Got some fresh cranberries on hand and not sure what to do with them? Spice things up with some homemade cranberry hot sauce! With a slight cranberry-forward flavor that has hints of sweetness and tartness, followed by considerable heat on the backend, this sauce is complex and delightful. It makes a perfect accompaniment to chicken wings, grilled fish, or roasted veggies.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this cranberry hot sauce:
And here are some selected ingredient notes:
Green chile peppers – There are a lot of longer green chiles on the market these days. For this recipe, I recommend looking at the store for one of four types of peppers, depending on your heat preference: Italian long hots (spicier varieties, not milder varieties), hatch chiles, Mesilla peppers (a cayenne hybrid), or green cayenne peppers. Looking at resources like Cayenne Diane’s Scoville chart and The Spruce Eats Scoville chart, here’s an estimate of the Scoville Heat Unites in these peppers:
- Long hots –1000 SHU (I know this sounds low, these vary considerably, with some far spicier. Give it a little taste before using to see if it suits your needs; skip it if it’s very mild)
- Mesilla pepper – 3000 to 5000 SHU
- Hatch chile pepper – 2000 to 8000 SHU
- Green cayenne peppers – 30,000 to 50,000 SHU
Don’t get too worried about choosing the perfect pepper – just see what your grocery store or farmers market has based on your spice preferences. If you tend to like just a hint of heat, go with a long hot. For some mild heat, go with a hatch chile or mesilla pepper. If you like a lot of heat, go for the green cayenne.
Cranberries – Fresh or frozen cranberries are both fine to use here. If using frozen, let them thaw on the counter for about 30 minutes prior to starting, just so they blend easier at the start.
Apple cider vinegar – Vinegar is key for the classic tanginess in a hot sauce. If you don’t have apple cider vinegar on hand, you can also use white vinegar.
Step by Step Instructions
Let’s get cooking! You’ll find the full recipe amounts and instructions in the recipe card at the bottom of this post, but here’s a quick overview.
The first step is to remove the top stems from the peppers, chop them in a few pieces, and toss them in a blender.
If you’re using very spicy peppers, consider wearing gloves while doing this (as sometimes the oil can create a burning sensation on broken skin).
You don’t have to de-seed the peppers. Interestingly, the seeds are not where the capsaicin is stored in the pepper. You often hear about deseeding peppers for less heat, but the capsaicin is actually more concentrated in the pith and rib of the pepper.
Once that’s done, toss all the other ingredients into the high-powered blender with those peppers. There are many hot sauce recipes that only blend after cooking, but I find it leads to better flavor and texture when you blend before and after in this case.
Once it’s blended, go ahead and pour it into a pot. Bring it to a boil, then simmer that on the stovetop for about 25 minutes. Don’t boil it too rapidly for that time, or else the liquid will evaporate out and the sauce will be too thick (that said, if it happens, it’s no big deal – just add a little more water back to the pot and boom, problem solved).
Let that cool off for a bit, then put it back into the blender and blend again. Leave the small cap open on your blender top and cover that with a thick kitchen towel while blending. This will ensure that steam can escape and you don’t end up with an over-pressurized blender full of hot liquid.
Now it’s all ready to use! You can adjust the texture to your liking if needed, either adding some water to thin it out, or simmering longer if you need to thicken it up. The nice thing about cranberries is that they’re high in pectin, so it tends to create a naturally thick hot sauce that’s not too watery.
Here are some common questions that may arise as you prepare this cranberry hot sauce:
This question will depend on the types of peppers you use, and even within that, individual peppers can vary quite widely in their heat (based on how the plants were bred). Taste towards the end, then adjust as needed.
You can temper out a hot sauce by adding fat or adding a sweetener.
Adding fat like olive oil or butter is a classic option that’s often done when you toss a food, like wings, in hot sauce. Try adding about 3 tablespoons of butter per 1 cup of hot sauce and you’ll find it tempers the heat a bit. You can also try just mixing some olive oil into the sauce itself before storing in the fridge.
The second option is to add a sweetener. In this case, you’re already using brown sugar in the recipe, so try an extra 1-2 tablespoons if you notice the sauce is too hot at the end of your cooking time.
Blend in some additional peppers – feel free to toss in some spicier varieties like habaneros – and then simmer for another 15 minutes and taste again. You may need to add some more water in during this process.
Store this in the refrigerator and use it within a week. Because of the high vinegar concentration it will probably last longer, but a week is a good guideline for food safety concerns.
There are specific recipes that are meant for canning. However, because this recipe includes many different ingredients that affect the pH of the recipe (like carrots and cranberries), it is not designed for canning. Instead, enjoy it fresh, or freeze extras.
Yes. Try freezing it in an extra ice cube tray, then popping those out to store in a zip top bag. You can drop an hot sauce cube in recipes you’re making like chili, stew, etc.
Need some fun ideas for how to use cranberry hot sauce? Try one of these suggestions:
- Make chicken wings! Toss a cup of sauce with three tablespoons of melted butter, and use that to coat crispy baked wings.
- Mix the cranberry hot sauce with BBQ sauce and use to coat meatballs or ribs.
- Top a burger or hot dog with it. A beef and mushroom burger topped with this hot sauce and caramelized onions is quite delicious.
- Add some to a chili recipe for an extra kick.
- Drizzle it onto grilled or roasted vegetables.
- Make fried rice with veggies and scrambled eggs, then toss a little of this sauce in there.
- Use it to spice up a turkey sandwich or wrap.
I hope you enjoy this cranberry hot sauce recipe! If you get a chance to try it, please feel free to leave a recipe rating or comment below.
Cranberry Hot Sauce
- 2 cups cranberries (fresh or defrosted frozen cranberries)
- 8 long green chile peppers*, about 6-inches each, stems removed, chopped into a few pieces
- ½ medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
- ½ cup chopped carrots
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 ¼ cups water
- 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- Place all ingredients in a large high-speed blender. Blend for about 30-60 seconds, until well combined.
- Pour the mixture into a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 20-25 minutes over low heat.
- Let cool for about 10 minutes, then return to the blender and blend again for 30 seconds (note – leave the small cap on your blender top open and cover it with a thick kitchen towel while blending, as this allows any steam to escape).
- Pour into a bottle or jar, and use as desired! You can store this in the refrigerator for up to 5-6 days.
- Choose peppers according to your heat preference. From less spicy to more spicy: long hots, mesilla peppers, hatch chile peppers, or green cayenne peppers. Taste at the end and adjust as needed (you can add more brown sugar or a little olive oil to temper it if it’s too hot).
- Do not bring this sauce to a rapid boil for the entire cooking time, or too much of the liquid will evaporate out and it will be too thick. That said, if the sauce is too thick at the end, just add more water to thin it out.
- If the sauce is too thin at the end, let it simmer a little longer on the stovetop to reduce.
- This makes about 28 ounces of hot sauce (without straining).
- For the nutrition analysis, we assumed one serving = 1 tablespoon (a bit more than standard hot sauces, as the texture is a bit different), and that there were approximately 50 servings made.
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