What are the common proportions for making cranberry sauce?

One of my aims with Tuesday Q&A is provide answers that are less easily available elsewhere. So I figured I’d use the cranberry sauce questions I’ve received as a means to highlight the use of proportions.

So I cheated with the phrasing of the question this week. The questions that several people asked were more akin to “Isn’t it difficult to make cranberry sauce?” and “Don’t you need pectin to make cranberry sauce?”

Let’s start with what you need to make cranberry sauce:

  1. Raw Cranberries – Fresh or Frozen
  2. Liquid – e.g. water
  3. Something Sweet – e.g. sugar

That’s it. Towards the end of this post, I’ve suggested some flavours you can use to jazz things up if you wish.

The important thing to remember is that cranberries are tart little mites so it’s difficult to get away without anything to sweeten them up. You can use juice for the liquid, which will provide some sweetness. However, the juice can alter the flavour of the final sauce so it depends on how clean a cranberry flavour you are after. I haven’t tried making it with a low-calorie sweetener as I haven’t found any of the sweeteners (like stevia for instance) palatable. But here’s a stevia recipe as I’ve noticed how popular it seems to be.

Anyway, the point is to encourage you to play around to find your (literal) sweet spot. In the table below I’ve used sugar because that’s the most common (and it’s what I usually use!).

Cranberries Liquid Sugar
Proportions by weight 3 1 1
Measurements 300g 100ml 100g

I’ve given the example of 300g because that’s the standard size in most UK supermarkets. Most of the recipes online are from the US and their standard packaging is 12oz (350g).

If you’re buying a standard 300g and you want to eyeball it even further, then 10oml of water is roughly 1/3 of a standard mug and 100g of sugar is roughly 6 rounded dessert spoons. That saves you getting out any scales or measuring cups…you see how easy cooking can be?

By weight, a 3:1:1 ratio gives you a fairly sharp sauce, if you prefer something similar to commercial cranberry sauce, then I would recommend increasing the sugar to about half of the weight of the cranberries i.e. 3:1:1.5

If you prefer to work by volume, it’s not quite as neat for a 300g punnet/bag.

Cranberries Liquid Sugar
Proportions by volume 6 1 1
By volume π 1/2 cup* 1/2 cup

It’s just over 3 cups of cranberries. Tom suggested that the measurement could be listed as π and I really liked that. I’m not sure if π has ever been used like this in cookery but if you’re reading/watching my stuff, you’ve got to be prepared for a bit of geekery/Tomfoolery (capitalisation intended).

*and it’s just under 1/2 cup of liquid but really you can stir for a little longer to get the consistency you want.

Anyway those are the starting points. You can also add different flavours to your cranberry sauce. Some common ones are:

  • Citrus: Orange peel (and as mentioned above you can also use the juice as the liquid), lemon peel, grapefruit peel
  • Cinnamon: Throw in a cinnamon stick
  • Alcohol: Brandy, whiskey, port etc.
  • Aromatics: Ginger or horseradish

I prefer to keep the base simple and clean, which allows me to mix in flavours just before serving. Do play around and find what works for you.

Here’s a short video of the important key actions/stages of cooking. The total cooking time is about 10 minutes.


In summary:

  • Throw all the ingredients into a pot (if you use a large pot, there’s less risk of bubbling over).
  • Put on a medium high heat
  • Look/listen out for the cranberries popping. The mixture will also start to foam.
  • Press the cranberries against the side of the pot to assist in bursting them.
  • Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer until it has thickened,
  • The entire cooking time is usually around 10 minutes (consistency shown in video)
  • The sauce will set further when cooled

Hope this helps. We’ll be taking a break over the festive period and will return on Tuesday 10 January. But feel free to send in your questions as I’ll be checking my email: Questions@CookingForLife.Club.

Happy holidays!


Leave a Reply