Make Ahead

Secret Ingredient Cranberry Sauce

October 14, 2015
5 Stars
Photo by Laura Dembowski
Author Notes

As a kid I loved cranberry sauce from the can, but my tastes have changed. This cranberry sauce is made from scratch, but takes little time or work. The dried cherries are the secret ingredient that will keep you coming back for more. —Laura Dembowski

  • Serves 6-8
  • 1 12 ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
In This Recipe
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together cranberries, cherries, orange zest, cinnamon, water, sugar, and maple syrup. Bring to a boil while stirring frequently. Continue to cook until the sauce has thickened and most of the berries have burst, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Serve warm, room temperature or chilled. Sauce may be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jen
  • Hugh520
  • Peter
  • KvellintheKitchen
  • Krispyecca

22 Reviews

Jen November 23, 2021
I have made this every year since I found the recipe!
KatrinaMcArdle November 23, 2021
Me too! It’s so good!
Author Comment
Laura D. November 25, 2021
Thank you both, Jen and Katrina! That means so much to me!
Hugh520 November 22, 2021
Dear Laura,
I just did a "test kitchen" on this today: Wow, brilliant! I can't wait to bring this as my side on Thursday. I'm a novice cook. I stuck to your recipe to the letter, and it's just perfect. Thank you! The ingredients (when I saw them a few weeks ago) fairly shouted: "This is how you make unforgettable cranberry sauce."
I'm loading the recipe into an email, so I don't have to keep repeating it over and over on Thursday. ;)
Author Comment
Laura D. November 25, 2021
What kind words, Hugh! And great idea to bring the recipe. Happy Thanksgiving!!
Peter December 1, 2020
One word of warning, do make sure to use TART dried cherries otherwise you might end up with a very sweet sauce. Alternatively, if you only have sweet cherries (as I did with dried Bing cherries) you'll need to cut down on the sugar and maple syrup. Remember, you can always add sweetness after the fact very easily -- it's not like you need time for the sweetness of sugar or maple syrup to "meld" or anything.
KvellintheKitchen December 1, 2020
Amazing, easy cranberry sauce recipe. Loved the unexpected pop of the dried cherries, and the orange rind lends a lovely bitter element that contrasts nicely to the sweet cranberries. This was such a hit on my Thanksgiving table and will absolutely be in the rotation for next year!
Peter November 16, 2020
I'm so glad the website emailed me to tell me there's a new comment on this recipe. It reminded me where I got the recipe last year and the year before that. This year I think I'll let my 8 year make this. Literally. It's that easy. (And if he makes it hopefully he'll feel more invested and won't insist on the gelatinous canned stuff I used to love.)
Author Comment
Laura D. November 24, 2020
Hey Peter! Hope you and your 8 year old both love this :)
Peter November 26, 2020
From my 8 year old:

“I did actually. But I thought maybe there was a little bit too much orange and cinnamon so I took some of each out and added a tiny pinch of mace and a tiny pinch of allspice. It was delicious but next time I think I’ll leave out the mace. Or maybe it was the allspice. I can’t tell.”
KatrinaMcArdle November 16, 2020
Laura, I just want you to know this has been (and probably always will be) my go-to cranberry sauce recipe since I discovered it about 5 years ago. Cranberry sauce was always something I preferred to leave off my plate during Thanksgiving, but now it's one of my favorite things on the table. Thanks for the super easy, delicious recipe!
Author Comment
Laura D. November 24, 2020
Thank you so much, Katrina! I'm glad it changed your mind on cranberry sauce.
Krispyecca January 27, 2020
I made this not expecting my cranberry sauce-hating husband to eat it (more for me!). He not only ate it, he ate seconds, packed some for lunch the next day, and complained when we ran out. Super recipe!
Author Comment
Laura D. January 30, 2020
Yay! It's always nice when a recipe goes over better than when expected. I'm glad you like it.
Amy January 1, 2020
Home run! Even the kids liked it and although I'm not a huge cinnamon fan this was great - especially the addition of the cherries!
Author Comment
Laura D. January 30, 2020
I'm so glad it was a hit. Feel free to leave out the cinnamon or swap it for a different spice in the future.
Peter November 25, 2018
I’ve never made cranberry sauce before and um, it’s easy. Really easy. Absurdly easy. Which makes me embarrassed to have always preferred the smooth, gelatinous kind.

I made this for my first try and the dried cherries really elevate what could be pedestrian to something really special. And all you have to do is toss in a handful of dried cherries. (Best of all, you can make this day’s, or even weeks in advance. It keeps well and likely freezes just fine.)

Oh, the only change I’d suggest to the recipe is that not all of my cranberries popped on their own. After it seems like more than long enough I used a relatively firm silicone spatula to smash the unpopped berries against the side of the pot.
Author Comment
Laura D. November 26, 2018
Hey Peter! I am so glad you enjoyed the recipe. Thanks for leaving a comment!
BarnOwlBaker December 26, 2015
I made this for our Christmas Eve dinner party. It was very delicious and will replace my previous favorite cranberry recipe. Thanks!
Author Comment
Laura D. December 27, 2015
Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it.
Konstancja November 24, 2015
This recipe is spot on. Great proportions, not too sweet, and the cherries - genius move. I did substitute half the water with fresh OJ, and it was quite tasty if not as tart. Can't resist it on toast or yogurt, either. Thanks!
Author Comment
Laura D. November 24, 2015
Thank you so much! I'm making a batch for Thanksgiving.