Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce

A lot of folks think that cranberry sauce is basically a jello mold. Nay! There is no gelatin at all. The gelling is achieved via the berry’s natural pectins. That’s right, it’s a congealed salad that freakin’ makes itself! I prefer to keep mine on the simple side, but feel free to spice things up with nutmeg, cloves or ginger. If something tropical suits, you could stir in some finely minced chiles or some chopped vanilla bean, or perhaps cardamom…that was a test…cardamom would suck. Whatever you do, don’t tinker around in the engine room: The amount of fruit, water, acid, honey and time must remain constant.

Cranberry Sauce
Serves 6
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  1. 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (one large orange should do it)
  2. 1/4 cup 100% cranberry juice, not cocktail!*
  3. 12 ounces honey (1 cup by volume)
  4. 1 ounce crystallized or candied ginger, finely chopped
  5. 1 pound fresh cranberries, washed and sorted (feel free to use frozen, but thaw first)
  1. Combine the orange juice, cranberry juice, honey and ginger in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the cranberries and increase heat to medium, cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the mixture thickens. As it thickens, drop the temperature to low, to prevent splattering. Do not cook for more than 15 minutes, as the pectin will start to break down and the sauce will not set as well.
  3. Remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes.
  4. Carefully spoon the cranberry sauce into a 3-cup mold. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to overnight.
  5. Once the cranberry sauce has cooled, overturn the mold and slide out the sauce. Slice and serve.
  1. *Can also use 100% pomegranate juice if you can't find cranberry.
  2. Because I get nostalgic over the days of canned cranberry sauce I usually set mine in an actual can. Looks like your mother's cranberry sauce, but doesn't taste like it.


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  1. 3

    I followed the recipe exactly, and while it was cooking, I thought it tasted too much like honey, but was not sweet enough. I added about 1/4 cup sugar, and just a bit of orange zest about 5 minutes into the cooking. It set pretty well, and the flavors were very balanced when I served it 3 days later. I loved the texture of the whole cranberries in it. They did not taste at all like the ones in canned sauce. Everyone really enjoyed it. I have a little left and am going to cook up some blueberries and sugar and combine it as a compote with french toast.

  2. 4

    Made this last night and the taste is wonderful and it set perfectly! I love the ginger, and i added a bit of orange zest as well. Super recipe!

  3. 5

    Been in the fridge for 12 hours and hasn’t set yet. If I turned this over it will be a pool of red mess. Followed the directions to a T. Confused…

  4. 9

    I just made some. I followed Alton’s recipe. It is amazing. The crystallized (candied) ginger really adds to the flavor and goes places that cranberry sauce rarely goes. I cannot wait for it to set up. I am making a special angel food cake with a special icing made from cream cheese, powdered sugar, sour cream, vanilla, and cool whip. The cake will have three layers and I will top it with the cranberry sauce. It slowly drizzles down the sides of the cake and makes for a wonderful presentation. The cake will be awesome with this cranberry sauce on top of it.

  5. 17
    Megan C

    Oh how I love the idea of putting it in a can. I too get nostalgic for the can ridges. Also, I made cranberry sauce last year from scratch with orange in it, and my then 2 year old kept asking for “more candy please”. We finally figured out he meant the cranberry sauce!

  6. 21

    Does pectin regel if you melt and rechill it? I’m not advocating for this, but if someone decided to melt down the canned stuff and put it in a mold so it was prettier, would that actually work?

  7. 24

    Anybody know where I can find a set of the dishes he used to plate the sauce?!? Because I LOVE THEM!! And all of ours are breaking (they are vintage Mikasa).

    • 26

      They are Starburst by Franciscan Pottery. You can find them on or eBay. My in-laws gave us their entire wedding set from the ’50s and we got more on our registry! They’re my absolute favorite. Don’t get the melamine stuff; its not as cool and you can’t microwave it or put it in the dishwasher.

  8. 27

    I do mine with brown sugar instead of honey (1/2 cup) add vanilla extract, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and some coriander and ckrn starch to help it thicken….the best cranberry sauce ever!! It can double as filling for a cranberry tart its so yummy!

  9. 28
    Carol Vavra

    I use 1 cup apple cider, 1/2 cup sugar and a cinnamon stick. Cranapple! I have to make a double batch as my teenage boys like to mix it into yogurt and use it in place of mayo on turkey or ham sandwiches!

    • 29
      aleena dash

      That sounds wonderful, Carol. Do you just add the cup of cider, sugar, and cinnamon to a pound of cranberries? I’d love to try this out.

  10. 30
    Zoe Berger

    Alton I can’t believe I’m saying this but you are wrong! I’ve used cardamom many times and it does work. I also use a lot less sweet and actually use maple syrup. I’m a big fan by the way. Bring back Good Eats!

  11. 31
    Carolyn Archer

    I’m impressed you know how to spell chile. I can’t believe how often I see it spelled “chili,” and thanks for the cardamom heads up, because I don’t have a clue what it tastes like!

  12. 32

    I couldn’t find cranberry juice, they all had things added… Like pear juice?? Even a bottle which said cranberry and 100% juice wasn’t all cranberry juice. What do you suggest?

  13. 34

    I’ve made this recipe just as is listed for the past 6 years and it’s become a Thanksgiving tradition. It’s fabulous just the way it is. Simple, easy, and delicious.

  14. 36

    Eons ago at a turkey day gathering of older/adult college students I contributed fresh cranberry sauce. One of the less astute in the group asked what it was; I replied “cranberry sauce”. She paused for a bit and then asked in complete seriousness, “Where are the ridges?”

    • 42

      Straining out the chunks is not a good idea since the chunks have the skin and that is where the pectin comes from. I sometimes mash it with a potato masher or put it in a blender and that purees it so there are no chunks. And as for the sweetener, You can sweeten it any way you like as the berries pectin does not need the sugar to set, even Splenda works, but it would not be Alton Browns recipe any more it would be yours. I however have always liked the orange juice, and sometimes I put in mandarin oranges to perk it up a bit.

    • 45
      Susi Matthews

      No, you really need the OJ for the taste of the sauce. Replacing it totally with wine would taste off, I think. You could, however, use half OJ and half cognac to make it ‘adult.’

    • 49

      Thank you for the apple juice suggestion. I’m allergic to citrus and usually can’t have home made cranberry sauce because everyone uses OJ.

    • 51

      I think what he means by “sorted” is that you should pick through the bag–make sure you don’t have any funky berries, sticks, pebbles, or whatnot in the group before you start the process. Everything’s usually good to go, but why chance it when it takes so little time to do a check?

    • 52

      I will partially fill a sink with water, put the ‘berries’ in a colander and immerse in the water. Add water so berries float. Throw out sinkers, and those that are mushy or look bad.

  15. 56

    I never thought about putting it in a can. My family will only eat the canned crap but I love your recipe and even though I am the only one eating it I still make it every year

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