Perfect jellied cranberry sauce recipe (3-ingredients) - Rhubarbarians (2024)

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Holiday classic jellied cranberry sauce recipe! Here’s how to make perfectly smooth cranberry sauce at home for your Thanksgiving table.

Perfect jellied cranberry sauce recipe (3-ingredients) - Rhubarbarians (1)

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Hi, Rhubarbarians! Gather 'round, because today we are diving into how to make jellied cranberry sauce!

For many of us, cranberry sauce is a MUST HAVE on our Thanksgiving or holiday tables. But, do you know how easy it is to make it at home from scratch?

If you love the classic can ridges on store bought cranberry sauce, try making it yourself and see the difference. Making jellied cranberry sauce is so easy and only uses 3 ingredients: cranberries, sugar, and water. That's it!

Jump to:
  • What is jellied cranberry sauce?
  • Ingredients and equipment
  • How to shop for fresh cranberries
  • Step by step instructions
  • Serving suggestions
  • Recipe tips and variations
  • Storing and freezing
  • FAQs
  • Recipe
  • Comments and reviews

What is jellied cranberry sauce?

Picture this: It's Thanksgiving, and you're gazing at a bowl full of ruby-red cranberry goodness. That's jellied cranberry sauce in all its saucy glory.

At its heart, jellied cranberry sauce is the smooth version of traditional whole berry cranberry sauce. It's a thick sauce made from simmering cranberries, sugar, and liquid that can retain it's shape.

As the cranberries burst when simmered, they release natural pectin. This magical pectin is what gives the sauce its jellied texture. After a little sieving action, you're left with a smooth and tart sauce that's ready to grace your holiday table.

When is cranberry season? Cranberries are in season from September to November here in the cooler, Northern US states.

Don't forget to try these Thanksgiving recipes:

  • Cranberry manhattan: a holiday co*cktail
  • Cranberry pancakes with buttermilk and cinnamon
  • How to store fresh cranberries
  • Easy recipes with cranberry sauce
Perfect jellied cranberry sauce recipe (3-ingredients) - Rhubarbarians (6)

Ingredients and equipment

Here is everything you need to make homemade jellied cranberry sauce. Full ingredient amounts with instructions are listed in the recipe card at the bottom of this article.

Ingredients:

  • fresh cranberries (frozen are great too)
  • sugar
  • water

Equipment:

How to shop for fresh cranberries

Right around October, you will usually start to see bags of fresh cranberries popping up at your supermarket. They are fairly inexpensive and sold in twelve ounce bags, which is the exact amount needed to make this recipe. You'll need one twelve ounce bag to make one cup of jellied cranberry sauce. Go ahead and get two if you need to double it!

To make the best tasting cranberry sauce, you will want to find cranberries that are still very firm and have not been damaged. Look for bags of berries that don't have any smashed or broken cranberries and have mostly round, firm berries. The color will range from light, bright red to a dark, deep red. Both are very normal.

Get yourself an extra bag and try some of these ten best fresh cranberry recipes!

Step by step instructions

Here is a visual step-by-step guide to making perfectly smooth cranberry sauce. Full instructions with ingredient amounts are listed in the recipe card at the bottom of this article.

  • First, figure out how much cranberry sauce you will need to make. The recipe is written for 1 cup of cranberry sauce. Go ahead and double or triple the recipe if needed.
  • Combine the cranberries, sugar, and water in a medium sauce pan over medium heat on your stove top.
Perfect jellied cranberry sauce recipe (3-ingredients) - Rhubarbarians (7)
  • Give everything a good stir and bring to a low simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Perfect jellied cranberry sauce recipe (3-ingredients) - Rhubarbarians (8)
  • After about 5 minutes, the berries will start to burst, and you will need to stir more often to keep the berries from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Perfect jellied cranberry sauce recipe (3-ingredients) - Rhubarbarians (9)
  • After 15-20 minutes, your berries should be completely broken down and resemble whole berry cranberry sauce.
Perfect jellied cranberry sauce recipe (3-ingredients) - Rhubarbarians (10)
  • Remove the pan from the heat and let the sauce cool a bit.
  • Grab a fine mesh sieve and place it over a medium bowl.
  • Spoon your cranberry sauce into the sieve and start to press the sauce through the sieve with the back of a large spoon. Do this until all of the sauce is in your bowl and the skins are left behind in the sieve.
Perfect jellied cranberry sauce recipe (3-ingredients) - Rhubarbarians (11)
  • Spoon the strained sauce into a serving container and evenly flatten out the top a bit. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Refrigerating gives the sauce time to set, so refrigerating overnight is best.
Perfect jellied cranberry sauce recipe (3-ingredients) - Rhubarbarians (12)

