My favorite ever easy homemade cranberry sauce recipe! Nothing beats a classic when it comes to cranberry sauce. All you need is a little bit of orange juice and zest, some cranberries and sugar! It is so good when you just keep things simple! Originally posted November 14, 2018.

cranberry sauce in a white bowl.
Table of Contents
  1. Cranberry Orange Sauce ingredients 
  2. How to make Homemade Cranberry Sauce with Orange Juice
  3. How to serve Cranberry Sauce with Orange
  4. How to store Homemade Cranberry Sauce
  5. The Best Cranberry Sauce Recipe FAQs
  6. Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Eric just tried to walk me through how to fix our broken garage door on the phone. Needless to say, my car is still trapped in the garage and I am still stuck at home. I did NOT get the fix-it gene.

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homemade cranberry sauce in a white bowl with a gold spoon.

I just know that when he gets home, he will walk into the garage, twiddle something once or twice, screw in something here or there, and the job will be done in 5 minutes flat. Men! How do they just know stuff like this??

a spoon lifting cranberry sauce from a bowl.

I am spending my home bound afternoon curled up with a blanket by the fire, so I suppose I can’t complain too much. I almost feel guilty about having the fire going right now because of all the smoke in our area, but it’s the cheapest way for me to heat my living room. We’re in Sacramento, about 80 miles from the fire that took Paradise last week. The smoke is still really bad. The kids have to stay inside at lunch and recess, and Eric’s entire university shut down campus today (he works at UC Davis).

fresh cranberry sauce lifted by a spoon from a bowl.

The smoke is just annoying though. It’s nothing compared to having your house burned to the ground in 1 day flat. I just keep wandering around my house, wondering what I would take if we ever had to evacuate. (We are not in any danger, fyi). I just can’t stop thinking about all the people who are camped out around the perimeter of what used to be their town, with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

It’s really got me thinking about emergency preparedness. We have plans to get 72 hour kits put together this week, make a list of things to take if we do have time before an evacuation, and buying a fire proof box to store all our important papers. Thank goodness so many things are digital these day. My computer and external hard drives are at the top of the list, obviously. I don’t even think taking photos off the walls makes my list, because you could always just have them printed again if you have the digital copy.

fresh whole cranberry sauce.

I’m glad that Thanksgiving is next week. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, because everyone can celebrate it, no matter who you are or what you believe in. Everybody has something to be grateful for.

Cranberry Orange Sauce ingredients 

Here’s a quick shopping list to help you gather your ingredients. See the recipe card below for the full ingredients and instructions!

  • Fresh cranberries
  • Orange (for juice and peel)
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon (optional)

How to make Homemade Cranberry Sauce with Orange Juice

Speaking of Thanksgiving, do you have a favorite cranberry sauce recipe? It is unbelievably simple to make.

1 – You just boil fresh cranberries in a little bit of liquid (water, orange juice, apple cider, whatever you like) and simmer until the cranberries pop.

peeling an orange onto a white plate.

I love to use orange juice and big strips of fresh orange peel in my cranberry sauce. Cranberry and orange are literally a match made in heaven.

stirring orange peel into cranberries in a pot.
pouring orange juice into a pot with fresh cranberries.

You can either use fresh-squeezed orange juice or buy a carton at the store. Either way will work great.

stirring sugar into cranberries in a pot.

2 – And then add in some sugar! Simple as that. You can adjust the sugar level to your preference.

pouring homemade cranberry sauce into a bowl.

3 – Once the cranberry sauce is done, you can remove the orange peels if you like. I actually love to leave them in! They get this candied flavor that I just love. Such a great compliment for turkey!

How to thicken Cranberry Sauce

Thickening cranberry sauce is easy. It happens naturally when you cook the sugar and orange juice with the cranberries, no flour or cornstarch needed. Cranberries naturally include pectin, the same stuff that you use in canning homemade jam or jelly. The sauce will naturally be more runny when it’s still hot, but will thicken as it cools.

How to serve Cranberry Sauce with Orange

And voila! The nice thing about this cranberry sauce recipe (and pretty much any cranberry sauce recipe) is that it is 100% make-ahead-able. Whether you like you cranberry sauce warm or chilled, it can be made a week (or even more) ahead of Thanksgiving. In fact it will taste even better because the flavors will have time to marry in the fridge. I love it when flavors decide to get married, don’t you?

