11 Ways To Upgrade Canned Cranberry Sauce, According To TikTok

There's one thing lots of people love to hate on the holiday meal table: cranberry sauce. Its tart flavor isn't for everyone, but others simply can't imagine a holiday meal without it. The issue becomes even more polarizing when everyone at the table begins debating whether homemade or canned cranberry sauce is better. Then, for those who prefer canned cranberry sauce, the question becomes more complicated when it's time to decide between whole or jellied.

No matter how you feel about cranberry sauce, you'll want to stick around for this guide, where we offer several ideas for upgrading canned cranberry sauce. Because we know how contentious canned cranberry sauce can be, we headed over to TikTok, where we knew we'd find some solid inspiration for enhancing it. Our search led us to several suggestions, which we're sharing with you to help you add another side dish to your holiday meal, oftentimes in a matter of mere minutes. What's more, the results will be so tasty that no one will question whether you made it yourself or got your cranberry sauce from a can.

The whole-or-jellied debate isn't a big deal here, because you can elevate either variety using these ideas, which range from adding fruit to stirring alcohol into canned cranberry sauce. One thing is for sure: Your upgraded cranberry sauce recipe is going to be one of the easiest things to make this holiday season. It might even become the family's favorite.

1. Balance the tartness with cinnamon

Cinnamon is a go-to spice for holiday dishes, especially because it exudes the aroma and flavor many of us associate with the season. So, we weren't surprised that one of the first TikToks we found in our search for elevated canned cranberry sauce was a recipe from danielleeats for their self-proclaimed "lazy version of cranberry sauce" with cinnamon as a main ingredient. The creator uses one can of whole cranberry sauce, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, some brown sugar, and orange juice. Mix it together and you will have a pumped-up version of canned cranberry sauce that will easily surpass the original.

In addition to lending some traditional holiday flavor to your cranberry sauce, cinnamon helps to balance out its acidity. If you're not a fan of the natural tartness of cranberry sauce, add cinnamon for a slight sweetness, which can help to counteract that in-your-face acid punch. You can also try this trick with jellied cranberry sauce if you prefer, but you may need to add a couple of teaspoons of water or orange juice to the sauce while heating it on the stove. This step will help to thin it out enough to properly incorporate the cinnamon.

2. Give it a boost with juicy fruit

Another way to balance the tartness of canned cranberry sauce is to add fresh flavors from juicy fruits. Orange juice is one of the most popular additions to cranberry sauce because the cranberry-orange combination works so well together thanks to the bright, fresh notes oranges can add to a dish. Italiancibo demonstrates this in their TikTok, in which they use whole cranberry sauce for texture and add freshly squeezed orange juice. They then simmer that mixture on the stove with an orange peel and a cinnamon stick. The result is a sweet and refreshing version of traditional cranberry sauce. Other citrus fruits, like lemons and limes, can also work well to add a different flavor, though you might also want to incorporate some brown sugar to balance the fruits' sourness.

Not a fan of citrus? Try pineapple instead. Its tropical flavors add something completely different to canned cranberry sauce while still giving it the sweetness it needs to not make your mouth pucker. A TikTok from jamielodonnell shows how to easily upgrade whole-berry canned cranberry sauce with a can of crushed pineapple. They also add a can of mandarin oranges and chopped walnuts for extra texture, but you can always just stick with the crushed pineapple.

3. Add some heat with chili flakes

Sometimes, all it takes to transform a food you're on the fence about into something you love is a little heat. That could be the case with this canned cranberry sauce hack, which is as simple as adding a sprinkle of chili flakes to take it to the next level. Tieradee24 offers their spiced-up cranberry sauce recipe on TikTok, which includes fresh cranberries, brown sugar, orange zest, nutmeg, and a cinnamon stick, all topped off with a sprinkle of chili pepper flakes to kick it up a notch. You can easily mirror this hack with the canned version of your choice by heating it on the stove over medium-low heat for a few minutes until it thins out enough to stir. Then, sprinkle in the chili flakes, stir until combined, and lower the heat to simmer for another 10-15 minutes. This will give the chili flakes time to build up both heat and flavor in the sauce.

The best part about this upgrade is that it's extremely customizable. If you want just a little heat, add about ½ a teaspoon of chili flakes per can and simmer for no longer than five minutes. To boost the spice, double the amount of chili flakes per can and simmer for the full 10-15 minutes. You can also experiment with other heat-bringers, like cayenne pepper or smoked paprika.

