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Perfect Homemade Cranberry Sauce

A sweet and sharp combination of fresh cranberries, orange juice, sugar, and vanilla make this Perfect Homemade Cranberry Sauce a wonderful and delicious holiday classic!

overhead close up shot of a spoon inside of a bowl filled with cranberry sauce and garnished with rosemary sprig plus orange slices

My Favorite Cranberry Sauce for the Holidays

What’s one Thanksgiving dish (or even Christmas! It’s right around the corner. 🎅 ) side you can’t do without? 

If you answered “Turkey,” “stuffing,” or maybe “green bean casserole…” I hear you! Savory recipes made with plenty of herbs and onions are holiday must-haves. But, let’s not forget the cranberry sauce! Yes, this deliciously traditional, ruby-red side dish really rounds out a menu.

Plus, it’s helpful in terms of balance. Compared to the more buttery, garlicky, sage-y sides, cranberry sauce stands out! It’s a tangy addition to the table that cuts the richness of other holiday dishes.

cranberry sauce inside of a white bowl surround by fresh cranberries and garnished with orange slices and rosemary sprig.

Is Cranberry Sauce Healthy?

In general, cranberries are very good for you! They contain helpful antioxidants and are known to fight inflammation in the body.

However, since cranberry sauce is a type of sweetened relish, you may want to watch your portion sizes to avoid consuming too much sugar. If you’d like to lighten this recipe, try reducing the amount of sugar, and/or swapping some of that sugar for honey.

What You’ll Need

These ingredients are the ultimate in fresh, juicy flavor and texture. Once you try homemade cranberry sauce, it may just convince you to walk past that store-bought canned sauce.

  • Cranberries: You can use fresh or frozen cranberries, whichever you prefer. 
  • Sugar: I like to use half brown sugar, and half white sugar.
  • Orange Juice: Squeeze the juice from about 4 oranges.
  • Water
  • Vanilla: A bit of vanilla extract adds sweetness and depth.
  • Orange Zest:  Zest a small amount of the peel from one of the oranges.
pouring orange juice over fresh cranberries and sugars inside of a saucepan.

How to Make Fresh Cranberry Sauce

Making cranberry sauce at home is as easy as falling off a log (and less painful, I would imagine?). You basically just simmer everything together. Easy peasy!

  1. Boil the Ingredients. Combine all of the cranberry sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan and set it over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. 
  2. Simmer the Sauce. Once the sauce comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. 
  3. Cool. When all the cranberries have burst and the sauce has thickened, remove it from the heat, and allow it to cool for about 20 minutes. 
  4. Enjoy: Serve the cranberry sauce warm, or place it in an airtight container and refrigerate. You can serve it cold, or reheat if desired (see “How to Store and Reheat” section below).
cooking cranberry sauce in a saucepan and stirring through with a red rubber spatula.

Tips for Success

You really can’t go wrong here, but I do have a couple of helpful tips and variations to share. Read on, and happy cooking!

  • Store-Bought Orange Juice: Make things easier by using store-bought orange juice, and omitting the zest.
  • Add Jam: Use half orange juice and half orange marmalade or apricot jam, for a special flavor addition.
  • Spice It Up: Add a dash of cinnamon for a gently spicy, Christmasy taste.
side shot of a spoon inside of a bowl filled with cranberry sauce and garnished with rosemary sprig plus orange slices

Serving Suggestions

To serve this jewel-hued side dish, I recommend making a classic holiday meal with some of your favorites, such as:

  • Turkey: Roast a whole turkey, or make a simple Roast Turkey Breast instead.
  • Pork: A tender, juicy Pork Loin Roast with Vegetables is a great alternative to turkey! The built-in side of savory roasted veggies makes it a meal in itself!
  • Casserole: Casseroles are wonderful for a special meal, and this recipe for The Best Green Bean Casserole is a favorite. It’s full of fresh veggie flavor, with a homemade creamy mushroom sauce.

How to Store and Reheat  Cranberry Sauce

  • Cranberry sauce can be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator, for up to one week. 
  • There’s no need to reheat, but if you would like to serve this warm, you can easily reheat it on the stove over medium heat.

Can I Freeze Cranberry Sauce?

  • Yes, cranberry sauce can be stored in freezer bags and frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw before serving or reheating.
overhead close up shot of a spoon inside of a bowl filled with cranberry sauce and garnished with rosemary sprig plus orange slices

How To Make Ahead

  • Make the cranberry sauce according to the recipe.
  • Then, store it in the fridge (or freezer, depending on how far ahead you want to make it) until the day you’re ready to serve.
  • If you freeze it, thaw it in the fridge overnight before serving.
side shot of a spoon inside of a bowl filled with cranberry sauce and garnished with rosemary sprig plus orange slices
Print Recipe
5 from 5 votes

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

A sweet and sharp combination of fresh cranberries, orange juice, sugar, and vanilla make this Perfect Homemade Cranberry Sauce a mouthwatering holiday classic!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Resting Time20 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: christmas side dishes, how to make cranberry sauce, vegetarian thanksgiving side dishes
Servings: 10
Calories: 103kcal

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in a 3-quart saucepan.
  • Set the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer for about 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until all cranberries have burst and sauce has slightly thickened.
  • Remove from heat and let cool for 20 minutes.
  • Serve right away, or transfer the prepared cranberry sauce to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

Nutrition

Calories: 103kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 5mg | Potassium: 70mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 23g | Vitamin A: 46IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 14mg | Iron: 1mg

More Classic Holiday Sides

13 Comments

  • Erik
    Nov 15, 2021 at 6:02 pm

    5 stars
    The color is simply beautiful. Love how easy this is to make!

    Reply
  • Beth
    Nov 15, 2021 at 6:03 pm

    5 stars
    That sounds amazing. I love the colors and the flavors. This is perfect for the holiday season.

    Reply
  • Juliane
    Nov 16, 2021 at 7:15 am

    5 stars
    Heaven sent! This is SO good!

    Reply
  • Cathy
    Nov 16, 2021 at 11:01 am

    Homemade cranberry sauce is the best!

    Reply
  • Catalina
    Nov 18, 2021 at 3:29 am

    5 stars
    There is no Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce on my table. This one sounds perfect for us!

    Reply
  • Amanda Livesay
    Nov 19, 2021 at 1:12 pm

    5 stars
    This really is the perfect cranberry sauce! I’ll be making it for every holiday!

    Reply

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