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Say hello to your new favorite cranberry sauce recipe! This easy cranberry-orange sauce is made with orange juice, orange zest, and fresh or frozen cranberries, for the perfect sweet-tart flavor that goes with both sweet and savory recipes.
You’ll love this easy cranberry sauce recipe
Cranberry sauce is the little black dress of the holiday menu. It’s versatile, can be dressed up or down, and goes with absolutely everything. Sweet or savory, every dish can be improved with the sweet-and-sour punch of fresh cranberry sauce.
If your only experience with cranberry sauce is the gelatinous “cranberry” “sauce” that wiggles out of a can, get ready for your life to change!
REAL cranberry sauce, THIS cranberry sauce, is tart and tangy, with a vibrant berry taste that is boosted with orange juice and orange zest. It’s equally at home on turkey, goat cheese, or a buttery tart base, and the best part is, it’s SO easy to make!
This simple cranberry sauce recipe needs only 5 ingredients and 15 minutes to come together. It can be made with fresh or frozen cranberries, so you can stockpile berries when they’re in season, and enjoy this recipe all year long!
Cranberry lovers, don’t miss some of our favorite cranberry recipes, including Cranberry Curd Almond Cake, Apple Cranberry Gouda Puff Pastry Roses, and Cranberry Orange Trifle!
🧾 What You’ll Need
I promised simple, and it doesn’t get much more simple than this! Here’s what you’ll need to make my cranberry orange sauce: (Links are affiliate links and I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.)
- Orange zest and orange juice: you just need one large orange for both the zest and the juice.
- Cranberries: Fresh or frozen cranberries will both work, and you don’t even need to defrost the frozen berries before you begin!
- Granulated sugar: If you want to add a deeper, richer caramelized flavor, swap the white sugar for brown sugar instead.
- Vanilla extract and ground cinnamon: both the vanilla extract and the cinnamon add warmth and flavor depth, which works to balance out the tartness of the cranberries. These are optional but highly recommended.
You just need a couple basic pieces of equipment for this recipe. (Links are affiliate links and I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.)
- Saucepan: I use a 3-quart saucepan which is plenty big to fit all of the ingredients. If you’re doubling or tripling the recipe, you’ll want to use a larger one.
- Microplane: I find a microplane to be the easiest way to zest the orange. If you don’t have one, you can also use a cheese grater.
- Citrus Juicer: a citrus juicer makes it so much easier to get all the juice out of the orange.
Got 15 minutes? Then you’ve got cranberry-orange sauce! Here’s a quick rundown of the procedure, and you can find full instructions in the recipe card down below.
Zest and juice the orange
- Start by zesting a large orange with a microplane.
- Once zested, juice the orange and measure out 1/3 cup of juice. (Any remaining juice is for the cook to drink!)
Combine and cook
- Combine all of the ingredients — cranberries, sugar, orange juice, orange zest, vanilla, and cinnamon — in a medium saucepan.
- Turn the heat to medium, and stir with a spatula to mix the ingredients well.
- Continue to cook the cranberry sauce, stirring frequently, until the cranberries pop and the mixture thickens, about 15-20 minutes.
- Once most of the cranberries have popped, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool a bit before serving.
🍽️ How to Serve Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry Sauce is traditionally considered a seasonal Thanksgiving recipe, but once you taste the sweet-tart citrus and cranberry flavor of this easy sauce, I think you’ll agree that it should be in regular rotation year-round. Here are just a few ways you can use this versatile recipe:
- Dinner side dish (aka the customary use): The bracing acidity is great for cutting through rich and salty foods at your next Thanksgiving or Christmas feast. A forkful of mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce is pure heaven.
- Appetizer: Pair your cranberry sauce with crackers and your favorite cheese as part of a holiday charcuterie board.
- Cake filling: I’ve added cranberry sauce to everything from dense chocolate truffle cake to a striking brown sugar layer cake. It’s also the star of the show in my Cranberry Sauce Cake! It improves any cake recipe you pair it with.
- Mousse topping: I love this light and airy orange mousse topped with tangy cranberry sauce, but you don’t have to stop there. Adding it to chocolate mousse or pumpkin mousse would also be delicious.
- Tart filling: Spread a thick layer of cranberry sauce on a chocolate tart, pistachio tart, or almond tart.
