Pear, Brandy & Walnut Cranberry Sauce

November 4, 2009

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: Growing up, we never ate canned cranberry sauce and my mom always made a cranberry and orange relish for Thanksgiving. But, It wasn't until I was working at a magazine, taste testing for a November issue that I realized all the cranberry possibilities. I started playing around until I came up with this one that I love - the pears add a fall-inspired sweetness, the brown sugar and brandy, richness, and the walnuts, a well-needed crunch. When choosing the pears, I look for ones that are ripe, but still firm. And, feel free to play with the brandy to make the sauce as boozy (or not) as you want.lifeaswecookit

Food52 Review: Featured in: Our Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes.

In this cranberry sauce, you won't find any of the punishing tartness you get in many -- it's all silk and fragrance. The pears, which are shredded, melt into the sauce. The cranberries soften and soak up the brown sugar and cinnamon. And the brandy smoothes any wrinkles. You add a little brandy in the beginning and some more at the very end, as you stir in toasted walnuts. We've made the sauce with grated apple and it's just as delicious. We've also served it over fresh ricotta -- make sure you have some leftovers so you can try this! - A&M
The Editors

Serves: 6 to 8
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 10 min


  • 1/3 cup, plus 2-3 tablespoons brandy, divided
  • water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, each broken in half
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries, picked over
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 medium bartlett pears, peeled
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted and divided
In This Recipe


  1. Pour 1/3 cup brandy into liquid measuring cup; add enough water to reach 1/2 cup liquid total. Set aside. Place broken cinnamon sticks and peppercorns in center of small piece of cheesecloth or large tea bag and tie closed using kitchen twine.
  2. In medium saucepot, combine cranberries, brown sugar and cinnamon-pepper bundle. Using large holes on a box grater, grate pears into saucepot. Stir in brandy-water mixture.
  3. Over high heat, bring cranberry mixture to a boil; reduce heat to medium and cook 10-12 minutes, or until cranberries have burst and the mixture has combined, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons brandy. Let cool. Remove and discard cinnamon bundle. Stir in 7 tablespoons toasted walnuts. Transfer mixture to small serving bowl; sprinkle with remaining walnuts.

More Great Recipes:
Cranberry Sauce|Condiment/Spread|American|Pear|Walnut|Brandy|Fruit|Make Ahead|Fall|Thanksgiving|Vegan|Side

Reviews (81) Questions (3)

81 Reviews

Stacy I. December 11, 2018
loved this! made for thanksgiving and this was the first year that everyone really dove in and embraced my fresh cranberry sauce!
Roy C. November 29, 2018
Definitely a keeper! Made an exquisite side for Thanksgiving. Thanks.
Roy C. November 29, 2018
This is definitely a keeper! Made an exquisite side for Thanksgiving. Thanks.
Elizabeth G. November 22, 2018
Love this recipe!! I keep coming back everesince I found it 3 years ago and its always a hit. The kids love it and ask if I could make it every year.
Brittany F. November 22, 2017
I made this last year with orange juice, and this year with brandy. Both were delicious! The brandy version is a bit more rich and smooth. I found 1 Tbsp of brandy at the end to be perfect instead of 2-3, and I also replaced with pecans both years. If your pears aren't soft, you may need to add a bit more sugar. I typically reduce sugar in recipes but this year my pears were hard and the sauce is quite tart as a consequence!
Chef D. December 17, 2015
looks very tasty :)
Amanda A. November 25, 2014
Just made this for Thanksgiving, and it's still warm, and I want to drizzle it on toast, and then on ice cream, and then maybe also in yogurt. Basically, I want to do everything that isn't waiting until Thanksgiving until I can eat it.
kschurms November 14, 2014
The only problem I have with this recipe is that I didn't make more of it. So delicious, so easy to make, I'm in love.
lexilarkin November 12, 2014
this recipe is awesome, have used it for several years now and will use it again this year, sorry I just got around to commenting! thank you for sharing!
juicyrebound1 January 8, 2014
We always make the ground orange, cranberry relish, but this is a great addition to the Thanksgiving table. Aging the sauce does improve the delicious flavors.
helen December 6, 2013
I sliced the top off of a small brie wheel, put 2/3 c of this on top, wrapped it puff pastry and baked for my food gifts this year. Everyone loved it.
frizz November 30, 2013
Made this on Tuesday and it kept getting better and better throughout the week. It's my new favorite, and I'll be making it for years to come. Thank you so much!
Kate November 29, 2013
This was really good, but serves way more than 6-8! One batch fed 14 people yesterday. (Maybe notlazy.rustic's friends eat a lot of cranberry sauce?) Anyway, somebody recommended I try using the leftovers to make empanadas with dulce de leche/cajeta and grappa. I'll give that a go on Monday, but thought I'd share now if anyone else has leftovers they need to take care of.
whmcdevitt November 28, 2013
how far in advance can you make this sauce we're having another Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday.....Nov 30th
Kate November 29, 2013
I think Antonia James was saying 4 days. I would add the walnuts day of, though.
MummieMummie November 28, 2013
Made a mistake & added pecans...have I ruined it? Do I still add the walnuts or just start over?
Sabine G. November 28, 2013
I think your cranberry sauce will survive! Pecans are a nice alternative and often preferred by many. I personally wouldn't add walnuts as it might throw of the ratio.
Rachel C. November 27, 2013
Just cooked up this recipe, and the flavors are amazing! I never really liked cranberry sauce, but this recipe has definitely converted me.
Instead of brown sugar and brandy (I didn't have either in my house), I substituted in honey and dark aged rum. The flavors of the honey, rum, and pears complemented each other very nicely. I'll be making this recipe every year now!
tulip549 November 27, 2013
Wow- this was a really good recipe. Next time I will substitute honey for sugar. I added a touch of orange blossom water and used freshly squeezed orange juice instead of brandy (I didn't have any brandy). Thanks!
ss November 26, 2013
do you serve this cold or warm?
AntoniaJames November 26, 2013
Serve it at room temperature. And try to make it at least a day ahead of time, reserving the nuts until shortly before serving (unless you don't mind soggy nuts). It will improve considerably with a day or two of rest. ;o)
Sabine G. November 28, 2013
I took this advice from reading your previous comments and wow! It has made a really nice difference. I can't wait to serve it today! Thank you for the tip.
Elise November 25, 2013
LOVED making the recipe and it was a hit with guests! Subbed 1/2 cup of raw honey for the sugar though, still really enjoyed it!
Sabine G. November 25, 2013
Just made this tonight in preparation for Thanksgiving! Heavenly! My husband and I tasted the cranberry sauce with and without the walnuts as we were skeptical about the texture and after tasting, the walnuts totally make sense! It rounds it out nicely and gives a great texture. I, admittedly, always have loved the canned cranberry sauce but this is definitely a game changer! Thank you for the recipe!