Make Ahead

Homemade Cranberry Jelly, in a Can (or Pan)

September 30, 2021
15 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 12 hours 15 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Makes 1 can
Author Notes

This recipe (inspired by Marisa of Food in Jars) is super easy to put together, and the results are far better than anything you’d buy in the store. Cranberries should have enough natural pectin in them to set properly, but I prefer to use a little dry pectin anyhow, as I’ve had a couple jellies that failed to set in the past. I also like to add in warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, but you can leave these out if you’re going for that true from-the-can flavor. Bottom line: Don’t let the jelly lovers in your family settle for store-bought any longer. We’re worth it. —Carey Nershi

Test Kitchen Notes

Cranberry sauce, whether you love it or don't like it so much, is always a standard on many Thanksgiving tables. Sometimes, it's not really the star, and a jar of it gets plopped on a plate and served at the table. But we know there are many, many cranberry sauce and jelly fans out there, so we believe that this go-to side should get the love that it deserves. You can definitely tell the difference between store-bought and homemade, and this recipe will show you how to do it. As the developer said, you can make it taste even better with the addition of spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, which would really put your cranberry jelly over the top. But if you'd like to keep things traditional, feel free to skip. Molding it in the can will produce all the nostalgic vibes you need. You can make a double batch of this and let it set in a Bundt pan for a festive effect, or use whatever other fancy mold you have to make this as impressive-looking as possible.

Keep in mind that when making this recipe that it’s best to use a can that’s BPA-free and once held a neutral-tasting food, to avoid imparting any unwanted flavors. You don't want anything else seeping into your cranberry jelly as it sits. Otherwise, this recipe is very straightforward and foolproof, and you can experiment every year with the spices and texture to please all the cranberry lovers out there. They won't be disappointed! —The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Homemade Cranberry Jelly, in a Can (or Pan)
  • 2 1/2 cups cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry pectin (optional, but recommended)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 pinch ground cloves (optional)
  • 2/3 cup apple cider
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  1. Place cranberries in a medium saucepan. In a small bowl, mix the sugar, pectin, if using, and spices, if using. Add the sugar mixture to the cranberries and stir to combine. Add the cider and lemon juice.
  2. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Once the cranberries have burst and the sauce has thickened, remove the pan from the heat. (If the sauce seems too thick, just add a splash of water or cider to thin it out.)
  3. Run the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve or food mill until all that’s left are the bits of seeds and skins. Pour the strained sauce into an empty can. Cover the can with foil or plastic wrap and let set in the fridge for at least 12 hours.
  4. When it’s time to serve, run a butter knife around the sides of the jelly. If it still doesn’t seem to want to slide out, crack open the bottom of the can with a can opener. (No need to try to take the bottom off—just a little bit of air should take care of the vacuum and let the jelly slide out easily.)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Ann Del Tredici
    Ann Del Tredici
  • Rachel Fetherston
    Rachel Fetherston
  • deborahcleaver
  • Caitlin
  • Gilliwinks
Lover of simple food and cocktails served with a single giant ice cube. Raised in the NY Schoharie Valley; currently residing in Burlington, VT. Blogger at

