This homemade cranberry sauce recipe is so fast and easy, there’s no need for canned! Whip it up fresh with orange and cinnamon.
It’s taken too many years for us to realize this, but we finally know the truth. Cranberry sauce is beyond easy to make homemade. Turns out, all you need is a handful of ingredients and 10 minutes to make this side dish. There’s really no need for canned, folks! This easy fresh cranberry sauce recipe comes together quickly with the flavors of brown sugar, orange, and cinnamon. It’s so simple: and we’re never buying canned again.
Ingredients for this cranberry sauce recipe
There are only a handful of recipes we can think of that are easier than homemade cranberry sauce. How did we go so long without this knowledge? It’s truly a matter of dumping together a few ingredients and simmering until a sauce forms. Everyone around the table will be impressed by your cooking prowess (and you don’t need to share your secrets!).
Fresh cranberries are intensely tart, so you’ll need a nice dose of sweetener to get that perfect sweet tart flavor. For this cranberry sauce recipe, we’ve tinkered with the flavors to get just the right mix of fruity, sweet tart, and spiced. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Fresh cranberries
- Granulated sugar and brown sugar
- Orange juice, bottled or fresh
- Orange zest (optional)
- Cinnamon stick
Where did cranberry sauce come from, anyway?
Cranberries are a fruit that is native to North America, and Americans have been eating cranberry sauce for centuries. Original Native American cranberry sauce recipes date back to the late 17th century.
The first mention of this food in print was the 1796 cookbook called American Cookery cookbook, where author Amelia Simmons mentions to serve roast turkey with cranberry sauce (per The Washington Post). The canned version came along in much later, of course: it became available in the 1940s so people could enjoy cranberry sauce year-round!
Tips for how to make cranberry sauce
Making this homemade cranberry sauce recipe is simple and requires almost no cooking technique. Here are a few pointers to note:
- Simmer all ingredients over medium heat until a saucy texture forms. The timing will vary based on your pan and the exact heat level, but it should take about 10 to 15 minutes. We like to see most cranberries burst and dissolved, but there can be a few that are still whole.
- Substitutes are welcome. Don’t have both granulated and brown sugar? Use just one. Want to use all orange juice and not water? Go for it!
- Add orange zest if desired. When you zest the orange, make sure to only get the orange part of the peel: not the white pith! The pith tastes very bitter and if you zest too aggressively, it makes the cranberry sauce taste bitter.
- A cinnamon stick completes the flavors. Using a cinnamon stick infuses a cozy-spiced flavor that’s gentler and more elevated than the ground spice. But substitute ground cinnamon if it’s all you have!
Alternative natural sweeteners
If you like a more tart cranberry sauce, feel free to reduce the sugar level. We’ve found somewhere between ¾ cup and 1 cup sugar is best for 12 ounces of cranberries. Feel free to experiment to find your sweet spot.
If desired, you can use alternative natural sweeteners in cranberry sauce like honey, maple syrup, or agave syrup. Start with ¾ cup sweetener, then add more to taste if desired.
Storage for homemade cranberry sauce
How long does homemade cranberry sauce last? Store it for up to 10 days refrigerated. This makes it perfect for making ahead of a holiday gathering.
You can also freeze cranberry sauce: place it in a sealed container and store for up to 3 months. To defrost, place it in the refrigerator the night before you plan to serve it.
How to serve it
Cranberry sauce is an ideal side dish for fall and winter, perfect as a Thanksgiving side or for Christmas. You can also repurpose leftovers in so many ways! Here are a few ways to serve cranberry sauce:
- As a side dish for Thanksgiving or Christmas
- With roast chicken or turkey
- With vegetarian meatloaf or shepherd’s pie
- In grilled cheese for a salty-sweet combo
- Bake it in a dish with goat cheese to make a simple appetizer (like this blueberry goat cheese)
- Pour it over pancakes
- Make it into a yogurt parfait with granola
- Swirl it onto almond butter toast
This cranberry sauce recipe is…
Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.
Easy Cranberry Sauce Recipe
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
- ¾ cup granulated sugar*
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¾ cup fresh or bottled orange juice 2 large oranges; add the zest of 1/2 orange, if desired
- ¼ cup water
- 1 cinnamon stick or ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 24 ounce fresh cranberries
- 1 ½ cup granulated sugar*
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 ½ cup fresh or bottled orange juice 4 large oranges; add the zest of 1 orange, if desired
- ½ cup water
- 2 cinnamon stick or ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 36 ounce fresh cranberries
- 2 ¼ cup granulated sugar*
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 2 ¼ cup fresh or bottled orange juice 6 large oranges; add the zest of 1 1/2 orange, if desired
- ¾ cup water
- 3 cinnamon stick or ⅜ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- Simmer until the cranberries pop and it becomes saucy, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately. Leftovers last refrigerated for up to 10 days or frozen for up to 3 months.