pinot noir spiced cranberry sauce

The combination of sweet and sour, sugar and tart is one of my all-time favorite flavor profiles. My mouth is pooling with saliva just writing these words. I remember learning to make a gastrique in culinary school, a sauce that combines sugar and vinegar, with other ingredients, and it was a revelation. I realized in a kind of “life flashes before my eyes” moment, that I have always loved this combination. Think: bread and butter pickles, tart plum gallettes dusted with sugar, balsamic vinegar reduction, hot dogs with sauerkraut and sweet relish, honey mustard dressing, Sweet Tarts for God’s sake! Now, think: cranberry sauce! If done well, (and it’s so easy to do well!) and not extruded from a can, it’s the culinary equivalent of a machete, quietly cutting through the starchy jungle of heaviness that is our cherished Thanksgiving meal. It not only brightens the flavor of our layered Thanksgiving bites, (don’t tell me I’m the only one that tries to compose a perfect balance of turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potato, yam, and cranberry sauce on each forkful), but it brightens up our plates with it’s deep garnet tone.

This particular recipe has a depth of flavor that is at once different from all the other flavors on the traditional Thanksgiving table, with it’s two kinds of ginger, and a dash of Chinese Five-Spice, but complements them spectacularly. And the Pinot Noir, well, that just needs no explanation at all. I mean, since when does the glorious flavor of reduced red wine ever need to be explained?

I warn you. Once you make this, once you serve this, you will not be allowed to go back to your old version. Everyone will demand it this way from now on, and with just a hint of the exotic and the decadent, it’s very fitting for this very American meal.

Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Pinot Noir

Makes about 2.5 cups


1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups cranberries (about 8 ounces)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cups Pinot Noir or other dry red wine
1 cup of sugar (I like to keep it on the tart side, but start with this amount, you can always add more if you like it sweeter)
3 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon Chinese Five-Spice powder


1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cranberries and fresh ginger; stir until cranberries begin to burst, about 3 minutes.

2. Add wine and sugar; boil until mixture is reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Add crystallized ginger, curry powder and five-spice powder. Season with salt and pepper.

3. (Can be made 3-4 days ahead. Cover; chill.) Serve sauce cold or, if desired, rewarm over low heat, stirring often.


9 responses to “pinot noir spiced cranberry sauce”

  1. I can’t wait to try this – the recipe is unlike any cranberry sauce I’ve ever seen and sounds so much more flavorful!

  2. Sharon Holmsborg says:

    This sounds amazing. I can’t wait to try it.

  3. Renee says:

    My favorite wine with my favorite sauce. What a great idea! Love the pictures, too. Another one for my short list of things to try for Thanksgiving. Thank you. ; )

  4. Sharon says:

    “sweet and sour, sugar and tart” – who knew it was a “flavor profile”? Now I understand more about the chemistry of cooking, I guess. This one is definitely a keeper.

  5. Carin says:

    Hi, I am new to your website and I just love what you do here! I did make this today (your description was irresistible) and the taste is indeed wonderful. My sauce, however, is quite gelatinous and from your picture, yours is not. Could it be that I reduced it too much? Thank you though for the recipe. It’s a keeper.

    • Carin, welcome to FoodFix! I’m so glad you made the cranberry sauce. As far as the consistency goes…in the photo, the sauce you see is still warm, so it has a runny quality. After I’ve refrigerated it, it is indeed, more thick and syrupy. You may have reduced it too far if it’s very thick right off the stove…but it is easily remedied by reheating it and adding some water, a little at a time to get the desired consistency, then letting it cool to room temperature before serving. You want it to be on the thick side, more like a chutney, or compote, than a true “sauce”. Cranberry sauce shouldn’t really be called sauce…since we really wouldn’t want it to be that liquidy…

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment!

  6. Carin says:

    Thanks for your feedback. My cranberry sauce was more like a chutney than a sauce and I must say the flavor was even better the next day. Thanks again for an unsual and tasty Thanksgiving condiment!

  7. Keter says:

    I was determined to make this recipe, so when I discovered that the only thing “fresh” about the ginger in my local market was the mold growing on it and the candied ginger was so old it looked like raisins, I decided to improvise. The variation I came up with was good enough to share, so here goes…

    I had on hand a substantial stash of really excellent, strongly flavored dehydrated ginger bits, but these tend to lack weight and texture when reconstituted, so to get the chewiness of the candied ginger, I turned to dried orange peel. Before cooking the cranberries, I reconstituted the ginger and orange peel by simmering in sugar water, starting with just a little sugar and adding substantially more as it cooked down. I used the bitter orange peel as a gauge for how much sugar to use – I stopped adding sugar when the peel no longer seemed bitter. When the orange peel had finally softened, I started the cranberries cooking by themselves, then added the ginger/orange peel mixture and simmered these together with the wine (I used an inexpensive, oaky Chilean Merlot) and spices until reduced. I didn’t need to add any more sugar, but I did end up adding a fat pinch of salt to round out the flavor. The orange note worked perfectly in the recipe and I already have a standing order from my husband to keep making this. He wants a pie made with it, too…a variation on the Maple Apple Cranberry pie, maybe?

    • I love how you think…and improvise in the kitchen. Good for you…that’s the fun and creativity and “mad scientist” thing I love about cooking. I think that’s what got me so far on Chopped…the ability to do that. I’m glad you loved the Cranberry sauce and I like that suggestion on the pie…have to experiment with that…

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