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.
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.
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.
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
And if you’ve got leftovers, here’s a few ways to get creative:
- Serve with slow cooker chicken, lemon garlic spatchcock chicken, or pork meatballs.
- Dollop onto a turkey cobb salad, your morning oatmeal, homemade yogurt or chia pudding.
- Spread it onto paleo pancakes, buckwheat waffles, a vegan cheesecake, or inside cassava flour crepes.
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:
- Honey Glazed Carrots
- Green Beans With Shallots And Lemon
- Baked Sweet Potato
- Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole
- Mashed Butternut Squash
Cranberry Sauce Recipe Video
Watch the video below to see how I make this recipe. Super easy!
Homemade Cranberry Sauce (Better Than Store-Bought)
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!