Cranberry Orange Sauce

5 from 30 votes

Homemade cranberry orange sauce/relish! Fresh cranberries, orange juice, and zest make up an amazing sauce for Thanksgiving turkey, duck, and even lamb!

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Cranberry orange relish – Fresh cranberries, vibrant orange, and just a bit of sugar come together to create this simple and delicious relish. Perfect for serving alongside duck or as a tasty addition to your Thanksgiving spread, this cranberry orange sauce recipe only requires three ingredients and can be made in just minutes. Give it a try, and taste the freshness of cranberry and orange in every bite. Serve over your favorite protein or as a relish on burgers and sandwiches!

Bowl of cranberry orange sauce garnished with orange zest and fresh sprig of thyme with a spoon dipped in.
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This Cranberry Orange Relish is very traditional but with a zing from the orange juice and the orange zest. The sweet citrus compliments the tartness of cranberries. I love adding orange juice and orange zest to it because it really brightens up the flavor. It pairs so well with turkey and mashed potatoes, chicken salad, turkey salad, and even on lamb or turkey burgers!

Thanks for the recipe and the practical tips! I like that you only use about half the sugar others use, and love the orange.Nancy 

Recipe at a glance

Cuisine Inspiration: American
Primary Cooking Method:
Dietary Info:
Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free
Key Flavor:
Cranberry and Orange
Skill Level:
Easy Beginner Level


  • Easy to make. Only 3 ingredients and it can be made in just 15 minutes.
  • 100x better than canned cranberry sauce. The fresh cranberries and orange really add a burst of flavor. Canned cranberry often just tastes like sugar and is a congealed mess.
  • Versatile. Can be served as a sauce or relish on meat, sandwiches, and salads. Perfect for holiday meals or any time of year.
  • A great make-ahead dish. Can be made a day or two in advance and stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Ingredients to make fresh cranberry orange relish

  • Cranberries: The main ingredient here is cranberries. I love to use fresh cranberries for Thanksgiving because they are fresh and seasonal this time of year. But you can also use frozen cranberries if that’s all you find.
  • Orange: All you need is one fresh orange for this recipe. You do want to pick one that has decent-looking skin, as you will be using the zest. I recommend going organic if possible.
  • Sugar: Plain white sugar is used to sweeten the cranberry orange sauce. Use more or less depending on how sweet you like it. You can also use a natural sugar alternative, if preferred, such as coconut sugar or maple syrup.
  • Water: Keeps the sauce from being too thick and helps to cook the cranberries.
Ingredients for recipe in individual bowls: 1 orange, fresh cranberries, water, and sugar.

How to make homemade cranberry orange relish/sauce

  1. Place cranberries and sugar in a saucepan. Next, zest an orange right over the cranberries into the small saucepan. You can use a cheese grater, vegetable peeler, or a Microplane.
  2. After zesting the full orange, cut it in half and juice it in a measuring cup. You’ll get about half a cup of orange juice. Whatever orange juice amount you get, add that to the saucepan, and add enough water to equal 1 cup of total liquids. So if you got half a cup of orange juice, you’ll want to add another half cup of water. I promise that’s the end of the math for this recipe, haha!
  3. Once you start cooking the cranberries, the mixture will start to bubble. And you can see the cranberries start to burst. The fun part is actually hearing the burst sounds. It’s a full sensory experience in the kitchen, I tell ya! You’ll want to continue cooking the cranberry orange sauce until most of the cranberries burst, most of the liquid is absorbed, and the sauce thickens, almost like jam!
  4. Once it thickens, transfer it to a heat-resistant glass bowl and let it sit on the counter until it cools down. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. It’s then ready to be served or ready to be stored in the fridge until your feast. You can serve it cold, warm, or at room temperature.
4 image collage showing process shots of sauce: ingredeints in pot before mixed, then after mixed, after simmering, and a spoon showing thckness of sauce.


Tips for making the best cranberry orange sauce

  1. Buy cranberries while in season and freeze them for later. If you plan on making this relish all year long, buy extra cranberries when they are in season (around Thanksgiving) and freeze them for later use. This way, you don’t have to rely on frozen cranberries that may not taste as fresh.
  2. When zesting, avoid the white. Be sure to only get the orange peel and not the white pith, as that can add a bitter taste to your sauce.
  3. Sweeten to taste. Start with less sugar and add more if desired, or use a natural sugar alternative for added flavor.
  4. Serve it warm or cold. It’s just as delicious warm, served with turkey or chicken, as it is cold, on a turkey sandwich or salad.

There are loads of ways to personalize this cranberry relish recipe. Here are a few popular suggestions that work really well with a seasonal fall menu, and especially for Thanksgiving:

  • Add warm spices: Cinnamon complements cranberry sauce so well. My mom usually adds a whole stick or two of cinnamon into the sauce while it’s cooking and then removes it before serving. If you don’t have fresh cinnamon sticks, you can substitute about 1/8-¼ teaspoon of cinnamon. Feel free to play around with other similar warm spices like cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger (fresh grated or crystallized ginger). They’ll give this sauce an extra depth of flavor.
  • Change up the sweetener: If you’re not a fan of granulated sugar, you can make this with honey or agave syrup. You can get away with as little as ¼ cup of honey or agave syrup and still get the same level of sweetness as you would with regular sugar.
  • Sweeten with fruit: You can reduce the sugar to ¼ cup and instead add pureed or diced fruit to the cranberry sauce. Some fruits that work well include apples, pears, persimmons, and pineapple.
  • Make it spicy: Try adding some heat with jalapenos!
  • Go nuts: If you’d like a little crunch in your cranberry sauce, you should try adding walnuts or pecans. If you can find them candied, that sweet, nutty crunch would be so satisfying in this recipe!

