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Cran-Orange Sauce

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Cranberry Orange Sauce is my favorite cranberry sauce recipe and it comes together in no time at all. Homemade cranberry sauce is so worth it, especially when it’s this easy to make!

overhead shot of cranberry orange sauce in saucepan

My whole life, I never understood why people would opt for canned cranberry sauce as opposed to making their own. I get that it takes like 10 seconds to open a can of cranberry sauce—which, I don’t know if you can even call that sauce since it plops down onto the platter like congealed gelatin—but tack on maybe 5 more minutes to that 10 seconds and you can make fresh, homemade cranberry sauce from scratch.

This cranberry-orange sauce is my Thanksgiving tradition. I love the contrasting flavors of cranberry and orange—sweet, tart, and vibrant.

It’s super easy to throw together, and everyone will be impressed that you made your own cranberry sauce (and it can be your little secret that it’s so easy to make). This recipe yields plenty of sauce for those who love to smear it all over their turkey. It’s great to use for those leftover turkey sandwiches, too!

cranberry orange sauce being spooned out of a bowl

What You’ll Need

Here’s what you’ll need to make my signature cranberry-orange sauce recipe for your next Thanksgiving:

  • Fresh cranberries – Sometimes these are sold in bags, other times you’ll find them in the grocery store swimming in a vat of water. Scoop them out with the slotted spoon and place them in a produce bag.
  • Orange – You’ll need zest and juice.
  • Water
  • Granulated sugar

Variation Ideas

The best thing about making your own cranberry sauce is that you can play around with different flavors. Here are some variations to try:

  • Swap the orange juice and water with a strong ginger beer or apple cider.
  • Or, add some freshly grated ginger.
  • Add diced apples or pears.
  • Dried cherries add texture and flavor.
  • Place a cinnamon stick in the cranberry sauce while it cooks.
cranberry orange sauce in a mason jar

How to Make Cranberry Orange Sauce

If you’ve never made your own cranberry sauce, you are going to be surprised by how simple it is!

Bring ingredients to a boil. Combine the cranberries, orange zest and juice, water, and sugar in a medium stockpot and bring the mixture to a boil.

Simmer. Reduce the heat and cover the pot. Let the cranberries simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The mixture should be thick at this point, but you can add more sugar for thickening, if needed.

Serve. Serve cranberry-orange sauce warm with turkey and all of your other Thanksgiving favorites.

Tips for Success

Here are some tips for making homemade cranberry sauce:

  • It will thicken. As the sauce cools a bit, it will get thicker. Don’t panic if it seems too thin after you turn off the heat, but do keep in mind that if it cools for a few minutes and it still seems runny, you can add more sugar.
  • You don’t need to add cornstarch or other thickeners. Cranberries are high in pectin, which means they don’t need any added thickeners; combining pectin and sugar creates a gel reaction.
  • You can thin the sauce, too. Cranberry sauce is really forgiving! If you forget about it and cook it a little longer than you meant to, you can thin it out by adding more liquid.
cranberry orange sauce overhead shot in a brown ceramic bowl

How to Store Leftovers

You can store leftover cranberry sauce in a sealed container for up to 7 days. If you’re making cran-orange sauce for Thanksgiving, this means you can also make it well in advance!

Ways to Use Leftover Cranberry Sauce

In addition to turkey sandwiches, there are so many ways to use leftover cranberry-orange sauce:

  • Leftover turkey quesadillas. Add the cranberry sauce to the quesadillas or use it for dipping. I recommend a sharp cheddar for these.
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches. Cranberry sauce is an excellent addition to grilled cheese if you haven’t tried it yet. 
  • Muffins. You can actually swirl a bit of cranberry sauce directly into your favorite muffin batter or just top muffins with a dollop of sauce.
  • Breakfast. It’s also great when paired with breakfast foods like pancakes, waffles, quick breads, and oatmeal.
cranberry orange sauce in a mason jar

Cranberry Orange Sauce

Do yourself and your guests a favor and make this cran-orange sauce instead of using the canned stuff. You won’t regret it!
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 12 minutes
Servings: 6 people
Author: Julie Chiou
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  • 1: 12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • ¼ cup water
  • 3 tablespoon granulated sugar
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  • In a medium stockpot, add cranberries, orange zest, orange juice, water, and sugar. Bring to boil then turn heat down and let it simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • When mixture is done, it should be nice and thick. If you feel that you need to add more sugar, add more, a tbsp. at a time.
  • Serve warm.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to 7 days.



Serving: 1 serving | Calories: 61 kcal | Carbohydrates: 16 g | Protein: 1 g | Fat: 1 g | Saturated Fat: 1 g | Sodium: 2 mg | Potassium: 94 mg | Fiber: 3 g | Sugar: 10 g

This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: easy cranberry sauce, homemade cranberry sauce, thanksgiving side dishes
Recipe Rating


Monday 26th of November 2012

THANK YOU for this recipe!! I made it for our Thanksgiving and it was a major hit! I served it warm for the main meal, but we had some cold later in the day; either way, it's now a permanent part of my Thanksgiving menu!!


Monday 26th of November 2012

Awesome! So glad it was a hit! :)

The Ultimate Thanksgiving Leftover Grilled Cheese - Ring Finger Tan LineRing Finger Tan Line

Wednesday 21st of November 2012

[...] no excuse for not having it at your holiday table. I make a cranberry sauce very similar to the one Julie posted over at Table for Two Blog, so if you don’t have a recipe, use that one. Put down the can, and pick up the fresh [...]

Ross | TheFaceBaby

Monday 19th of November 2012

This looks dee.lish!! Once again, my family was guilty of serving up the canned variety when I was growing up. Turkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, pies and other desserts ... all the "big ticket" dishes ... made from scratch and heavenly. The "little things" like cranberry sauce must've been an afterthought. Oh well, I am making this this year!!


Monday 19th of November 2012

Good! Transform them from canned to fab :)


Sunday 18th of November 2012

I've made homemade versions of cranberry sauce in years past, but I'll confess to loving the canned stuff. It's one of the few canned foods I can't quit :) Love the orange zest in yours, so pretty!

Nicole @ The Marvelous Misadventures of a Foodie

Saturday 17th of November 2012

Mmmm I love cranberry sauce with orange (I always throw a little Grand Marnier in mine hehe) - but I am right there with you...why the heck are people still buying that freaky stuff in the can??! It weirds me out!