3-ingredient cranberry sauce 3 ways

cranberry sauce 3 ways fi

Cranberry sauce. This delectably sweet, super-simple, yet highly dynamic, sauce adds something special to a holiday dinner spread, whether that be turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls, mac and cheese, roasted veggies, or really any dish that may grace your holiday table.

While cranberries are all but inedible on their own, adding sweetener and boiling them down rounds out their bitterness, allowing their tart and unique berry flavor to shine through magnificently. If it were up to us, we’d vote cranberry sauce as the Best Supporting Actor for every holiday spread, which is why it kills us to see so many people serve cranberry sauce in its canned form. Just a friendly PSA from us here at Grateful: Put down the can-opener. It’s super simple to make your own cranberry sauce. So if you want to level up your cranberry sauce game, today we are sharing our recipes for easy three-ingredient cranberry sauce, three ways.

cranberry sauce on a spoon

You heard us right! In this article you get three recipes for the price (and time) of one. You see, cranberry sauce is actually extremely simple to make, and it can be made in under 15 minutes. In reality, you only really need two ingredients: cranberries and sugar (and water, of course). But adding a third ingredient adds variety to the classic cranberry and sugar combo. Here are the variations we’re sharing:

Classic: cranberry + granulated sugar + orange
Minted: cranberry + agave syrup + mint
Pineapple: cranberry + coconut sugar + pineapple

MORE: 11 Unique Thanksgiving side dishes to add to your menu

Adding sugar to your cranberry sauce

We used a few variations of sweetener for those of you who are concerned about refined sugar or glycemic index, but sugar isn’t the important part. The sweeteners are totally interchangeable depending on your preference. That being said, each sweetener tastes a bit different, so here’s a breakdown of the different sweeteners and how they affect the taste of the cranberry sauce.

Granulated sugar: This is the classic sugar you are probably used to. This sugar will give your cranberry sauce the most sweetness, making it taste almost candied. We went with an organic raw cane sugar, which gives us (a little) peace of mind, but regular white sugar works, too.

raw cane sugar orange sauce

Agave nectar: This nectar is harvested from the agave plant and has a similar consistency to maple syrup. It is very sweet, perhaps even sweeter than traditional sugar, but the sweetness is not as long-lasting on the palate. First you get a burst of sweetness, and then the tartness of the cranberries comes through.

mint agave sauce

Coconut sugar: This is sugar that’s made from the sap of the coconut palm tree, and it is the least sweet of the options. The texture and taste are similar to brown sugar, leaving the cranberry sauce with a slightly burnt sugar taste, like caramel. The effect is the opposite of agave: First you taste the tart and then finish off with the sweet.

coconut sugar pineapple sauce

The processes for cooking each of the cranberry sauces are all pretty similar. You can check out the instructions below.

What you’ll need


  • One-12-ounce bag cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2-1 cup sugar (sweeten, to taste)
  • 1/2 cup water


  • One 12-ounce bag cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup agave nectar (sweeten, to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons (separated) fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons water


  • One 12-ounce bag cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 can crushed pineapple (1/4 cup juice from pineapple, 1/4 cup crushed pineapple)
  • 1/2-1 cup coconut sugar (sweeten, to taste)
  • 1/2 cup water

MORE: Make easy & healthy holiday food swaps using our cheat sheet

Cranberry sauce directions

For the classic, zest the orange completely using a microplane or the smallest side of a box grater. Once completely zested, cut the orange in half horizontally and squeeze out the juice using a juicer or your hands. In a medium saucepan, heat the zest, orange juice and cranberries over medium-high heat until the cranberries begin to pop. You will hear and see the cranberries bursting open. Once they’ve popped, add the water and sugar and stir until completely dissolved. In terms of sugar, you can decide how sweet you want the cranberry sauce to be. We recommend starting with 1/2 cup and tasting the mixture once the sugar has dissolved. If it doesn’t taste sweet enough, add sugar little by little until you have achieved your desired sweetness. Bring to a boil and boil until the liquid has reduced by half (about 3-5 minutes). Once reduced by half, turn the heat to simmer and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow it cool.

classic cranberry sauce

For the minted variation, begin by finely chopping 2 tablespoons of fresh mint and separate them into 2 equal parts. In a medium saucepan, heat the cranberries, 1 tablespoon of mint and 3 tablespoons of water over medium-high heat until the cranberries begin to pop. Once cranberries have popped, add water and agave nectar and stir until combined. Check for sweetness. Usually, recipes require less agave than regular sugar, but because there is no juice or fruit in this variation, you might want to add more agave. Bring the mixture to a boil until it has reduced by half, and then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining tablespoon of mint, then allow to cool.

minted cranberry sauce

For the pineapple variation, open the can of crushed pineapple and separate out 1/4 cup juice and 1/4 cup of the pineapple, then save the rest or discard. In a medium saucepan, heat the cranberries, pineapple and pineapple juice over medium-high heat until cranberries begin to pop. Once the cranberries have popped, add the coconut sugar and water and stir until dissolved. Adjust coconut sugar, to taste. You may want to add a little more given it is not as sweet. Bring to a boil until the liquid has reduced by half, and then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

pineapple cranberry sauce

Cranberry sauce is really that easy to make. The great thing about cranberry sauce is that it’s like any other jam or jelly, so when the holiday is over, you can continue to spread it on toast, sandwiches or even pancakes. Store it in an airtight container like a mason jar and it will last up to 14 days in the fridge.

Check out our vertical farming video below to learn more about some fresh ingredients you can add to your table this Thanksgiving.