The Unexpected Ingredient That Will Majorly Upgrade Your Cranberry Sauce

Though there's nothing stopping you from enjoying tart and juicy cranberries year-round, for many, cranberry sauce is almost synonymous with holiday feasts. Sure, you may encounter cranberries in the odd festive dessert, but the ingredient really shines in sauce form, especially served alongside a perfectly roasted turkey.

Everyone has their opinions on what constitutes an incredible cranberry sauce. Some aficionados of the tart yet sweet staple swear by canned cranberry sauce. If you fall into that camp, the only real decision you need to make is whether to serve it up in slices, taking advantage of the gelatinous texture of the canned product, or to mush it until it's a smoother consistency for serving.

If you're the type who prefers homemade cranberry sauce, however, you have a lot more flexibility. You can easily make small tweaks to your go-to cranberry sauce recipe until you have your perfect side dish. Perhaps you add in a splash or two of some kind of spirit. Maybe you either reduce or increase the sugar content depending on your preference. Another common adjustment that many cranberry sauce experts make is to incorporate a bit of spice or seasoning to really level up those flavors. 

Recipe developer Catherine Brookes' Mashed-exclusive cranberry sauce recipe is one that homemade sauce devotees won't want to miss. As she says, "this cranberry sauce is the perfect balance of sweet and sour, with juicy whole cranberries, zesty orange and a hint of spice."

The secret ingredient: cinnamon

You may already have this warming spice ready for all your holiday baking. But according to recipe developer Catherine Brookes, who shared her cranberry sauce recipe with Mashed, a sprinkle of cinnamon is the secret ingredient. "I find that cinnamon pairs really well with tart/citrus flavors and adds a nice hint of sweet spiciness," she says. Her recipe doesn't call for much, just half a teaspoon, but that's enough to give the sauce a little something extra.

In addition to the sprinkle of cinnamon and the cup of sugar to balance out the tartness in the cranberries, Brookes also incorporates ⅓ cup of orange juice. "The orange also adds sweetness to balance out the sharpness of the cranberry," she explains.

Brookes doesn't have strong feelings about whether you opt for fresh or frozen cranberries — it depends on what's available in your grocery store. You'll just want to be mindful that you "may need to increase the liquid content a little" with fresh cranberries, splashing in a bit of extra water and orange juice.

Dying to make the fragrant sauce but not planning on roasting a whole turkey anytime soon? Don't worry — Brookes has a recommendation. As she explains, the sauce is "great spooned on top of cheese and crackers." Whether you incorporate it as an addition to your next charcuterie board or simply elevate any future snack plates of cheese and crackers, you'll love the tart yet sweet addition.