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Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is an easy Thanksgiving classic that’s a must for your dinner menu. This one’s naturally sweet, with a hint of orange, and slightly chunky – the perfect texture to spoon over your best turkey recipe and everything else on the table.

Homemade cranberry sauce in a glass bowl.

While you might be tempted to grab the canned stuff, promise me you won’t do it. Because there’s really no comparison to homemade cranberry sauce that’s fresh, zingy, and sweet.

Not only is cranberry sauce extremely easy to make at home, but you can control the amount of sweetness and avoid any preservatives. All you need is a bag of cranberries, honey, and orange juice. Plus, you can prep this ahead of time. And that gives you one less thing to worry about come Thanksgiving day. So grab your pot and let’s get cooking.

What’s In Homemade Cranberry Sauce?

Here’s what you’ll need for a traditional (but also the best) cranberry sauce.

  • Cranberries: You can use fresh or frozen cranberries here, either works.
  • Sweetener: Honey or maple syrup will give this just the right amount of natural sweetness.
  • Orange Juice and Water: While you can simplify this recipe and use only water, orange juice adds a delicious depth of flavor that compliments the cranberries perfectly.

Ingredients for cranberry sauce on a table.

How To Make Fresh Cranberry Sauce

Similar to my my chia seed jam, cranberry sauce is cooked in a pot with sugar and fruit. And since cranberries are high in pectin, this will help the sauce gel up beautifully. Here’s how to make it:

  • Wash your cranberries. If using fresh cranberries, rinse them in a colander under running water to make sure they’re nice and clean. You can skip this if you’re using frozen cranberries.
  • Combine all the ingredients. Pour the cranberries, water, orange juice, and honey in a pot over medium-high heat.
  • Bring to a boil. Mix it all together, bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  • Let it simmer. As it’s simmering, stir occasionally. You’ll notice that the cranberries will start to burst and the sauce will thicken.
  • Cool. Turn the heat off and let it cool before using or storing. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.

Cranberries and orange juice boiling in a pot for cranberry sauce.

Jazz Up Your Cranberry Sauce

With simple ingredients like nuts and spices! Here’s some ideas to bring additional texture and flavor to this classic sauce.

  • Add sweet spices. A dash of cinnamon will give it a sweet warmth. Just stir it in at the last few minutes of cooking.
  • Make it bright. Stir in grated orange or sprinkle on top to add brightness.
  • Add some depth. Pour in 1/2 a cup of red wine into the mix.
  • Bring the heat. Add some freshly grated ginger or chopped jalapeños to turn this into a more savory dish.
  • Add crunch. Toast walnuts, pecans, or pine nuts. Chop them, and sprinkle on top before serving.

Ways To Use Cranberry Sauce

The beauty of cranberry sauce is that you can eat it with almost anything. For Thanksgiving dinner, you can spoon it over turkey, mashed potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts.

And if you’ve got leftovers, here’s a few ways to get creative:

A glass bowl with cranberry sauce.

How Long Does Cranberry Sauce Keep?

  • To store: place this in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1-2 weeks.
  • To freeze: pour the sauce into a freezer-safe container after it’s cooled for up to 3 months.
  • For defrosting: simply let it defrost in the fridge overnight, give it a good stir, and serve.

Classic Thanksgiving Recipes To Add To Your Menu

You’re on a roll with the cranberry sauce, so don’t stop there! Complete your impressive dinner spread with these much-loved Thanksgiving recipes:

Cranberry Sauce Recipe Video

Watch the video below to see how I make this recipe. Super easy!

