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The holiday season is upon us, and that means it’s time to start planning those festive meals that bring friends and family together. While some may opt for the convenience of canned cranberry sauce, there’s truly nothing like the vibrant burst of flavor you get from crafting your own.

Once you make it, you’ll understand the magic behind this deliciously easy homemade cranberry sauce and why it deserves a spot on your Thanksgiving dinner table. You’ll never buy the canned stuff again!

homemade fresh cranberry sauec
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The leftover sauce is amazing and can also be used in all kinds of other recipes like Cranberry Brie Bites or my Cranberry Martinis. Other favorite cranberry recipes include my fresh cranberry gelatin mold, cranberry cobbler, and a cranberry fizz!

Why This Recipe Is So Great

  • Fresh Ingredients, Fresh Flavor: Unlike their canned counterparts, fresh cranberries bring a burst of tartness that perfectly balances the sweetness of the sauce. The addition of orange zest and fresh orange juice elevates the flavor profile of the sauce, providing a bright, citrusy undertone that complements the tartness of the cranberries. The aroma alone as it simmers on the stove will transport you to a cozy winter kitchen.
  • Perfectly Balanced Sweetness: Balancing the tartness of the cranberries is a combination of granulated sugar and golden brown sugar. This not only sweetens the sauce but also adds depth and richness. Grand Marnier added at the end is the secret weapon. This orange-flavored liqueur not only enhances the citrusy notes but also introduces a subtle complexity that sets this recipe apart.
  • Easy to Make: Crafting this easy homemade fresh cranberry sauce requires nothing more than a medium saucepan and a few simple steps. Simmering the simple ingredients together over medium-high heat allows the flavors to meld, resulting in a sauce that boasts the perfect texture and consistency. It is the perfect addition to any holiday meal.

Ingredients needed:

Exact quantities are listed in the recipe card below, but here is a summary.

  • Equal amounts of granulated sugar and golden brown sugar
  • Freshly squeezed orange juice and orange zest
  • Pumpkin pie spice
  • Fresh cranberries
  • Grand Marnier – this is an orange liqueur added for flavor and the alcohol gets burned off

How to Make Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Detailed step by step instructions are listed in the recipe card below, but here is a summary.

Step 1: Dissolve the sugars in orange juice

In a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat, you’ll combine the sugars with the orange juice, zest, and pumpkin pie spice. This is what heaven smells like.

Step 2: Cook the cranberries

This is the fun part. Add the fresh cranberries. As they cook, they will pop, and as they pop, the mixture will turn into a wonderful deep red sauce.

Step 3: Finish with Grand Marnier

Once the fresh cranberry orange sauce is just about done, you will lower the heat and stir in the orange liqueur. Allow the sauce to simmer for a bit and the alcohol will burn off.

The sauce will gel and thicken as it cools to room temperature and even more so once refrigerated.

Recipe Tip

Make the cranberry sauce the day before you’re planning on serving it. Not only will this create one less thing you have to cook on the big day, but it will give the sauce more time for the flavors to meld.

FAQs

Can I use frozen cranberries instead of fresh ones?

Absolutely! Frozen cranberries work well too. Just be sure to thaw them before using.

Can I substitute Grand Marnier with another liqueur?

Certainly! While Grand Marnier adds a unique touch because of it’s orange flavor, you can experiment with other orange-flavored liqueurs, replace it with pure vanilla extract, or omit it entirely.

How do you store leftover cranberry sauce? 

I prefer to keep my leftover cranberry sauce refrigerated in an airtight container. It will last for quite a long time if stored properly.

Can I make this cranberry sauce a day in advance?

Absolutely! In fact, making it ahead allows the flavors to meld, enhancing the overall taste.

Is this cranberry sauce too sweet?

Not at all! The combination of sugars is carefully balanced, providing sweetness without overpowering the natural tartness of the cranberries.

Can I use this sauce for something other than turkey?

Absolutely! It’s versatile enough to be used with a variety of dishes, from leftover turkey sandwiches to desserts like cranberry orange bread or as a topping for ice cream.

What if I don’t have pumpkin pie spice?

No worries! You can easily substitute it with cinnamon for that warm, comforting flavor.

Can I use a food processor to make this cranberry sauce?

While a food processor isn’t necessary for this recipe, you can use it if you prefer a smoother consistency. Just pulse it a few times.

