Cranberry Sauce Recipe

By Jeri Mobley-Arias
December 12, 2023 | Updated on December 12, 2023

Once you try this homemade cranberry sauce recipe, you’ll never reach for canned cranberry sauce again. The sauce is enhanced with sugar, spices, and orange juice for a fresh twist on a classic side dish. Enjoy this Thanksgiving staple year-round!

Looking for more delicious holiday sides? Check out these Baked Candied Yams, the Best Mashed Potatoes, Southern Collard Greens, and Baked Mac and Cheese. And if you are looking a cranberry appetizer, try this Cranberry and Bruléed Brie Crostini.

homemade cranberry sauce in a bowl topped with orange zest

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Cranberry sauce is essential for Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts because it lightens up all the other hearty, savory dishes. But swap the store-bought jiggly glob that’s usually set on the holiday table for this gourmet cranberry sauce recipe instead! This sauce and side dish is enhanced with warm spices and orange juice for a delicate balance of sweet, tart, and spiced flavor.

homemade cranberry sauce in a bowl topped with orange zest

Why This Cranberry Sauce Recipe Works

  • Great Make-Ahead Recipe – The last thing you want to do on a special day is spend it in the kitchen. Make this a day or 2 ahead of the holiday and it will taste just as good!
  • Quick & Easy – This recipe takes just 20 minutes to make so if it’s prepared on a busy holiday, it won’t take up too much of your precious time.
  • Absolutely Delicious – Most cranberry sauce recipes yield sauce with a mouth-puckering tartness but this recipe is less harsh and much sweeter. The spices give it an earthy flair that tames both the tartness and sweetness for a sauce so good, that you could eat it by the spoonful!

Tools You’ll Need

Ingredients You Will Need for Homemade Cranberry Sauce

What I love most about this cranberry sauce recipe is that it’s made without any added thickeners; just simple ingredients.

  • Fresh cranberries – Use firm, plump cranberries.
  • Orange juice – Cranberry and orange are a delicious duo.
  • Water – Use water so that the orange juice does not overpower the sauce.
  • Sugar – Use granulated sugar and light brown sugar for added depth of flavor. They also thicken the sauce, adding more body.
  • Spices – I use one cinnamon stick, allspice, and nutmeg to enhance the sauce.
  • Salted butter – This gives the cranberry sauce a smoother and silkier texture.
  • Kosher salt – I use Diamond Crystal.
fresh cranberries

How To Make Cranberry Sauce

This easy cranberry sauce recipe comes together in just a few simple steps.

  1. Add all cranberry sauce ingredients to a small saucepan and cook on medium heat. Once mixture comes to a rapid boil, lower heat to low.
  2. Keep a constant stir for 13-15 minutes or until all cranberries have popped and the sauce has slightly thickened.
  3. Two minutes before cooked, stir in remaining cranberries. If you need to thin the sauce out a bit, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Pair with your favorite holiday eats.
  4. Keep in mind that the cranberry sauce consistency will be looser when hot and thicken as it cools.

Tips and Tricks

  • Lighter colored cranberries contain more pectin, a soluble fiber found in fruits. This results in a naturally thicker consistency.
  • Stir the mixture consistently until all the cranberries have burst. This takes about 15 minutes.
  • Remember to reserve 2 ounces of cranberries to add in after the initial cook-down. This gives the sauce a thicker consistency.
  • Make this at least 2 hours before you plan to serve it so it has time to chill in the refrigerator. Although the sauce takes just 20 minutes to make, it needs additional time to cool down and set.
  • Store leftover cranberry sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. To freeze, allow the sauce to cool then scoop it into a freezer-safe bag and store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. To defrost, let it thaw overnight in the fridge before serving.
a pot full of ingredients for cranberry sauce

How to Serve This Cranberry Sauce Recipe

  • Thanksgiving Turkey The first thing you associate cranberry sauce with is turkey and it’s for good reason. It complements the rich, savory flavor of roasted turkey as a side dish.
  • Bread Use cranberry sauce like a jam on Buttermilk Biscuits or as a condiment on sandwiches, like this Turkey Avocado Sandwich with Yuzu.
  • Crostini Perhaps the most unexpected way to use cranberry sauce throughout the year, is as sauce on Crostinis. It’s a delicious base of flavor for the popular party appetizer.

Variations

  • Liquid If you aren’t a fan of orange juice, try pomegranate juice or port wine instead.
  • Spices – Want more of a spicy kick for a contrast of flavors? Try adding ginger.
  • Nuts – For added texture, include chopped nuts like walnuts or pecans.
homemade cranberry sauce in pot

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this cranberry sauce recipe ahead of time?

Absolutely. The sauce benefits from chilling time in the fridge so it can solidify. It also gives the flavors the chance to meld and intensify. Make cranberry sauce up to 2 days in advance.

What makes cranberry sauce thick?

Some recipes use cornstarch to thicken cranberry sauce but you can achieve similar results by just cooking the sauce until you reach the desired consistency. Also, keep in mind that the sauce continues to thicken as it cools.

Is cranberry sauce healthy to eat?

Even when served with sugar, cranberries are an excellent source of antioxidants and vitamins. You can always decrease the amount of sugar used in this cranberry sauce recipe if that is a concern.

What are you supposed to put in cranberry sauce?

Traditional cranberry sauce is made with fresh cranberries, water, and sugar. Add spices, juices, spirits, nuts, and other fruits to enhance the flavor and texture.

How long can you keep homemade cranberry sauce?

When properly stored in the refrigerator, cranberry sauce lasts up to 10 days. Frozen cranberry sauce is good for 3 months.

homemade cranberry sauce in a bowl with a spoon topped with orange zest

Looking for More Sauce Recipes?

Loving this Recipe for Cranberry Sauce?

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homemade cranberry sauce in a bowl topped with orange zest

Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Once you try this homemade cranberry sauce recipe, you'll never reach for canned cranberry sauce again. The sauce is enhanced with sugar, spices, and orange juice for a fresh twist on a classic side dish. Enjoy this Thanksgiving staple year-round!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Jeri Mobley-Arias
Course Sauce
Cuisine American

Equipment

  • Small saucepan

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces fresh cranberries,
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • cup water
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste, I use Diamond Crystal
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Instructions

  • Add all cranberry sauce ingredients to a small saucepan and cook on medium heat. Once mixture comes to a rapid boil, lower heat to low. Keep a constant stir for 13-15 minutes or until all cranberries have popped and the sauce has slightly thickened. Pair with your favorite holiday eats.
  • Keep in mind that the cranberry sauce consistency will be more loose when hot and thicken as it cools.
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homemade cranberry sauce in a bowl topped with orange zest

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jeri-mobley

Hey, I'm Jeri!

At Whisper of Yum, we explore ALL cuisines - comfort foods, classics, elevated originals. If you love food like me, I invite you to settle in to this place, where swoon-worthy food is attainable + inspo for your next meal awaits.

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