Jellied Cranberry Sauce

Homemade Jellied Cranberry Sauce

I love cranberry sauce. To be more specific: I love jellied, mass-produced, slurps-out-of-the-can-as-a-ridged-log cranberry sauce. But you know what that stuff is sweetened with? High-fructose corn syrup. Yummy, huh?

Making your own sauce isn’t hard. In fact, it’s really really easy. However, I find when people make their own sauce, they mess with it. There’s nothing wrong with that. The benefit of making your own food is that you can make it exactly however your heart desires. If you like whole berry cranberry sauce spiced with cinnamon, cloves and orange peel, by all means make that version.

I, however, like the no-frills plain-jane jellied version. Who’s with me?

To get the jellied goodness liked the canned stuff, you’re going to have to strain your cooked cranberries to remove the skins. I used a food mill, but a mesh strainer and a spoon will work just as well. You can also just mash the cranberries up while they’re cooking and leave the skins in. The sauce will still jell, it’ll just have more texture than the strained versions.

Jellied Cranberry Sauce
Serves Six

1 Bag Fresh/Frozen Cranberries (14 oz to 1 lb)
1/2 Cup Water
1 Lemon, Zest (optional)
1 Cup Sugar (or more to taste)

Lemon Zest over Softened Cranberries

Add cranberries, water, and lemon zest to a pot. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, covered so a small amount of steam can escape. You’ll start to hear the berries popping as the skins split. Check on them after about 10 minutes. If they’re softened and mush easily, place them in your food mill or strainer over a bowl. (You can skip this part if you want a chunkier sauce.)

Milling the Cranberry Sauce

Mill until all the sauce has gone through, leaving you with only skins. It should look something like this once you’ve milled it as much as possible:

Cranberry Skins in the Food Mill

Don’t forget to scrape the bottom of the mill/strainer. Your cranberry mixture should be smooth, but it’s okay if it has some seeds in it. Mine did, but you can’t taste them and they just remind you that the sauce is homemade! A finer strainer will get the seeds, too.

Cranberry Sauce after Milling

Return the sauce to the stove (this is why I like using a food mill – it’ll fit right over a pot so you can easily put your milled food back on the stove) and add the sugar. I like 1 cup of sugar, but I think even that doesn’t make it quite as sweet as the canned stuff. I think 1 1/2 cups of sugar would achieve that, but I leave it at 1 cup.

Stir until the sugar is dissolved and let it simmer for 1-2 minutes.

Now you just need to chill the sauce in a lightly oiled mold of some sort. I used a cupcake tin, as I thought it’d be cute to have individual rounds of jellied sauce. If you have the neat silicone cupcake pan, use that; it’ll make it really easy to unmold the sauce.

Cranberry Sauce Cooling

And that’s it! Now chill it for a few hours. It’ll keep for 2-3 days, so you can make it in advance of a big meal (Thanksgiving, anyone?), but you can also make it during the day and it’ll be ready for dinner.

A special note of thanks to Inna for the food mill – it was such a sweet and thoughtful anniversary gift. I know I’ll be using it and appreciating it for years to come! Thank you!


  1. amey

    I love making cranberry sauce… mmmm it’s so good! But it’s true… I mess with it a bit. I put in a bit of OJ and orange zest instead of lemon zest. I love the ideas of the muffin tin – what a typically clever veganyumyum idea!

    :) amey

  2. SaraJane

    Also, you can freeze little bits of it in ice cube trays and throw it into smoothies. Or… I once made cranberry margaritas by blending ice, cranberry juice and cranberry sauce with tequila and Grand Marnier. Oh yeah…

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  4. Hillary

    Ok I think you read my mind somehow. I LOVE jellied cranberry sauce too and have been wanting to make my own! I can eat it on anything…and I need it with Turkey, even if it isn’t Thanksgiving. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  5. lemonbird

    Oh yes! My husband is obsessed with the canned jelly and I’ve missed making the homemade stuff. Things are going to be different this year. Thanks, Lolo!

    PS. Food mills are the best.

  6. Cindy Keery

    Thanks for posting this recipe! I just made your cranberry sauce and put it in the muffin tin! We’re having our thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. I can’t wait to taste it!