What do you eat with Cranberry Sauce?

I like to eat my cranberry sauce right alongside my turkey as a sweet relish to the meat. Just like the Swedes eat their meatballs with lingonberry sauce. It’s a tasty addition to a savory meal, and if you haven’t tried it, you’re missing out!

a bowl of homemade cranberry sauce.

What to do with leftover cranberry sauce?

But if you do end up with a mountain of leftover cranberry sauce, the possibilities are endless! Once Thanksgiving is over, think of your cranberry sauce as a sophisticated, autumnal jam, and add it to whatever you deem delicious. Some ideas:

  • Stir it in with plain or sweetened Greek yogurt with a sprinkle of granola
  • Put it on a turkey sandwich with mayo. Or mix it together like this 2-Ingredient Creamy Cranberry Sauce
  • Serve it with meat. You could replace the raspberry jam in this Raspberry Balsamic Meatballs recipe!
  • Spread it on toast with butter or over a layer of cream cheese. (If you like, use an immersion blender to smooth out the whole berries)
  • Add it to a smoothie
  • Use it to make hand pies or homemade poptarts
  • Stir in a couple tablespoons chopped jalapeno and pour over a block of cream cheese. Serve with crackers.
  • Stir it into muffin batter.
  • Use the sauce as a filling for a cake.
  • Fold it into whipped cream and top a cake. Or dip fruit into it!
  • top your ice cream
  • top pancakes or waffles
  • blend it into barbecue sauce for a tart kick!
  • stir into oatmeal
  • Blend completely and add to your favorite homemade salad dressing
  • top a cheesecake or a pound cake

How to store Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce needs to be stored in the fridge in an airtight container, where it’s good for up to 2 weeks. You can also freeze it! Just put it into a labeled ziploc bag or tupperware, and it’ll last for 3-4 months. 

How many days ahead can you make cranberry sauce?

Cranberry sauce can be made up to 2 weeks in advance if you’re storing it in the fridge. If you prefer you can make it up to 3 months in advance and store it in the freezer. The real challenge would be finding whole, fresh cranberries at the store in August, ha!

How long does Cranberry Sauce last?

Cranberry sauce stays fresh in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for 3-4 months. It’s a great option to make ahead when you’ve got a lot of tasks on your Thanksgiving to-do list. 

Does Cranberry Sauce go bad?

Just like any other food, cranberry sauce can go bad. If it smells or looks “off” or you notice mold in the container, immediately throw it away.

Can you freeze Cranberry Sauce with Orange?

Absolutely! Put it in a tightly sealed container or a ziplock, seal it up well, and it will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let it thaw on the counter or in the fridge.

A cranberry sauce recipe is pretty much a necessary item on your Thanksgiving table, right? I’m squeezing in a few more recipe for your table over the next week (Pumpkin Roll, anyone??), so stay tuned!

The Best Cranberry Sauce Recipe FAQs

What takes the bitterness out of cranberry sauce?

Cranberries are naturally bitter and tart. It’s why we’re using two extremely sweet ingredients–sugar and orange juice–to contrast with the bitter, tart flavor. I’ve tested this recipe to make sure that the proportion of bitter to sweet is just right. 

Is homemade cranberry sauce supposed to be soupy?

Homemade cranberry sauce will be soupy when you first cook it, because it’s hot. Once the cranberry sauce has been cooled and chilled, it will “jelly” up and be spoonable rather than pourable. You shouldn’t expect the texture of cranberry-jelly-log-from-a-can. 

Can you cook cranberry sauce too long?

Sure. If you keep cooking your cranberry sauce long past the time that most of the berries have popped, then you can end up with rubbery, bitter cranberry sauce. No thanks. Cranberry sauce doesn’t take long to cook, so keep an eye on it and take it off the heat when most of the cranberry skins have split, or “popped.”

More great cranberry recipes!

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Homemade Cranberry Sauce

5 from 3 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 13 minutes
Total: 18 minutes
Servings: 6
My favorite cranberry sauce recipe ever! Nothing beats a classic when it comes to cranberry sauce. All you need is a little bit of orange juice and zest, some cranberries and sugar! It is so good when you just keep things simple!


