Cranberry Sauce


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Cranberry sauce is an easy Thanksgiving side dish that’s a must-make 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 or maple syrup, and orange juice. Plus, you can prep this ahead of time! And that gives you one less thing to worry about on Thanksgiving day. So grab your pot and let’s get cooking!

Ingredients for cranberry sauce on a table.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need for a traditional and classic cranberry sauce.

  • Cranberries: You can use fresh or frozen cranberries here, either works. And if you have extras leftover, save them for a cranberry smoothie!
  • 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.

Find the printable recipe with measurements below.

How To Make Fresh Cranberry Sauce

It’s a simple as simmering a few items on the stove. 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 it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
Cranberries in a pot.
  • 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.
Cranberry sauce simmering in a pot.

Jazz Up Your Cranberry Sauce

You can amp up the flavor of your cranberry sauce with simple ingredients. Here are a few 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 zested orange or sprinkle a little on top to add brightness.
  • Add some depth. Pour in ½ a cup of red wine to the sauce.
  • 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.
A glass bowl with cranberry sauce.

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:

To Store

  • In the fridge: This will last for 1 to 2 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.
  • To freeze: Pour the sauce into a freezer-safe container after it’s cooled. It will last for up to 3 months in the freezer.
  • To thaw: 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:

I think we can all agree that it’s not a Thanksgiving dinner without a bowl of homemade cranberry sauce! So if you make this recipe, let me know how it turned out! I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

A bowl of cranberry sauce on a table.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce (Better Than Store-Bought)

5 from 47 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan


This cranberry sauce is a classic recipe that's perfectly sweet, slightly chunky, and a must-have for your Thanksgiving dinner spread! Watch the video below to see how I make it in my kitchen!




  • 4 cups (about a 12-ounce package) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • ½ cup honey or maple syrup, or more as desired
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup water
  • orange zest, optional


  • In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the water, orange juice, and honey. Bring to a boil.
  • Add 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 to 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 it 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 syrup or honey to mine, but feel free to add more if you like your cranberry sauce sweeter. Just take a quick taste test before cooling. 


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
Did you make this recipe?Mention @downshiftology or tag #downshiftology!

Recipe originally published November 2020, but updated to include new information for your benefit!

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About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Enjoyed this cranberry sauce. Very easy to make with short list of ingredients. Not too sweet (but easy to adjust to individual taste), loved the combination of sauce and larger pieces of cranberry with the short cook time.5 stars

  2. Made this for Thanksgiving and it was delicious, loved it better than the canned cranberry sauce. Will be making this again for Christmas. Thanks Lisa !!!

  3. I love cranberry sauce and THIS one is by far my favorite. Not too tart, not too sweet. I have never tried using maple syrup (instead of honey) until this year and again it was perfect! Thank you Lisa for making, testing & sharing your recipes.5 stars

  4. I made this for Thanksgiving dinner as a treat for myself. My family doesn’t care for cranberry sauce but my Mom always served it out of the can each Thanksgiving and I loved it! This recipe was delicious and so simple. I will definitely make this again!5 stars

  5. I have your recipes in our weekly rotation! I cook them once if not twice a week, we are obsessed! This cranberry recipe is so simple and delicious and not loaded with sugar like others. I can’t wait to try this later with some cream cheese and pancakes.5 stars

  6. Cooked this for my first first hosted Thanksgiving and it was super simple and such a delightful little accomplishment. Now just need to figure out what to do with the leftovers from it 😂 add to tea perhaps?5 stars

    1. Happy you loved the cranberry sauce recipe, Olga! And if you type the word “cranberry” into the top search bar on my website, you’ll see some ideas of what you can do with the leftovers. Enjoy!

  7. I never made homemade cranberry sauce before, but this recipe looked easy and not too caloric. Wow! I just loved it. I actually did not use the whole amount of honey suggested because I ran out, but I added extra orange zest. It was perfect all the way around. I was thinking of adding cinnamon stick while stirring but I never did. The first time I try a recipe, I like to follow it as close as possible and then if necessary I can tweak it. I will definitely be making this again….before next Thanksgiving.5 stars

