Made with just 5 ingredients and in less than 30 minutes, this easy recipe for fresh cranberry sauce with orange juice will add the perfect zing to your Holiday meal, without being cloyingly sweet.
This recipe for Cranberry Orange Sauce has been a staple Thanksgiving Recipe for decades in my family.
It is tart, tangy, and bursting with fresh flavor thanks to the fresh cranberries that are kissed with citrus. From eating it with a spoon to piling it onto your plate alongside Instant Pot Turkey Breast, Mashed Potatoes, and Bread Stuffing, to using it to top Sweet Potato Pancakes, Cranberry Orange Sauce is simply the best version of homemade cranberry sauce.
Reasons to Love Cranberry Orange Sauce
- Superior Flavor and Texture. Fresh cranberry sauce is not only better tasting than canned cranberry sauce, but it also has a better texture. It is sweet and tart and has a nice thick "sauce" quality rather than a jellied consistency.
- No Refined Sugars. Sweetened naturally with maple syrup and orange juice, this recipe for Cranberry Orange Sauce is just sweet enough and the citrus notes help to enhance the cranberry flavor.
- Incredibly Easy Recipe. Using fresh cranberries, this cranberry sauce comes together with minutes of prep. It is JUST about as easy as opening a can of cranberry, but tastes a whole lot better!
- Amazing Citrus Flavor. The citrus notes from the orange zest and orange juice help to enhance the natural flavor of the cranberries. Just like my recipe for Cranberry Orange Muffins, this recipe for Cranberry Sauce proves that cranberries and orange are a flavor combination that works!
- Add Contrast to Your Holiday Meal. The fresh, tart flavors of cranberry sauce help to cut through and balance out the richness of your holiday meal.
Notes on Ingredients and Substitutions
- Cranberries: Fresh cranberries are typically only able to be found around Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, you can make this cranberry sauce recipe year-round using frozen cranberries.
- Orange Zest: The zest of fresh oranges adds such a concentration of orange flavor.
- Orange juice Concentrate: I opt to use orange juice concentrate instead of fresh orange juice. Because it is concentrated, the sweetness and flavor are very intense and it cuts down on the amount of sweetener needed.
- Maple syrup: Maple syrup is not only a natural sweetener, but the smokey, rich flavor goes a long way to sweeten and add flavor to the cranberry sauce.
- Cinnamon: Ground cinnamon adds a warming, slightly sweet touch to the cranberry sauce, not to mention a holiday flair.
- No Maple Syrup? Feel free to use equal amounts of granulated sugar or honey in its place.
- No Orange Juice Concentrate? Replace the concentrate with ¼ cup of fresh orange juice and ¼ cup of water. You will also need to add an additional 2-4 tablespoons of maple syrup (or sweetener of your choice), depending on how sweet you like your cranberry sauce.
- Smooth Cranberry Sauce: Fresh cranberry sauce has a slightly chunky consistency after being prepared. If you would like a smooth cranberry sauce, allow the sauce to cool to room temperature and then blend until smooth.
- Instant Pot Cranberry Sauce: To make cranberry sauce in an electric pressure cooker, a few modifications need to be made to the recipe. Follow my recipe for Instant Pot Cranberry Sauce for success.
Tips for Making Fresh Cranberry Sauce
The following tips are provided to help you achieve perfect results. You will find the detailed instructions in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Wash the cranberries. A lot of people assume the cranberries are already washed because they are sold bagged. This is often NOT the case. Unless you are using frozen cranberries, place the cranberries in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under running water well.
- Simmer over low heat. In order to allow time for the flavors to develop and the cranberries to burst open without the sauce burning, cook the cranberry sauce over low heat, stirring often.
- Adjust the consistency to your liking. As written, this cranberry orange sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon but thinner than jellied cranberry sauce. If you would like a thicker cranberry sauce, simmer it a bit longer. Want a thinner sauce? Add an additional ¼ cup of water to the ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes less than the recipe suggests. Keep in mind that the sauce does thicken a bit as it cools.
- Cool fully before serving. Cranberry sauce is a recipe that tastes better after being chilled. This not only allows the sauce to fully thicken but also the flavors to marry together.
Cranberry Sauce is a great dish to prepare in advance, as it tastes better the longer it sits. Plus, when it comes to big holiday meals like Thanksgiving, preparing as many dishes in advance is key to stress-free entertaining.
- 5 Days or Less Before Serving: Prepare the recipe as directed and allow the sauce to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, transfer the cranberry sauce into an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Serve chilled or warm slightly in a saucepan over low heat if desired.
- Up to 1 Month Before Serving: If you would like to prepare Cranberry Orange Sauce more than 5 days ahead of your holiday meal, prepare the sauce as the recipe directs and allow it to cool fully. Transfer the cooled sauce to an airtight, freezer-safe container, leaving 1 inch of space for expansion, and freeze for up to 1 month. The night before serving, remove the cranberry sauce from the freezer and allow it to defrost in the refrigerator overnight. Serve chilled or warm the cranberry sauce over low heat prior to serving.
Of course, cranberry sauce is a must for holiday meals and pairs great with Roasted Turkey, Instant Pot Turkey Breast, Glazed Baked Ham, and New York Strip Roast. That said, Cranberry Sauce is not only one of my favorite easy Thanksgiving Recipes, but it happens to be one of my favorite Thanksgiving leftovers as well, as it is delicous when used as a topping for pancakes or as a spread for Turkey Apple Sandwiches.
More Thanksgiving Side Dishes
- Vegan Sweet Potato Casserole
- Homemade Applesauce
- Twice Baked Butternut Squash
- Green Bean Casserole
- Stuffed Acorn Squash
Cranberry Orange Sauce is one of my family's favorite Thanksgiving recipes. I hope you love this recipe as much as we do! I would love for you to leave a comment and review below if you gave this recipe a try.
Cranberry Orange Sauce
- 1 pound fresh cranberries or frozen
- 1 teaspoon orange zest from l large navel orange
- ½ cup orange juice concentrate thawed
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup see notes
- Place the fresh cranberries in a strainer and rinse well (skip if using frozen cranberries.) Wash, dry, and zest the orange using a Microplane.
- In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the cranberries, orange juice concentrate, orange zest, cinnamon, and maple syrup together.
- Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes, until the cranberries have begun to burst open and the juices begin to thicken. Be sure to watch the sauce closely as it simmers, so that the sauce does not burn. If you notice too much liquid evaporating, add ¼ cup of water or orange juice as needed. And keep in mind that your sauce will thicken as it cools.
- Cool to room temperature and then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 12 hours before serving.