Taste-Tested: Top 5 Cranberry Sauce Recipes Revealed

Cranberry sauce might be the least talked about Thanksgiving side and yet it’s arguably the most important. Without it, our plates would be overwhelmingly beige, without a single tart ingredient to speak of. 

To give the pretty, puckery sauce the spotlight it deserves, I set about to test, taste, and discover the very best one on Allrecipes.com. And thanks to its fragrant, warming scent that wafted throughout my kitchen, I practically identified the winner before even tasting it. 

What Makes a Perfect Cranberry Sauce? 

The perfect cranberry sauce should have a jammy, spoonable texture and taste equally good warm or cold. It should be tart enough to make you pucker, but not so tart that your eyes begin to water. The ingredient list should be simple (there’s enough going on at Thanksgiving), but the flavor should be nuanced: a cranberry sauce with spiced undertones that keep you coming back for more. 

Which Cranberry Sauce Recipes Did I Test? 

I tested the five most popular cranberry sauces on Allrecipes.com, including one made with orange juice, one with practically two ingredients, one with dried fruit and nuts, one made in the slow cooker, and one that  I can’t get enough of. For the most fair comparison, I used frozen cranberries across the board. Here’s the sweet/tart result.

Dotdash Meredith Studios

Best for Citrus Fans: Cranberry Sauce

  • Fast facts: Developed by Toni, has 2,186 reviews with a 4.8-star rating

This top-rated recipe is made with just three ingredients: cranberries, sugar, and orange juice. In addition to adding sweetness, the sugar helps thicken the sauce, and the citrus cuts the bitterness of the berries. If you juice the oranges yourself, you can garnish the sauce with the zest. How’s that for fast yet fancy? 

Get the recipe: Cranberry Sauce

Dotdash Meredith Studios

Absolute Easiest: Fresh Cranberry Sauce

  • Fast facts: Developed by Josef Plavjak, has 47 reviews with a 4.7-star rating

If you’re accustomed to canned cranberry sauce on your Thanksgiving table, this recipe might be even easier: It’ll be ready in less time than it takes to head to the store. Simply bring water to a boil, stir in the sugar until it’s dissolved, then add the cranberries and cook until the sauce is chunky. 

There’s no denying that this sauce is tart, but if you taste it as you go, you can add more sugar as needed. And remember: The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools, so pull it off the heat sooner than you think. 

Get the recipe: Fresh Cranberry Sauce

Dotdash Meredith Studios

Most Original: Cranberry Sauce Extraordinaire 

  • Fast facts: Developed by Leeza, has 588 reviews with a 4.8-star rating

This recipe’s ingredient list might look a little daunting (a pureed orange, chopped dried fruit!), but once you’ve got everything on hand, the process is very familiar. Between the fresh and dried fruit and chopped pecans, you’ll get a little something different in every single bite. 

Leftovers, if you have any, can be enjoyed straight from the fridge—or pour them over a block of cream cheese for a festive day-after appetizer. 

Get the recipe: Cranberry Sauce Extraordinaire

Dotdash Meredith Studios

Close Second Best: Slow Cooker Cranberry Sauce

  • Fast facts: Developed by Jazzy R Schrinas, has 64 reviews with a 4.5-star rating

This stovetop sauce is even easier than described: It cooked flawlessly on HIGH without needing a single stir. In a departure from the rest, it calls for brown sugar in addition to white, and I enjoyed the hint of cinnamon (though I wanted even more). 

The finished sauce had a jammy texture, tangy flavor, and a lovely red color with beautifully burst berries. As written, it’s best made in a small (1 1/2 to 2 quart) slow cooker, so if you only have a large one you’ll want to double or triple the recipe. 

Get the recipe: Slow Cooker Cranberry Sauce

Dotdash Meredith Studios

Best Overall: Holiday Cranberry Sauce 

  • Fast facts: Developed by Marjk, has 273 reviews with a 4.8-star rating

Thanks to a fragrant blend of cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and allspice berries, this ruby-red sauce perfumes the whole house as it simmers. Its tart chunks of cranberry and warm spice flavor made it the clear favorite.. 

Get the recipe: Holiday Cranberry Sauce