4. Introduce savory flavors with herbs

Many cranberry sauce recipes stick to the tried and true method of adding some sweetness to balance out the natural tartness of cranberries, usually by incorporating fruit, fruit juice, or white or brown sugar. But what few people do with their cranberry sauce is to push it more toward the savory end of the taste spectrum.

It's worth a try, though. This could take your canned cranberry sauce to the next level and make even the most vocal naysayers rethink how they feel about cranberry sauce. On Real Simple's TikTok, a creator sprinkled dried thyme over whole canned cranberry sauce, which had already been enhanced with fresh oranges and candied ginger. These additions give the sauce both sweet and savory elements to please virtually any palate.

You can even have fun experimenting with your favorite fresh or dried herbs. Aside from thyme, we also recommend trying rosemary or sage. These herbs are holiday classics that pair well with cranberry. Chop fresh or dried leaves — remembering that dried herbs are often more concentrated than fresh — and sprinkle them into the cranberry sauce while it's heating on the stove. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, allowing the aromatics to spread throughout the mixture.

5. Add diced apple for more texture and sweetness

In one of the most popular videos for canned cranberry sauce recipes on TikTok, creator Abbey Sharp shares how to turn whole cranberry sauce into something completely different. Don't expect your relatives to accuse you of using the canned stuff when you present them with this unique take on traditional cranberry sauce that uses another favorite fall fruit: apples.

Sharp begins by emptying a can of whole berry cranberry sauce into a small pot. Then, she tosses in a diced apple, stirring it into the cranberry sauce as the mixture warms on the stove. Why apples? As Sharp explains, they add just the right amount of natural sweetness to already sugary canned cranberry sauce. Of course, apples have a crunchier bite than canned cranberry sauce — even the whole berry version can get a little mushy — so diced apples also boost the sauce's texture. From here, you can add whatever else you'd like to create your one-of-a-kind cranberry sauce that absolutely doesn't look like it's out of a can.

Some words of advice: Don't heat the cranberry sauce and apples for more than about 15 minutes, and do it over low heat. Cooking the mixture longer could cause the apples to turn mushy.

6. Top it with a cream cheese spread and nuts

Cranberry sauce is usually thought of as a side dish. Although cranberries can make excellent additions to desserts in the form of pie filling or sauce, cranberry sauce is usually served as part of the main meal. However, TikTok creator juliannetaylorstyle made one of our favorite videos that shows how to transform cans of jellied cranberry sauce into an incredible restaurant-quality dessert. It's almost certainly way different from any other kind of cranberry sauce you've tried before.

For this recipe, you'll need jellied cranberry sauce, crushed pineapple with some of its juice reserved, lemon gelatin powder, cold water, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and chopped nuts. After draining the pineapple, mix it with the cranberry sauce. Then, simmer the lemon gelatin powder with the reserved pineapple juice, add in the cold water, and pour in the cranberry sauce and pineapple mixture, stirring until well combined. 

Put the mixture in the refrigerator for a few hours. Before serving, whip up a cream cheese spread using the cream cheese and powdered sugar, mixing the two until the result softens and becomes spreadable. Use a rubber spatula to spread the cream cheese mixture on top of the chilled cranberry sauce. Then, top it all with chopped nuts, such as walnuts, cashews, or pecans. You've now got yourself a dessert cranberry dish that's sure to become a holiday party hit.

7. Plate it to impress

It's not always about the ingredients you add to your canned cranberry sauce to make it stand out. Sometimes, giving some extra attention to how you plate it can make all the difference. Plus, there's no easier way to upgrade canned cranberry sauce than to simply switch up how you serve it to your guests.

As expected, TikTok creators came through with plating inspiration. Viral Recipes encourages viewers to slice jellied cranberry sauce thinly and spread the slices around a plate in a circle, with each one overlapping the last slightly and leaving a circle in the middle. Add fresh orange slices to that circle and top the plate with pomegranate seeds and fresh sprigs of thyme. In just a couple of minutes, you'll have a dish that looks like it was created by a professional. Another video shows creator sierralovesdogs slicing jellied cranberry sauce into half-circles and arranging them in a bowl to resemble a flower.

