Smoked Cranberry Sauce

Elevate your holiday turkey with this easy homemade smoked cranberry sauce, with optional extras. .
smoked cranberry sauce

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Cranberry sauce is a quintessential Thanksgiving side dish. While many people opt for the store-bought canned variety, I personally love homemade cranberry sauce. This recipe is a little tangy, a little sweet, and full of holiday flavor.

You can make homemade cranberry sauce in the oven, in a slow cooker, or even on the stovetop but my favorite way to make it is on the smoker. 

First, it leaves space in your kitchen/oven for other things, but it also adds a nice layer of smoky flavor that really brings the dish to the next level.

How to make Smokey Cranberry Sauce

1. Prep your ingredients

This recipe could not be easier to make. All you need are five ingredients

  1. Cranberries – You can’t beat fresh
  2. Orange juice
  3. Lemon juice
  4. Brown sugar
  5. Water
two bags of cranberries, two oranges, two lemons a bowl of brown sugar a glass of water
Does water even really count as an ingredient?

For the sugar, I like to use light brown sugar. Some people prefer maple syrup, white sugar, or a combination of white and brown sugar. I find that the sweetness from the brown sugar is absolutely perfect for this recipe.

I recommend squeezing the juice from your citrus fresh. You can use store brought orange and lemon juice, but there is just something amazing about freshly squeezed citrus juice.

I usually like to make a larger batch and use two bags of cranberries. If you are serving a smaller crowd, just cut all of the ingredients in half and the recipe will still come out perfect!

If you love cranberries, be sure to check out our smoked cranberry ribs.

2.  Put it together

cranberries in an aluminum tray
Pop your cranberries into the tray.

I like to use a disposable aluminum tray for this recipe, especially because it is a Thanksgiving dish. You are already going to have a mountain of dishes to deal with after dinner is over, so I love to save myself a little extra work and use a disposable tray – but it’s up to you!

Squeeze the juice from the oranges and lemons on top and add the water.

cranberries in aluminum tray with yellow juicer

Sprinkle the brown sugar all over the top.

uncooked cranberries in aluminum tray

Give it a mix to ensure all of the cranberries are well-coated and it’s ready to hit the smoker.

3. Fire up your smoker

Heat your smoker to 300°F.

I used my Camp Chef Woodwind 24 for this recipe, but you can use a pellet smoker, a traditional wood-burning pit, or even a propane grill if that is what you have available.

I went with the Bear Mountain BBQ Pellets, Pecan flavor, as I wanted a lighter profile wood, you don’t want to overpower the dish with smoke. Pecan, apple, or cherry are all great options.

Once your smoker reaches temperature, place the aluminum tray on the grates and let it cook for 3 to 4 hours.

Once the cranberries are starting to burst and the liquid has started to thicken, it’s ready to enjoy!

cooked cranberries in aluminum tray

If you prefer a thicker cranberry sauce, simply cook it a bit longer.

If you prefer a thinner cranberry sauce, air on the side of caution and stick closer to the 3-hour timeframe. Just check on it every 30 minutes or so after you hit the 3-hour mark until it reaches your desired consistency.

4. Serving

Homemade cranberry sauce can be served either hot or cold, it’s all dependent on your personal preference.

If you would like to serve it cold, transfer it to your serving dish, cover it, and place it in the fridge for two hours or up to four days.

sliced turkey on a plate with cranberry sauce

Other options to liven up your smoked cranberry sauce

This recipe is for a very basic cranberry sauce, which makes it a great canvas for a little creativity!

There are a number of ways to spice up the dish with a little extra flavor:

  • Substitute ½ cup of the water with ½ cup of bourbon for a richer flavor.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of lemon zest for an extra citrus kick.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of maple syrup for an extra sweet version of the dish.
  • Add a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg for an extra flavor of holiday spice.
  • Add some chopped pecans for a little extra crunch and texture.
  • Add ½ tablespoon of vanilla extract for extra sweetness and a smoother flavor profile.

What to serve with smoked cranberry sauce?

Well, the obvious choice is to serve your homemade cranberry sauce alongside your favorite Thanksgiving dishes!

Here are a few of our recipes that will help you complete your Thanksgiving dinner:

More barbecue sauce ideas

smoked cranberry sauce

Smoked Cranberry Sauce

An easy slightly sweet, slightly tart smoked cranberry sauce with some optional add-inns.
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Condiment / Sauce
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Chill time: 2 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 5 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 111kcal
Author: Breanna Stark


  • 24 oz fresh cranberries
  • 2 oranges juice only
  • 2 lemons juice only
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup brown sugar


  • Preheat your smoker to 300°F.
  • Add the cranberries to an aluminum tray.
  • Squeeze the juice from the lemons and oranges on top and add the water.
  • Sprinkle the brown sugar over and mix until all the cranberries are well coated.
  • Make sure the cranberries are spread out evenly in the tray.
  • Place the tray on the grates of the smoker and let cook for 4 hours, or until the cranberries start to burst and the sauce has reached your desired consistency.
  • Chill in the fridge for 2 hours prior to serving.


Can I use frozen cranberries if I don’t have fresh ones? Yes, you can use them from frozen, no need to defrost.
Can I use bottled citrus juice? Yes. A medium lemon yields 3 tbsp juice and an orange about 1/3 of a cup. 
I prefer my cranberry sauce a little less chunky. Once it has cooled slightly, pop half of it into a blender and blend until smooth, alternatively you can use a jug and an immersion blender, then mix it back into the nonblended sauce.
I prefer my cranberry sauce thicker. Simply cook it a bit longer.
I prefer my cranberry sauce thinner. Stick closer to the 3-hour timeframe. Just check on it every 30 minutes or so after you hit the 3-hour mark until it reaches your desired consistency.
Can I make this ahead of time? Yes, it can be made up to 4 days in advance and stored covered in the refrigerator. 
What temperature do I serve it at? It’s personal preference. Straight from the fridge, room temperature or warmed through.
Can I add anything else to this cranberry sauce? Yes, check out our suggestions above to spice up this dish with a little more flavor.
What flavor wood should I use for smoking? A lighter profile wood as you do not want to overpower the dish with smoke. Pecan, apple, or cherry are all great options!


Calories: 111kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 0.2g | Saturated Fat: 0.01g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.02g | Sodium: 8mg | Potassium: 134mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 23g | Vitamin A: 87IU | Vitamin C: 29mg | Calcium: 34mg | Iron: 0.4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximation only. If you’re worried you could always add a side of kale.

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