Secret Ingredient Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce

Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce Recipe @fifteenspatulas

When I was a kid, I always thought of cranberry sauce as the stuff that made that creepy suction noise as it fell out of the can in one giant log…and jiggled anytime someone got up from the table.

…it’s alive! The cranberry sauce is alive! Yes, you know what I’m talking about. So for most of my life I stayed away from cranberry sauce altogether.

I finally fell in love with cranberry sauce a few years ago when my friend Jess came to my house for Thanksgiving and showed me how to make homemade cranberry sauce with fresh cranberries.

Fresh Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Cranberry sauce is now one of my favorite parts of the Thanksgiving meal, and it’s always the dish I make first. It can be made several days in advance, and it only takes about 20 minutes from start to finish. If only all Thanksgiving dishes were that easy.

Start by sorting through a bag of fresh cranberries, and discard any cranberries that are shriveled or brown:

Fresh Cranberry Sauce Thanksgiving Recipe

Next gather up an orange and the secret ingredient, which is…spiced rum!

I’m telling you, I’ve never been much of a drinker, but I think cooking with alcohol is one of the secrets to great cooking. Adding spiced rum (or orange liqueur, which I like too) to the cranberries really enhances the flavor:

Rum Orange Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Zest a fresh orange or tangerine, then squeeze out all the juice. Add the zest and juice to a pan with the cranberries, a cinnamon stick, and the spiced rum:

Spiced Rum Orange Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Add in sugar and cook for 15 minutes until all the cranberries burst.

Then all you have to do is spoon it into a dish:

Orange Cranberry Sauce Recipe @fifteenspatulas

And it’s ready to serve! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce


  • 12 oz bag fresh cranberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar*
  • 1 softball sized orange, zested and juiced
  • 2 tbsp spiced rum
  • 1 cinnamon stick


  1. Sort through the cranberries, discarding any that look brown and shriveled. Rinse the cranberries and place them in a heavy bottomed saucepan with the sugar, orange zest, orange juice, spiced rum, and cinnamon stick. Place a lid on the pan and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. The cranberries will begin to pop!
  2. When it looks like most of the cranberries have popped, remove the pan from the heat. If the sauce looks too liquidy, keep in mind that the pectin in the cranberries will make the sauce thicken up quite a bit as it cools. If you would like a thinner texture, you can add more water or orange juice. Serve the cranberry sauce cold or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes:

*You are sweetening to taste here. If it’s too tart for you, feel free to add more sugar.

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