This Is the Real Reason You Should Make Homemade Cranberry Sauce for Thanksgiving

Even if you’re having a small celebration, make a double batch!

November 10, 2020

Photo by: Tara Donne

Tara Donne

I have a confession to make: I cook a double batch of homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving every year — but only eat one spoonful of it with my turkey dinner. Sure, my Uncle Mike always helps himself to a generous scoop but no one else in my family eats it. Together, my uncle and I eat, at best, one tenth of what I prepared.

So, why do I make so much — and tell everyone who will listen that they should do the same? Because having leftover cranberry sauce is my secret to eating just a little bit healthier between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Let me explain.

My homemade cranberry sauce (which doesn’t use quite as much sugar as some other versions and gets a good deal of natural sweetness from freshly squeezed orange juice, like this recipe) is the one Thanksgiving leftover that can be used to upgrade just about every healthy meal and snack you can think of. Oatmeal, smoothies, sandwiches, salads, pork chops — the list goes on and on. And, let me tell you, when your kitchen is stocked with festive, sugary treats, it’s so much easier to choose something healthy when cranberry is involved. A dollop of your leftover sauce can turn an otherwise boring dish into a seasonal one — with a nice pop of flavor.

Want to give it a try? Here are some of my favorite ways to use leftover cranberry sauce.


If doughnuts and coffee cake are your go-to in the morning, try using your cranberry sauce in a warm, baked oatmeal recipe instead. You can also use a scoop as a replacement for syrup when topping whole-grain waffles or breakfast porridge and as a substitute for jam on toast or bran muffins. Sweet-tart cranberry sauce makes an excellent addition to smoothies and overnight oats, too.


I love veggies and eat a lot of green salads for lunch, so I use up some of my leftover cranberry sauce when I’m making vinaigrette. (If you want a smoother consistency for your dressing, puree your cranberry sauce using an immersion blender first.) Cranberry vinaigrette is great for salads that include ingredients like roasted chicken, apples, nuts or goat cheese. Not a salad person? Spread some leftover cranberry sauce on multigrain bread and make a turkey sandwich instead.


Give your healthy turkey meatloaf a makeover by glazing it with a sweet-and-spicy blend of your leftover cranberry sauce and sriracha. This recipe will show you how. Added bonus? The glaze will come together quickly since your cranberries are already cooked! Homemade cranberry sauce also makes a great addition to any rolled roast — just spread it over the meat before you lay the stuffing down. If you’re looking for something more low-maintenance, simply warm up leftover cranberry sauce and spoon it over lean, boneless pork chops for an instant flavor makeover.


Instead of reaching for cookies or candy in the afternoon, layer your leftover cranberry sauce into a healthy yogurt and granola parfait or use it to top chia pudding. Both snacks are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. Craving something salty instead? Ditch the potato chips and grab some whole-wheat crackers — topped with a little goat cheese and, of course, cranberry sauce.

Next Up

How to Make Thanksgiving with As Little Prep As Possible

No, you don't need to plan for days to make this meal — especially if you're feeding a smaller crowd.

8 Thanksgiving Meatloaf Recipes to Make This Year

Turkey meatloaf is an inexpensive alternative to roasting a whole bird.

The Ridiculously Easy Recipe I Make Every Year for Friendsgiving

Because your friends deserve more than a bag of chips.

What to Bring to Friendsgiving

You don't need to spend a ton of money to contribute something thoughtful.

How to Prep for a Thanksgiving Potluck

Don't fret over the big feast.

Chill Out with These Cold Thanksgiving Sides

They'll get a warm reception from your guests.

How to Stay Paleo on Thanksgiving

Think of it as Hunter-Gatherersgiving.

How Long Does It Take to Thaw a Turkey?

Don't freeze out your holiday bird.