Can I freeze leftover cranberry sauce?

Yes, you can freeze it for future use. Just thaw it in the refrigerator before serving.

cranberry orange sauce in dish

Thanksgiving Recipes

Chances are, if you’re making the best homemade cranberry sauce recipe, you’re about to enjoy Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Here are my other favorite recipes I make every year.

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Homemade Cranberry Orange Sauce

Prep5 minutes
Cook12 minutes
Total17 minutes
Servings 12 servings
This sweet and incredibly flavorful Fresh Cranberry Sauce made with fresh orange juice and Grand Marnier is a must have Thanksgiving side dish.

Video

Equipment

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup golden brown sugar
  • zest from one orange
  • 3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (equivalent to the juice from about 2 large Valencia oranges)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or substitute with cinnamon
  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries rinsed
  • 2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier
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Instructions 

  • Dissolve sugars: In a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugars, the orange juice with the orange zest, and pumpkin pie spice. Stir well to dissolve the sugars. This has to be what heaven smells like.
  • Cook cranberries: Still cooking over medium heat, stir in the cranberries. Cook, while stirring frequently, until the cranberries pop and the mixture turns into a sauce. This should take about 10 minutes and there will likely still be some cranberries that haven't popped.
  • Add Grand Marnier: Turn heat to low and add Grand Marnier. Stir well and cook for another minute or so.
  • Serve: Remove from heat. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Notes

Recipe makes 2-3 cups, nutritional information based on a serving size of about 3 Tablespoons.
I highly recommend doubling the recipe so you’ll have leftover cranberry sauce.
You can serve your homemade cranberry sauce slightly warm, at room temperature, or even chilled. The taste will blow your mind!

Nutrition

Calories: 87kcal, Carbohydrates: 21g, Sodium: 3mg, Potassium: 36mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 19g, Vitamin A: 15IU, Vitamin C: 3.8mg, Calcium: 10mg, Iron: 0.1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Did you make this? Leave me a comment below

This recipe was originally published in November 2014 and has been updated with helpful information, ingredient and process photos, as well as recipe tips. My Cranberry Orange Sauce recipe has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times and is a reader favorite. Don’t worry – the recipe hasn’t changed!

Hi! I’m Krissy.

I love to create the BEST versions of your favorite recipes. If you love to cook, love to eat, or just have a deep appreciation for good food, you're in the right place! Stick around... I have hundreds of recipes for you to make.

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81 Comments

    1. Hi Sandra, Sorry for the late reply. This recipe makes about 3 cups and I figured about 1/4 cup per person, so it should serve 12 (without leftovers).

  1. I made this as a gift for my ladies at work for Thanksgiving and it came out amazing!! The only thing I changed was I used was orange juice instead of fresh oranges. Thanks for the recipe!!! It was a HIT!! I’m a big gift giver with my baking and food giving and this one went over big I put it in individual mason jars was so cute.

    1. Hi Catherine, The skins definitely give the sauce some texture. I wouldn’t really call it lumpy, however it is not perfectly smooth. Kind of like how preserves are compared to a jelly. Because the cooked sauce is thick, you can’t really strain it. You can definitely mash the cranberry sauce which would help. I’m thinking you could also process the raw cranberries through the food processor or blender before cooking if you’re looking for a smoother consistency.

  2. Since you serve it warm, do you cook it last minute? I normally cook my cranberries the day before and refrigerate until about an hour before I plan to serve TG or Christmas dinner. There is so much going on with getting the food on the table, do you cook the cranberries the day (or two) before and leave them out, without refrigerating them, for a day or two? Looks like a delicious recipe!

    1. Hi Maryann, I try to cook everything except the turkey the day before, so I’ll usually just warm the sauce up over very low heat in a pan before serving!

  3. Hi Krissy, I will verify to try your cranberry recipe. It sounds and looks delicious. BTW, I’ve tried a similar sauce but with uncooked cranberries. A friend grinds the cranberries, a couple of oranges, adds a cup sugar, mixes everything together and let’s it marinate for 2 to 3 days. The flavor is amazing! I will have try your recipe though. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Great recipe! I started making fresh cranberry sauce about 6 years ago! This recipe is pretty much what I use .. minus the liquor.. I also add fresh pomegranate seeds and the just .. that give the sauce a little crunch!