By Vanessa Greaves

Ditch the can

Seriously, people. Homemade cranberry sauce is the easiest thing to make on your Thanksgiving menu, yet it's so pretty, it'll look like you worked that kitchen hard. You can make cranberry sauce days ahead of time and chill it in the fridge until Thanksgiving. (In fact, the flavor is much better when you do.) And it's easy to transport over the river and through the woods when to grandmother's house you go. So let's do this quick, easy, pretty, portable, make-ahead cranberry sauce thing. Read on to get 7 quick and easy cranberry sauce recipes, plus ideas for flavor change-ups.

Pictured: Cranberry Sauce | Photo by CookinBug

1 Base Recipe + 6 Variations

We'll start with a base recipe and tweak it with 6 variations so you can see how easy it is to make homemade cranberry sauce with lots of flavor ideas.

1. Fresh Cranberry Sauce | Ready in 20 minutes

Base Recipe: Cranberries + sugar + water

This is as easy as it gets. Put it all in a pot and simmer until you hear the cranberries pop, then keep cooking for a few more minutes until it's as thick as you like. When you chill it, the sauce will thicken up even more. "A great side dish for Thanksgiving dinner. It can be used as filling for cranberry/cream cheese tarts and also makes a great topping on bagels, corn bread, or cheesecake," says Josef Plavjak. "The pectin in the cranberries will make the cranberry sauce gel as it cools."

Photo by Baking Nana

2. Cranberry Sauce | Ready in 15 minutes

Base recipe + orange juice (replaces water)

"This was so easy and so delicious, my entire family, who normally skips the cranberry sauce, couldn't get enough," says Jboyer5.

3. Holiday Cranberry Sauce | Ready in 20 minutes (plus overnight chill)

Base recipe + cinnamon + cloves + allspice

"This was the first time I attempted to make cranberry sauce from scratch and I was blown away," says heatherfeather. "The spices are perfect. I pulsed it slightly in the blender to make it a bit more saucy. I've put it on everything from waffles to a peanut butter (and cranberry sauce) sandwich."

Photo by larkspur

4. Cranberry Sauce with Orange Juice, Honey, and Pears | Ready in 20 minutes

Base recipe + orange juice (replaces water) + pears + honey + cinnamon sticks

TrishTheDish says, "The cranberry sauce was a hit at our Thanksgiving dinner! I reduced sugar to 1/2 cup and substituted 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon."

5. Cranberry Raspberry Sauce | Ready in 20 minutes

Base recipe + Merlot (replaces water) + raspberries

"Unlike many cranberry sauces, you really taste the fruit, not just sugar, in this recipe," says lutzflcat. "The two fruits partner well, and the reduced sugar is a definite plus. Used a potato masher to lightly crush the fruit."

Photo by lutzflcat

6. Maple Syrup Cranberry Sauce | Ready in 20 minutes

Base recipe + maple syrup + brown sugar + lemon juice + brandy

"You must use real maple syrup, " says Red Dove. "It makes a big difference in the recipe. I made this exactly as written and this is the best cranberry sauce that I have come across in 50 years."

7. Tangerine-Cranberry Sauce | Ready in 20 minutes

Base recipe + juiced tangerine (replaces water) + confectioners' sugar + cinnamon

"I love the flavor of this sauce," says lizzieb8888. "I increased the tangerine juice to three tangerines and the flavor really comes through."

Photo by Buckwheat Queen

And if you want to tackle something extra-special, try your hand at cranberry chutney. Still crazy easy to make, but the complex flavors are not for the timid. But you're not timid, right?

Check out our collection of Cranberry Sauce Recipes.