24 Reviews

APRILSHOWERS November 24, 2021
I made some changes but HOLY COW this is AMAZING. I used orange juice and grand marnier instead of lemon. I did use the pectin and it still didn't set but was close - I think I either under or overcooked it but no matter, because it tasted so so good. Add the spices, they work. I used a fancy mold instead of a can. I was licking it out of the pan it was so delicious! Never, ever using canned again.
Ann D. November 23, 2021
No, this is just wrong--putting it in a can. The can is the worst part of the whole cranberry experience of our collective pasts.
Rachel F. November 13, 2021
Been making this recipe for years. Thanks Food52!
Mark O. November 25, 2019
OK - This has gotten to be ridiculous. Last night a neighbor caught me as I was just getting out of the car and said "Do you have any more of that homemade cranberry jelly. It's just not Thanksgiving without you cranberry jelly. The only difference is that I can the jars of jelly. Easier to share and that way I can also use them as Chrismas presents. Gave a jar to our choir director. His office had a Turkey Day party, everybody brings something. He took the jar of cranberry jelly I gave him. He said it was the first thing gone and only lasted 5 minutes. If you don't make this you are nuts!
deborahcleaver December 6, 2013
Also, I used a food mill rather than a sieve, and it was really easy.
deborahcleaver December 6, 2013
I didn't actually put this in a can, but in a rectangular plastic container. It came out with only a dip in hot water, and tasted fabulous! It was a total hit, and will be my standard cranberry dish from now on!
Caitlin December 3, 2013
I was so excited for this, but mine never set! Not sure where I went wrong.
Gilliwinks December 1, 2013
Absolutely delicious. It was easy to make and the flavors were subtle but perfect. The jelly had a thick satisfying consistency. Can't wait to make it again.
Mark O. December 1, 2013
EVERYBODY LOVED IT! & said "Don't lose that recipe!" and "Can I have a copy?" Even my daughter liked it better than canned. A miracle.
aliagrace November 30, 2013
I also had an issue with the gelling of the sauce, but didn't think I cooked it that long. It was a big hit though even though it was like a thick syrup. I will definitely try this again and see if I am successful with the gelling.
swhubbell November 28, 2013
This recipe didn't work for me. I made it twice, following directions precisely, and it came out the consistency of thick syrup. (i make jam in the summer quite successfully) It also
made only half a can.
Carey N. November 28, 2013
It sounds like you may have cooked the mixture for too long. This recipe does make one can's worth, so it seems that it reduced down too much. Extended heating time can destroy pectin, which is probably why it was syrupy and did not gel.

I remove this from the heat when the mixture has just thickened to the point where it seems like it might start spitting bits of molten syrup at you if it cooks for any longer. (It should like like photo 3 above.)
Nancy November 28, 2013
This was really easy and I can hardly wait for it to set up! Tastes great warm and I had a little more than a can so I get to taste it before I take it to dinner.
Hope :. November 26, 2013
Ha! My husband is always in charge of making (from scratch) the cranberry sauce each year, and every single year I ask him to mold it to a can for old time's sake. :) Thank you so much for this.
wakitt November 26, 2013
2 1/2 cups cranberries by weight or volume?
Carey N. November 27, 2013
By volume.
Sandie November 26, 2013
Should you run the sauce through the food mill when it is freshly off the stove? I let mine cool a bit and it was very difficult to get through the strainer. So I briefly heated it up to try again. Burt even in a warmer state, I had a hard time yielding a lot of sauce through the sieve. After a while, as I became the "Human Food Mill" and applied pressure with my (washed) hands, I suddenly realized I should have used that electric contraption that I use to can tomatoes! If you own one of those, THIS is the job for that! Next time! ;)
Carey N. November 27, 2013
An electric device would definitely make quick work of these things! The sooner you get them through a hand mill, the better, since they'll start to set up as they cool. Heheh, "Human Food Mill." ;)
mboerner November 24, 2013
Seems ridiculous reverse snobbery not to put it in a handsome mold.
SaraQ November 24, 2013
How much liquid pectin would you use if one didn't have the dry pectin?
Carey N. November 26, 2013
I'd sub 1 tablespoon of liquid pectin (and whisk it into the strained sauce before you pour it into the can, rather than adding it to the mix pre-cooking).
Mark O. November 20, 2013
I cannot wait to try this! Every Thanksgiving everybody has their fancy, home made cranberry relish and I proudly show off my cranberry jelly with the carefully sculpted ridges (straight out of a can). It will be fun to show off my FOR REAL home made cranberry jelly!
koechin November 19, 2013
for years i've been trying to persuade my husband to let me make the cranberry sauce but he insists there is nothing like the can. i love the idea of letting it set in the can. i will make this and he will be fooled. ;)
Nancy November 28, 2013
LOL! Love it!