It’s so easy to make homemade cranberry sauce in only 15 minutes! This four-ingredient recipe for fresh cranberry sauce is spiced with cinnamon and flavored with orange juice, with brown sugar and a pinch of salt for more complex flavor than other whole cranberry sauce recipes. You’ll want to eat it with a spoon!
I’ve honestly always been just “meh” about cranberry sauce. While it’s a staple as a Thanksgiving side, I always find that I take a small spoonful out of obligation rather than for its deliciousness.
This fresh homemade cranberry sauce recipe is different. I find many other recipes lacking in complex flavor, making it just kind of sweet and tart and “meh.”
THIS cranberry sauce recipe uses cinnamon for spice, orange juice for added bright flavor and sweetness, brown sugar instead of white for a rich, molasses-like taste, and a pinch of salt to help balance everything out! A little fresh orange zest is an optional but colorful and flavorful addition.
You’re going to have a hard time not piling this high on your Thanksgiving plate, or spreading a generous amount on a dinner roll with butter. It’s like jam, but SO much easier to make!
How to make homemade cranberry sauce
To make cranberry sauce from fresh cranberries, all you do is simmer them in some liquid with sugar for about 10 minutes! Here’s how to make this spiced orange version.
- First, bring a mixture of orange juice, brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and cinnamon to a boil. You can use store-bought orange juice or fresh. And if you use fresh and don’t have the full amount, you can use some water (or another liquid, like apple cider) to supplement.
- Then, add the cranberries.
- Simmer uncovered until cranberries are burst and mixture has thickened. Why uncovered? So the steam can escape, hastening the thickening process and leaving you with more concentrated flavor. You can use the back of a wooden spoon to help pop the cranberries, if needed.
- Cool completely before serving.
That’s it! If you want, you can add some fresh orange zest when you add the cranberries, but it’s optional. I also like to garnish the cooled sauce with some pretty zest strips if I’m feeling fancy (you can use a special zester to make them).
How to make-ahead and store cranberry sauce
The other wonderful thing about making homemade cranberry sauce is it’s easy to make ahead of time! It’s served cool or at room temperature, so you can just pull it out of the fridge before dinner and free up some stovetop space for other important Thanksgiving side recipes.
- You can freeze fresh cranberry sauce in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Make sure to pull it out of the freezer 24-48 hours before serving, so it can defrost completely, and give it a little stir before serving.
- Or, you can store it in your refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 10-15 days.
Ways to use leftover cranberry sauce
You can also use the leftovers as you would jam, spread on toast in the morning, or as an addition to a leftover turkey sandwich.
I also love the idea of using cranberry sauce in holiday appetizers, such as spread on top of a block of cream cheese and served with crackers, or in a Baked Brie en Croûte (Baked Brie in puff pastry).
Other recipes with fresh cranberries:
If you have leftover fresh cranberries, try these recipes:
- Cranberry Orange Biscotti
- Whole Wheat Cranberry Ginger Pecan Muffins
- Cranberry Christmas Cake (from Barefeet in the Kitchen)
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Spiced Orange Cranberry Sauce
- medium pot
- Bring the orange juice (3/4 cup), brown sugar (1/2 cup packed), pinch of salt, and cinnamon (1/4 teaspoon) to a boil in a medium pot.
- Add the cranberries (and 1 tablespoon orange zest, if using), turn heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, or until most of the cranberries have burst and the sauce has thickened. If some cranberries don't burst, you can use a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon on the side of the pot to help them along.
- Allow sauce to completely cool (at least 20 minutes) before serving. Garnish with more orange zest if desired.
- You can easily accommodate for a 12-oz. bag of fresh cranberries by increasing the sugar to 3/4 cups and the orange juice to 1 cup, with a heaping 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.
- Store in your refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 10-15 days, or in your freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost for 24-48 hours in the fridge before serving.
- To use frozen cranberries: just add directly to the simmering orange juice mixture. No need to defrost before.
- If you prefer, you can use a cinnamon stick in place of the ground cinnamon. Add it to the orange juice mixture, and remove it before serving.