I have a confession to make…
When it comes to Thanksgiving, I am not one of those people that looks forward to the turkey the most. While I love turkey, it’s not the thing that gets me the most excited about the classic holiday meal.
No, I look forward to the cranberries.
As a kid, I was one of those weirdos who loved canned cranberry sauce.
You know the kind that literally slides out of the can in one piece? You slice it into slabs, maybe try to pretty it up a bit in a crystal dish or some other distracting piece of antique tableware.
I would make mini turkey sandwiches out of it, with ample amounts of gravy on the fresh dinner rolls my grandmother would make.
It always fascinated my parents that this was the one food I would go crazy for out of all of the choices on our holiday table. I would always hoard the dish of cranberry sauce at my end of the table, and if you didn’t grab some in the first round of passing the dishes around, you likely weren’t getting any…
Yes, I really would eat every single bit of it. My mom would have to buy extra cans of the sauce so that I could enjoy my leftovers the way I wanted.
As a result, it always fascinated me that cranberries were such an afterthought for most people.
As I got older and I started helping with Thanksgiving dinner, I would always be the first to volunteer to take care of the cranberries.
This started with me contributing the aforementioned version: the good old jellied stuff that comes out of a can. Then I moved to the canned whole berries, with a touch of orange juice and orange zest added before serving.
Eventually, I became a full-blown adult and graduated to using fresh or frozen whole cranberries. And wow! Can I just say that there is such a difference between using whole fruit and that canned stuff?
The sauce that comes in a can is way too sweet, and it doesn’t provide the right amount of tang to contrast with and enhance the other flavors that are on your Thanksgiving plate. Just about everything on the Thanksgiving dinner table is really rich, so the bright shock of tartness from the humble cranberry is oh-so-necessary.
This recipe is pure perfection if you’re like me and you aim to convert others to hop on the cranberry bandwagon with you.
All you have to do is combine fresh or frozen whole berries with orange juice, orange zest, and maple syrup. You roast them for a short amount of time in the oven, and voila! An easy side or sauce (depending on how you think of it) that really highlights the tangy flavor that you crave.
The berries nice and soft, shriveling slightly but not quite bursting, so they still hold their shape – and flavor – in the best way possible.
If you plan to serve this dish at Thanksgiving (which I recommend highly), it’s easiest to make it a bit ahead of time. There’s no need to take up that crucial space in the oven on the big day!
Make them a day or two in advance, and then let them cool to room temperature before transferring them to a lidded airtight container. Store them in your refrigerator until you are ready to serve them.
The best part is, this recipe can be served chilled or warmed up, depending on how you prefer them.
Personally, I like to serve them chilled, as it is a good temperature variation to contrast with all of the warm Thanksgiving dishes that you are used to stuffing your face with.Print
If you haven’t already ditched the canned sauce, our Easy Roasted Cranberries will make you do it. It’s time to start a new holiday tradition.
- 3 ½ cups (12 oz) fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- Zest of 1 orange
- Pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 400˚F.
- Mix all ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
- Pour into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish and spread to form a single layer.
- Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.
- Let cool 10 minutes in the pan, then drain out excess liquid. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Sauces, Side Dish
- Method: Baking, Roasting
- Cuisine: Thanksgiving
Keywords: Thanksgiving, fall, cranberry sauce, cranberry
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Zest Orange and Measure Remaining Ingredients
Zest one orange and set aside.
Measure all remaining ingredients as listed in the ingredients list.
Preheat your oven to 400˚F.
Step 2 – Mix
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.
Stir to combine all the ingredients.
Step 3 – Roast
Add cranberries to a 9-by-13-inch pan, making sure they stay in an even layer.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cranberries are roasted and beginning to shrivel.
Step 4 – Drain
Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Use a fine mesh sieve to drain out excess liquid.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
What’s This Sandwich You Were Talking About?
Ah yes, the ultimate Thanksgiving sandwich, made perfect with the right cranberry sauce.
If you really want to conquer achieving the correct balance, you need to follow these steps exactly.
Pro Tip: You can bust this out at the Thanksgiving table, or simply wait to devour your leftovers in this delicious manner.
- Grab a roll, and slice it in half.
- Top the bottom half of the roll with slices of turkey, then add a couple spoonfuls of stuffing.
- Add a heaping tablespoon of cranberries (or two) on top, and pour over a drizzle of gravy.
- Finally, spread some mashed potatoes on the other half of the roll. Top off the sandwich and enjoy.
This is what I call Thanksgiving sandwich heaven.
For more on sandwich perfection, check out our article on the best tomato sandwich. And if you’re a cranberry fanatic like me, you really should check out all of our recipes featuring this tart and tasty ingredient such as:
Tell us about how you like to enjoy your cranberry sauce and all of those delicious holiday leftovers in the comments below. And once you’ve tried this recipe, come back and give it a give it a five-star rating if you loved it!
Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on November 14, 2013. Last updated: November 28, 2021 at 12:31 pm. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Meghan Yager
Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.