Thanksgiving isn’t the same without some good old cranberry sauce! This Simple Cranberry Sauce recipe requires just four ingredients, making it a breeze even for novice cooks.

It costs around $3.30 to make this cranberry sauce. The recipe makes eight servings for about $0.41 per serving. 

A spoon in a bowl of Simple Cranberry Sauce.

When it comes to fresh cranberry sauce, I think simpler is better. I love cranberries, and I don’t want to mask the clean, pure cranberry flavor with other add-ins or flavors.

Cranberries, water, sugar, and salt are all you need to make this simple cranberry sauce recipe. It’s perfectly sweetened, so you don’t lose that lovely tang of the cranberries.

What You’ll Love About This Cranberry Sauce Recipe:

  • Minimal Ingredients: This recipe only uses four ingredients: cranberries, water, sugar, and salt. 
  • Simple Recipe: It only takes ten minutes to prepare this recipe and ten minutes to cook. 
  • Fresh Flavor: When you use fresh cranberries, they provide a burst of fresh and tangy flavor that is hard to beat. 

Ingredients and Estimated Cost:

Per Serving Cost: $

Recipe Cost: $

  • ¾ cup water – $0.00
  • 1 cup granulated sugar – $0.30
  • ¼ teaspoon salt – $0.01
  • 12-ounce bag cranberries – $2.99

NOTE: The recipe prices are calculated by using grocery store websites. The recipe cost is calculated by the amounts needed for the recipe. The actual cost of the recipe will vary depending on what ingredients you already have. I updated the pricing for this recipe in November 2023.

All of the ingredients needed to make this recipe.

How To Make Simple Cranberry Sauce

***For complete recipe instructions, see the recipe card below.

  1. First, using a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the water, cup of sugar, and salt to a boil. 
  2. Then, stir in the cranberries and bring the mixture to a boil before reducing the heat to medium. 
  3. Simmer the sauce until it thickens slightly and ⅔ of the cranberries pop open. This should take about five to six minutes. 
  4. Finally, transfer the cooked cranberry sauce to a serving bowl while the sauce cools before serving. 

A picture collage showing how to make this recipe.

Recipe Substitutions and Variations:

  • Frozen cranberries: This recipe uses fresh cranberries. If you use frozen cranberries, do not defrost them before use. Add 2-3 minutes to the simmering time.
  • Swap out the water: For a richer flavor, you can replace the water with orange juice, pomegranate juice, or apple cider.
  • Change the sugar: Instead of granulated sugar, you can use brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey for a different sweetness profile.
  • Add some fruit: For extra texture and sweetness, add diced apples, pears, or pineapple chunks to the cranberries while they simmer.
  • Incorporate nuts: Elevate the sauce with a nutty crunch by folding in toasted pecans, walnuts, or almonds before serving. 
  • Spice it up: For a warm and festive flavor, add a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, or cloves.
  • Add a citrusy twist: Enhance the brightness of the cranberry sauce with a teaspoon of orange zest. 

Simple Cranbery Sauce Storage Tips:

MAKE AHEAD: This recipe can be made up to 7 days ahead. Just let them stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

STORE: Store leftover sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days. 

FREEZE: Place cooled cranberry sauce in containers or freezer-safe bags in the freezer. Freezer for 2-3 months.

THAW: Remove the sauce from the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. 

REHEAT: You can gently reheat it on the stove or in the microwave if you prefer to serve it warm.

Everyone who tries this sauce loves it. Check out what one reader has to say about it:

The finished cranberry sauce in a serving bowl.

“Best of best cranberry sauce! No more searching yearly for another recipe. This was minimal ingredients, minimal prep, and no sauce left over after serving 25 persons. I doubled the recipe! And used the local cranberries from Central Wisconsin.”

– Dorothy from Wisconsin

Cranberry Sauce Recipe FAQs:

Is cranberry sauce healthy to eat?

There are only 116 calories per serving in this cranberry sauce. Cranberries are a good source of Vitamin C and fiber.

How do you take the bitterness out of homemade cranberry sauce?

Sometimes, fresh cranberries can have a bitter taste to them, so you can try adding a small amount of additional sugar until the desired taste is achieved.

