Cranberry Sauce with Rose Water & Pistachios

5 from 1 vote
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Cranberry sauce is such a natural with rose water, which brings out the cran-flavor and balances the sweet-tart beautifully. Be sure to use the rose water with restraint!

Cranberry sauce with rose water,
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We had a trial-run of Thanksgiving dinner recently, making good on what we say every year on Thanksgiving—which is: why don’t we eat this delicious meal more often?! The answers to that question may be obvious (um, a LOT of cooking, a LOT of fat, a LOT of a LOT), but I figured that at least some version of the grand turkey dinner could be made and enjoyed on a more regular basis. Plus there has been this turkey question, all my own and nobody else’s, regarding roasting a whole turkey vs. roasting breasts/thighs/wings without the big bird that I wanted to try out.

The reason is that I want to brine the heck out of the turkey (I need flavor, people!) and it’s been, shall we say, challenging to brine a massive bird. Also, the all-important roasting time. If I roast the white and dark pieces separately, I can control the white meat by taking it out when it’s ready rather than making it hold, and overcook, while the dark meat does its thing.

Cranberries in a bowl
Cranberries with rose water
Pistachios on a cutting board

So I went for it.

Deconstructed, brined turkey: brining bag, check. Infused brine with lemon rind, peppercorns, sage, check. My brother Dick didn’t miss a beat in shaming my idea when I told him I wanted to do turkey this way, in pieces rather than the whole bird. He just out with “Oh, and when Aunt Louise asks for a thigh, you’ll say there isn’t one? And when Mom wants the wishbone? ‘No wishbone for you, Mom!’” Still, I had to give it a whirl.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mulberry Syrup and Toasted Hazelnuts.

Mashed Potatoes. I add a few peeled garlic cloves to the potatoes as they cook and mash them right in.

Turkey gravy.

Sumac Roasted Sweet Potatoes.

Dutch apple pie.

Thanksgiving table
Maureen and Mom Abood at Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving Pies

We sat down to eat the feast and while the turkey was juicy and flavorful as could be, nobody seemed to give a hoot except for me. My soliloquy on turkey brining and roasting times was met with comments and questions, but not the comments and questions I anticipated.

Where is the stuffing? (Chris)

These sweet potatoes are good, but I’ve got to have Mom’s. I mean, no brown sugar? (Peggy)

This gravy, I think it’s missing something honey. (Dan. I never knew the homemade stock, which was not on the trial run menu, would be so noticeable…)

I need cranberry. (Mom, simply stated)

I love this! (Michael, who knows his poultry. Thank God for Michael)

The turkey dinner wasn’t bad; it was good. It just wasn’t a Thanksgiving dinner. And of course, I get why. Here, the terroir of Thanksgiving was missing. All that makes Thanksgiving dinner what it is, the sides (clearly more important than the turkey, which I now know absolutely has to be a whole bird roasting all day if for the aroma alone), the profusion of pies, the silver and crystal and the linens. Oh, and the people. Our big huge group of Lebanese people, kind of like the whole bird, giving love and thanks in a way that can’t be small-scale replicated, no matter how you try.

Cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving,
Cranberry Sauce with pistachios in a crystal dish with a silver spoon
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5 from 1 vote

Cranberry Sauce with Rose Water and Pistachios

Take it ever so easy on the rose water–it’s meant to bring out the flavor of the sauce rather than stand out on its own. Add the rose water, then taste, then add more if you like. This is a perfect make-ahead dish, as it is best served chilled and will hold in the refrigerator for a week.
Servings: 12


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 12 ounces cranberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon rose water
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) canned crushed pineapple or drained pineapple chunks
  • 1 cup canned mandarin oranges, drained
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pistachios or toasted walnuts, plus more for garnish
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  • In a medium saucepan, combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil over medium high heat. 
  • Stir in the cranberries and reduce to simmer, stirring occasionally and cooking until the cranberries pop and the mixture thickens a bit, about 20 minutes. 
  • Remove from the heat, and add the rose water, pineapple, and drained mandarin oranges. 
  • Cool to room temperature, then chill completely (at least a couple of hours).
  • Immediately before serving, stir in the nuts and garnish with more nuts on top.

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Author: Maureen Abood
Servings: 12
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  1. Mary says:

    I just made this and it is very flavorful. I added a knob of ginger and a stick of cinnamon to the water and sugar for extra flavor. Kept those pieces in until the recipe was finished and then removed them. When I added the cranberries I put in some dried orange peel.I liked all of the different tastes…bitter, sweet, etc. Next time I would slightly reduce the sugar.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Ohhh I love your flavors Mary, thank you for sharing!

  2. Debra says:

    This sounds wonderful! I usually add a little orange blossom water to my cranberry sauce, and the bonus sauce is quite nice swirled into a coffee cake batter.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Wow, great ideas!

  3. katherine says:

    I am looking forward to making this !

    Question: Do you use roasted, salted pistachios?

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      So delicious, yes, roasted salted pistachios!

  4. Sue says:

    Smiled at your comments about trying something different with turkey . I remember the year Mom ( an accomplished cook) decided to debone a turkey , roll it and roast it in its skin so it would be easier to slice and serve. As a teenager, I remember it was challenging for her to do. I also remember the family comments …it looked perfect for a turkey roll…it also wasn’t very tasty as the bones give a great deal to the “roasted” taste. No more deboned turkey !!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Oh my gosh what a great story Sue! Thanks for the smiles!

  5. Priti says:

    I made this recipe. It came out so good .. also drizzled over vanilla ice cream . So delicious .

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Wow, love that idea. I also eat it with my yogurt…

  6. Lindsey says:

    Would honey work as a substitute for the sugar?

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Lindsey, the honey will sweeten this nicely–a different flavor than granulated sugar. I can’t say about the consistency of the final result not having tested this. But worth a try!

  7. Michelle Hill says:

    This was a beautiful post and it was so relatable. ..some years I want to mess with “tradition”, and it ends up being a very fine line. I found you searching for a unique cranberry sauce for Christmas and am now devoring your site…thankful for that this Thanksgiving weekend.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Thank you so very much Michelle! Welcome here! Love to know what you’re cooking–keep in touch!

  8. Virginia lasher says:

    Love this post. Great picture of you and your lovely mom. You are amazing.

  9. Jasmine says:

    Looks so yummy! Every with rose water I love! However I might have missed it but how many tablespoons of rose water you add ?
    Thank you so much dear Maureen

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Jasmine, I start with about 1/2 teaspoon rose water, then taste and add more if needed!