This recipe for simple cranberry sauce uses freshly squeezed orange juice, a bit of brown sugar and real cinnamon to make a stunning holiday side that comes together in just 20 minutes! There’s no need to buy the canned stuff anymore when you’ve got this side dish recipe in your arsenal!
This simple cranberry sauce recipe uses one 12-ounce bag of cranberries and four other pantry staple ingredients to make your holiday cooking that much easier! As a bonus, it can be made ahead and frozen until your next holiday gathering!
What is Cranberry Sauce Made Of?
- Fresh Cranberries – buy them in 12-ounce bags at the grocery store in the produce section.
- Orange – The zest and juice of one large orange adds a delightful citrus kick to this sauce!
- Brown Sugar – A bit of sweetness to compliment the tart cranberries.
- Cinnamon Stick – Using a whole cinnamon stick imbues the entire sauce with rich cinnamon flavor.
- Kosher Salt – A necessity for all recipes.
Preparing Fresh Cranberries for Cooking
It’s important to make sure your fresh cranberries are properly rinsed and to discard any unusable berries before making this recipe. Here’s how:
- Thoroughly rinse the cranberries with cool water.
- While rinsing, gently run your hands through the berries, feeling for any that are soft and squishy or yellow-ish or off colored. A ripe, usable cranberry will be bright red and firm.
- Discard any icky berries and proceed with the recipe as follows.
How Do You Make Cranberry Sauce?
- Prep the cranberries. As outlined above.
- Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. And place over medium heat.
- Cook until sauce is thick and luxurious. The cranberries break down quickly and the sauce is ready in just 20 minutes!
- Serve or freeze! This cranberry sauce deserves a place on any Thanksgiving table. And can be made ahead and frozen to cut down on prep during the big day!
Freezing Cranberry Sauce
This cranberry sauce can be made ahead of your holiday dinner and frozen until ready to serve. Here’s how:
- Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature after cooking.
- Place sauce in a freezer-safe, zip-top bag and squeeze out all the air before sealing.
- Label the bag with the contents and date.
- Lay flat in the freezer and freeze until ready to use. Sauce can be frozen for up to six months.
To serve the frozen sauce:
- Thaw in refrigerator overnight.
- Transfer sauce from bag to a small saucepan and place over low heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed through.
- Alternatively, you can reheat sauce in microwave safe bowl for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.
- Cranberries – Frozen Cranberries can be used in an exact 1:1 ratio in place of fresh. I have a whole post outlining how to freeze fresh cranberries, too!
- Orange – If you don’t have an orange on hand, bottled orange juice will work just fine. Use ⅓ cup. Adding 1 – 2 tablespoons of orange liqueur during cooking would also be delicious!
- Sugar – regular granulated sugar can be used in place of the brown sugar, if it’s all you have on hand. I prefer dark brown sugar, but light brown will also work.
- Cinnamon –If you don’t have cinnamon sticks, you can use ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon.
- Salt – I use kosher salt in all my cooking, which is larger and coarser than regular table salt, meaning you use more of it during cooking than iodized salt. If you don’t have kosher salt, use ¼ tsp. table salt in its place.
Help! My Cranberry Sauce Is Too Thick!
Sometimes when we’re working on lots of recipes at once, like during Thanksgiving or Christmas, things get forgotten. If you happen to leave your sauce on the stove for a bit too long and it becomes too thick – don’t fret! It can be fixed!
To thin cranberry sauce that is too thick: Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring well after each addition, until sauce is thin enough to fall gently off a spoon.
Simple Fresh Cranberry Sauce
- Sauce Pot
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 orange zested and juiced
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Thoroughly rinse 12 ounces of fresh cranberries under cool water, being sure to discard any off-color or soft and squishy ones.
- Combine the rinsed cranberries, ¼ cup brown sugar, the zest and juice of one orange, ½ tsp. kosher salt, and 1 cinnamon stick in a medium sauce pot and stir to combine.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cranberries have released their juices, about 5 minutes.
- Continue cooking sauce, stirring from time to time, until reduced by half, about 10 minutes more, remove from heat and discard cinnamon stick.
- Serve warm or cold alongside your Thanksgiving favorites!
- Refer to post for freezing instructions.
- Refer to post for notes on ingredient substitutions.