What to serve with your orange cranberry sauce

Relish can be eaten in so many ways! On top of toast, as a topping on oatmeal, as a spread for sandwiches, and of course, served alongside a holiday turkey!

Close-up shot of the cranberry orange sauce with a spoon in the jar for scooping.

what to do with leftover cranberry sauce

If you end up with leftover cranberry sauce, feel free to freeze it to use in recipes later on. You can also use it in the following recipes:

how to store cranberry sauce

I like to use a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid to store any leftovers in the fridge. The cranberry may dye a plastic container or pick up flavors that have seeped into the plastic from previous use, like garlic.

how long will cranberry relish last in the fridge?

You can make this cranberry sauce ahead of time. I would recommend making it up to 3-7 days in advance. When it sits, the flavors really settle in, and it truly tastes even better compared to the first day.

can i freeze cranberry relish?

Yes, you can freeze this cranberry orange sauce for up to one month. Just note that it can result in a slightly watery texture when you thaw it. So you may need to reheat it on the stovetop for optimal texture. You can also freeze the fresh whole cranberries for up to one year, so stock up when they’re on sale during the holidays!

Frequently asked questions

Is this more of a relish or a sauce?

By “definition,” a sauce has a smooth consistency, while a relish has chunks or lumps. Most people refer to accompaniments with cranberry as a sauce in general, regardless of texture. But, if you want to get technical, this is a cranberry relish. No matter if you call it a relish or a sauce, it’s delicious and perfect for topping your main dish.

Can I use frozen cranberries instead of fresh?

Yes, you can definitely use frozen cranberries instead of fresh ones in this recipe. Just be sure to thaw the frozen cranberries before cooking them.

Can I use a different type of orange?

Absolutely! You can use whatever type of orange you have on hand, whether it’s navel oranges, blood oranges, or mandarins. Each type of orange will give the cranberry sauce a slightly different flavor profile, but they will all work well. You can also replace the orange with a different citrus fruit, like grapefruit or tangerines. Experiment and see what you like best!

Can I use this recipe for other holidays or special occasions?

Definitely! This cranberry orange sauce would be delicious on turkey, duck, or chicken any time of year. It’s also great as a topping for pancakes or waffles, as a spread on toast or muffins, or as a side dish for grilled lamb chops. Feel free to experiment and enjoy this sauce all year round.

Final cranberry orange sauce in a glass jar with orange zest and fresh herb.

This easy cranberry orange relish is perfect for Thanksgiving but can also be enjoyed all year round. With just three ingredients, it’s simple and quick to make. You can customize the recipe by using different types of oranges or adding in nuts or jalapenos for a little spice. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge or freezer for later use. Have fun experimenting with different variations to make it your own!

More Cranberry Recipes:

More Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes:

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Cranberry Orange Sauce/Relish

Homemade cranberry orange sauce/relish! Fresh cranberries, orange juice, and zest make up an amazing sauce for Thanksgiving turkey, duck, and even lamb!
5 from 30 votes
Servings 8 servings
Course Side Dish
Calories 72
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 22 minutes
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  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • Zest and juice one orange
  • ½ cup water


  • Place all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and stir to combine.
  • Bring to a boil. When you see the cranberries start to burst, reduce to a simmer. Simmer until most of the cranberries are popped and soft and sauce begins to thicken, about 15-20 minutes.
  • Transfer to a storage container and allow to cool. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.


Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They will last about 7 days in the fridge or up to one month in the freezer. To thaw from the freezer, just simmer on the stovetop for a few minutes to reduce any extra water from freezing.
Make Ahead: You can make the cranberry sauce up to 7 days ahead of time, although I recommend 3 days in advance for best freshness and flavor. When ready to serve, you can serve it hot, cold or at room temperature. 
Substitutes: For best results, follow the recipe as is. However you can substitute the cane sugar for regular granulated sugar or an alternative sweetener like honey or agave syrup if you wish. See my tips in the body of the post for some common variations of the recipe.


Calories: 72kcal, Carbohydrates: 19g, Protein: 0.3g, Fat: 0.1g, Saturated Fat: 0.01g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.03g, Monounsaturated Fat: 0.01g, Sodium: 2mg, Potassium: 50mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 15g, Vitamin A: 48IU, Vitamin C: 11mg, Calcium: 8mg, Iron: 0.1mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Cuisine American
Course: Side Dish

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Recipe Rating


  1. Theresa odalen says:

    Very easy and good

    1. Yumna says:

      So glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Debra Kobs says:

    I love this recipe. I have a couple Grandchildren who love the gel. Do you have a recipe for the gel? Thank You

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Thank you! I don’t have a recipe for the gel on my website at the moment.

  3. Clara says:

    Love this recipe! So easy!!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Thank you!!

  4. Nancy Zykan says:

    Thanks for the recipe and the practical tips! I like that you only use about half the sugar others use, and love the orange.

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Yay, glad to hear it! Thanks so much for the feedback 🙂

  5. Amanda says:

    Love everything from scratch. Good recipe to follow. Can’t wait for thanksgiving