This simple homemade cranberry sauce recipe is made with three ingredients and is ready in 15 minutes! It is an easy, traditional, must-have dish for your holiday dinner.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce makes the perfect complement to Thanksgiving dinner favorites of turkey and cornbread dressing. It is made with frozen or fresh whole cranberries and just two other simple ingredients for a flavorful, classic cranberry sauce.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce recipe in a glass bowl with a silver spoon.

Why You’ll Love This Cranberry Sauce Recipe

  • Quick and easy. Ready in 15 minutes with three ingredients.
  • Flavorful. It’s the perfect combination of slightly sweet and tart.
  • Serve hot or cold. Excellent served hot or cold.
  • Make ahead ease. Make it in advance and store it in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Leftover favorite. It is delicious on leftovers, like turkey sandwiches!
Ingredients to make homemade cranberry sauce: fresh whole cranberries, fresh orange juice, and sugar on wooden board.

How to Make Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Don’t be intimidated about making homemade cranberry sauce from scratch. It is a simple recipe that you’ll turn to time and again.

Ingredients for Fresh Cranberry Sauce

Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full listing of ingredients, instructions, notes, and estimated nutritional information.

To make this easy, fresh cranberry sauce, you’ll need:

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. If you can’t find frozen or fresh berries, see my recipe variation below for how to make cranberry sauce with dried cranberries.

Fresh orange juice – The fresh cranberries and orange juice combination is delicious. I think this recipe has an excellent balance of the two. Use more orange juice and less water if you’d like. Add orange zest to the sauce or garnish for even more flavor. You can also substitute the fresh orange juice with your favorite store-bought orange juice.

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

Water – Combine the water and orange juice and water to cook the cranberries. 

Step-by-Step Instructions to Make Cranberry Sauce

Wash the Cranberries

Rinse the fresh cranberries under cool water. Discard any spoiled or bruised cranberries.

Cook the Orange Juice, Water, and Sugar

Pour the orange juice, water, and sugar into a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Stir and let it reach a boil.

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

Add Cranberries and Wait for the Pop! 

Add the fresh or frozen cranberries and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. The cranberries will begin to pop as they burst open during cooking.

Be sure to watch your saucepan, especially during this step, to make sure that it doesn’t bubble over.

Classic cranberry sauce cooking in saucepan.

Remove from the Heat and Serve

Turn off the heat, stir in fresh orange zest, and let it cool. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. Pectin is not needed for this recipe. Once it’s cooled to room temperature, I either place it in a serving bowl to enjoy right away or add it to an airtight container and refrigerate.

Metal grater with orange zest over saucepan on the stove.

How Do You Know When Cranberry Sauce is Done?

Cranberry sauce generally takes between eight and ten minutes. Place a little cranberry sauce on a wooden spoon. Pour the cranberry sauce back into the saucepan. The cranberry sauce is done when some of it sticks to the wooden spoon. If not, continue to cook and retest every few minutes. Remember that cranberry sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.

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

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! It’s delicious served alongside our favorite sweet potato casserole. It’s a must-have dish at our family Thanksgiving meal and other times throughout the year!

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

Classic Cranberry Sauce in glass jar with spoon.

Can You Make-Ahead Cranberry Sauce?

Yes! You can make this cranberry sauce in advance. It will make your busy holiday a little easier! See my Make-Ahead Instructions below.

Can You Make Cranberry Sauce from Dried Cranberries?

If you have difficulty finding fresh or frozen cranberries, you can also make cranberry sauce using dried cranberries. You’ll substitute 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries for the cranberries and 1 cup cranberry juice for the water called for in the recipe. Add all ingredients to the saucepan and boil for 8 to 10 minutes. If the cranberry sauce needs to be thickened more, you can make a slurry of 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 1/4 cup water and slowly stir it into the sauce while it is on the stove. Remember that it will continue to thicken as it cools.

Make-Ahead and Storage Instructions

Cool Completely. 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 and freeze 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 it if you prefer it warm. So easy!

Want More Cranberry Recipes?

If you want to make more cranberry dishes, give Cranberry Orange Muffins or Cranberry Orange Scones a try for a winter brunch. We also love sweet and spicy Cranberry Cocktail Meatballs and Cranberry Salsa, which are great appetizers for your next tailgate or holiday party.

Fresh homemade Cranberry Sauce in glass bowl with spoon.

More Thanksgiving Favorites

More

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

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

Cranberry Sauce Recipe

5 from 4 votes
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!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients 

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

Instructions 

  • 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 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.

Notes

Recipe Yield: 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. 

How to Make Cranberry Sauce with Dried Cranberries

Substitute 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries for the cranberries and 1 cup cranberry juice for the water called for in the recipe. Add all ingredients to the saucepan and follow the remaining recipe instructions. If the sauce needs to be thickened more, make a slurry of 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 1/4 cup water and slowly stir into the hot cranberry sauce. Remember it will continue to thicken as it cools.

Nutrition

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

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

Enjoy!
Robyn xo

Collage image of with two photos and text.

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About Robyn

Robyn Stone is a cookbook author, wife, mom, and passionate home cook. Her tested and trusted recipes give readers the confidence to cook recipes the whole family will love. Robyn has been featured on Food Network, People, Southern Living, and more.

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