  7. Jackie Vetter

    I love this idea! I love cranberry sauce, and I have a white bean burger thatt tastes kind of like a turkey burger that I like to spread cranberry sauce on, but like you, I didn’t want the HFCS. YEAH! I’m going to make this! Horray, my white bean burgers and going to be awesome!


  8. Christine

    oh man, I looooooooove the canned cranberry sauce. but I really love to mash it up with a fork before eating it; since I was a wee lass I have insisted it tastes better that way, and I stand by it!

    but, in the interest of not eating HFCS and making things myself, I will definitely be trying your cranberry sauce, if only because I love using my food mill :) though I bet I will add the extra sugar!

  9. EtherMaiden

    Incidentally, if you make a larger batch of this, and bring it to a full boil rather than just a simmer at the end, you can can it and put it by or give it as gifts. I actually just put by 9 4oz jars of jellied cranberry sauce, my recipe being very similar to yours. This can be put by in 4oz, half-pint, or pint jars, with 1/4″ headspace for the 4oz and 1/2″ for the remaining two sizes of jars. B-W process 10 minutes. Hoorah!

  10. kathy roso

    I’ll have to try this recipe – if it passes the test of a jellied sauce log with ribs out-of-the-can lover (like me) it has to be good.
    If you don’t have time to make this, though, you can find canned jellied cranberry that is not made with HFCS. ‘Grown Right’ is an organic sauce you can buy on Amazon or at your local natural/organic market. Knudsen’s is another brand. (and anything labeled ‘kosher for Passover’ will not have HFCS in it.)

  11. Lindy

    Wonderful! My husband is also obsessed with jellied cranberry sauce. Just open the can, grab a spoon and he’s in heaven – eats the entire can in one sitting. BUT – the HFCS is a real killer. therefore I have been hunting for a recipe that will be like the canned stuff only better. I haven’t tried your recipe yet but will as soon as I can get some fresh or frozen cranberries.

    Apparently there is enough pectin naturally in cranberries so it is not necessary to add more. My canning book simply uses the berries, sugar, and water. I like the idea of adding lemon or orange zest. My canning bok has no pictures – you have great pics. :-D

    Thanks, Lindy

  12. Lindy

    WHOOPS! Sure wish there was an edit so I could go back and fix my typos. A comma should go between killer and therefore and bok should be book.

    Thanks again, Lindy

  13. carol

    have been trying to make jellied sauce for years, but it never jells. Always says loose. Maybe it’s the proportion of water – you seem to use less than calls for on the bag. Also, if I add the skins, will it still “jell”. I have been grinding it in a blender, as opposed to straining. Mine tastes good, just never get that jello/mold shape.

  14. hakucho

    Thank you so much for showing me how to make your wonderful cranberry sauce! It was a big hit on my Thanksgiving table…I will never buy the can stuff again :) It was really easy (gelled perfectly) and tastes soooo much better!

  15. Cassie

    I am so happy that I have found your recipe! I am going to have a big party this December to celebrate my tenth Wedding Anniversary and I want to have a very festive winter type of menu which will include turkey, roast beef and wierdly enough lasagna. What is better to cleanse a pallet than some yummy cranberry sauce? Nothing! I have never even heard of HFCS before, so that makes me even happier to have found your recipe! I am going to love to serve, hopefully beautiful, individual quantities instead of having to buy umpteen cans and ending up with this lumpy messy mush. By the by, my party will be for around 120, so I will be multiplying your wonderful recipe by 20!
    Thank you so much for sharing this with the world! I’m very appreciative!

  16. mellers

    If you’re looking to do something a little special, you might try using a nice silicone mold in the shape of leaves and pumpkins for Thanksgiving, or snowflakes or something else Christmas-y for Christmas.

    Also, with regards to Shari’s comment, you might try replacing the water in the recipe with reconstituted rasberry juice from concentrate–that might work for Cran-Raspberry sauce

  17. Jessica

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I LOVE the canned stuff, but I am cutting all high fructose corn syrup. After looking at about 50 recipes online, I finally found yours! THANK YOU again!

  18. Jessica

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I LOVE the canned stuff, but I am cutting all high fructose corn syrup. After looking at about 50 recipes online, all with chunks, I finally found yours – truly jellied! THANK YOU again!

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