How to Make Cranberry Sauce from Scratch

Updated: Nov. 26, 2022

Need a tart, tasty cranberry sauce recipe for your Thanksgiving table? Look no further.

Thanksgiving is the ultimate food holiday. We spend days prepping the most anticipated meal of the year. Whether it’s your first time hosting, or you’ve been hosting dinner for decades, your table will probably have a familiar look. There will be a roasted turkey, a mountain of homemade sides, fresh-baked pies and… the can-shaped cranberry sauce.

After a marathon day of cooking, canned cranberry sauce might seem like an easy shortcut. But the canned version isn’t nearly as good (or good-looking) as a cranberry sauce recipe from scratch. Fortunately, making your own cranberry sauce isn’t a chore at all. In fact, it’s simple, quick and darn delicious.

Our Best Cranberry Sauce Recipe

This sauce can be made several days in advance, so no need to worry about prepping this on Thanksgiving.

Haw To Make Homemade Cranberry Sauce Step 1TMB Studio

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 package (12 ounces) fresh cranberries

Directions

How To Make Homemade Cranberry Sauce Combining IngredientsTMB Studio

Step 1: Combine the ingredients

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, orange juice and orange zest. Add the cranberries.

How To Make Homemade Cranberry Sauce Step 2TMB Studio

Step 2: Simmer

Cook these four ingredients over medium heat until the berries pop, about 15 minutes.

Step 3: Cool the sauce

Cover and refrigerate the cranberry sauce for at least 1 hour or until chilled.

Tips for the Best Cranberry Sauce

What to do if your cranberry sauce is bitter

Ree Drummond’s Thanksgiving tips come in handy when you’re preparing to host a dinner. Use her easy fix for cranberry sauce that’s too bitter: maple syrup. If you’re not a fan of tart cranberry sauce, mix in some maple syrup until it’s sweet enough for your liking.

How to make this cranberry sauce ahead of time

This easy cranberry sauce can be made several days in advance. Once made, store it in an airtight container in the fridge. To reheat it, warm it in the microwave and stir halfway through, or bring it to a boil on your stovetop and let it simmer until it’s warm enough to serve.

How to freeze cranberry sauce

Your homemade cranberry sauce is one of many Thanksgiving leftovers that can be frozen. If kept in a freezer-safe container with some room at the top (it might expand a bit when frozen), the sauce will stay fresh for up to 2 months.

How to make this cranberry sauce your own

This simple cranberry sauce is delicious, but it also makes a great foundation for a custom recipe:

  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to your sauce. You can also try adding a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger for more of a bite. If you’re a culinary daredevil, simmer your sauce with a halved jalapeno (just remove it before serving). This preparation is especially good brushed over pork tenderloin.
  • Go nuts and add 1/3-1/2 cup of chopped and toasted pecans, walnuts or pistachios. This gives the sauce a nice crunch and texture. You can also add dried fruit to create a more rustic cranberry sauce. Stir in 1/3 cup of raisins, currants or chopped dried apricots.
  • Splash in your favorite tipple. Our Test Kitchen recommends trying a tablespoon of orange liqueur or spiced rum to add some traditional holiday flavor. Add the liquor or rum at the same time as the juice, sugar and orange zest. The cooking process will burn away any harsh alcohol taste (and the alcohol itself) while providing an extra layer of flavor.

How to use leftover cranberry sauce

We love Thanksgiving leftovers! Repurposing next-day goodies is always a fun challenge, especially with tart and versatile cranberries.

  • This tart, tangy side makes a great addition to sandwiches, breakfasts and more. Swipe over multigrain bread and pile high with turkey and all the fixings for the ultimate day-after lunch. Or try stirring a heaping spoonful of sauce into cream cheese for a tasty bagel spread. Still have some left? Include a small dish with your next cheese tray—it makes an excellent spread for crackers, and it complements so many cheeses.
  • Cranberries are the perfect complement to pork, chicken and leftover turkey. Repurpose this sauce as a glaze for pork loin or chops (we loved this Cranberry Sweet-and-Sour Pork). Leftover sauce is also good for braising a chuck roast or chicken thighs; for this application it’s best to add a few savory ingredients to make a tasty sauce—try onion, garlic, broths or Worcestershire sauce.
  • This tart sauce works with sweets, too! Try a spoonful in your morning oatmeal or yogurt. Or swirl leftover sauce in muffins, quick breads and coffee cakes.
Our Best Cranberry Recipes
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