This homemade Orange Cranberry Sauce is a classic choice for your holiday menu. Fresh orange juice and zest add a hint of citrus to this sweet and slightly tart cranberry sauce.
For another festive choice, give my Very Berry Cranberry Sauce a try!
It’s a lot. I know. There’s the turkey, the stuffing, mashed potatoes and on and on and on. And, I mean, you can just pick up that can of cranberry sauce from the store. I get it.
But hear me out. If you’ve never made cranberry sauce before, it is seriously one of the easiest recipes ever. In addition, it can (and should) be made well in advance of your gathering.
Cranberry sauce just so happens to freeze exceptionally well, so as soon as you see those bags of fresh cranberries appearing in the produce section of the grocery store, you can grab them.
This recipe yields a classic sweet and tart cranberry sauce with a hint of orange. There is no spice, no vanilla, it’s straight forward and it goes with everything. If you’re feeling adventurous this holiday season, check out my suggestions below for some fun ways to customize cranberry sauce to suit your taste.
Table of contents
- Fresh cranberries: You should start seeing bags of fresh cranberries appearing in the produce section of the grocery store starting in late October through December. They should be marked with a “best by” date that will typically be at least two to three weeks. Or, just toss the bag in your freezer to keep them fresh for up to a year. You can use frozen cranberries straight from the freezer in recipes without thawing.
- Granulated sugar: The ratio of sugar to cranberries is important because cranberries are WAY too tart if not substantially sweetened.
- Orange: This cranberry-orange sauce gets its classic citrus flavor from the zest and juice of a fresh orange. Use a microplane to zest the orange first, then slice it in half to juice.
How to Make Orange Cranberry Sauce
- Place the rinsed cranberries and sugar in a large saucepan.
- Squeeze the orange juice into a measuring cup and add enough water to measure 1 cup. Add it to saucepan along with 1 teaspoon orange zest.
- Bring the mixture to a boil. When you hear a cranberry or two pop, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely at room temperature before refrigerating. The sauce will thicken as it cools and thicken even more once chilled.
I recommend making cranberry sauce a day or two in advance to give it time to chill. The flavors will develop even more as it rests in the fridge.
Controlling the Texture of Cranberry Sauce
- To smooth out the sauce: Use a wooden spoon to smash some of the cranberries against the side of the pot until they burst. This will be easy to do once the sauce has simmered for a while and the cranberries have begun to soften. You can repeat this as much as you’d like to achieve the texture you want.
- Whole berry cranberry sauce: Allow the sauce to simmer, stirring it occasaionally to keep the cranberries intact.
Spiced Cranberry Sauce: Add a pinch of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg after removing the sauce from the heat for a warm, aromatic twist.
Apple or Pear Cranberry Sauce: Add diced apple or pear to the pan with the cranberries and water before bringing the mixture to a boil. Both of these fruits work very well with the spices suggested above.
Berries: Raspberries or blueberries make a great addition to cranberry sauce. My Very Berry Cranberry Sauce recipe includes both!
Nuts: Stir in chopped pecans, walnuts, or almonds for great flavor and texture.
Dried Fruit: For a relish with a unique,chewiness, try adding died apricots, raisins, or currants. If this is your style, you’ll love my Cranberry Apricot Chutney.
Freezing Cranberry Sauce
Just like jams and jellies, homemade cranberry sauce is a great item to make-ahead and freeze. Get it done well in advance and you can cross one thing off your Thanksgiving “to do” list. Cranberry sauce can be frozen for up to 3 months.
You can use any airtight container that is freezer-safe, but mason jars are my favorite for both freezing and serving cranberry sauce. I think they look so pretty on the Thanksgiving table or buffet.
- Cool: Allow the Orange Cranberry Sauce to cool completely before freezing.
- Transfer to Freezer-Safe Containers: I use a canning funnel to make it really easy to transfer the sauce to the jars.
- Headspace: Leave about ½-inch of headspace and then tightly close the lids before freezing.
- Thaw and Serve: A day or two before Thanksgiving, transfer the frozen cranberry sauce to your refrigerator so it will be thawed and ready to serve on the big day.
This recipe will yield a little more than two cups of cranberry sauce, or approximately 20 to 22 ounces which will fit nicely in one quart sized mason jar. Or, divide it between three 8 ounce mason jars – one for Thanksgiving, one for leftovers, and one to freeze for your Christmas menu.
If like me, you like to pack up leftovers for your guests, make a double batch so you can grab a fresh jar of cranberry sauce from your freezer to send home with them.
There is a lot you can do with cranberry sauce besides adding it to your Thanksgiving plate.
- It’s wonderful served over a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, and even better if there’s a piece of warm apple pie involved.
- Try spooning it over a block of cream cheese and serving it with crackers for an incredibly fast and easy appetizer.
- And, of course, the day after Thanksgiving leftover turkey sandwiches would not be the same without it.
Homemade Orange Cranberry Sauce
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 orange, juiced and zested
- Water, as needed (approximately ½ to ¾ cup)
- Add the rinsed cranberries to a large saucepan and add the sugar.
- Place the fresh squeezed orange juice in a measuring cup and add enough water to measure 1 cup. Add it to saucepan along with 1 teaspoon orange zest. Turn the heat to MEDIUM-HIGH. Bring the mixture to a boil and when you hear a cranberry or two pop, reduce the heat to LOW and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to smash some of the cranberries against of the pot while cooking, if desired.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then transfer to a storage container. Allow to cool completely bef at room temperature before covering and refrigerating. Make at least a day or two in advance for the best result.
- Optional: If you'd like, garnish the finished sauce with a little additional orange zest.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, and is an estimate not a guarantee. For more accurate results, please refer to the labels on your ingredients at home.