This slightly spicy cranberry sauce is just the side dish for Thanksgiving or dinner any time of year. Savory with a little zip from a chipotle pepper, this homemade cranberry sauce recipe is really easy to make.
Forget the old “homemade vs. canned” debate. For years I was a “neither” when it came to cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving.
I like cranberry-flavored things and don’t have texture issues when it comes to food, so I’m not too sure why cranberry sauce was a no-go. Probably because I’ve always been laser-focused on filling my plate with stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cornbread. I’m not even that big on the actual turkey!
As I’ve gotten older I’ve begun appreciating the balance of tartness, sweetness, and fruit flavor it brings to poultry and meat dishes. While at its base all you need for basic cranberry sauce is cranberries, sugar, and water, zhushing things up with a little citrus, flavored vinegar, garlic, and spice elevates it to a savory cranberry sauce you’ll (you meaning me!) get excited about.
You can use fresh or frozen cranberries to make this (slightly) spicy cranberry sauce. Cranberries are only in season for a short time, and can be found fresh in the produce department in the fall and early winter in the United States. You can buy them then and use them right away or stash those in the freezer, or simply go for frozen cranberries from the start.
Either way one twelve-ounce package will do it, which comes out to around 3 1/2 cups of cranberries total.
Cranberries are incredibly tart so brown sugar is added for necessary sweetness. You can use an equal amount of granulated sugar if you like, but the little touch of warmth brown sugar brings is my pick here.
Next we need liquid, which here comes in the form of water and orange juice. You can play around with the ratio here and use more orange juice and less water, but with the next three bolder ingredients I didn’t want the flavor profile to be overwhelmed.
And those ingredients? Balsamic vinegar, fresh garlic, and chipotle peppers in adobo. These add a great depth to a fairly standard cranberry sauce recipe. Chipotle peppers in adobo can be found canned in the “international foods” aisle of the grocery store. A small can contains a handful of peppers in a smoky adobo sauce that packs a serious punch.
Please note that this spicy cranberry sauce recipe calls for just one pepper, finely diced. Not one whole can!! You can add another pepper (or extra teaspoons of the adobo sauce) to this recipe if you like heat, but I’d say with any more than one pepper you can leave the “slightly” off of this recipe title. 🙂
While not quite as quick and easy as opening a can, cranberry sauce really doesn’t take that long to make from scratch. Start by rinsing and sorting through your cranberries, removing out any that are wrinkled or mushed. Ideal fresh cranberries are firm and can be found in a light/medium red to a deep red coloring.
Next, to a medium saucepan set over medium heat, add everything but the cranberries: water, brown sugar, orange juice, balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, and the finely diced chipotle pepper in adobo. Give it all a whisk to combine.
Add the cranberries and let everything come to a low boil for 10-15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened to your liking, keeping in mind the cranberry sauce will thicken up additionally as it cools. The cranberries will expand and burst as they heat. Towards the end of the cook time you can lightly mash the cranberries against the saucepan with the back of a wooden spoon (or with a potato masher) to produce a more uniform and less chunky consistency.
And there you go! Let this chipotle cranberry sauce cool completely before storing in the refrigerator.
Greens has become one of my favorite side dishes to serve (and eat!) at Thanksgiving dinner. If you have an Instant Pot, these Instant Pot collard greens are a family favorite that keep the stovetop free for other dishes. Prepared Southern-style with meat and a pot liquor you’ll want to drizzle like gravy, these are a reader favorite recipe with rave reviews.
Is there anything that roasted garlic hasn’t made better? I’m not sure there is, and another classic Thanksgiving side is no exception. Just like cranberry sauce, roasted garlic creamed corn comes together quickly on the stove with a perfect in-between consistency.
- Please take care to use just one chipotle pepper and not the whole can of peppers, and that would likely be way too spicy.
Slightly Spicy Cranberry Sauce
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup water
- 2 ½ tbsp orange juice
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 chipotle pepper in adobo, very finely diced (not one can!)
- 1 clove garlic pressed or finely minced
- 12 oz cranberries fresh or frozen (around 3 1/2 cups)
- Rinse and sort through the cranberries, removing any ones that are mushy or wrinkled.
- Add brown sugar, water, orange juice, balsamic vinegar, diced chipotle pepper in adobo, and garlic to a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Whisk everything to combine.
- Add the cranberries and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the cranberries are bursting and well-heated. Remove the pan from the heat. The cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.