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 BBQ Sauce
1. Prep your ingredients
This recipe could not be easier to make. All you need are five ingredients
- Cranberries – You can’t beat fresh
- Orange juice
- Lemon juice
- Brown sugar
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!
2. Put it together
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.
Sprinkle the brown sugar all over the top.
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 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!
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.
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.
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:
- Smoked Turkey Legs
- Smoked Spatchcock Turkey
- Cranberry Walnut Pasta Salad
- Celery and Parmesan Salad
- Smoked Sausage Stuffing
More barbecue sauce ideas
- Homemade BBQ Sauce
- 12 BBQ Sauces You Can Make at Home
- Creamy Hot Sauce
- Pomegranate Sauce: Perfect On Grilled Meat
Smoked Cranberry Sauce
- 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.