Cranberry Orange Sauce is the best recipe for homemade cranberry sauce! Made with only 5 ingredients and in less than 30 minutes, this easy recipe for fresh cranberry sauce will add the perfect zing to your Holiday meal, without being cloyingly sweet.
Pair this homemade cranberry sauce with Instant Pot Turkey Breast, Bread Stuffing, and Creamy Mashed Potatoes for a delicious Thanksgiving Dinner.
The Best Cranberry Sauce Recipe
Call me crazy, but one of my favorite sides at Thanksgiving is cranberry sauce. Not the jiggly stuff from a can, but homemade cranberry sauce.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce is superior in taste and texture to anything that comes from a can. But don't worry, this recipe only takes about 2 minutes of prep work! That is JUST about as easy as opening a can, but tastes a whole lot better!
Sweetened 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. Just like my recipe for Cranberry Orange Muffins, this recipe for Cranberry Sauce proves that cranberries and orange are a flavor combination that works!
It is an easy recipe to whip up and the fresh, tart flavors help to cut through and balance out the richness of your holiday meal.
Notes on Ingredients and Substitutions
- Cranberries: You can use either fresh or frozen cranberries with the same results. Keep in mind that you will only be able to find fresh cranberries around the holidays and at that time, fresh cranberries are much less expensive than 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. Just be sure to use pure maple syrup. If you don't want to use pure maple syrup, feel free to use equal amounts of granulated sugar or honey in its place.
- Cinnamon: Use either ground cinnamon, or add 2 cinnamon sticks to the sauce for a milder cinnamon flavor.
How to Make Cranberry Sauce
- Place the cranberries, orange juice concentrate, cinnamon, and maple syrup into a medium saucepan.
- Wash and dry the orange. Then using a zester or Microplane, zest the bright orange rind of the orange directly into the saucepan. Be sure to stop zesting the orange when you see the white pith. That part of the orange is bitter!
- Give everything a good stir and then bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Once the mixture is boiling, IMMEDIATELY, turn the heat to low and simmer the sauce for 20-30 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. You want to simmer the sauce until the cranberries have burst open and the sauce has begun to thicken. If you notice the liquid is evaporating too quickly, add ¼ cup of water at a time.
- Remove the cranberry sauce from the heat and let cool slightly. The sauce will continue to thicken as it sets.
- Serve warm or refrigerate to chill thoroughly before serving.
Preparing in Advance
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.
To prepare Homemade Cranberry Orange Sauce in advance, prepare the recipe as stated 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.
Alternatively, freeze the cooled sauce in an airtight, freezer-safe container, leaving 1-inch of space for expansion, and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before serving. Serve cold or warmed slightly.
Of course, cranberry sauce is a must for holiday meals and pairs great with Brined Turkey, Instant Pot Turkey Breast, and/or Glazed Ham, you can use leftover cranberry sauce in creative ways as well.
- Use as a spread for Turkey Sandwiches.
- Mix cranberry sauce with BBQ sauce and use a base for a Thanksgiving Pizza.
- Use leftover mashed potatoes, stuffing, and turkey to make Thanksgiving Egg Rolls and serve with a side of cranberry sauce for dipping.
- Serve warmed cranberry sauce over Sweet Potato Pancakes, Sweet Potato Waffles, or classic pancakes or waffles.
- Serve over plain yogurt with homemade granola for a delicious yogurt parfait.
- Cranberry Orange sauce should not be reserved for just turkey, as it is delicious with chicken or pork as well!
As prepared, this recipe has a chunkier consistency. If you would like a smooth cranberry sauce, allow the sauce to cool to room temperature and then blend until smooth.
This recipe produces a cranberry sauce right in the middle. It 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. Add an additional ¼ cup of water to the ingredients for a thinner sauce and simmer for only 15-20 minutes.
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.
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
- ½ cup orange juice concentrate defrosted
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup see notes
- 1 teaspoon orange zest optional
- Combine the cranberries, orange juice concentrate, cinnamon, and maple syrup together in a medium saucepan. Zest the orange using a Microplane or zester over the saucepan and give everything a good mix to combine.
- 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 berries have burst and 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 in ¼ cup of water or orange juice at a time.
- Cool slightly to thicken and serve warm or refrigerate for up to 5 days and serve cold.
Most recipes use a cup of water for the 12 oz bag( 3 cups) of cranberries. Is the 1/2 cup oj concentrate really enough liquid?
Hi Karen! We really like thick cranberry sauce and with the juice from the cranberries, maple syrup and OJ this works perfectly for us. If you would like thinner cranberry sauce, I would add in 1/2 cup water in addition to OJ for every 12-16 ounces of cranberries. Enjoy 🙂
Oh this will be so perfect for Thanksgiving. Love the addition of citrus, it gives it a little refreshing zing!
The citrus is key!
This is just the best recipe for cranberry sauce.
My kids love it and I love it because it isn't packed full of HFCS!!!
Plus soooooo simple to make and so much better than the canned stuff.
I am making a batch tomorrow ready for the freezer....anything to make the holiday season a bit easier 😀
YAY!! I am SO glad you love this recipe. And way to get a jump on the Holiday seasons.
rachel @ athletic avocado
i love that this is easy-to-make and healthy! This would be amazing on some turkey 🙂
Rachel, this is SO easy and tastes AMAZING on turkey sandwiches!
This sounds AMAZING!
Thanks Rachel, it is REALLY good!
Cynthia | What A Girl Eats
I love cranberry sauce! We usually have two or three different types at thanksgiving!
Well, Thanksgiving is about having an overload of food, right?! 😉
Oh yum! This sounds really good. I love the idea of using maple as a sweetener!
It pairs perfectly with the fall flavors!
Love that this recipe can be made so far in advance!
It really does make Thanksgiving Day prep much easier!
okay, so clever! and i love spiking food! haha. but the citrus sounds more friendly. 😉
Maybe more kid friendly, but orange liquor would be fun too 😉
Sylvie | Gourmande in the Kitchen
Love that this sauce goes easy on the sweetener and uses maple syrup instead of sugar!
Sylvie, With all the Holiday goodies--we need to have a few dishes that are lighter in sugars! Plus, the tartness of this dish compliments the heavier meal perfectly. But still sweet enough my kids eat it plain 🙂