Cranberry Sauce with Herbs

4.89 from 9 votes
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This Thanksgiving, serve up a delicious cranberry sauce infused with fresh herbs in less than 20 minutes. The combination of rosemary and thyme perfectly complements the tart berry flavor.

Herb cranberry sauce in a blue bowl.

It’s easy to grab a can of jellied blob and plop it into a bowl, but come on. If you’re reading this, that means you’re interested in a better alternative, much better! Making cranberry sauce from scratch is easy. Just add a handful of ingredients to a pan, let the berries pop to release their juices, and in a matter of minutes, you have a flavorful holiday sauce ready to serve.

For this recipe, I start with my classic homemade cranberry sauce and simply add fresh herbs. Chopped rosemary and thyme add herbaceous aromas, and infuse their flavors into each spoonful. I figure why not use them up since you may already have a few sprigs leftover as you’re preparing the roasted turkey and stuffing.

Rinsing cranberries in a colander.

Cranberry selection

Fresh cranberries hit grocery stores around mid-October, so be on the lookout. I like to freeze a few bags to make a quick sauce, cranberry orange muffins, or a cranberry smoothie throughout the year.

You can use fresh or frozen cranberries for the recipe. If the latter, no need to defrost. Just add them straight to the pan and simmer. The recipe uses 12 ounces, which reduces to about 1 ¼ cup of sauce.

Cranberries and herbs cooking in a pan.

Flavor the sauce

Cranberries are incredibly tart, with a very soft, almost hollow core. Not to mention, these ruby-red spheres contain tons of cranberry health benefits. It’s hard to eat them alone like other fruits, so I add dark brown sugar to balance the taste. I like the molasses flavor, but you can also add pure maple syrup or honey. You can also switch things up with a citrus twist by making my orange cranberry sauce.

To add an exciting dimension, add freshly chopped rosemary and thyme. If you want a more subtle flavor, add a few sprigs of each to simmer in the sauce, then discard. Add a big cinnamon stick to the mix. It adds a pleasant warm spice aroma and taste without being overpowering.

Simmer the sauce

For 12 ounces of cranberry sauce, you need at least ½ cup of liquid and ½ cup of sweetener. That’s the magic formula, so simple! From there, you can customize the base to modify the flavor. Bring the mixture to a boil in a medium saucepan or saute pan, then reduce the heat to a simmer. 

When you hear popping sounds, don’t be scared. It’s just the moisture in the cranberries steaming up and breaking to release the juices. Once they all burst and the liquid has reduced, it’s ready. The process takes about 15 minutes. As the mixture cools down, the pectin will gel up and solidify, making it easy to scoop onto a big plate of turkey.

Spoon scooping up cranberry sauce.

Serve this with

Frequently asked questions

Can you use frozen cranberries?

Yes! Add the cranberries directly to the pan with the other ingredients. It will take a little longer to defrost, simmer, and thicken into a sauce.

Can I use dried herbs?

Dried rosemary and thyme can be added instead of fresh. Use ⅓ teaspoon of dried for every 1 teaspoon of fresh.

Can you freeze cranberry sauce?

The sauce can be stored in resealable plastic bags, pressed out flat, then frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost before using.

Homemade cranberry sauce with herbs.

Recipe Science

How does cranberry sauce thicken? 

The cell walls of the berry contain pectin, a rigid starch that gives structure to the fruit. Once the juice and pectin are released during the cooking process, it combines with the water and sugar. The mixture forms a stiff carbohydrate network that solidifies the juice. Make sure to stir occasionally to distribute the starches within the liquid. Let it cool, and you’ll get that sought-out jammy consistency.

Herb Cranberry Sauce

Make a quick and delicious cranberry sauce with herbs in less than 20 minutes to complement slices of turkey and scoops of stuffing.
4.89 from 9 votes
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Servings 20 servings
Course Condiment
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

  • 12 ounces cranberries, washed
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary, or ⅓ teaspoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme, or ⅓ teaspoon dried
  • 1 cinnamon stick, or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions 

  • In a medium-sized pan, add cranberries, brown sugar, water, rosemary, and thyme.
  • Bring sauce to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until cranberries pop and the mixture has slightly thickened. Make sure to stir occasionally, about every 5 minutes.
  • Turn off heat and remove cinnamon stick. Taste sauce and add more sweetener if desired. If needed, add more water for a thinner sauce.
  • Allow to cool slightly to thicken before serving.

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: 1 ¼ cups
  • Serving Size: 1 tablespoon
  • Sweetener Alternatives: Substitute brown sugar with pure maple syrup or honey.
  • Storing: Cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or up to 1 month.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 20 servings
Calories 29kcal (1%)Carbohydrates 8g (3%)Protein 1g (2%)Fat 1g (2%)Saturated Fat 1g (5%)Polyunsaturated Fat 1gMonounsaturated Fat 1gSodium 2mgPotassium 23mg (1%)Fiber 1g (4%)Sugar 6g (7%)Vitamin A 16IUVitamin C 2mg (2%)Calcium 8mg (1%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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  1. Penny Grant says

    Fantastic! I made this last Thanksgiving and a few more times during the year. This recipe is so easy and delicious!