How do you make cranberry sauce thicker?

The sauce will thicken while it simmers. You may need to simmer the cranberries longer to cook off the liquid. Note that the sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.

More Side Dishes

A close up of cranberry sauce in a small white bowl.
4.34 from 6 votes

Simple Cranberry Sauce

Author from America’s Test Kitchen
Recipe Cost $ $3.30
Serving Cost $ $0.41
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
8 people
This Simple Cranberry Sauce recipe requires just four ingredients, making it a breeze even for novice cooks.


  • measuring cups and spoons
  • saucepan
  • wooden spoon
  • serving bowl


  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounce bag cranberries or 3 cups, picked through


  • In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring water, sugar, and salt to a boil.
  • Stir in cranberries and return to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until slightly thickened and saucy and about ⅔ of the cranberries have popped open. This should take about 5-6 minutes.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl, cool to room temperature, and serve.
  • Cool the cranberry sauce to room temperature before serving.


Serving: 0.25cup | Calories: 116kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 75mg | Potassium: 36mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin A: 25IU | Vitamin C: 5.7mg | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 0.1mg

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Can you freeze cranberry sauce?

Yes, you can freeze cranberry sauce. Freezing is a convenient way to preserve it for later use. It will freeze beautifully for 2-3 months.

How far in advance can you make cranberry sauce?

You can make homemade cranberry sauce up to 10 days in advance. You can also freeze it for longer-term storage. Freeze it for 2-3 months without affecting its quality.

How long does cranberry sauce last in the fridge?

Homemade cranberry sauce typically lasts in the refrigerator for about 10-14 days when stored properly. To maximize its shelf life and maintain its quality, follow these guidelines:

  1. Allow the cranberry sauce to cool to room temperature before refrigerating it.
  2. Store the sauce in an airtight container. 
  3. Place it in the refrigerator as soon as it has cooled down.
  4. Keep it away from strong-smelling foods, as it can absorb odors from other items in the fridge.

What to eat with cranberry sauce?

Cranberry sauce is a versatile condiment to serve with various savory and sweet dishes. Here are some ideas for what to eat with cranberry sauce:

Savory dishes:

  • Thanksgiving turkey: Cranberry sauce is a classic accompaniment to turkey, and it pairs perfectly with the savory flavors of the bird. The tartness of the sauce helps to cut through the richness of the turkey, and it also adds a pop of color to the plate.
  • Pork roast: Cranberry sauce is also an excellent condiment for pork roast. The sweetness and tartness of the sauce complement the savory flavors of the pork, and it also adds a bit of moisture to the meat.
  • Meatballs: Use cranberry sauce as a glaze for meatballs. The sweetness and tartness of the sauce will help to balance out the richness of the meatballs.

Cheese: The sauce pairs well with various cheeses, such as brie, cheddar, or goat cheese. Sweet dishes:

  • Ice cream: Serve it over ice cream for a refreshing treat. The sweetness and tartness of the sauce will contrast nicely with the creaminess of the ice cream.
  • Biscuits or scones: Try smearing cranberry sauce on biscuits or scones for a burst of flavor. 
  • Pancakes: Serve the sauce can on pancakes for a delicious breakfast or brunch. 
  • Yogurt: Stir it into yogurt for a healthy and nutritious snack. Add some toasted pecans for a nice crunch. 
  • Oatmeal: Add it to oatmeal for a warm and comforting breakfast. 

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Recipe Rating


  1. Marie-Charlotte Chatelain says:

    Love the minimalistic ingredient list – this one is the perfect classic cranberry sauce! SImple and spot on

  2. Oh, I never thought to add salt to my cranberry sauce – but of course it will make it better, like with everything! Definitely trying your recipe for Thanksgiving this year!

  3. Lovely. If I have fresh orange, I usually sub with fresh orange juice instead of water. 🙂

  4. Sara Welch says:

    Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without cranberry sauce and I will definitely be giving this a try; looks too good to pass up!

  5. Best of best cranberry sauce! No more searching yearly for another recipe. This was minimal ingredients, minimal prep, and a sauce not left over after serving 25 persons. I doubled the recipe! And used the local cranberries from Central Wisconsin.