  • 1 (12-oz) bag cranberries, divided*
  • big strips of orange zest from one orange
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 & 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, optional


  • Wash the cranberries and remove any stems. Set aside 1 cup*. Add the rest of the bag (It should be about 2 and 1/2 cups) to a medium saucepan.
  • Use a peeler to peel large strips of orange zest from 1 orange. Don't press too hard, you only want to peel off the orange part (avoid the white pith). Add all of it to the saucepan.
  • Juice the orange. Add 1/2 cup orange juice to the pan with the cranberries. You might need to juice another orange to get to a 1/2 cup. (I used orange juice from a carton I had in the fridge. Either way will work fine, just make sure you have 1/2 cup liquid.)
  • Add 1 and 1/4 cups sugar to the pan. Add up to 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, if you're using it. Set over medium high heat and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat to medium and cook for about 10 minutes, until most of the cranberries have popped.
  • Add the remaining 1 cup cranberries. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until the fresh cranberries have softened but not popped.
  • Remove from heat. At this point you can remove the pieces of orange zest if you like. I like to leave them in for an extra punch of flavor!
  • Serve immediately, or store covered in the fridge for up to 1 week. The cranberry sauce can be served warm or chilled. Re-warm in a pot on the stove over medium low heat.


*I like to reserve 1 cup of cranberries to add at the end, so that they soften but don’t pop. I love the flavor of fresh cranberries! If you’re not into the “whole berry” texture, then add all the cranberries in at the beginning. But I’m telling you, you should try it at least once :) 


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 197kcal | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 2mg | Potassium: 91mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 46g | Vitamin A: 76IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Calories: 197
Keyword: Cranberry, easy, homemade, sauce
Did you make this? I’d love to see it!Mention @thefoodcharlatan or tag #thefoodcharlatan!

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  1. Hi Karen! You are my number one go to for any recipe I need. I love your recipes. Can this be made a few days ahead?

    1. Samantha you just made my day!! That is the sweetest thing! Thank you for telling me that :) YES you can totally make cranberry sauce ahead! Just keep it airtight in the fridge and bust it out on the day of. serve cold, room temp, or heat on the stove or microwave. Enjoy! Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Hi Karen,

    I made this for Thanksgiving and it was delicious. I did cook all the berries at the same time. Then on Sunday morning, I made waffles and stirred about a cup of the cranberry sauce, after I removed the orange peel, into the batter and those waffles were so amazing! I was worried they wouldn’t cook correctly with the batter altered, but no problem. Thanks for another great recipe!

  3. This recipe is so great! I made this cranberry sauce last thanksgiving and will be making it again this year. I made the recipe as written, so simple so easy so delicious

    1. So happy to hear that Esme! Sometimes simple is best, right? So glad it turned out. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  4. Thank You for this recipe. Never made cranberry sauce before and not only was it fun to make it is DELICIOUS.
    All that tried it totally enjoyed it. Had to make more.

    1. It really is fun to make, right Yolanda?? There is something so unique about cranberries. I’m so glad it was enjoyed by all! I love that you had to make more! :) Thanks so much for reviewing!

  5. Karen, thank you for another recipe success! Not only was this cranberry sauce easy, it was perfect in it’s simplicity. I doubled the recipe but cut the sugar by a 1/2 cup and it was the perfect blend of sweet and tart for my family’s tastebuds. The orange was delicious and I questioned the cinnamon but am glad I put it in. I’m looking forward to having this on Thanksgiving and on turkey sandwiches. Thank you!!!

    1. I just made this cranberry sauce again yesterday for Thanksgiving, and when I read your comment I realized I forgot to add in the cinnamon! Thanks for the reminder, I went and sprinkled some in, because it really just add just the right hint of flavor :) I’m so glad you liked it, and thank you so much for coming back to comment and review!

  6. I have one question. Why do we want some of the cranberries to pop and some not to pop? Most recipes I’ve seen want them all to pop. I’m just curious.

    1. Hey Cathy! I totally forgot to address that in the post, thanks for reminding me! I will go add it in. You can do it either way. I like the taste of slightly softened fresh cranberries when they are in a sauce that is sweet enough. I like the “whole berry” texture. You can totally add all the cranberries in at the beginning and pop all of them. Either way will be great!

  7. This cranberry sauce looks amazing! I love the idea of orange peel in the sauce! I’m going to put them in my cranberry sauce this year!  Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! 

    1. You will love it with the orange peel Collette! Let me know how it goes. Happy Thanksgiving to you too!!

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