Kick-Ass Alternatives to Canned Cranberry Sauce

By Andrea Karim on 24 November 2010 (Updated 2 November 2011) 4 comments
Photo: calliope

Fine, I'll say it: Canned cranberry sauce is one Thanksgiving tradition that I could do without. Whenever I fill my plate and sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, cranberry sauce is afforded minimal, if any, space in front of me.

In fact, I often wonder why anyone bothers with cranberries at Thanksgiving at all. The tartness is obviously meant to cut through the richness of the rest of a Thanksgiving feast, but canned cranberry sauce simply hasn't won me over. Cranberries themselves are delicious and healthy, but there's something about that canned taste that I can't get behind.

But because my family would revolt if there wasn't SOME kind of tangy berry-like condiment at Thanksgiving dinner, I have found a variety of stylish, tasty ways to get around the canned cran. Are these alternatives cheaper than the can? No. But they are infinitely more interesting and impress everyone at the table. (See also: 5 Last-Minute Thanksgiving Fixes)

Basic Homemade Cranberry Compote

If you don't think that you can do without a fairly traditional cranberry sauce, basic homemade cranberry sauce is easy to make. Savory Sweet Life has some good photos of the finished product and the cooking process. You can add other ingredients, like ginger, champagne, shredded coconut, honey, dates, red pepper flakes, cardamom, rosemary, sage, rose essential oil, black pepper, or anything else that suits your fancy and that changes the flavor a bit. Cranberries themselves are so chock-full of flavor that subtle seasoning might not come through, but add any experimental ingredients according to taste until you have the kind of sauce that will make your mouth sing.

Spicy, Bright Pink, No-Cook Cranberry Relish

Looks can be deceiving, and photos of this cranberry relish do not do justice to its flavorful majesty. Spicy, creamy, sweet, and sour at the same time, it is a prefect accompaniment to roasted turkey. Forget gravy! The relish rules the roost. So what if it looks like Pepto Bismol?

The recipe for pink cranberry relish is incredibly easy — no cooking involved, just blending! You can prep the relish before Thanksgiving and freeze it or chill it in the fridge for 24 hours before serving.

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Indian-Style Cranberry Chutney

Indian food is, hands-down, my favorite cuisine, and pre-mixed Indian spice packets have salvaged more than one meal in my house. Although I don't frequently use chutneys, they do go extremely well with roasted meats, and this cranberry chutney is no exception (link includes video!). This recipe calls for "jaggery," which is a solid chunk of sugar that is often used in South Asian cooking. If you can't find jaggery, you can use regular sugar, but you'll need to add several tablespoons to make up for the compact nature of jaggery.

Cranberry Apple Salsa

Another no-cook option, cranberry salsa can be eaten with Thanksgiving dinner (or with chips as a snack — who says that cranberries are only good for Thanksgiving?). Although this would be especially good for those who are celebrating Turkey Day in warmer climates, who can turn down salsa, even when it's cold outside?

Boozy Berries

If you're already imbibing in order to survive the holidays, spare a little Grand Marnier for the cranberries with this easy, breezy, orangy cranberry sauce that is made in the oven.

Non-Cranberry Sauce

Sure, cranberries might be the tradition, but there's no reason to limit yourself to them! Tart dried cherries are available in the winter, and you could easily whip up a cherry sauce with balsamic vinegar.

Not interested in these options? Well, here are five MORE fantastic alternatives to plain ol' cranberry sauce. Tired of other traditional Thanksgiving dishes and looking to try something new? Check out Myscha's article on Thanksgiving dinner alternatives.

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Guest's picture
k

I admit it... I LOVE CANNED CRANBERRY SAUCE!! There, I said it. And so do my fellow Thanksgiving-goers...for the past few years we have experimented with various recipes like the ones above. And while good, too, they just don't beat the can. The best part is the can indents on the gel. :)

Guest's picture

I guess I'm on the other side of this coin, because for me it's not Thanksgiving without canned cranberry sauce. I love me some good homemade food, but I haven't met the can's match yet.

Andrea Karim's picture

I can appreciate that some people like canned cranberry sauce. OK, no, I can't, but I'll try to be tolerant. The rings freak me out.

Meg Favreau's picture

I didn't even realize it until after we finished the meal, but I somehow ate a Thanksgiving dinner yesterday that had two stuffings, two turkeys, two green bean casseroles, and not a single cranberry condiment, canned or otherwise.

I definitely want to try that cranberry-apple salsa. It sounds like a great potluck dish.