Confident home cooking

Guest Post: Bake or Buy – Cranberry Sauce

by Nick

Note from Nick:  Today I’m posting a guest post from Bethany over at Bake or Buy.  Her posts are similar to my homemade trials posts where I try to figure out whether it makes sense to make something from scratch or not.  She tackles a big holiday side item today:  Cranberry sauce.  She included a recipe for a simple and tasty homemade version also.

I thought this was a really interesting post just because I know people who will choose canned cranberry sauce over a delicious homemade version every single time.

Anyway, take it away Bethany!

I know… I’m just asking to make some enemies with this one. There is a clear line between those who like their sauce from a can (still in the shape of it even) or chunky and fresh.

Makes about 2 cups.
Prep Time
Total Time
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Basic Cranberry Sauce

Basic Cranberry Sauce


  • 1 bag cranberries (12 ounce)
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/6 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • pinch cinnamon


1) Combine all the ingredients in a medium pot over medium-high heat and cook for 15-20 minutes. Use a spatula to smash the berries to help them cook down.

2) Once the mixture is cooked down and thick, let it cool and either at room temperature or chill it for a thicker sauce.

The Store Brand

Ocean Spray – I bought both Jellied and Whole Berry.

Making the Sauce

Homemade cranberry sauce is surprisingly easy to make. Put all the ingredients in a pan and just let them cook down over medium heat for about 15 minutes. I was using fresh oranges, but I realized my oranges didn’t have quite enough juice, so I ended up using half store bought juice.

And once it’s all said and done you’ll be left with a nice thick sauce that you can either serve at room temperature or chilled (mine’s on the right):

And if you have to have the can shape:

The Breakdown

Interestingly enough, the whole berry and jellied cranberry sauce had the exact same ingredients – cranberries, high fructose corn syrup, and corn syrup. One is just emulsified and one’s not.

So I win nutrition right there.

As far as taste and consistency goes, my cranberry sauce actually jelled up a lot more than I thought it would as it cooled.

It was really thick and delicious.  I bet you could even use a hand blender and shape it like a can if you had to!

The actual canned jellied version is totally out – I knew that was true for me, I need the chunk.

Head-to-head on the whole berry version? Homemade crushes the taste category. It’s fresh and tart, and the hint of citrus makes it. Period.

The canned was oversweetened, so you didn’t even get a good feel for the tartness of the cranberries.

And the cost? Here’s the breakdown!

Ok. So it actually costs more to make your own. But aside from Thanksgiving, how often do you have cranberry sauce? Treat your guests for the holiday!

So, Bake or Buy?  BAKE!

Bonus Recipe

On a side note, what did I do with all that cranberry sauce? I’m still trying to get rid of an influx of apples, so I made cran-apple crisp. Mix a batch of that fresh cranberry sauce with 4 sliced apples and top with your favorite crisp topping (my recipe for crisp topping:  1/2 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 4 tablespoons butter)!

Fork the crisp ingredients together and spread over the top of the apple/cranberry mixture. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Eat warm! Wish I would have shot a picture of this – it’s just GORGEOUS! :)

Note from Nick:  I’m a freakin’ huge homemade cranberry sauce fan, but it can definitely be a contentious issue.  I know people that define Thanksgiving by having a can of cranberry sauce on the table.  It’s not even debatable.

Where do you stand?  Homemade or store bought?  Leave a comment!