Basic Cranberry Relish (Sauce) – Your Thanksgiving Staple

Cranberry sauce, or cranberry relish, is a must-have for year-end festivities. Its National Day is November 22. While it’s a staple at Christmas dinners in my UK hometown, it takes center stage during Thanksgiving feasts. They say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” So. I’m diving into the tradition and whipping up some homemade cranberry relish for this upcoming Thanksgiving.

The old-fashioned cranberry relish recipe is simple. You just need to combine cranberries, sugar, and water together. I added orange juice to the cranberry sauce for extra flavor.

Best cranberry relish recipe ever
Easy homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving

(Cranberry relish has many healthy benefits with antioxidants and vitamin C, great for your immune system and heart health. It might even help prevent urinary tract infections.

Some cranberry sauce recipes include additional ingredients like orange zest, cinnamon, pineapples, pears, pomegranates, honey, maple syrup, pecans, gingers, apple cider, blueberries, walnuts, jello, or even a splash of spirits (Grand Marnier) for extra depth.

Here is how to make the cranberry sauce:

(Cranberry Sauce) Cranberry Relish for Thanksgiving

A beloved element of holiday feasts, adding a burst of flavor and festive color to the table.
Prep Time 7 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 22 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 1
Calories 120 kcal


  • 12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • Orange zest or a splash of orange juice for extra flavor Optional


  • Rinse the cranberries under cold water and pick out any stems or mushy berries.
  • In a saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar, and water.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
  • Once it boils, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens to your desired consistency. You can use the back of a spoon to help burst the cranberries if needed.
  • If you like, add orange zest or a splash of orange juice for a citrusy kick. Stir well.
  • Remove the saucepan from heat and let the cranberry sauce cool to room temperature. It will continue to thicken as it cools.
  • Transfer the cranberry sauce to a serving dish and refrigerate until ready to serve. You can serve hot or cold, either way works!


– If you want to make the spicy cranberry relish, you can add jalapeno or chipotle.
– To reduce the time, you can use an instant pot or a crockpot to instead of the saucepan.
– Cranberry sauce is pretty easy to store! Once you’ve made it, let it cool to room temperature. Then, transfer it to an airtight container and pop it in the fridge. It should stay fresh for about 10-14 days. If you want to keep it longer, you can freeze it for several months. Just make sure to thaw it in the fridge before you need it.
Keyword Christmas, holiday, homemade, Thanksgiving

This cranberry relish is traditionally served as a side dish with roast turkey during Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. However, its sweet and tangy flavor pairs well with many other dishes like roasted or grilled chicken or grilled pork chop dishes.

Best cranberry sauce recipe: organic, low sugar
Fresh cranberry sauce on turkey

You can use it to spread on bread or sandwiches or drizzle on a cheese platter, vegan burgers, meatballs, or on warm and gooey baked brie or camembert. Adding a dollop of cranberry sauce to your grilled cheese sandwich or yogurt for a burst of flavor is also a good idea. The leftover cranberry sauce can be used to make BBQ sauce, or Cranberry Sauce Muffins, or even Cranberry Sauce Cocktail (with bourbon or whiskey).

Johanna Cleveland
About the author

Hi, I'm Kate, the creator of Happy Baking Days. I'm a food lover, recipe creator, and kitchen explorer. I have amateur baking knowledge gained from years spent in the kitchen with my grandma and mum, where I graduated slowly from dusting work surfaces with flour and licking the spatula to the finer arts of pastry and meringue. Now in my own kitchen, I put all those years of training into practice, experimenting with recipes and ingredients from around the world. Join me as I share my culinary journey and favorite recipes that make cooking a delightful experience.

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