3-Ingredient Fresh Cranberry Sauce

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Years ago, my sister asked me to try making her 3-ingredient fresh cranberry sauce. Here’s the deal, over the holidays we all use cranberry sauce for different festive meals. I grew up with the jellied kind of cranberry sauce in a can.

I never knew you could make it on your own at home. We would use the jellied sauce on our Thanksgiving plates, and later on, smear it on turkey sandwiches with cream cheese.

Then, I made my sister’s 3-ingredient fresh cranberry sauce recipe and my life changed forever. I have tried it with spices, orange rind, and lemon rind, but I always go back to the plain recipe with just sugar and water. It’s chunky and sweet, but not overly sweet. It’s just right.

Ingredients – Fresh Cranberry Sauce

  • Fresh Cranberries: A small, hard, round red fruit. Known to be sour and bitter. High in antioxidants, vitamin C, and fiber. Be sure to use fresh cranberries in this recipe!
  • White Granulated Sugar: Preserves the color, texture, and flavor of food. Helps the fresh cranberries break down and thicken. Increases the flavor of any other ingredients.
  • Water: Used to wash the cranberries and dissolve the sugar while boiling and softening the cranberries during the cooking process.
3-Ingredient Fresh Cranberry Sauce

Kitchen Items You May Need:

Fresh Cranberry Sauce Instructions

Step One: Gather all of the Ingredients

Gather all of the ingredients you will need for the fresh cranberry sauce, pretty easy, only 3.

Cranberry Sauce Ingredients

Step Two: Wash the Cranberries

Wash the cranberries after sorting through them and discarding any of the bad ones.

Wash Cranberries

Step Three: Boil Water and Sugar

In a medium saucepan or pot using medium-high heat, boil the water and white sugar together.

Boil the Sugar and Water

Step Four: Allow the Sugar to Dissolve

Continue to boil the water and sugar together until the sugar completely dissolves.

Sugar is Dissolved

Step Five: Add Cranberries to the Sugar & Water Mixture – Stir

Add the cranberries to the sugar mixture and stir until the cranberries break down slightly and start to thicken.

Add the Cranberries to the Sugar Mixture

Step Six: Bring to Boil and Simmer

Bring the cranberries and sugar mixture to a boil. Simmer.

Bring to a Boil and Simmer

Step Seven: Use a Potato Masher if Desired

As the cranberries heat up, you will begin to hear the cranberries start to pop. This is when you know the cranberries are softening and the natural pectin they contain will be released.

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It is time to use a potato masher to break down most of the soft cranberries. There is no chopping involved or the need to use a food processor! 

Mash the Cranberries

Step Eight: Mixture Thickens as it Cools

The mixture will thicken more when it cools and is refrigerated. 

Let the Mixture Cool

Step Nine: Fill Jars When Mixture Cools

Fill your jars with the cranberry sauce after it cools down at room temperature for a bit. Refrigerate until needed. It will keep for up to ten days.

Cranberry Sauce in Jars

Finished Product

3-Ingredient Fresh Cranberry Sauce

3-Ingredient Fresh Cranberry Sauce Recipe

5 from 2 votes
3-Ingredient Fresh Cranberry Sauce
Fresh Cranberry Sauce
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
40 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 10 people
Author: Linda Loosli
  • 1 32-ounce fresh cranberries
  • 2-1/2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 2-1/2 cups water
  1. Gather all of the ingredients.

  2. Using a colander, wash the cranberries after sorting through them and discarding the bad ones.

  3. In a medium saucepan, boil the water and sugar together.

  4. Continue to boil the water and sugar together until the sugar completely dissolves.

  5. Add the cranberries to the sugar and water mixture and stir until the cranberries break down slightly and start to thicken.

  6. Bring the cranberries and sugar mixture to a boil. Simmer.

  7. Use a potato masher to break down most of the soft cranberries. There is no chopping involved or the need to use a food processor! 

  8. The mixture will thicken more when it cools and is refrigerated. 

  9. Fill your jars with the cranberry sauce after it cools down a bit. Refrigerate until needed. It will keep for up to ten days.

What do you use fresh cranberry sauce for?

  • It tastes delicious on a slice of fresh turkey!
  • Use it as a spread on toast
  • When poured on top of a block of cream cheese, it’s a delicious appetizer served with crackers!
  • On leftover turkey sandwiches. Yummm!

Are there any delicious variations to this fresh cranberry sauce recipe?

I really love this fresh cranberry sauce made as is! If you would like to try a different variation, in the past I have added some orange zest, lemon rind, a little fresh orange juice, or spices.

I think it might be fun to try other variations such as adding bits of apple or pears, pecans, fresh ginger, or a pinch of spice such as nutmeg, allspice, pumpkin spice, cinnamon, or cinnamon stick. Although I have tried other variations, I tend to always go back to the original version. It really is perfect!

