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Cranberry Sauce

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Ditch the can and impress your guests with this easy and elegant homemade cranberry sauce—ready to brighten your holiday table in just 15 minutes!

cranberry sauce in a bowl

Let’s retire the jiggly, can-shaped cranberry sauce with ridges, shall we? It has a certain nostalgic charm, I’ll admit, but homemade cranberry sauce is in a league of its own—and it’s surprisingly simple to whip up. Simply boil fresh (or frozen) cranberries with sugar, water, orange juice, and orange zest, and in just 15 minutes, you’ll have a sauce bursting with bright, sweet flavors.The best part? You can make it ahead of time and relax knowing it’ll stay perfectly fresh in the fridge for up to 10 days or in the freezer for two months. Serve it up alongside your favorite turkey recipe (I love a dry-brined turkey) and turkey gravy, then give your post-feast turkey sandwiches a gourmet twist by mixing the leftover sauce with mayo for an irresistibly delicious spread.

“I usually use the recipe on the Ocean Spray bag. This is so much better! I can’t wait for my family to try it! I love the taste of the orange in it.”


About Fresh Cranberries

Cranberries in water.

As the leaves start to turn, fresh cranberries make their seasonal appearance, ripe for the picking from mid-September through the end of the year. These tart little jewels are harvested in a unique way: the bogs they grow in are flooded, causing the cranberries to float to the surface for easy collection. They’re not just for sauces; cranberries can brighten up desserts and baked goods, like Nantucket cranberry pie, cranberry nut bread, or apple cranberry crumble. You can even use them to make cranberry chutney. Find them fresh in the produce section during the fall, and grab a few extra bags to freeze and enjoy any time.

What you’ll need to make cranberry sauce

ingredients for cranberry sauce

Step-by-Step Instructions

Begin by zesting one of the oranges. A rasp grater is the best tool but any grater with small holes will work—just be sure to leave the white pith behind as it’s quite bitter. Always zest the orange before squeezing the juice out, as it’s near impossible to do afterward.

zesting and juicing the oranges

Combine the orange juice, water and sugar in a medium pot and bring to a boil.

water, orange juice and sugar in a pot

Add the cranberries, orange zest and salt.

adding the cranberries, zest, and salt to the pot

Boil gently for about 10 minutes.

boiling cranberry sauce

Most of the cranberries should burst open, creating a thick sauce. You may need to mash them a bit with a spoon.

finished cranberry sauce in pot

Transfer the sauce to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

How to Store Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce should be cooled completely before storing. Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl and cover with plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 10 days.

How To Freeze Cranberry Sauce

Fresh cranberry sauce freezes beautifully, so you can make it a month or two ahead of time to get a jump start on your holiday cooking. Allow the sauce to cool completely and then store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months. Let the cranberry sauce thaw in the refrigerator overnight before serving.


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Spoon in a small bowl of cranberry sauce.

Cranberry Sauce

Ditch the can and impress your guests with this easy and elegant homemade cranberry sauce—ready to brighten your holiday table in just 15 minutes!

Servings: 2¼ cups
Total Time: 15 Minutes


  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice, from two oranges
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 (12 oz) bag fresh or frozen cranberries (do not use dried)
  • Zest of one orange, about 2 teaspoons
  • Pinch salt


  1. In a medium sauce pan over high heat, bring the water, orange juice, and sugar to a boil. Add the cranberries, orange zest, and salt and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and boil gently for 10 to 12 minutes, until most of cranberries have burst open. (You may need to mash them a bit with a spoon.)
  2. Transfer sauce to a serving bowl. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
  3. Make-Ahead/Freezing Instructions: Cranberry sauce will keep for 10 days in a covered container in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen for up to two months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: about 1/3 cup
  • Calories: 126
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Saturated fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 33 g
  • Sugar: 28 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 0 g
  • Sodium: 43 mg
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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  • I use brown turbinado sugar, and only 3 tbsp worth. It’s plenty sweet.

