Brown-Sugar Cranberry Sauce

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Ever since I was a kid, cranberry sauce has always been one of my favorite things about the fall.

Most of the time, my mom made homemade cranberry sauce.

Now, she’s an amazing cook.

Sometimes, though, if I was lucky and she didn’t have time, she’d bust out that ubiquitous canned cranberry sauce log. (Come on, that stuff is super cool because you can slice it.)

To a child who grew up in an all-homemade kitchen, the canned cranberry sauce was kind of like spotting a unicorn—or an Oreo cookie.

It never failed to delight me. But then, neither did her homemade sauce. I loved them both.

Now that I’m a wee bit older, I have a great appreciation for all her hard work in the kitchen. And as it turns out, sometimes the yummiest things aren’t really hard at all.

This cranberry sauce is thick and bursting with jammy goodness. The mellow sweetness of the brown sugar balances out the tartness of the berries. A smidge of black pepper gives it the tiniest little bite.

This sauce is quick and easy to make. It’s rustic, with seeds and skins and all. If you’re looking for a smooth sauce, this probably isn’t the recipe for you.

Serve it warm or cold as a side with a traditional roast bird.

Slather it on a bulkie roll with a little mustard and some cold, leftover roast chicken for morning-after-the-feast sandwich.

Spread it on toast or spoon it warm over a few scoops of creamy vanilla ice cream.

Honestly? I’m tempted to sit down with a big spoon and eat the whole bowl for dinner.

A note on ingredients
You can use frozen cranberries just as easily as fresh.

Brown-Sugar Cranberry Sauce

1 cup water
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 12-oz. bag of cranberries
1/4 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
pinch of kosher salt
1 Tbls. fresh thyme leaves + a little more for garnish

Make a brown sugar syrup
Combine the water and the brown sugar in a medium-sized saucepan.

Set on the stove over high heat. Whisk to combine. Bring it up to a boil, whisking occasionally.

Add the cranberries
Pick through your berries and discard any that are obviously bruised or otherwise unhappy.

I use my berries straight from the freezer. There’s no need to thaw them ahead of time.

Add the berries to the brown sugar in the pot. Toss in the black pepper and the pinch of salt.

Give them a stir to mix. Cover and turn the heat down to medium-low.

You want them to simmer and start to pop while they’re covered. Let them cook for about 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover the pot. Stir the berries around.

With the back of your spoon, smoosh the berries against the side of the pot to pop them.

Do this until most of the berries have popped. (It won’t take long.)

As the berries pop, the sauce will begin to get much thicker.

Add the thyme and stir to combine.

Cook uncovered over medium-low heat for another 3-5 minutes, until the mixture is quite thick.

When it’s done, it should stick to a wooden spoon and look about like this:

Garnish with a little fresh thyme.

Serve and enjoy! Keeps 3-4 days in the fridge.

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie works as an advertising copywriter in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.


  1. I'm not a big fan of cranberry sauce because it always tastes just a little too tart to me. But this one I might like a lot more. Due to the brown sugar and thyme- I'm lovin' it!
  2. Yeah, I'm a big sucker for anything with brown sugar in it. :D If you give it a whirl, be careful to keep your pot well covered when you're simmering it. I've turned my stove top (and the surrounding walls) cranberry red more than once... +Jessie
  3. I love cranberries, especially as cranberry sauce. I have a recipe from my partner/hubby's mother from Massachusetts for the classic orange cranberry sauce. I love it. But I am going to try your recipe now.
  4. Thanks, Kian! And I love classic orange/cranberry, too! (Wanna swap recipes?) Yum to cranberries in general. I think I tried this once with a little lime juice and some grated lime zest, too. :D +Jessie
  5. It sounds like a yummy sauce. Pity we can't get any cranberries in Greece, just craisins. My blog sister sent me some from Canada and without knowing how to make it I improvised and made a sauce which tasted divine.
  6. I love cranberries! I usually don't get in a cranberry frame of mind until later in the season, so I'm glad you reminded me of all the yumminess that awaits us! Here is our family recipe for cranberry salsa. It uses jalapenos and cilantro and is a complete addiction that extends far beyond turkey day. We should have a cranberry cook off! I also make cranberry-oatmeal bars that will knock your socks off. Stay tuned for that post.
  7. Saucymomma--YUM, that looks great! What a great way to use cranberries. I think I'd love that because it sounds pretty spicy. Ronelle--Thanks so much for stopping by! I hope you like it if you make it! :D