This easy orange cranberry sauce recipe is made in just 15 minutes! It's flavored with apple cider and orange zest and slightly sweetened with brown sugar. The BEST homemade cranberry sauce for your Thanksgiving holiday meal.
This post was originally published in November 2020 and has been updated for content.
I know some people aren't fans of cranberry sauce, but it's one of my favorite parts of of the holiday season! The taste of homemade cranberry sauce is the perfect balance of both fresh and tart that pairs perfectly with roast turkey, chicken or even duck.
Trust me, it's way better than the canned stuff and takes almost no time at all. Plus, it's made from fresh ingredients and it doesn't have all of the extras.
This easy homemade version of fresh cranberry sauce is made with just a few simple ingredients. It's perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner alongside mashed potatoes, acorn squash or cornbread pudding.
🍊 Ingredient notes
- Fresh Cranberries - Whole fresh cranberries can be found in the produce section of the grocery store during the Fall and Winter months. They are tart, crisp and will soften and slightly sweeten as they are cooked down. Frozen cranberries may also be used.
- Apple Cider - Apple cider adds a nice spice and flavor that pairs well with the cranberry. Apple juice or fresh orange juice can also be used as substitutes.
- Brown Sugar - I prefer using brown sugar in this recipe because of it's deep, caramel flavor. Granulated white sugar can also be used instead.
- Nutmeg - Nutmeg has a rich, woody flavor with a hint of sweetness that tastes great in this easy cranberry sauce. Alternatives that could be used as well or added are ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks or ground allspice.
📋 Substitutions and variations
- Spicy - Dice up a jalapeno and cook it with the cranberries to make this a spicy orange cranberry sauce.
- Nuts - Sprinkle the finished and cooled cranberry sauce with chopped pecans or walnuts for some extra crunch.
🔪 Step by step instructions
First, mix together all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan and then bring it to a boil over medium heat on the stovetop. Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop and are softened.
Chill the finished sauce for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator and top with extra orange peel for garnish, if desired!
If you ever don't recognize a tool or skill that I mention, be sure to look it up in the Glossary of Cooking Terms and Definitions for more information.
⭐ Expert tips
- Make sure to stir the sauce occasionally as it's cooking to prevent burning. It also helps to mash the cranberries a bit to help them cook down.
- Don't skimp on the chilling time in the refrigerator. The sauce will thicken as it cools and it also gives time for the flavors to infuse together.
💭 Frequently asked questions
For Thanksgiving dinner, plan for at least ¼ cup of cranberry sauce per person. If your guests like cranberry sauce or you want to have leftovers, plan for ½ cup per person.
Cranberry sauce can be served chilled or at room temperature.
⏲️ Make ahead and storage instructions
Cranberry sauce is best when made ahead. It can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator until serving time.
Leftover cranberry sauce will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up the 3-5 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months. Frozen cranberry sauce can be thawed in the refrigerator.
For a quick overview of this easy recipe, check out my web story for this homemade cranberry sauce with orange zest!
🦃 More thanksgiving recipes
If you loved this recipe for orange cranberry sauce recipe, try these other Thanksgiving recipes that I now you will love too!
- Cheesy Au Gratin Potatoes
- Cornbread Sausage Stuffing
- Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Maple Pecan Sweet Potatoes
Orange Cranberry Sauce Recipe
- 12 ounces fresh whole cranberries
- 1 cup apple cider
- ¾ cup light brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon orange zest approximately 1 medium orange
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- Combine all of the ingredients into a medium sized pot and stir to combine.
- Heat the pot on the stovetop over medium high heat until it begins to boil and the cranberries start to pop.
- Reduce the heat to medium low and allow the mixture to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes. The cranberries should be softened and the sauce should be slightly thickened.
- Chill the cooked cranberry sauce in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight for best results.
- Plan for ¼ - ½ cup of cranberry sauce per person.
- Make sure to stir the sauce and mash down the cranberries as it's cooking.
- Chill overnight for best results. The sauce will thicken as it cools and it will give time for the flavors to combine.
- Serve the cranberry sauce chilled or at room temperature.
Substitutions and Variations
- Apple Cider - Apple juice or even orange juice can also be used as substitutes.
- Brown Sugar - White granulated sugar may be used instead.
- Nutmeg - Ground cinnamon or allspice can be used instead or in addition.
- Spicy - Dice up a jalapeno and cook it with the cranberries.
- Nuts - Sprinkle cooled cranberry sauce with chopped pecans or walnuts.