Cranberry Orange Sauce

5 from 7 votes

Skip the canned cranberry sauce and try my fresh & effortless cranberry orange sauce made with only 4 ingredients in 20 minutes - perfect for Thanksgiving!

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Thanksgiving is better with cranberry orange sauce! In fact, it’s just all around better with easy recipes made from scratch. And if you see how easy it is to make homemade cranberry sauce, I think you’ll skip the canned kind and opt for the homemade kind too! It takes 15 minutes to make and only needs 3 ingredients!

Final cranberry orange sauce in a bowl with orange zest and fresh thyme

This Cranberry Orange Sauce 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 the orange juice and orange zest to it because it really brightens up the flavor. It pairs so well with turkey and mashed potatoes. Mmm…I’m getting so excited for Thanksgiving dinner!

Besides defrosting corn in the microwave, this might be the easiest Thanksgiving side dish recipe ever. It’s literally 3 ingredients + water and 20 minutes of your time, most of which is pretty inactive. It’s literally the ultimate make-ahead side dish for the holidays!


How Do You Make Cranberry Orange Sauce?

The star ingredient here is the cranberries, obvi. I love to use fresh cranberries for Thanksgiving because they are fresh and seasonal this time of year. Then add half a cup of granulated sugar.

Small saucepan with fresh cranberries without and with cane sugar

Next, zest an orange right over the cranberries into the small saucepan. You can use a cheese grater, vegetable peeler or a microplane. Just be sure not to get any of the white pith when you’re zesting. That’s the bitter part we don’t want in our sauce. We only want the orange peel. 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!

Collage of two images showing a saucepan with cranberries, sugar and orange zest on one side, and the added water and orange juice on the other side

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 fully 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!

Once it thickens, transfer it to a heat-resistant glass bowl and let is set 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.

Collage of two images showing the cranberry orange sauce mid-way cooking and when it's done cooking

Ways to Customize Cranberry Orange Sauce

There are loads of ways to personalize this cranberry sauce 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 add substitute about 1/8-¼ teaspoon of cinnamon. Freel 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 hone 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!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you Make Ahead Cranberry Sauce?

Yes, 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 you freeze Cranberry Sauce?

Yes, you can freeze this cranberry orange sauce for up to one month. Just note that it can result is 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!

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 Baked Brie Cranberry in Bread Bowl or add it on top of overnight oats or oatmeal.

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

More Cranberry Recipes:

More Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes:

If you’ve tried this healthy-ish feel good Cranberry Orange Sauce recipe or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!

Cranberry Orange Sauce

Skip the canned cranberry sauce and try my fresh & effortless cranberry orange sauce made with only 4 ingredients in 20 minutes – perfect for Thanksgiving!
5 from 7 votes
Servings 8 servings
Course Side Dish
Calories 67
Prep Time 2 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 22 mins


  • 12 oz 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 berries start to burst, reduce to a simmer. Simmer until most berries 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. 
Products: This is the jar I used to store the mashed potatoes. They are perfect for your pantry throughout the rest of the year.
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: 67kcal, Carbohydrates: 17g, Sodium: 1mg, Potassium: 36mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 14g, Vitamin A: 25IU, Vitamin C: 5.7mg, Calcium: 3mg, Iron: 0.1mg

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

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Final cranberry orange sauce in a bowl with orange zest and fresh thyme

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