    • — Caolan on October 17, 2022
    • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious!!
    Every recipe that I tried from the Once Upon a Chef book or website is just on point.
    I’m so lucky to find out about Jenn & Once Upon a Chef, I have all her books and looking forward to the next one 🙂

    • — Inna Rand on July 11, 2022
    • Reply
  • Thanks so much for the recipe! Better late than never – tried your recipe on 1 January and it came out an absolute treat. Forget about the Christmas turkey, I’ll relish it with anything anytime of the year! 😁

    • — Jennifer Campbell-Klomps
    • Reply
  • Very delicious! I made this for Thanksgiving and made it again for Christmas!

  • Thanks for the recipe. I made it today and it was a hit with the family. We like our a bit more tart so I used less sugar. For the fun of it I added in some Fireball whiskey. The cinnamon flavor was good.

    • Yum! I’m going to try that next time.

    • How much fireball did you use? I’m going to try this for a group gathering this week and thought this would be a fun addition. Thanks!

      • — Becky on November 13, 2022
      • Reply
    • I add a little Grand Marnier, half brown/half white sugar and I use all orange juice.

      • — Sheila M on November 17, 2022
      • Reply
  • Do you think I could use this recipe in place of a can of whole berry sauce in a gelatin recipe?
    I can’t find any in stores near me or online and I wanted to make the Festive Pineapple Cranberry Salad for Christmas Dinner this year.

    Thank you and have a Merry Christmas,
    Rosemary Freid

    • — Rosemary Freid
    • Reply
    • Hi Rosemary, I really can’t say without trying it myself, but I think it should work. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

  • Love this recipe. I added a cinnamon stick to the orange juice, water and sugar mixture at the beginning.

  • This is the only recipe I have used for years and there never is any left!

  • I really loved this recipe. The flavor was the perfect combination of sweet and tart for me and it was simple to follow with just 3 ingredients! Because it’s so easy and tasty, it’s definitely a recipe I will make more often, and not just for the holidays.

    Thank you!

  • For a variation on this recipe, sweat of 2-3 inches of leeks in some butter, when soft add 1-2 tablespoons of fine chopped fresh ginger, cook for a couple of minutes, and then follow the recipe as written. Adds a truly excellent variation.

    • I considered Ginger as I love the flavor. Opted for Fireball Whiskey instead. Yum.

  • Everyone loved it, including the picky children! This is definitely our new family holiday favorite. Thank you for the recipe!

  • This was my first time to make cranberry sauce. It was so easy and delicious!! Everyone loved it! Thank you

    • — Bonnie Walrath
    • Reply
  • I made this today. Unfortunately, frozen cranberries were all I could find. The sauce did not set up and thicken. I have no idea what went wrong. When I have made this recipe with fresh cranberries and it always was perfect.

    • — Kathy Vukasovich
    • Reply
    • Hi Kathy, Sorry the texture wasn’t quite right. The sauce is initially runny until it cools down. Did it end up thickening up? The frozen cranberries really shouldn’t make a difference.

  • This cranberry sauce is the best. It’s so perfectly balanced and adds beautiful color and bright flavor to the Thanksgiving plate. I love to mix a spoonful of the leftovers into plain greek yogurt – great snack. I look forward to this dish all year!

  • I didn’t have raisins, so I substituted dried apricots instead and used walnuts instead of pecans. It was awesome! Thanks so much for the recipe!

  • This is the best orange cranberry sauce I have ever made. The family loved it.

  • If you make this, don’t change a thing. My first. and now only cranberry sauce recipe I will ever make. Taste of orange right off the bat but not overwhelming. 5 stars for sure.

  • This is the BEST cranberry sauce recipe ever!! I followed the recipe exactly. Everyone in my family loved it and went back for seconds, including myself! Perfect amount of everything and balanced out SO well. Perfect amount of sugar and orange flavor, and loved the pinch of salt. Great consistency (not too runny, not too thick). I will never look for another cranberry sauce recipe again. Thank you!

  • I made this recipe today, Thanksgiving 2021, and it was great! I did not add to or change the recipe and it was a big hit! Thanks for sharing and Happy Thanksgiving 🦃
    Liz Shiroma
    Carson, CA

  • I made this recipe today – Thanksgiving 2021 – EXCEPT: I added ~2 teaspoons of minced fresh rosemary. Delicious! It turned out beautifully. I decided to try this because my partner used rosemary as part of a rub for the poultry he cooked. I highly recommend both the base recipe (which I have made before) and my little variation. I have also made a similar recipe that calls for 1-2 cinnamon sticks and ~8-9 whole cloves, which you add at the beginning and remove before serving. (Believe me, it’s no fun biting into a whole clove.) I think you could add those spices to this recipe and get a good result as well.

