With lemon zest and a hint of spice, this delicious homemade cranberry sauce is perfect for your Thanksgiving table! It takes less than ten minutes to make, and it's a guaranteed crowd favorite.
Growing up, I was never a fan of cranberry sauce.
During Thanksgiving dinner, I would always reach for the sweet potato casserole, turkey, and bread rolls. And, of course, the dessert. But I would always steer clear of the cranberry sauce, never daring to give it a try.
However, my tastes have definitely changed over the last few years! Now, I can't get enough of the cranberry sauce, and it's honestly one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving.
And since I've perfected what might be the ultimate recipe for cranberry sauce, I wanted to share it with you! The addition of lemon zest, cinnamon, and nutmeg takes this cranberry sauce to the next level, and I promise your friends and family will absolutely love it.
What You'll Need
You'll only need a few key ingredients and tools to make this cranberry sauce, and it comes together in no time.
This is a short overview of some of the ingredients for this cranberry sauce and why they're important. The full recipe can be found at the bottom of the post!
- Cranberries - I used a 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries for this recipe, but you can also use frozen cranberries if preferred.
- Granulated sugar - Don't skimp out on the sugar in this recipe! It helps the cranberry sauce set up and acts as a preservative.
- Lemon zest - A bit of lemon zest is crucial for this recipe. It helps offset the strong flavor of the cranberries and ensures that the cranberry sauce doesn't taste too sweet.
- Ground cinnamon & nutmeg - Add in a dash of each of these spices to give this cranberry sauce a well-rounded, delicious flavor profile.
Here's a list of the tools I used to make this recipe.
- Medium saucepan - This sauce will bubble up quite a bit when cooking, so make sure to use a medium saucepan to prevent any spillage.
- Citrus zester - This recipe calls for the zest of one whole lemon, so make sure to get your citrus zester ready.
- Wooden spoon or rubber spatula - I like to use a heatproof rubber spatula when making this recipe to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the saucepan, but a wooden spoon works well here too. If you're in the market for a new rubber spatula, this silicone spatula set is a great option.
How to Make This Recipe
This cranberry sauce is honestly so easy to make! Let me show you what you'll need to do to get this sauce on the table.
1. Combine all the ingredients. In a medium saucepan, combine the cranberries, water, granulated sugar, lemon zest, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, and salt and stir until the mixture is homogenous. (Image 1)
2. Start cooking the sauce. Stir to combine all the ingredients, then start cooking the mixture over medium-low heat. (Image 2)
3. Cook the mixture until the cranberries have burst. Continue cooking the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have burst and the sauce has a jammy consistency. The cooking time will depend on your heat, but I've found it usually takes about 5-10 minutes for me. (Images 3 and 4)
4. Transfer the cranberry sauce to a heatproof container and let cool. It's best to let the sauce cool to room temperature before serving. Enjoy!
Tips to Make Perfect Cranberry Sauce
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when making this sauce:
- Make sure to cook the cranberry sauce on medium-low heat. As the mixture heats up, it will start to liquefy and boil. If your heat is too high, the sauce can spill over the sides of the pan or even burn. To avoid that, keep the heat low and steady as the mixture cooks.
- Be careful not to overcook the cranberry sauce. I like to cook the cranberries until they have almost all burst. The sauce will continue to cook and thicken once you remove it from the heat. And if you remove it from the stove and find it hasn't cooked all the way, you can always return it to the heat to cook a bit more.
- Make this recipe ahead of time! I always find myself really overwhelmed on Thanksgiving day — why are there always so many dishes to make? Save yourself some time later by making this recipe a few days ahead of time.
Common Questions About This Cranberry Sauce
Fresh, uncooked cranberries can be kept at room temperature for up to two weeks. If you are going to purchase your cranberries earlier than that, I would recommend freezing them in the original bag until you make the cranberry sauce. Then, you can just follow the recipe directly using the frozen cranberries — no thawing necessary!
Yes! To achieve perfect cranberry sauce every time, I recommend cooking on low-medium heat. This will prevent the mixture from burning, and it will also protect you from popping berries that might burn you. Once the mixture starts to bubble up, you can also turn the temperature down even further for added safety.
For cranberry sauce and other jams, sugar helps the mixture firm up. If you use less sugar in the recipe, the cranberry sauce will set much more loosely. In addition, sugar acts as a preservative, which helps maintain the color of the cranberries and prevent mold growth.
This cranberry sauce can be served chilled or at room temperature — totally up to you! I personally like pairing cold cranberry sauce with warm dishes.
How to Store & Freeze
To store: You can store this cranberry sauce in an airtight container for up to one week.
To freeze: This cranberry sauce can be frozen for up to two months. Let it cool completely, then pack it in an airtight container or a frozen-safe zip-top bag before freezing. Make sure to defrost the frozen cranberry sauce in the fridge overnight before serving.
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