unpeopled cranberries in a skillet

Gluten-Free Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Homemade cranberry sauce and canned sauce are as different as night and day. The former is practically a dessert. Our fresh cranberry sauce is so delicious that it tastes just as good as a pancake topping or a crepe filling as it does next to your Thanksgiving turkey.

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Good news! Most cranberry sauce recipes are naturally gluten-free. For those of us who need to eat gluten-free due to celiac disease or gluten intolerance, it’s a wonderful relief to know that your family recipe for this holiday staple is most likely already safe to enjoy as-is.

The most basic cranberry sauce recipe is simply: cranberries, sugar, and water… all gluten-free. Once you start altering the basics, though, there are a few of things to consider regarding gluten. Here is a quick overview of the ingredients in our Gluten-Free Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe as well as other common ingredients in homemade cranberry sauce.

gluten-free homemade cranberry sauce in a red & white Currier & Ives serving bowl with a serving spoon

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Gluten Considerations in This Gluten-Free Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Apple Cider: The Spiced Cranberry Sauce recipe below calls for 100% apple cider, which is gluten-free. Note, this is not the same as hard cider. Occasionally, I modify this recipe with spiced apple cider, if it is labeled gluten-free. This gives a stronger flavor to the finished cranberry sauce.

Spices: Like nuts, spices are inherently gluten-free. However, some spice blends contain gluten ingredients, and even single spices can be a source of confusion regarding cross-contamination.

Here are trustworthy gluten-free options:

  • The entire line of Spicely Organics is certified gluten-free.
  • Morton & Basset spices are also certified gluten-free.
  • Badia Spices are labeled gluten-free, but not certified.
  • Some Simply Organic spices are certified gluten-free. The company specifically cautions that it does not make gluten-free claims for the ones that are not certified, so I recommend listening to the company and using only the Simply Organic spices that are labeled certified gluten-free.

Happily, Simply Organic Mulling Spice blend IS certified gluten-free. 2 teaspoons of this blend can be used in lieu of the spices in our Homemade Cranberry Sauce recipe.

An important and reassuring consideration with spices is how little you actually consume in one dish. A spice jar that exceeds 20ppm (the FDA limit for a food to be labeled gluten-free) would be dramatically fewer parts per million in a finished dish when using only a couple of teaspoons at a time.

On that note, McCormick deserves some discussion because of its large market share in the US and globally. You probably have McCormick spices in your kitchen. I do!

McCormick advises consumers to read the label on each product. The company states that gluten ingredients will always be identified on the label. For example, barley won’t be hidden under “natural flavors”. If McCormick labels a product gluten-free, “the product and the manufacturing line has been validated gluten-free”.

For all products, the company declares, “Our McCormick facilities have allergen, sanitation, and hygiene programs in place. Our employees follow good manufacturing practices and are trained in the importance of correct labeling and the necessity of performing thorough equipment clean-up and change over procedures to minimize cross-contact of ingredients.”

My personal practice with McCormick is to use its single ingredient spices because 1) they are 100% pure spice, nothing else is added to McCormick’s single-ingredient spices, 2) the company is reputable and has cross-contact procedures, and 3) the small amount of spice further dilutes any possible cross-contamination.

For the McCormick blends, I use only those with a gluten-free claim on the label.

Gluten Considerations for Other Common Ingredients in Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Alcohol: Liquor, wine, and sparkling wine are gluten-free if there are no additives. For liquor, the distillation process removes the gluten protein, even if the manufacturer starts with a gluten-containing grain. If anything is added to the alcohol, like flavoring, you will have to research the specific brand before including it in your cranberry sauce.

Regular beer, which is not distilled is not safe for those with celiac disease if made from barley, the grain traditionally used to produce beer.

Beyond Celiac has comprehensive articles on liquor, wine, champagne or sparkling wine, and beer, if you want to understand more of the nuances.

Oranges and 100% orange juice are, of course, gluten-free!

Nuts: Some cranberry sauce recipes commonly include walnuts or pecans. Flavored nuts could have gluten-containing ingredients. And pure nuts, while inherently gluten-free, are subject to cross-contamination during manufacturing. To avoid cross-contaminated nuts, I purchase gluten-free nuts from Nuts.com.

Make Ahead

While cranberry sauce can be made on the day it is served, it is the perfect make-ahead dish. In the busyness of holiday meal prep, anything that can be done in advance is a win! You free up your time and precious space in your busy kitchen.

Plus, this spiced cranberry sauce only gets better when you make it a day before the big feast. It gives time for all of the added spice flavor to meld. I make this dish the day before, but you can make this recipe up to three days prior to serving it, store it in the fridge once cooled, and simply take it straight from the fridge to the table.

For more gluten-free Thanksgiving tips and recipes, read our post on How to Simplify Your Gluten-Free Thanksgiving and download our free Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Planner.

Text: gluten-free Thanksgiving planner, logo with blue-green cloud and text: Go Gluten Freely, four orange pumpkins along the bottom of the page

Gluten-Free Homemade Spiced Cranberry Sauce

Recipe by GoGlutenFreelyCourse: Holiday Side DishDifficulty: Easy


  • 1 cup apple cider (100% juice)

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice

  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves

  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger

  • 12 oz package of fresh (or frozen) cranberries


  • Combine cider, sugar, and spices in a medium saucepan.
  • Bring to boil.
  • Add cranberries and return mixture to boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium and boil gently for 10 minutes until most of the berries begin to pop and the sauce begins to thicken. Stir occasionally.
  • Remove from heat and cool completely.
  • Refrigerate until serving time.

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