    Thank you so much for this recipe. It’s excellent. I love how simple it is – lets the fruit flavors really shine.

  • Absolutely wonderful and simple to make. Added a splash of Grand Mariner after it had cooled, for the grown ups of course. Bon appetit to all.

    • Grand Marnier

  • Great, simple recipe. This was my first time making cranberry sauce and it came out fine. I will say its a little too sugary for my taste. Next time I will start with half the sugar and then add more as needed.

  • Delicious and easy! Thanks for the recipe.

  • Just made this cranberry sauce this morning! Its fantastic! I used to only buy Trader Joes Cranberry Orange Sauce but thenI decided to try and make it myself. This recipe was the best and most straightforward. I didn’t want a ton of ingredients, just that wonderful fresh/tart/sweet cranberry taste. I don’t use sugar much so I opted to leave out the 2 extra tablespoons and it was perfect for me. I am sure it is delicious with all of it! I highly recommend this particular recipe. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • I’ve been making my own sauce for years. This by far is one of the best recipes!!

  • This is delicious. Can’t say enough about it. Easy too. I added 1 TBS of raspberry jello at the end of cooking to thicken it a little. Highly recommend this recipe.

  • Is it possible to freeze the unused portions? If so, how long will that be good for?

    • Yep – it will last a few months in the freezer.

  • Your fresh cranberry sauce was easy to make, pretty, and delicious.

    • — Janet L Howard
    • Reply
  • Really great cranberry sauce. I did take a few adjustments mentioned in the comments and used 2/3 cup of sugar and then diced about 2T of candied ginger (Trader Joe’s) + about a T of cinnamon. It’s really delicious and I can’t wait to serve it with T’giving dinner! Thank you!!

  • This is a great recipe I have made before. Im wondering, can this be made a couple of days in advance?

  • Just made this… so simple and flavorful why would you ever buy remade?! Lots of ways to customize as others have said but I find the contrast with the rest of the meal is perfect as is!! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone

    • Just made it, and added a sprig of thyme, and one clove of garlic. So excited!

  • This is amazingly good. I added fresh ground nutmeg. Definitely a keeper.

  • Very easy and delicious. A little too sweet for me so I added some grated fresh ginger and some finely minced rosemary plus a dash of cayenne.

  • This is the best recipe and I’ve tried many others. It has the perfect consistency (not to thick or runny). It’s a family fav and I’ll be making it on Wed am so the flavors can mesh perfectly by Thanksgiving dinner.

  • First time making cranberry sauce and thought this would be an easy first try. It was! The result tasted great. It was a little more “saucy” than I hoped, but I’m guessing just a bit less water would have made it perfect.

    • Glad you like it, Christina! It will firm up as it cools.

      • Indeed! Cranberries have a lot of natural pectin in them. Other members of the Heath family do as well (blueberries, huckleberries, etc.). I once used a cranberry sauce recipe that called for a whole apple. It was delicious, but got super thick in the refrigerator.

  • Hi Jenn,
    Would this Cranberry Orange Sauce recipe be enough for 10 people, or should I double it?
    Thank you for your time…You Rock !!!!

    • To serve 10, I’d recommend making 1.5 times the recipe. 🙂

      • My rind is quite chewy. Is that how it should be?

        • Hi, You don’t want to use all the rind (which would be chewy), just the zest which is the very top layer of the skin on the orange peel.

  • Dear Jennifer,

    I would love to make this to accompany a dinner of roast spatchcocks. However, here in Australia there are no fresh cranberries available (they only have dried cranberries).

    Would it be possible to substitute cranberries for cherries in this recipe? If so, are there any other changes I should account for (amount of orange juice/zest etc.)?

    • — Gayathiri Pathmanathan
    • Reply
    • Hi Gayathiri, Although I’ve never tried it, I think you could get away with using cherries, but you will likely need less sugar. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

    • This is fantastic!! Jenn knocked another one out of the park! I used Simply Orange juice and no zest. It tastes great. High altitude required 14 minutes cooking time.

