Easy homemade Spiced Ginger Cranberry Sauce is an Indian twist to a classic. The cranberry sauce is paired with orange juice, ginger, and fragrant hints of cardamom, star anise, and cinnamon. It comes together in 20 minutes and is an easy make-ahead side dish for Thanksgiving dinner!
Growing up in an Indian family, we never had traditional Thanksgiving meals with turkey and all the sides. Instead, all of our friends and family in Arizona would come together for a huge potluck with our favorite Indian dishes.
Sure, sometimes we would roast a chicken or grab a pumpkin pie to have some small elements of a traditional Thanksgiving. But I never saw the appeal of cranberry sauce.
Especially the goopy canned cranberry sauce with all the ridges on it? Bleh. If you developed the palate for it, then canned is great if you're in a pinch.
Why this Recipe?
This is my take on what to bring to an Indian-style Thanksgiving feast! The cranberry sauce is still as easy as ever to make in about 20 minutes. I especially love to make it ahead of time and serve it chilled.
The bit of ginger pairs so well with the cranberry and orange! It almost reminds me of a chutney. The star anise, cardamom, and cinnamon add extra fragrance and subtle notes to balance out the tartness of the cranberries.
Making fresh homemade cranberry sauce cuts through how heavy Thanksgiving sides and mains are. It definitely adds a bit of brightness, lightness, and a vibrant pop of color to any tablescape.
So if you're looking for something a little different to serve up this time around, your guests are absolutely going to love this recipe! I assure you, you'll have no leftover cranberry sauce to figure out how to use in leftovers for the next few days.
But if you do, try out these Leftover Cranberry Sauce Coffee Cake Muffins.
Ingredients - Notes and Substitutions
This simple fresh cranberry sauce has all the makings of the classics, with a little added ginger and spices that make it very reminiscent of common ingredients in Indian cooking.
- Cranberries - Fresh or frozen cranberries will work for this recipe!
- Sugar - Cranberries are incredibly tart and need sugar to balance it out. Adjust the amount in the recipe based off of personal preference. Also, feel free to use substitutes like honey, maple syrup, or sugar-free substitutes like Splenda.
- Orange - A pairing that can't be denied - oranges and cranberries! Replace all the water with orange if you'd like a strong orange flavor.
- Ginger - Use freshly minced or grated ginger and adjust based off of preference. It pairs really well with the orange juice and cranberries.
- Spices - Use ground or whole spices! Just be sure to fish out the whole spices after they've infused into the sauce.
How to make Spiced Ginger Cranberry Sauce
Start by bringing the sugar, water, orange juice, and orange zest to a simmer in a sauce pan until the sugar has completely melted. Once it has melted, add in the cranberries.
The cranberries will eventually begin to burst. At this point, lower the heat and add in the pinch of salt, ginger, star anise, cardamom pods, and cinnamon stick. Continue to simmer the cranberry sauce until it reaches your desired consistency and texture.
It'll be pulpy if it's cooked for a short amount of time, or jammy if it's simmered for a long time. This is entirely up to preference - I like mine to be more of a loose sauce.
At the end of cook time, taste the sauce and make any adjustments for sugar or spices. Remove the whole spices. Allow the sauce to cool to set and it's ready to enjoy!
Cranberry sauce is the best served chilled so it has time to set up. This makes it a great side dish to make ahead of Thanksgiving Day!
Refrigerate cranberry sauce for up to two weeks in an airtight container, or in the freezer for up to six months.
Tips and Tricks
Cranberry sauce is a bit of an acquired flavor, so here are some tips and tricks to spruce it up to your liking.
- Stir in other berries like raisins, blueberries, or even peaches for less tartness from the cranberries
- Don't be shy to add other warm fall spices like nutmeg, allspice, cloves, etc
- For reduced sugar or sugar-free cranberry sauce, use half the amount of sugar and adjust per taste or use substitutes like Splenda.
- Use leftovers for a turkey sandwich the day after Thanksgiving!
Tons of leftover cranberry sauce? Try these Cranberry Sauce Coffee Cake Muffins!
More Thanksgiving Recipes to try
Spiced Ginger Cranberry Sauce
- 12 oz cranberries, fresh or frozen
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- ½ orange, juiced
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- ½ tablespoon ginger, finely minced
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 3 cardamom pods
- pinch of salt
- Rinse the cranberries and remove any bruised berries.
- In a sauce pan on medium heat, add the water, sugar, orange juice, and orange zest. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.
- Add the cranberries into the sauce pan and continue to simmer until they've burst, about 7-10 minutes. Once they've burst, add the salt, minced ginger, cinnamon stick, star anise, and cardamom pods.
- Continue to simmer until achieving the desired consistency and texture, i.e. 5 minutes for chunky cranberry sauce or 10+ minutes for a jammy sauce. Taste for sugar and flavor, make adjustments as necessary.
- Remove the cinnamon stick, star anise, and cardamom pods. Serve chilled.
- Refrigerate cranberry sauce for up to two weeks in an airtight container, or in the freezer for up to six months.
- Substitute whole cardamom pods and cinnamon stick with ½ teaspoon of ground spices each. Substitute the star anise with ⅛ teaspoon of star anise extract. Add other spices to preference - such as nutmeg, cloves, allspice, etc.
The perfect amount of *spice* to add to a traditional Thanksgiving spread. Absolutely never going back to store bought.
This was one of the best cranberry sauce recipes I’ve tried (and I’ve tried quite a few). The spices really leveled up the sauce. I chose to include allspice, nutmeg, and cloves per Shweta’s suggestions and it was phenomenal. I even had someone ask me for the recipe!
Love to hear about the other spices working well and I'm so glad it was a hit! Thanks, Kristin!