Serving suggestions

For Thanksgiving: We love to serve cranberry sauce in a fancy bowl on the Thanksgiving table! Be sure to include a large spoon or a small knife so that guests can scoop (or slice) some onto their plates. It's the perfect, colorful side dish that serves as a bright contrast to all that brown and rich Thanksgiving food.

Serve it chilled: We prefer to eat cranberry sauce cold rather than hot, especially the jellied sauce, as it can get thinner as it warms up. Serving the sauce cold will result in that thick, jelly like consistency that we all love.

Fancy presentation: For an elegantly colorful presentation, sprinkle some orange zest on the top of the sauce!

As a jelly: Cranberry sauce is for so much more than a side dish on your holiday table! Try using it as a jelly on your morning toast, stirring it into yogurt, topping on ice cream, spreading it on your sandwiches (hello leftover Thanksgiving sandwiches), or using it to make baked goods and appetizers.

Recipes that pair well with cranberry sauce:

  • Apple and cherry stuffing muffins
  • Chive mashed potatoes with gravy
  • Butternut squash rolls

Recipe tips and variations

  • Fresh vs. Frozen Cranberries: While fresh cranberries are fantastic, you can absolutely use frozen ones too. The sauce may need a few extra minutes to thicken due to the excess water.
  • Sugar Swap: Try swapping brown sugar for white sugar for a richer flavor. You can reduce the amount of sugar if desired as well. I don't recommend using maple syrup, honey, or artificial sweeteners for jellied cranberry sauce unless you are using pectin.
  • Add orange: We're all about that orange flavor! Feel free to swap the water for orange juice or add orange zest to the sauce. It's your cranberry sauce, so make it your own.
  • Add warm spices: Elevate your sauce with a pinch of cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg, or a sprinkle of cloves. These warm spices add a cozy holiday vibe to your cranberry creation.
  • Chill it: Don't skip chilling the sauce! This makes sure that it thickens and provides that smooth consistency. Go for a minimum of one hour, but overnight is best.
  • Make extra: Hosting a crowd or want to make sure you have leftovers? Double or triple the recipe; it's super easy to scale up. Just make sure you have a roomy saucepan to accommodate all those cranberries.

Storing and freezing

You've made a ton of jellied cranberry sauce so that everyone has leftovers, and now it's time to ensure you can enjoy it beyond your festive feast. Here's how to store it and freeze it, so that delightful cranberry goodness doesn't go to waste.

Storing Your Sauce: Once your homemade jellied cranberry sauce has cooled down, place it in an airtight container and pop it in the fridge. It will stay good in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Freezing Your Sauce: First, make sure your sauce has cooled to room temperature. Then, transfer it to an airtight container or a resealable freezer bag. Leave a little space at the top to account for expansion as it freezes. It will stay good in the freezer for up to 6 months. When you're ready to use it, simply thaw it in the fridge overnight or give it a gentle warm-up on the stovetop.

How to use leftover cranberry sauce:

You can find all of our favorite easy recipes with cranberry sauce here!

FAQs

Can I use frozen cranberries instead of fresh ones?

Absolutely! The sauce may need a few extra minutes to thicken due to the excess water.

How can I adjust the sweetness of the sauce?

Sweetness is a personal thing, and cranberries can be quite tart. If you prefer a sweeter sauce, you can add a bit more sugar to taste during the cooking process. Start with the suggested amount in the recipe and adjust from there.