  8. Just wow!!! I grew up with the canned jelly, and enjoyed it, but after trying my friends homemade cranberry sauce a few years ago, I wanted to try and make it myself. I’ll admit, I tried a different recipe last year with lots of spices like ginger and cinnamon, but it wasn’t quite to my taste. I always make Lisa’s no fail Turkey recipe for Thanksgiving, so I searched to see if she had a cranberry recipe. It is so easy to make and perfectly balanced. I used mostly honey with a little bit of maple syrup for fun and it came out so well. This will be served at every Thanksgiving from now on! Thank you for another amazing and reliable recipe Lisa!5 stars

  9. I love how easy and delicious this cranberry sauce recipe is! My in-laws usually just buy the canned cranberry sauce, but they didn’t even touch it since they liked this homemade one so much!5 stars

  10. Made this today for our upcoming Thanksgiving feast and had to sample it! It was phenomenal!! I can eat this year round!! I used maple syrup. So delicious! It was easy to make and came together in no time at all. Thank you again Lisa!!!5 stars

  11. All time best cranberry sauce I’ve ever had! I’ve been making this beautiful cranberry sauce for the last four years. My family and husband absolutely love this and look forward to having it multiple times a year.5 stars

  12. Made this again for the second year and it was just as good! The tangyness with a little bit of sweet is so yummy! And bonus, it’s super easy to make.5 stars

  13. This was my go-to cranberry sauce last year, and I’m making it again this year for Thanksgiving, as it was a hit all around!5 stars

  14. This sounds delicious and healthy!! Will definitely make for this thanksgiving!!! Thank you for sharing your recipes!!5 stars

  15. This was so easy and so delicious! Everyone loved it! I will definitely be making this again and again. Not just for the holidays – every day can be a holiday!!!!5 stars

  16. I always make my own cranberry sauce …… looking forward to making a healthier version . Thank you 😊 

  17. I like this recipe but we add natural sugar instead of honey or syrup. We also add some orange pieces chopped and some chopped walnuts.

  18. Just made a gorgeous batch of this cranberry sauce in preparation for Thanksgiving. It’s absolutely wonderful, Lisa, and I love how easy it was to make too. I’ve also got your sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie on the to-do list, but for now, delightful cranberry sauce: check! 5 stars

  19. This was perfect for Thanksgiving! This was my first time making cranberry sauce and it was so easy and tasted great! Thanks! 5 stars

  20. Absolutely the best! Making this sauce again right now for our TG dinner and am trying not to eat it all :) I LOVE not using refined sugar and the ideas for Jazzing it up are wonderful!

    Thank you, Lisa for your recipes! I can’t wait to get your book when it’s out.5 stars

  21. I added the zest of the orange I squeezed, half a bag of frozen raspberries, cinnamon, cassia, ground ginger, shake of ground all spice. Can’t taste the spices but they bring a little extra. I hear you can also add the tiniest bit of white pepper5 stars

    1. Hi Pat – I will normally always write storage instructions written in the post :) But this one will keep in the fridge for up to 1-2 weeks! You can also freeze it as well if you make it even more ahead of time.

  22. 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! ;)5 stars

  23. First time making Cranberry sauce this year. It was so easy and delicious. Will add it every year from now on. Thank you Lisa you’re so talented.5 stars

  24. The best cranberry sauce, definitely better than store bought! I did add the orange zest that is suggested and glad I did, it gives it an extra boost of flavor. Thanks for another great recipe!5 stars

  25. The cranberry sauce was awesome! I added some ground clove and orange zest. Usually my mom makes it but this year I helped and made this and your mashed potatoes, which were great as well. Thank you for all the simple, quick and delicious recipes :)5 stars

  26. 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!5 stars

  27. Delicious. This will be great on oatmeal too! Thank you for working so hard to bring special food experiences to us.5 stars

    1. Hi Mari – I’m happy you loved this cranberry sauce recipe! And yes, the leftovers are great on oatmeal, I did that myself as well. ;)

  28. 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.

  29. 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!!!!5 stars

  30. 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.5 stars

  31. 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!5 stars

  32. 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.

    1. 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!

      1. 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.

    1. Hi Melanie – sorry about that, I just fixed it in the recipe card. You’ll add a 1/2 cup of water as well. :)

  33. 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!5 stars

  34. Wow didn’t realise craneberry sauce is this easy to make! The pictures of your craneberry sauce look so delicious too.5 stars

  35. I am already drooling with this awesome presentation. Love the Chunky Pieces of cranberry to this sauce. Yum. Sweet and perfect with every thing.5 stars