- Jam substitute: Sub in cranberry sauce anywhere you would use a chunky jam: linzer cookies, swirled brownies, or even PB&J sandwiches.
This cranberry sauce is so good as it is, but here are a few different ways you can switch things up:
- Smooth it out: My personal preference is a thicker, chunkier cranberry sauce, so that’s how this recipe is written. However, if you prefer a thinner, more jam-like sauce, you can add up to 1 cup of orange juice, and blend the sauce with a blender for a smoother texture.
- Swap the sweetener. You can swap the granulated sugar out for brown sugar for a deeper, more caramel-y taste. You could also use maple syrup or honey to add additional flavor.
- Add nuts. If you prefer a cranberry sauce with a little bit of crunch, try mixing in toasted or candied pecans or walnuts.
- Change citrus: you can make this recipe with lemons instead of oranges. I recommend diluting the lemon juice with some water so it’s less sour, but you could also keep the lemon juice full strength and play with the amount of sugar to compensate.
💡 Tips and FAQs
❤️ More Cranberry Recipes You’ll Love
Check out more of my delicious recipes using cranberries!
- Puff Pastry Apple Cranberry Roses
- Cranberry Orange Bread Pudding
- Cranberry Curd Almond Cake
- Brown Sugar Cranberry Cake
- Cranberry Orange Trifle
- Cranberry Sauce Cake
Cranberry Orange Sauce
- 1 TBSP fresh orange zest, from 1 large orange
- 1/3 cup fresh orange juice, from 1 large orange
- 12 oz cranberries, (3 cups), fresh or frozen
- 7 oz granulated sugar, (1 cup)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- Zest one large orange, and set the zest aside.
- Juice the orange, and measure out ⅓ cup of juice. If you don’t have quite enough, add water to make it ⅓ cup liquid.
- Combine the orange zest, orange juice, cranberries, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until the cranberries pop and the mixture thickens, about 15-20 minutes. Once most of the cranberries have popped, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool completely before using.
- The cranberry filling can be made up to a week in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Variation: if you like a smoother cranberry sauce, you can add additional liquid (up to 1 cup of orange juice), and blend the sauce after it has cooked using a stick blender or regular blender.
Our recipes are developed using weight measurements, and we highly recommend using a kitchen scale for baking whenever possible. However, if you prefer to use cups, volume measurements are provided as well. PLEASE NOTE: the adage “8 oz = 1 cup” is NOT true when speaking about weight, so don’t be concerned if the measurements don’t fit this formula.Click here to learn more about baking measurements and conversion.
About Elizabeth LaBau
I’m Elizabeth, but you can call me SugarHero! I’m a former pastry chef turned blogger, cookbook author, and baking instructor, and I consider myself sugar’s #1 fan. Learn more from my About page, or connect with me on social media:
Love homemade cranberry sauce! I’ve never added vanilla or cinnamon to it before. It was so flavorful and fragrant! Huge hit!
Nothing beats homemade cranberry sauce. I use it on everything this time of year from oatmeal in the morning to sandwiches at lunch and spooned over any protein for dinner. Love this recipe – so simple and easy yet delicious!
Love the idea of adding it to oatmeal! Thank you for sharing!
Enjoyed this with Thanksgiving dinner and it was a hit all around the table! Was quick, easy and delicious!
So glad it was a hit! Thanks for your comment!
Love th is recipe! It couldn’t be easier to make and the flavor is on point! It’ll be on every holiday table!
The flavor is delicious isn’t it!? Thank you for sharing!
Oh man, this was so amazing! I don’t like orange and cinnamon together, so I nixed the cinnamon, but you won’t need to. This was incredible. So good with turkey and stuffing!
A recipe you can definitely adjust to make your own! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂
I am loving the addition of orange! Super flavorful and delicious!
Hi Holley! The orange is like a little hidden gem in this recipe.
I love the added taste of oranges to this cranberry sauce. Such a perfect combination
Hi Claire! Thanks for commenting!
I love cranberry sauce with a hint of orange. It really is delicious.
Love the idea of adding orange flavors to traditional cranberry sauce – the combination tastes so much better than just plain cranberry sauce! Will definitely be making this again for Thanksgiving this week!
Hello! Thank you so much for commenting!
I love this stuff! I could eat it out of the bowl–by myself!
Hi Gina! I will neither confirm or deny how much of this I can eat all by myself. LOL.