whole food ~ well made

Cranberry sauce in a dish

Homemade Cranberry Sauce without a Recipe in 15 Minutes

You can make the easiest “best ever” homemade cranberry sauce without a recipe in minutes and get a step ahead for Thanksgiving.

Guess, what: It’s not too soon to make cranberry sauce! Just a type of preserve, like jam, you can store it for weeks–if not months–in advance of Thanksgiving, or your Friendsgiving.

You can find many “best ever” and “perfect” recipes for this holiday relish out there. But the truth is that cranberry sauce is foolproof: whole fresh cranberries + sugar {more on this below}.

And the best recipe? That’s the one you like best in terms of sweetness, other flavorings {orange or ginger, for example}, and the final consistency {I’m a fan of whole berries}.

A pot with sugar, orange zest and whole cranberries

As for easy recipes? There’s no other kind!

All you have to do is trust yourself and make sure to taste your cranberry sauce a few times during and after cooking to make sure you love it.

DIY Cranberry Sauce Method

Step 1: Cook

Cook whole cranberries with a healthy amount of sugar {granulated or brown or use honey or maple syrup} and a pinch of salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat.

I don’t add any water, but feel free to add a couple tablespoons of lime, orange or lemon juice. Stir frequently. The cranberries will collapse and the mixture will turn soft and jammy.

Dip in a spoon and taste for sweetness. Add more if you think it needs it for a nice balance between tart and sweet.

Step 2: Flavor

Add flavorings if you’d like: orange zest, freshly grated ginger, vanilla or even a hit of bourbon. Taste again and suit your own tastes while you imagine eating it with a bit of roast turkey and stuffing. Yum!

Homemade cranberry sauce in a bowl

Step 3: Process

Here’s the big decision time. You can leave your cranberry sauce whole, puree it smooth or leave it in between with some chunks and texture. Use a potato masher or fork for a chunky consistency. Use an immersion blender or food processor to make it smooth.

Step 4: Chill

Store the cranberry sauce in a covered container in your fridge. Now celebrate that you’ve got one of your menu items already done. Check it off your list.

And then after Thanksgiving, enjoy your homemade cranberry sauce without a recipe on a turkey sandwich with herbed cream cheese {that’s my favorite}.


and become a forager

What’s your best do-ahead tip for Thanksgiving? Let me know in the comments below or tag a photo #lynnesforage on Instagram or Facebook.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce without a Recipe

Here's the basic method for preparing your own cranberry sauce. It's super-easy and cooks up in minutes, so you'll be ahead of the game. It will be the best!
Course Preserves
Cuisine American
Keyword cranberry sauce
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 3 cups
Author Lynne Curry


  • 1 bag fresh whole cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar or your favorite sweetener
  • pinch salt
  • grated fresh ginger, orange zest, lemon zest, vanilla, bourbon or other flavorings, optional


  • Combine the cranberries with sugar or other sweetener in a heavy-duty saucepan with a pinch of salt. Cook over medium-low-heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves and the cranberries juice.
  • When the cranberries collapse and the mixture turns thick and jammy, remove from the heat. Dip in a spoon to taste for sweetness add more for a nice balance of tart and sweet.
  • Add additional flavorings if you’d like and taste again. Leave the cranberries whole or mash or puree for a chunky or smooth texture.
  • Cool to room temperature. Transfer to a storage container and chill in the refrigerator for up to one month.


  1. Shilo

    Thanks Lynne! I was just searching for a simple recipe to cook while on our sailboat. I can’t wait!

    1. So happy to see that you are tucked into Morro Bay waiting out this weather! It will all be delicious. Have a very cozy and happy Thanksgiving!

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