The spicy cranberry sauce you need for your turkey sandwich

Spoon this chunky sauce all over your leftovers-turkey sandwich.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Cranberry sauce is surprisingly divisive. There are those who look forward to the one day each year when the garnet red cylinder shwoops out of the can and onto a plate. And there are those who avoid it at all costs in any season. And then there’s me. Each Thanksgiving, I marvel at how this tangy sauce comes together so quickly and makes turkey taste infinitely better. After the feast each year, I wonder, “Why don’t more people love cranberry sauce as much as I do?”

My guess is because it usually has a two-note flavor profile: sweet and sour. Whether it’s jiggly like jelly or thick and jammy, it lacks excitement in texture. In a word, it’s basic.

But it doesn’t have to be. This version adds heat in two different forms, accentuating all that’s good and right with the red fruit. Its bracing tartness is tamed with sugar, then brightened with the fruity spiciness of habanero chiles. A milder warmth comes from pink peppercorns, which aren’t technically peppercorns but still carry a little heat in their subtle sweetness.

Those tiny round peppercorns also add pips of crunch to this sauce, chunky with cubes of Korean pear. Unlike soft Anjou or Bartlett pears that turn to mush when simmered, Korean pears have a jicama-fresh crispness that softens to a satisfying tenderness. Plus, they’re not too sweet, which prevents the sauce from becoming overly sugary. Its balance of sweet and heat tangled up in tartness makes this sauce ideal for accentuating turkey’s richness — and for enjoying all year round.


Habanero Pear Cranberry Sauce

15 minutes. Makes about 3 cups.


  • 1 bag (12 ounces) cranberries
  • 1 large Korean pear, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 fresh or dried habanero chiles, slit open for a spicier sauce
  • 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  1. Combine the cranberries, pear, sugar, chiles, pink peppercorns, salt and ½ cup water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Continue boiling until most of the cranberries pop and the sauce thickens, about 7 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat and transfer to an airtight container. You can serve the sauce right away, but it’s better after a day or two. If you have time, refrigerate the sauce and bring back to room temperature before serving. Discard the habaneros right before serving.

Make Ahead: The cranberry sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.