The cranberry sauce debate: canned or homemade?

I grew up eating cranberry sauce once a year, and it was always of the canned variety. The sauce was pushed out of its cozy can into a narrow serving bowl, its rings used as a marker with which to slice the jiggly substance. As far as I can recall, only about two slices were ever removed from the bowl, with the remainder going into the leftovers bucket that was given to the chickens, who gladly feasted on the sauce and any other bits remaining from the Thanksgiving dinner. 

cranberry sauce

Once I discovered the that not only was it extremely easy to make homemade cranberry sauce but it was far superior to the canned variety, the cans were banished from our Thanksgiving dinners. I much prefer the taste and texture of the fresh version, although I am not sure all of my guests agree. It seems they may be in good company, because even some chefs choose the canned version over homemade, according to an informal survey from Food and Wine.

While many chefs preferred homemade sauce over its canned counterpart, the decision was far from unanimous. Says David Bancroft, executive chef at Bow & Arrow and Acre “‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ I was so proud of my homemade cranberry sauce. I found it pushed to the farthest corner of the table where it was in nobody’s way.” Other chefs said that while they actually preferred canned, they would never serve it at their own restaurant. 

Some people couldn’t decide and said they liked to have both versions available for guests.  Michael Wilson, executive chef at  Domenica says “I actually put both on the table. I love how tangy canned sauce is, and the texture is something I enjoy. The kids at the table typically agree. However, making your own is fun, easy, and there is a lot of room to experiment and play with flavors. I like to cook fresh berries down in orange juice with a lot of brown sugar and grated ginger.” 

One chef says that neither version is worth the effort. After making putting both types on the table and having hardly any takers for either, chef  Erik Niel has nixed them entirely. Where do you stand on the cranberry sauce debate: Team Canned or Team Homemade? 

Photo of Home “canned” cranberry sauce made in a tin can mold from Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan (maybe the best of both worlds?)

Post a comment


  • Rinshin  on  October 23, 2018

    I like both versions and offer both, but I tend to take a bigger portion of canned. I like serving cranberries with thinly sliced and fried with panko pork and chicken as well as Swedish meatballs instead og ligonberries.

  • riley  on  October 23, 2018

    I like both versions, but canned jellied is a must with chicken and noodles with mashed potatoes.

  • inflytur  on  October 23, 2018

    I only eat fresh, chunky cranberry sauces and have them on hand all winter long as a yoghurt topping.
    My guilty secret is that I love my mother’s jell-o cranberry mold made with chunky canned cranberries and pecans. I seem to be the only person on the planet that likes it.

  • bittrette  on  October 24, 2018

    When you say "canned," you can mean whole-berry or jellied – by the photo I know you mean the latter. I won't rule out the possibility of using either form of canned for some purpose, but what a waste to serve canned with the Thanksgiving bird! When my sister hosts Thanksgiving dinner at her house, she usually makes sauce from the recipe on the Ocean Spray bag; that's fine with me.

  • bittrette  on  October 25, 2018

    OIC that the photo is of a homemade imitation of "canned," but the assumption in the post is that "canned" means jellied, not whole berry.

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!