Can I make this sauce in advance?

Absolutely! Jellied cranberry sauce is a make-ahead champion. In fact, it's better to let it chill at last overnight before serving. You can whip it up a few days before your big feast and keep it in the fridge.

How long can I store homemade cranberry sauce?

If you're refrigerating it, your sauce will stay fresh for about 10 days.

Can I freeze leftover cranberry sauce?

You sure can! Freeze it in an airtight container or resealable freezer bag for up to six months.

Help! My sauce turned out too thick (or too thin). What can I do?

No panic needed! If your sauce ends up thicker than you'd like, simply add a bit of hot water and stir until you reach your desired consistency. On the flip side, if it's too thin, simmer it a bit longer until it thickens up. Remember that it will thicken quite a lot as it cools.

Can I customize this recipe with spices or other flavors?

Absolutely, go wild! Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves can add a cozy holiday vibe. You can also experiment with different extracts or even a splash of brandy for a unique twist. It's your sauce; make it uniquely yours.

More cranberry sauce recipes to try:

Did you make this recipe? Leave us a review and star rating in the comments below! We read every single review and appreciate your feedback.

Recipe

Perfect jellied cranberry sauce recipe (3-ingredients) - Rhubarbarians (13)

Jellied cranberry sauce recipe

Trish Bozeman

Holiday classic jellied cranberry sauce recipe! Here’s how to make perfectly smooth cranberry sauce at home for your Thanksgiving table.

4.85 from 33 votes

Print Recipe Pin Recipe

Prep Time 10 minutes mins

Cook Time 20 minutes mins

Cooling time 1 hour hr

Total Time 30 minutes mins

Course condiment, Side Dish

Cuisine American

Servings 8 servings

Calories 116 kcal

Ingredients

  • 12 oz fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¾ cup water

Instructions

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.

    12 oz fresh cranberries, 1 cup sugar, ¾ cup water

  • Gently simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally at first, then stirring constantly once the berries start to burst.

  • When the berries have burst, and you have a thickened sauce (see photos), remove from heat. Let the sauce cool until it can be handled.

  • Place a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl. Pour the sauce into the sieve, and press the sauce against the sieve with a wooden spoon or spatula until all of the berry skins are separated from the sauce. Remember to scrape the bottom of the sieve to get the last bit of sauce into the bowl. Discard the skins or reserve for another use.

  • Pour the cranberry sauce into your desired serving container and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

  • Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Notes

  • Fresh vs. Frozen Cranberries: While fresh cranberries are fantastic, you can absolutely use frozen ones too. The sauce may need a few extra minutes to thicken due to the excess water.
  • Sugar Swap: Try swapping brown sugar for white sugar for a richer flavor. You can reduce the amount of sugar if desired as well. I don't recommend using maple syrup, honey, or artificial sweeteners for jellied cranberry sauce unless you are using pectin.
  • Add orange: We're all about that orange flavor! Feel free to swap the water for orange juice or add orange zest to the sauce. It's your cranberry sauce, so make it your own.
  • Add warm spices: Elevate your sauce with a pinch of cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg, or a sprinkle of cloves. These warm spices add a cozy holiday vibe to your cranberry creation.
  • Chill it: Don't skip chilling the sauce! This makes sure that it thickens and provides that smooth consistency. Go for a minimum of one hour, but overnight is best.
  • Make extra: Hosting a crowd or want to make sure you have leftovers? Double or triple the recipe; it's super easy to scale up. Just make sure you have a roomy saucepan to accommodate all those cranberries.

Nutrition

Calories: 116kcalCarbohydrates: 30gProtein: 0.2gFat: 0.1gSaturated Fat: 0.004gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.02gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.01gSodium: 2mgPotassium: 35mgFiber: 2gSugar: 27gVitamin A: 26IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 4mgIron: 0.1mg

Keyword homemade cranberry sauce, smooth cranberry sauce, thanksgiving

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Perfect jellied cranberry sauce recipe (3-ingredients) - Rhubarbarians (2024)

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