in any of these delicious holiday recipes Cranberry-Orange Pound Cake, Cranberry Sangría or Extra Easy Cranberry Apple Pie. Add fresh cranberries to your centerpiece, fill a clear glass vase with them for festive decoration or string them, using a needle and thread, to add old-fashioned charm to your Christmas tree.


110 Calories, 0g Total Fat, 0g Protein, 28g Total Carbohydrate, 26g Sugars

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 Serving
Calories from Fat
Total Fat
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
Total Carbohydrate
Dietary Fiber
% Daily Value*:
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
0 Starch; 0 Fruit; 2 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Skim Milk; 0 Low-Fat Milk; 0 Milk; 0 Vegetable; 0 Very Lean Meat; 0 Lean Meat; 0 High-Fat Meat; 0 Fat;
Carbohydrate Choice
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

More About This Recipe

  • This homemade cranberry sauce is so easy to make and so flavorful, you’ll never go back to canned again! Best of all, it can be made ahead to take to some of the stress off preparing your holiday meal. Want to add a layer of flavor beyond the classic sauce? Try Cranberry-Orange Sauce instead.
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