Homemade Orange Cranberry Sauce {for Thanksgiving}

tan bowl filled with cranberry sauce topped with orange zest next to orange slices and fresh cranberries

5 from 9 reviews

This easy homemade orange cranberry sauce is made in just 15 minutes! Flavored with apple cider and orange zest and slightly sweetened with brown sugar, this fresh cranberry sauce is the best for Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey.


Units Scale
  • 12 ounces fresh whole cranberries
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest, approximately 1 medium orange
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch kosher salt


  1. Combine all of the ingredients into a medium sized pot and stir to combine.
  2. Heat the pot on the stovetop over medium high heat until it begins to boil and the cranberries start to pop.
  3. 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. 
  4. Chill the cooked cranberry sauce in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight for best results.


Recipe yields approximately 2 cups of cranberry sauce.

  • Plan for at least 1/4 cup of cranberry sauce per person and closer to 1/2 cup per person for heavier portions and leftovers.
  • Make sure to stir the sauce occasionally as it's simmering. It also helps to mash the cranberries a bit to help cook down. Don't worry if all of the cranberries are not popped, they should just be all softened.
  • Don't skimp on chilling time in the refrigerator. The sauce will thicken as it cools and it gives time for the flavors to infuse together. 
  • Cranberry sauce can be served chilled or room temperature.

Substitutions and Variations

  • Apple Cider - Apple cider adds a nice spice and flavor to this sauce. Alternatively, orange juice or apple juice can also be used as substitutes.
  • Brown Sugar - Brown sugar has a deep, caramel flavor that pairs perfectly with the tart cranberry. Alternatively, white granulated sugar may be used instead.
  • Nutmeg - Nutmeg has a rich, woody flavor with a hint of sweetness. Alternatively, ground cinnamon or allspice can be used instead.
  • 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 extra crunch.

Make Ahead and Storage Suggestions

This homemade orange cranberry sauce is best when made ahead. It can be made up to 2 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator until serving time.

Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up the 7 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months. Frozen cranberry sauce can be thawed in the refrigerator.

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