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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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 Breast, southern cornbread dressing, turkey gravy or giblet gravy, Mashed 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!
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!
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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
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!
Classic Cranberry Sauce
- 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.