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This homemade Cranberry Sauce recipe is a holiday classic made with fresh or frozen cranberries. Ready in 15 minutes and made with just three ingredients, it’s easy to make and great to make ahead too! The perfect complement to Thanksgiving turkey and dressing!

Do you like cranberries? We love them! Cranberry Orange Muffins are a delicious breakfast treat and Cranberry Salsa is an easy appetizer I make a lot. Warm Cranberry Pomegranate Cider is a perfect warm sip all winter long and Sugared Cranberries highlight the festive color and flavor of this bright red fruit, especially during the holidays!

Close up of Cranberry Sauce in glass bowl -

Classic Cranberry Sauce is one of the most simple, easy dishes I make on Thanksgiving and the meal would not be complete without it! Its tart, bright flavor is so delicious with turkey and dressing, as well as leftover turkey sandwiches or a topping everything from pancakes to cheesecake. No wonder this humble classic dish is such a memorable part of a holiday meal for so many people!

Homemade Cranberry Sauce is the perfect complement to turkey and dressing! It’s a Thanksgiving must!

There is a special place on my plate each year for this homemade cranberry sauce. Right between my cornbread dressing and my turkey. It adds just the right amount of zing that perfectly compliments the savory turkey and the rich, buttery dressing. In my southern family, we traditionally have dressing while I know many other families eat stuffing – and it is beautiful with both! Even if you serve ham instead of turkey, it’s the perfect side dish.

Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Fresh whole cranberries, fresh orange juice, and sugar on wooden board -

What You’ll Love About This Cranberry Sauce

Simple Ingredients, Simple to Make – Cranberries (fresh or frozen), orange juice, sugar, and a bit of water are all that you need. 

Fresh and Flavorful – Ingredients are kept to a minimum to let the cranberry flavor shine through! From the moment you place them in the pot to cook and the cranberries begin to pop, the fresh, incredible flavor of the cranberries is something to enjoy!

Festive for Holidays – This has such a striking deep red color, with a bit of orange zest peeking through, that it is such a bright spot on a holiday table!

How to Make Cranberry Sauce

Don’t be intimidated about making homemade cranberry sauce from scratch. It’s so quick and easy, so there’s no need to buy the canned kind! It only takes 15 minutes and three ingredients to make! While you can easily make this in just a few minutes, you can also make it a bit ahead and place it in the fridge. I love make-ahead holiday recipes!


To make this easy, fresh classic cranberry sauce, I use only three simple ingredients.

Cranberries – Use a 12-ounce bag of fresh or frozen cranberries (about 3 cups). If you use frozen cranberries there is no need to thaw them first – just follow the recipe as written.

Fresh orange juice – The flavors of the fresh orange juice combined with the cranberries are something special! You can use more orange juice and less water if you wish, but I think it is a great balance in the amount written in the recipe. It’s also delicious with a bit of optional orange zest mixed in, as well as used as a garnish. 

Sugar – I use granulated sugar (white sugar), but you can substitute with another sweetener, like honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, or a sugar substitute, if you prefer. Sweetening with a substitute may slightly change the taste or consistency. Remember the sauce will thicken as it cools.

Water – The water is combined with the orange juice to cook the cranberries. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

Wash the Cranberries. Give the cranberries a rinse in your colander. If any look spoiled, mashed, or bruised, pull those out so that your cranberry sauce is as fresh and delicious as possible!  

Boil Orange Juice, Water, and Sugar.  Pour the orange juice, water, and sugar into a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Give it a quick stir and then let the liquid mixture come to a boil.

Adding fresh cranberries to saucepan of boiling orange juice, water and sugar. //

Add Cranberries, and Wait for the Pop! Then add the fresh cranberries and simmer to the and let it all simmer for 8 to 10 minutes You’ll notice the cranberries will begin to pop as they cook. I just love the popping sound as the cranberries burst open!

Watch the Pot! Be sure to watch your saucepan, especially during this step to make sure that it doesn’t bubble over onto your cooktop.

Classic Cranberry Sauce Cooking in Saucepan - Cranberries pop open as ingredients boil. //

Remove from Heat Once Done. Once it’s reached the desired thickness (tips to follow) I turn off the heat, stir in fresh orange zest, and let it cool. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. No pectin is needed. Once it’s cooled to room temperature, I either place it in a serving bowl to enjoy right away or add it to a lidded container and refrigerate.

Common Questions and Tips

How Do I Know When It’s Done?

Eight Minutes. I’ve found that eight minutes always works just fine when I make my cranberry sauce, but if you prefer yours just a bit thicker, cooking it another minute or two will do the trick. Just remember that it will thicken as it cools.

Classic Cranberry Sauce - Testing consistency and thickness of cooked Cranberry Sauce with a wooden spoon. //

Test With A Wooden Spoon. The method I use to test the consistency of my cranberry sauce uses my wooden spoon. I place a bit onto a wooden spoon and then see how thick it is when I pour it back into the saucepan. If some of the cranberry sauce sticks to the wooden spoon, then it is done. 

Feeling Zesty? Once it has reached the desired consistency, I turn off the heat and stir in most of the fresh orange zest. This is optional, but I can’t recommend it enough!

Classic Cranberry Sauce - Metal grater with orange zest over saucepan of cranberry sauce. //

Garnish and Serve. Save just a little bit of orange zest to top the cranberry sauce for serving. It’s so pretty and scrumptious and looks amazing on your Thanksgiving table!