  • Best cranberry sauce ever! Everybody loved it!

    • — Joanne E Francis
    • Reply
  • This cranberry sauce is the way to go! So much better than canned (it is not hard to make your own cranberry sauce, and the orange juice makes such a better cranberry sauce than traditional recipes recommending that you add water. The orange zest is just the perfect compliment to the cranberry sauce. We like to add a little cinnamon into ours for some fuller holiday flavors

  • Delicious, fresh, cranberry sauce. Made this for the first time, and my grandson commented on the citrus being a nice addition to the traditional sauce that I usually make. A new holiday tradition for this family!

  • An excellent cranberry sauce recipe, although I added about a half teaspoon of vanilla to it.

  • I have been making this as part of our traditional Thanksgiving dinner for several years. My family (we have about 40) enjoyed it so much the next year I doubled the recipe. Also it is a great topping on turkey sandwiches.

    • — Michelle OLoughlin
    • Reply
  • This is the BEST Cranberry Sauce! The orange juice makes it perfect! The only recipe I use!

    • Can you add some sugar and can it? I’m looking for a good spiced orange cranberry jam to eat year long.

  • First time making cranberry sauce. Turned out great!

  • I did make this cranberry sauce for the holidays . I absolutely loved the orange added to it. I still had some left and debated whether to freeze it or heat it up and can it, but then decided to look for muffin recipes using leftover cranberry sauce. Tried 2 different ones and it was excellent in both muffins

  • Hi
    I made this cranberry relish for a turkey i cooked recently. Minus the nuts as to family member restriction. We loved it and will be a regular from now on. I also like to serve with chicken or pork so is a great addition to my meal planning.we used maple syrup that my son collected and made so it was extra special. How Canadian! Cranberries from cranberry farm in Bala Ontario🍁

    • — Corinne Severn
    • Reply
  • This was the first Once Upon a Chef recipe I tried, and it is what everyone asks me to bring now to Thanksgiving dinner. I have used it with bottled orange juice as well in a pinch, and it is still delicious.

    • I’m wondering how many days before Thanksgiving I can make this. And, if I make it way in advance, does it freeze well? TY!

      • Hi Helene, This will keep for 10 days in a covered container in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen for up to two months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using. Enjoy!

      • How much salt and what kind

        • — Karen R Zimmerman
        • Reply
        • Hi Karen you’ll need just a pinch of salt (you really don’t need to get too specific with it, but if you want to measure it, it should fill about half of a 1/8 teaspoon. And you just need table salt for this. When a recipe of mine says salt in the ingredient list, I am referring to regular/table salt. If it calls for something else like kosher salt, I will specify that in the recipe. Hope that helps!

  • I made this today and it tastes amazing! However, I have a lot of seeds in the sauce. What did I do wrong? Did I boil it too high or too long?

    • Hmmm, I’m guessing a bit too long. If it’s too thick you can thin it with a bit of water.

      • Best Sauce Ever!
        My family has me make this every season now. I’ve also had great luck with a bit of coriander added.

        • — Amy S Fitzpatrick
        • Reply
  • Loved it, I added 3 tbs of nice red wine and it took the bite out of it and added a mellow flavor

  • This is one of the few recipes I have physically printed out & put in my “mom’s go-to recipes binder”. I’ve made it for Thanksgiving two years in a row. It consistently converts “canned cranberry sauce” purists to the far more delicious fresh cranberry sauce team. I have always been partial to orange in my cranberry sauce, and this is a divine combo of zest & juice. Seriously, this your recipe is permanently a part of my family’s Thanksgiving dinner table, and they all just think *I* make a really good cranberry sauce… but I have you to thank. 🙂 So, THANK YOU!!!

    • Could I add some Jalapeño for a spicy sweet sauce ? If so, how much?
      Love your recipes!!

      • — Laura Spangler on November 22, 2022
      • Reply
      • Sure and the amount of jalapeno really depends on how much heat you want. I may try 1/2 to 1. Keep in mind that most of the heat comes from the ribs and seeds. I’d love to hear how it turns out!

        • — Jenn on November 22, 2022
        • Reply

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