Cranberry Sauce is so incredibly easy to make at home (with just 4 ingredients) and the taste is so much better than canned or jarred.

Did you know cranberry sauce can be made a couple of months ahead of time and frozen? Simply thaw and serve on the big day!

A bowl of fresh cranberry sauce topped with rosemary and a silver spoon.

Homemade is Best

A traditional cranberry sauce recipe is both sweet and tart. We serve it at both Thanksgiving and Christmas (and sometimes Easter), it’s great with roast turkey, chicken, goose, and Cornish game hens, and even ham.

  • It’s super easy to make.
  • Almost no prep is needed.
  • Can be made as a whole berry sauce or smooth.
  • Can be made a month ahead and frozen.

Once you make your own cranberry sauce, I almost guarantee you’ll never buy canned again (unless you’re using it to make cocktail meatballs).

A white bowl of cranberry orange sauce with fresh rosemary.


Cranberries are the star of this recipe and you can use fresh or frozen. If using frozen there is no need to thaw first. We love to throw a cinnamon stick in the mix, if you don’t have one, add a small pinch of ground cinnamon or even apple pie spice!

Sugar balances out the tart flavor of this sauce. We use white sugar but brown sugar works too!

Water or orange juice is needed to help cook the cranberries. Even apple juice works. Water will give a more traditional flavor while orange juice will add some extra zest.

Yummy Variations

  • We use orange juice but use your favorite juice from pineapple to apple.
  • Stir in some lemon or orange zest for some extra flavor.
  • Play with the spices and add a pinch of nutmeg, or allspice to bring
  • Substitute a tablespoon or so of the o.j. with something boozy, a splash of Grand Marnier, a dash of rum, or a bit of brandy.
  • Skip the sugar and use maple syrup or honey for sweetness.

How to Make Cranberry Sauce

It’s so easy. Place cranberries, sugar, and water/orange juice in a pot with a cinnamon stick.

Bring to a simmer (you’ll hear the cranberries start to pop) and stir. Simmer about 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate.

Easy right?!

A pot full of ingredients for fresh cranberry sauce with orange juice.

Recipe Notes

  • Water produces a more traditional flavor while orange juice makes it zestier.
  • This cranberry sauce recipe will thicken as it cools.
  • If you’d like a smooth sauce, place the warm mixture into a mesh strainer and strain it into a bowl. Press the cranberries with a spoon to remove as much juice as possible.

Can You Freeze Cranberry Sauce?

Absolutely! In fact, stock up on cranberries when they show up at your local supermarket because they have multiple uses all year round from Sour Cream Cranberry Bars to Cranberry Trifle or even toss them into smoothies.

When selecting cranberries, buy 1 or 2 pound packages that have full, unbroken berries that are bright pink or red in color. Fresh cranberries will last up to 4 weeks in the refrigerator and they can be frozen up to a year as long as they are sealed in an airtight bag.

A saucepan full of homemade cranberry sauce and a cinnamon stick.

Got Leftover Cranberry Sauce?

Leftover cranberry sauce is perfect to top ice cream, cheesecake or sponge cake. It’s great on with leftover turkey on sandwiches or layer it into Overnight Refrigerator Oatmeal or on top of french toast or homemade waffles or pancakes.  It’s also great with this no-bake cranberry pie, the possibilities are endless!

More Turkey Dinner Sides You’ll Love

a bowl of cranberry sauce with a spoon
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Easy Cranberry Sauce

Nothing says ‘holidays’ more than the tangy flavor of a full-bodied homemade cranberry sauce.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 8 servings


  • 12 ounces cranberries about 3 cups
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup orange juice or water
  • 1 cinnamon stick


  • Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10-12 minutes uncovered. Remove the cinnamon stick and discard.
  • Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until chilled.


Make this sauce weeks (or months) ahead of time and freeze. Simply thaw overnight and serve for the big day!
Water produces a more traditional flavor while orange juice makes it zestier.
The cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.
If you'd like a smooth sauce, place the warm sauce into a mesh strainer and strain it into a bowl pressing the cranberries to remove as much juice as possible. Another option is to blend with a hand blender.
5 from 24 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
Or to leave a comment, click here!

Nutrition Information

Calories: 131 | Carbohydrates: 33g | Sodium: 1mg | Potassium: 98mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 29g | Vitamin A: 90IU | Vitamin C: 21.1mg | Calcium: 11mg | Iron: 0.2mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Side Dish
Cuisine American

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About the author

Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!
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  1. Would ground cinnamon work in place of the cinnamon stick? If so, how much ground cinnamon would you recommend?

  2. I’ve made this Cranberry sauce for a few years. It’s quick and easy and always a hit for those who love cranberry sauce! It freezes well, too.

  3. This looks really good. I use a couple of large soup spoons full of marmalade instead of orange juice or orange rind, as well as 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water. The marmalade adds a nice texture and is not bitter. I bring to boil, skim off and cook for about 30 to 45 minutes on low. When it cools it has the consistency of canned cranberry sauce. Holds in the refrigerator for weeks. My husband loves it.

  4. I always add a little Grand Marnier, orange zest and while the sauce is simmering I put some orange rind peels in it. So good and freezes great!

  5. I made this cranberry sauce and it’s too die for thank you it’s so awesome I put a little orange zest in also we like the tart that it has my favorite recipe. Ever. Lyndia from Lakeland fla5 stars

  6. Hi. This looks great! Do the cranberries need to pop open when cooking?
    Also, if using frozen cranberries do they need to thaw out before cooking?
    THANK you!

  7. Hey I was wondering how far in advance to Thanksgiving cal the cranberry sauce be made. Thank you for sharing your recipe

      1. My ex mother in law use to make a jellied cranberry relish. It had chopped celery, nuts and cottage cheese. Don’t remember the other ingredients and she has passed away. Any ideas?

      2. I don’t have anything close but I’m a big cottage cheese lover! I have some vintage recipe cards and books so if I happen to come across something similar, I’ll be sure to let you know!