What Do I Serve with Cranberry Sauce? 

This cranberry sauce certainly tantalizes your taste buds when you serve it along with Roast Turkey or Roast Turkey Breastsouthern cornbread dressingturkey gravy or giblet gravyMashed Potatoes, and more! And it’s absolutely delicious served alongside our favorite Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Crumble topping. It’s a definite must-have dish at our family Thanksgiving meal and other times throughout the year!

It is so simple to make that you may even decide to make it year-round and not save only for the holiday season. Honestly, why save it just for the holidays?! It not only tastes amazing on slices of leftover turkey in turkey wraps and turkey sandwiches when Thanksgiving is over, but leftover cranberry sauce is scrumptious on top of buttermilk pancakes or oatmeal for breakfast too!

Classic Cranberry Sauce in glass jar with spoon adding fresh orange zest //

Can You Make-Ahead Cranberry Sauce?

Yes! Even though my cranberry sauce recipe comes together in a jiffy, we all know that holidays can be busy! To make your day even easier, you can absolutely make this cranberry sauce ahead of time!

Make-Ahead and Storage Instructions

Cool Completely. Simply follow the recipe instructions and set aside to cool completely.

Refrigerate: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Freeze: Place in freezer-safe airtight containers. It will store in the freezer for up to a month.

Serve: If frozen, you can thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. You can serve it cold or reheat it and serve if you prefer it warm. So easy!

Want More Cranberry Recipes?

If you want to make more cranberry dishes, give Cranberry Orange Scones a try for a winter brunch and make some Sweet and Spicy Cranberry Cocktail Meatballs for your next tailgate or holiday party.

Classic Cranberry Sauce in bowl with spoon.  //

More Thanksgiving and Holiday Favorites

Sweet Potato Pie

Green Bean Casserole

Apple Pear Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Pecan Pie

Pumpkin Pie

If you are planning ahead for your Thanksgiving meal, I’ve made it easier for you with my Make Ahead Thanksgiving meal plan and more!

More Sauces We Love

Caramel Sauce

Barbecue Sauce

Triple Berry Sauce

Cocktail Sauce


Enchilada Sauce

Praline Sauce

Here’s my Classic Cranberry Sauce recipe. You will love how easy it is to make from scratch and definitely want to add this to your holiday menu!

5 from 4 votes

Classic Cranberry Sauce

Side Dish 15 mins

Classic Cranberry Sauce Recipe - This cranberry sauce recipe is a classic holiday recipe. Made of fresh cranberries, orange zest and juice, this cranberry sauce recipe is a must make! //
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Servings 8
Course Sauce, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Author Robyn Stone | Add a Pinch
This homemade Classic Cranberry Sauce recipe is a holiday classic made with fresh or frozen cranberries. Ready in 15 minutes and made with just three ingredients, it's easy to make and great to make ahead too! The perfect complement to Thanksgiving turkey and dressing!


  • 1 (12-ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries, washed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • orange zest optional


  • Bring orange juice, sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan set over medium heat.
  • Add cranberries and cook over low-medium heat until they begin to pop and thickened to desired consistency, about 8-10 minutes. The cranberry sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.
  • Place a bit of the cranberry sauce onto a wooden spoon and then see how thick it is when I pour it back into the saucepan. If some of the cranberry sauce sticks to the wooden spoon, then it is done. 
  • Remove from heat, add orange zest and stir until just combined.
  • Top with additional orange zest for serving, if desired.


Makes about 2 cups
Make-Ahead and Storage  Instructions
Cool Completely. Simply follow the recipe instructions and set aside to cool completely.
Refrigerate: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
Freeze: Place in freezer-safe airtight containers. It will store in the freezer for up to a month.
Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and serve cold or reheat a bit if you prefer it warm. 

Nutritional Information

Serving: 0.25cup | Calories: 55kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 0.1g | Fat: 0.1g | Saturated Fat: 0.004g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.01g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.01g | Sodium: 2mg | Potassium: 31mg | Fiber: 0.04g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 31IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 0.04mg

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Classic Cranberry Sauce Recipe - This cranberry sauce recipe is a classic holiday recipe. Made of fresh cranberries, orange zest and juice, this cranberry sauce recipe is a must make! //

Sauces Recipes

Robyn Stone

Robyn Stone is a wife, mom, blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. Welcome to Add a Pinch where I share thousands of delicious, tested and perfected easy recipes that the whole family will love.

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Recipe Review


  1. Making cranberry sauce from scratch will be a first for me this year. I look forward to trying your recipe!

    1. I use fresh cranberries in this recipe, Mariam. I’ve never used dried ones. But you could use frozen if you wish, just following the recipe. Thanks!

  2. 5 stars

  3. 5 stars
    Just made this, as someone else said easiest thing I’ll ever make!! Consistency is perfect and I can’t believe I ever served that horrible jelly stuff!!! Can’t wait to see how family likes it. Thanks so much and Happy Thanksgiving! 

    1. Happy Thanksgiving to you as well, Joni! Isn’t this so simple and so delicious?! I am excited that you tried it and enjoy it! Hope your family likes it as well! Thanks! xo

  4. 5 stars
    Just made it and it came out beautiful and delicious! I love classic simple recipes and this was perfect. Thank you! 

    1. Celeste, this recipe will have enough servings for 8 to 10 people using one 12-ounce bag of cranberries. You would need to make this recipe about 4 times for 40 people.

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