Can I use a liquid sweetener in this fresh cranberry sauce recipe instead of sugar?

Yes, you are welcome to use a liquid sweetener such as maple syrup, honey, or agave syrup. But please know that there will be additional liquid using this alternative sweetener so the texture of the sauce will be different.

If you decide to use one of these sweeteners, please allow the water to cook for several minutes or use a little less water, to begin with. I typically only use white sugar, because I love the sweetness of the sugar and cranberries. They work really well together, with just the right amount of sweetness!

Brown sugar is an additional alternative. Use a 1:1 ratio of brown sugar instead of granulated white sugar.

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Can you freeze fresh cranberry sauce?

The fresh cranberry sauce actually freezes really well. If you are interested in freezing it, I highly recommend allowing it to cool completely and pouring it into freezer-safe bags. It should freeze well for up to 6 months, if properly stored.

What can I do if my cranberry sauce tastes a little bitter?

You may think you should grab the sugar and add more. But, sugar will make it worse. Keep in mind you need to dissolve the sugar and now that it’s already made, that’s not going to work very well.

Try adding some maple syrup, a teaspoon or so. Add it gradually until the bitterness goes away.

Is cranberry sauce supposed to be sweet or sour?

It should be a combination or balance of sweet and tart.

Why does my cranberry sauce smell like vinegar?

Here’s the deal, it’s probably fermented and is not safe to eat. If it smells sour, like vinegar, or wine, discard it.

What tastes good with cranberry sauce?

  • Turkey, Stuffing, etc.
  • Cream Cheese
  • Brie Cheese
  • Oatmeal
  • Nuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and almonds

Love the taste of fresh cranberries? Check out these other cranberry recipes:

Are there any health benefits to eating cranberries?

Cranberries are actually very healthy for you, particularly if eaten as a fresh fruit. One cup of cranberries only has 46 calories, no fat, 4 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, only one gram of protein, and 2 milligrams of sodium like you find in salt. They do have 12 grams of carbohydrates, so if you’re steering clear of those keep that in mind.

Of course, with the sugar we use in this sauce, you’d be consuming more calories. They have a bunch of antioxidants that are very helpful in protecting your body’s cells. They contain vitamins C, A, and K. The amount of potassium, iron, and calcium isn’t significant.

Studies have shown that cranberries help improve eyesight and cardiovascular health. For those who struggle with urinary tract infections, you may want to include cranberries in your daily food prep routine since they tend to cut down on those infections. The cranberries won’t clear up an infection and that requires other medical treatments once the infection has set in. They are also known to improve overall digestive health, possibly due to their fiber content.

Be aware, if you are on prescribed blood thinners like warfarin, the vitamin K found in cranberries may interfere with those meds, so be sure to consult with your doctor before eating a high concentration of cranberries or their juice.

My Thanksgiving Tip

I have done this for years, laminate your recipes and grab some cookie sheets. Place all of the measured ingredients on each cookie sheet so those who are helping with the meal can make the recipe with ease.

Organize Your Recipes

Final Word

Please let me know if you decide to make this delicious fresh cranberry sauce. There really is nothing better at a Thanksgiving feast or Christmas dinner than homemade cranberry sauce! The tartness of the cranberries, along with the granulated white sugar, the sweetness is just right! Let me know how yours turns out, I’d love to hear from you. May God bless this world. Linda

9 thoughts on “3-Ingredient Fresh Cranberry Sauce

  • November 21, 2022 at 7:56 am

    I love your articles, they’re always informative and easy to read. This one however has got me rethinking
    cranberry sauce. I never used to eat it because i didn’t like the taste, YUCK! But i’ve made fresh fruits for torts and know it’s not a complicated process. Now, the only thing i need to ask is, Can you use frozen cranberries or must they be fresh? I don’t think I’ve seen fresh cranberries in any grocery store I’ve shopped at, of course then again I haven’t really looked for them.
    I also want your opinion on an article item i read before I got to your email. Freeze dryers!!! I checked out the site and found the price . . . OUTRAGEOUS!!! Could dehydration be just as good? I still need to learn how to can food, let alone trying to freeze dry food. Please LMK what you think.
    Hope things are well in Utah, I think you’ve gotten hit with snow already, it’s bad this year. My niece in FL thinks we’ll be getting some here in DC, but not yet. In the 5 years I’ve been here, what we have gotten hasn’t even lasted 3 days. Take care of you and yours. I don’t celebrate it being by myself, but y’all have a great holiday season. Thanks.

