The Best Canned Cranberry Sauce, According to Our Pros

Updated: Mar. 15, 2024

No Thanksgiving table is complete without cranberries. Our Test Kitchen team found the best canned cranberry sauce options out there—whether you prefer jellied or whole berry.

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Tkp Cranberry Sauce Test Sq
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Why We Love Canned Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is an integral part of Thanksgiving feasts. On a foodie holiday like this, though, it can be hard to squeeze in one more recipe or fit one more cook in the kitchen to prep another dish. That’s why folks everywhere (even in our Test Kitchen!) turn to the best canned cranberry sauce for their meal.

This premade side adds much-needed tartness to a rich dinner and, to be honest, we love its iconic shape. Now before you run off to do your holiday grocery shopping, check out which brands our Test Kitchen pros recommend.

How We Found the Best Canned Cranberry Sauce

Since cranberry sauce is one of the pillars of Thanksgiving dinner, our Test Kitchen team tried a whopping 13 types of cranberry sauce including jellied and whole berry varieties. In this taste test, our team sampled each option blindly to avoid any sort of bias. As always, each sample was judged according to these categories:

  • Appearance: Canned cranberries should be a deep red color. Artificial hues just don’t feel right on a pretty Thanksgiving table.
  • Texture: Our team sought out jellied cranberry sauce with the right wobble. These gelled versions shouldn’t be gritty or rubbery. As for the whole berry options, they should be full of berries with satisfying jelly to fill out the can (or jar in some cases).
  • Flavor: Sweet and tart is the name of the game with cranberry sauce. The best canned cranberry sauce options should walk that fine line.

Check out the Test Kitchen-Preferred cranberry sauce brands you should have on your holiday table.

Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce
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Best Jellied Cranberry Sauce

Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce

As silly as it seems, having a plate with canned-shaped cranberries is absolutely essential on Thanksgiving. If you prefer the jellied style our Test Kitchen recommends Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce. This is no surprise since Ocean Spray is the biggest name in the cranberry game.

Once you schloop this sauce out of the can, you’ll notice a vibrant maroon color. “It has those classic canned lines,” says Ellie Crowley in the Test Kitchen. “This one is easy to slice and holds its shape.”

Take a forkful of this sauce and it’s exactly what you want on your Thanksgiving plate: “Tart and tangy,” according to the Test Kitchen’s Mark Neufang. This Ocean Spray sauce isn’t overly sweet. Instead, it has the perfect hint of acid to balance out a heavy plate of mashed potatoes and turkey.

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Gefen Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
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Best Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

Gefen Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

If you prefer a bit more texture in your can of cranberries, our pros recommend Gefen Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce. This brand is a departure from many canned sauces, even the whole berry varieties, but one that our Test Kitchen thoroughly enjoyed.

To start, these canned cranberries from Gefen have a very dark, nearly purple color. This hue really makes this side dish stand out on the table among the green bean casseroles and dinner rolls.

As you scoop a slice or two, you’ll find that there are both whole and chopped cranberries in this sauce which provide a really wonderful texture, according to Ellie. It’s a departure from your classic jellied sauce but not too far out there for traditionalists.

As for the flavor, Mark explains that this sauce has the right amount of sweetness paired with cranberries’ signature tart flavor. Our whole team encourages you to spoon a few slices of this best canned cranberry sauce onto your plate during the Thanksgiving feast.

As for the leftovers: “This would be tasty slathered on a turkey sandwich the day after Thanksgiving,” says Mark.

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New England Cranberry Colonial Cranberry Sauce
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Most Like Homemade

New England Cranberry Colonial Cranberry Sauce

Between making everyone’s favorite sweet potato pie and finding the last turkey-shaped butter at the grocery store, there’s often no time to make homemade cranberry sauce. With New England Cranberry Colonial Cranberry Sauce, you can get that homemade look and flavor without spending time in the kitchen.

Unlike many other contenders in this test, you won’t get that signature can shape because this Colonial cranberry sauce comes in a jar. Instead, this sauce is similar to our top-rated cranberry sauce recipe; it has a jammy sauce with plenty of whole cranberries inside. These cranberries are more tender than most whole-berry options and break apart easily as you spread them across your dinner plate (or next-day turkey sammie).

Beyond the homemade texture, our team couldn’t get enough of this brand’s flavor. “This is what cranberry sauce should be,” says Ellie. Our team describes this holiday essential as being very tart but also perfectly sweet. Getting that just right balance is what a good cranberry sauce (or the best canned cranberry sauce) is all about.

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