A bowl of cranberry sauce on a table.
5 from 11 votes

Homemade Cranberry Sauce (Better Than Store-Bought)

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 20 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Yield: 2 1/4 cups
Author: Lisa Bryan
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
This cranberry sauce is a classic recipe that's perfectly sweet, slightly chunky, and a must have for your Thanksgiving dinner spread!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (12oz package) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup, or more as desired
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • orange zest, optional

Instructions

  • In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the water, orange juice, and honey. Bring to a boil.
  • Add in the cranberries and give everything stir.
    Cranberries in a pot for cranberry sauce.
  • Bring the mixture back to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let it simmer for 5-10 minutes while stirring occasionally. The cranberries will burst (that's what you want) and the sauce will start to thicken.
    A pot boiling cranberry sauce in it.
  • Turn the heat off and let it cool for 15 minutes. Then transfer it to a container and place in the fridge to chill and thicken up.
    A glass bowl filled with cranberry sauce

Lisa's Tips

  • Cranberries are naturally tangy and tart. I don't add a lot of maple/honey to mine, but feel free to add more if you like your cranberry sauce sweeter. Just take a quick taste test before cooling. 
  • Cranberry sauce adds such vibrant color to a table, so I love to serve it in this glass gravy bowl and let it shine!

Nutrition

Calories: 94kcal, Carbohydrates: 25g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 2mg, Potassium: 85mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 21g, Vitamin A: 61IU, Vitamin C: 15mg, Calcium: 7mg, Iron: 1mg
Course: sauce
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cranberry sauce, cranberry sauce recipe
©Downshiftology. Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing of this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited.
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31 comments on “Cranberry Sauce”

  1. Color me guilty of using canned cranberries in past years (it was even the jellied cranberries. What can I say, its what I grew up with.) But no more! This recipe is SO simple! I did end up putting in just a splash more maple syrup to help combat the tartness of the cranberries, and they turned out perfect. Goodbye canned jellied cranberries! ;)

  2. This is my second year cooking for Thanksgiving, and I made this cranberry sauce both times – such a hit! It’s super easy and quick to make, and it tastes delicious. Thanks Lisa!

  3. Delicious. This will be great on oatmeal too! Thank you for working so hard to bring special food experiences to us.

  4. I am really looking forward to making this for our Thanksgiving dinner today. I just wanted to thank you for revamping our holiday into something much more healthy! I am using three of your recipes today! You are a Godsend. I hope you have a wonderful, peaceful holiday.

  5. Hi Lisa I love your videos and all of your helpful hints
    I just purchased a vitamix and you are the best you make everything look so easy.!!!!
    Keep them coming!!!!

  6. Wow… This the first time I’ve made cranberry sauce (I’m 55yrs old). This recipe is SO DELICIOUS!!! I use maple syrup instead of honey. I will now make this every years from now on!!!

    Thank you Lisa for all of your wonderful recipes!

    Ps. I’m also going to make the string bean casserole tomorrow.

  7. Yummy and I cut the water amount in half as I added Grand Marnier after cooking along with orange zest. This will be the only way I will ever enjoy cranberry sauce!

  8. I just printed the recipe and ended up with 4 pages of huge step by step photos that used up a lot of my colored printer ink. The ink is very expensive and I hate having to re-purchase it because of giant photos like the ones I just printed. Was it something I didn’t notice in pressing the print button? I have printed some of your recipes before but maybe cut & pasted them.

    • Hi Joan – When you are about to print, there is a button at the top where you can select whether you want to print the photos or not. If you have questions, on this feel free to email us!

      • Thank you. I didn’t notice the choice but must have used it before because I have printed some of your recipes before and had no problem. I will look for it.

  9. Would the cranberry sauce keep longer in cupboard or frig. if I HOT WATER BATH in large pot?. THANKS

  10. How much water do I add?

  11. I love the orange juice & zest you added to this cranberry sauce recipe! It totally brightens it up and tastes better than most cranberry sauces I’ve tried! This is going on our holiday menu for sure!

  12. I love how easy this is to make! Definitely not using the canned stuff anymore! Thanks for this recipe!

  13. Wow didn’t realise craneberry sauce is this easy to make! The pictures of your craneberry sauce look so delicious too.

  14. love the addition of toasted nuts to the sauce

  15. I am already drooling with this awesome presentation. Love the Chunky Pieces of cranberry to this sauce. Yum. Sweet and perfect with every thing.