Homemade Cranberry Sauce

This homemade cranberry sauce recipe is way better than anything out of a can. Elevate the flavors at your Thanksgiving dinner and make this deliciously tart sauce!

A bowl of cranberry sauce with cinnamon sticks and a spoon.
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Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Who here is a cranberry sauce fan? Poor cranberry sauce gets the brunt of the jokes during the holiday season. Those that dislike it make sure everyone knows, am I right?

But I honestly think if you don't like it, it's likely because you have never had fresh cranberry sauce. There are some people who like the store-bought cranberry sauce much better than homemade, but I'm on team fresh sauce all the way!

The flavors of the cranberries are just so much more bold and tart than the canned stuff, and the best thing is that you can adjust the sweetness however you want.

I love recipes with tangy cranberries around the holiday season. Cranberry orange muffins are always on my baking list, and spiced cranberry sangria is a great addition to your Thanksgiving table.

Now, you can add the best cranberry sauce recipe to your holiday meals this year. A bite of Thanksgiving turkey with fresh cranberry sauce is mouthwateringly delicious!

Cranberries, spices and orange zest in separate bowls.

Why You'll Love this Recipe

While I love this recipe for Thanksgiving dinner, there are so many reasons to love this easy recipe:

  • Homemade sauce is much healthier than a can of cranberry sauce. There are no additives or preservatives and the ingredients are much more fresh.
  • Cranberry sauce freezes really well. So you can save your leftover sauce or get a head start on your Christmas dinner by making this ahead of time and storing it until you need it.
  • This is one of the healthier versions of this classic Thanksgiving side dish. You can save a few of those calories at dinner to make room for pumpkin pie!
Ingredients for cranberry sauce in glass bowls.


Just a few simple ingredients is all you need to make the most delicious homemade cranberry recipe. Before heading out to the grocery stores for that holiday meal shopping, add this to your list:

  • fresh cranberries
  • orange juice
  • orange zest
  • brown sugar
  • ground cinnamon
  • ground ginger

Substitutions and Variations

Cranberry orange sauce has the best flavor with fresh orange juice. Since you already need orange zest, you might as well use a juicer to make the half cup of orange juice you need! However, if you don't have a way to juice an orange then you can use store-bought OJ instead.

Fresh cranberries will make the most amazing sauce. Sometimes you'll find them in the freezer section, and that will work just fine. Just be sure to thaw them before using.

If you're looking to cut down on refined sugar, try using coconut sugar or maple sugar in place of brown sugar. I do not recommend using sugar substitutes because the flavor typically doesn't turn out that great.

I like ground ginger and cinnamon, but you can add any warm spices you want to this recipe! Feel free to leave these two out if you prefer as well.

A bowl of cranberry sauce topped with cinnamon sticks next to two mini pumpkins.

How to Make Homemade Cranberry Sauce

The best part about homemade cranberry sauce is that it's so incredibly easy to make. It's my favorite way to prepare one of the best Thanksgiving side dishes ever! Here's what you'll need to do:

Add all of the ingredients to a small or medium saucepan, then mix well to coat the berries.

Cranberries in a stainless steel pot.
Cranberries in a pot with spices and orange zest.

Cook the sauce ingredients over low to medium heat until each of whole cranberries have burst and it is the texture that you like.

Homemade cranberry sauce in a pot with a spoon.

You can serve immediately while warm, or scoop into your favorite serving dish and chill until your holiday dinner is ready to serve! Garnish with a cinnamon stick and enjoy.

How to Store Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce actually has a fabulous "shelf" life. Place it into a glass airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. You can also freeze the finished product in a freezer safe bag, or airtight container, for up to a month. Allow to thaw in the fridge and then serve.

What to Serve with this Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe

This tart little sauce is the perfect side dish for all of your holiday favorites. Whether you like to eat a bite with some roast turkey or spread it on a warm dinner roll, you can pair cranberry sauce with anything you'd like.

Drop biscuits are a quick and easy bread to add to your holiday menu. Make sure you've got the veggies represented with a tasty casserole, garlic green beans or roasted root vegetables. These roasted rosemary potatoes are great too.

You can use cranberry sauce on fall bruschetta or with any other main dish, appetizer, or side dish your heart desires.

Don't forget the drinks! A Thanksgiving Mocktail, apple cider or sangria is the perfect addition to your holiday table.

A bowl of homemade cranberry sauce with cinnamon sticks.

Tips for Success

That store-bought stuff has nothing on the homemade goodness of this fabulous recipe! Here are a few tips to make sure you have the most success:

  • If you like a thicker cranberry sauce, just refrigerate before serving. The natural pectin of cranberries will help thicken the sauce as it cools. Since it can be stored for a long time, you can easily make this perfect side dish ahead of time and let it thicken up before serving.
  • Some people like their cranberry sauce to be really smooth. If that's you, then feel free to use an immersion blender (affiliate), or even a potato masher, to further reduce chunks of whole cranberries before serving!
  • A low heat is key to making this dish a success. Make sure you're not rushing the process with a higher heat and keep the stovetop heat low instead.


How do you take the bitterness out of cranberry sauce?

If you find that brown sugar is not enough to take the bitterness out of super tart cranberries, add a bit of pure maple syrup into the mix!

Should cranberry sauce be served warm or cold?

It is really personal preference whether you serve cranberry sauce hot or cold. Homemade sauce thickens up as it cools, so if you like your cranberry sauce to be thick then serve it cold.

A bowl of cranberry sauce topped with cinnamon sticks.

More Thanksgiving Recipes

Did you make this recipe?

If you make and love this recipe, please leave a ★★★★★ review below! It means so much to me when you try my recipes, and I'd love to know how it goes. Please leave a comment below if you have any questions.

A bowl of cranberry sauce with cinnamon sticks and a spoon.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe

This homemade cranberry sauce recipe is such a tasty side dish for all of your holiday meals!
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Author: Madison Wetherill


  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • Zest from one orange
  • cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger


  • Add all ingredients to a small pot. Mix to coat the betties.
  • Cook on low to medium heat until cranberries have burst and it's the chunky or smooth texture you desire!
  • Serve warm or cooled!


Serving: 1g | Calories: 63kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Sodium: 4mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 13g

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  1. The recipe's simplicity allows you to adjust sweetness and flavor. A lot of new tips in this recipe. The orange and ginger did some wonders. Going to share this with my mom. She loves cranberry sauce.

  2. I make homemade cranberry sauce every year, but I have never added ginger. I really enjoyed the addition. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I normally use honey, but I tried this and love the flavor that brown sugar adds! I'll definitely make it this way from now on. Thank you!

  4. I just tried your cranberry sauce and I loved it! It was so easy to make and cooking it at a low heat was the game-changer for me!

  5. Oh my gosh the orange zest in this brings out a crazy fresh flavor. I don't think I can ever go back store-bought!