    • November 21, 2022 at 9:41 am

      Hi Pamela, thank you for your kind words, my friend! Yes, you can freeze fresh cranberries, I have done it before. They work great if you can buy them! I will share my thoughts on freeze dryers, as of right now only one company makes them. First of all, they are way too expensive for me. I’m too old to recoup the benefits/cost of owning one. I know families who share them which is really awesome. I saw a demonstration in St. George, Utah store. What I don’t like is how long it takes to freeze dry food. I look back to when I was a canning machine (LOL) with my daughters preserving food from our garden. The food would have gone bad before I could safely preserve it in a freeze-dryer. What I mean by that is the trays are little and it takes a lot of time as in 24 hours or more per batch. We would buy 4 bushes of pears, peaches, and apples when they were in season. Well, the fruit needs to be picked at its prime and preserved quickly. Does that make sense? Dehydrating food ourselves has a one-year shelf-life. Which is perfect, you plant, harvest, and preserve and start the process all over again, next year. We haven’t had a lot of snow yet. Luckily the mountains have snow for the skiers and snowboarders and more importantly for our water in the spring! Happy Thanksgiving! Linda

      • November 21, 2022 at 10:00 pm

        Well, thank you for your quick response! Yes, I saw that they are expensive, one would be like me buying a car to drive. I’m surprised by your answer, but then again, not. I didn’t quite get a concept of their size from the pics I saw just that they were somewhat cumbersome. I appreciate your candor, thank you. I am going to purchase a chest freezer this next month, though. The last time I went to the grocery store, I now have too much in my freezer and have been wanting one for a while. I know it will have a few setbacks if power goes out, but I’ve had one before and it was nice to have and store extra food. I’ve recently bought a food processor and a blender to make prepping some things easier, I’m so glad I did. My downstairs neighbor has invited me for Lasagna for Thanksgiving instead of the traditional turkey or ham, can’t wait!

        • November 22, 2022 at 5:59 am

          Hi Pamela, lasagna sounds delicious! Here’s how I feel about freezers, they are a good investment to store fresh food when it goes on sale. If the power goes out, well it may or may not. I can’t live worrying about the power going out for extended periods. We have all had a few hours and some have had days without power. Some people even months. It all depends on the disaster. But we have to live for today. I worry more about a power grid outage more than anything. When that happens nothing will work. Our country only has three power grids, one is in Texas. Those three power grids supply power to all the states. That’s what we need to worry about, a cyberattack on our power grids. They are so antiquated it would take years to repair or replace if they can even be replaced. Happy Thanksgiving! P.S. I hope you’re having garlic bread with that lasagna! Linda

    • November 21, 2022 at 6:57 pm

      If you find any fresh and want to stock some up in your freezer you can do so by leaving them in the bag they came in.
      If you would like to dehydrate them in a regular dehydrator you can do that too. Some people posted on YouTube that you take a straight pin poke each Cranberry. Then place them on your trays and put them on or in the dehydrator. The reason you poke a hole in them is so as they’re drying they do not explode and get mess everywhere.
      There is a secret to using a freeze dryer. Whatever it is that you plan on freeze drying you freeze it in advance in your freezer and then place on those trays and let the freeze dryer do the rest.
      When cooking up your cranberries to make your sauce before you let it cool down if you would like you can pour your sauce into your canning jars and place them in a water bath canner for 15 minutes of a constant rolling boil. That away it will be shelf stable and not taking up room in your refrigerator.

  • November 21, 2022 at 8:03 am

    5 stars
    Blessings from NW Florida! Happy Thanksgiving!

    I made a similar recipe last year for the first time. It was super simple & just so much better than anything in a can. I just printed out your recipe & taped it to the cabinet door so it’s handy when I make this tomorrow. I was planning to try canning a small batch of any excess!

    On another note, those readers with livestock, be aware that after June 1st, 2023, all animal antibiotics will require a prescription from a licensed veterinarian for purchase. This comes from the folks at Linness Farms on YouTube. This information is not being widely disseminated. But I can attest that many of our livestock medical supplies are getting hard to find & much more expensive when any are found. So heads up!

    Wishing you & all here a Thanksgiving of gratitude for the blessings we have received this year.

    • November 21, 2022 at 9:47 am

      Hi BDN, thank you for the 5 stars, my sweet friend! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! This recipe is really good mixed with some Jalapeño jelly! Then spread it over softened cream cheese! One reader told me to blend it all together, I’m going to try it this year! Grab the crackers! It’s so good!! Thanks for the heads-up on the antibiotics for animals. I’m sorry to hear your livestock medical supplies are getting hard to find and more expensive. Thanks for sharing this information!! Linda

  • November 21, 2022 at 3:12 pm

    5 stars
    I am not a very good cook, but I am inspired to try this for Thanksgiving if we can get to the store for the cranberries.

    • November 21, 2022 at 5:20 pm

      Hi Chris, thank you for the 5 stars, my sweet friend! It’s so good and so easy!! Grab a jar of Jalapeño jelly and mix it together with cream cheese. Grab some crackers! Linda


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