Need help getting jellied cranberry sauce out of the can to accomplish these elevated plating ideas? Don't worry—TikTok has you covered there, too. A popular hack has spread across the platform, demonstrating how to remove jellied cranberry sauce. Start by removing the bottom of the can, poking a hole in the other end of the can with a knife (being careful to go slow and protect your hands), and blowing into the hole. The cranberry sauce should come out smoothly, giving you a black canvas for your creation.

8. Elevate other flavors with ginger

Aside from cranberries, what other flavors make you think of the holidays? Pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg usually top the list for most people. But you might be forgetting one important and somewhat underrated flavor: ginger. Candied ginger is especially popular during the holidays when it's traditionally baked into treats. Some people also crystallize ginger to sprinkle it on top of baked goods or sweet potato casserole. Although it's rarely the star of the holiday show, ginger is certainly a supporting cast member that can elevate the flavor of whatever you add it to — including canned cranberry sauce.

Although adding ginger to cranberry sauce wasn't something we initially considered, it makes a lot of sense. That's exactly what a TikTok by she_is_malik shows. They easily amp up canned cranberry sauce with a squeeze of fresh orange and a sprinkle of ground ginger. Consider using fresh ginger for more flavor and a pinch of salt to round it all out.

9. Turn it into a charcuterie-worthy treat

Who says canned cranberry sauce needs to sit neatly in a bowl on the dinner table? People on TikTok have gotten super creative with their cranberry sauce creations over the past couple of years, with some even using a can of cranberry sauce to create delectable cheese and cranberry bombs that are perfect for upgrading a charcuterie board. Trust us, it's going to blow your mind how you can transform a simple can of cranberry sauce into something this elegant and upscale.

Although lots of TikTokers have jumped on the cranberry sauce charcuterie trend, many use whole cranberries. That's why we love creator Rosalynn Daniels' video, which describes how she makes cranberry sauce baked brie step by step from canned cranberry sauce, resulting in one of the fanciest cranberry dishes we've seen. Daniels' version starts with a can of jellied cranberry sauce that's sliced thinly. Then, Daniels places the slices on top of a circle of brie and tops that with walnuts and orange zest. After wrapping it all in puff pastry and baking it to perfection, the result is essentially a cranberry brie en croûte that you can use as a dip for veggies or crackers.

10. Introduce holiday flavors with pumpkin pie spice

Cranberries and pumpkin pie? Count us in! If you're looking for cranberry sauce recipes to add to your holiday table without taking a bunch of time away from actually enjoying the festivities, mixing in some pumpkin pie spice is the way to do it. This trick, inspired by Cook Fast, Eat Well's TikTok, is a must-try during the busy holiday season.

Although the original TikTok focuses on a homemade cranberry sauce recipe, it's easy to incorporate pumpkin pie spice into canned jellied or whole-berry cranberry sauce. Start by heating the cranberry sauce in a small pot over low heat for 3-5 minutes until warmed through. For jellied cranberry sauce, you may need to add one or two tablespoons of water to thin it slightly. Then, sprinkle in half a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, adjusting to taste. Just remember that, with pumpkin pie spice, a little usually goes a long way.

If you can't find the premade version of pumpkin pie spice, you can easily make homemade pumpkin pie spice instead. All you need is cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. To keep it simple, use the ground versions of each spice.

11. Give a toast to alcohol-infused cranberry sauce

If there's one cranberry sauce hack you don't want to skip, it's this one. TikTok creators have jumped on board with finding ways to give cranberry sauce extra spirit, and we couldn't be happier about it.

One of our favorite videos comes from michelles_goodeats, which demonstrates how to make "drunken" cranberry sauce using a bit of vodka. Although Michelle adds vodka to whole cranberries and lets the mixture simmer on the stove, you can easily mimic this idea with canned cranberry sauce as well. We suggest using the whole berry version. If you only have the jellied variety on hand, be sure to warm the cranberry sauce enough so that it's easy to stir before you add the alcohol.

Vodka is a popular choice to pair with cranberries, but it's certainly not the only option. Feel free to experiment with your favorite Champagne or wine, adding just a small amount at a time to avoid making the cranberry sauce too runny. Remember that most cooking processes aren't going to burn off that much alcohol.

If you want flavor without the booze, look for alcohol-free versions of the spirit instead. You can also use sparkling juices, such as cider or grape juice, which will have a spirited flavor effect but in a kid-friendly version that all of your guests can enjoy. Be sure to simmer the mixture for 10-15 minutes over low heat to get the full flavor of your added alcohol.