Cranberry Sauce

Try this homemade cranberry sauce recipe once, and you'll never get the canned kind again! Made with 4 basic ingredients, it's easy and delicious.

Cranberry Sauce

Confession: I made homemade cranberry sauce for the first time this fall. Crazy, right?! You would think that someone who’s as obsessed with seasonal produce as I am would have tried a cranberry sauce recipe years ago. Nope! My family has always served canned cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, and it’s never been my favorite part of the meal. In fact, I usually pass it up in favor of a second helping of stuffing and two slices of pumpkin pie. Can you blame me?

But this fall, some fresh, locally-grown cranberries at our farmers market caught my eye, and I decided to give homemade cranberry sauce a try. If there’s anyone else out there who hasn’t made fresh cranberry sauce before, here’s my advice to you: do it!

This cranberry sauce recipe is quick and easy to make. It comes together in right around 20 minutes, and it calls for 4 basic ingredients. It has a thick, jammy texture and sweet-tart flavor that gets extra complexity from pure maple syrup and orange zest. Try it once, and you’ll never get the canned kind again.

Cranberry sauce recipe ingredients

Cranberry Sauce Recipe Ingredients

You only need 4 basic ingredients to make this cranberry sauce recipe:

  • Cranberries – Fresh or frozen cranberries will work here. If you’re using frozen berries, there’s no need to thaw them fully before you start to cook.
  • Maple syrup – It sweetens this cranberry sauce naturally and adds rich depth of flavor.
  • Orange zest – The orange flavor is mild here – it adds bright depth to the sweet-tart sauce. If you like a stronger orange flavor, feel free to add more zest to taste!
  • Salt – Just a pinch! It makes all the flavors pop.

Combine the cranberries, maple syrup, orange zest, and salt in a medium saucepan with 1/4 cup water. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring often so that the syrup doesn’t burn. As the cranberries begin to burst, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens. It will continue to thicken as it sits.

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Homemade cranberry sauce

Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe Tips

  • Cook it how you like it. Homemade cranberry sauce thickens as it cools, so keep that it mind as you make this recipe. Stop cooking when the sauce is slightly thinner than you’d like it to be. I like my sauce to be fairly thick, with a mix of whole and burst berries, so I cook it for around 18 minutes. If you like your sauce to be thinner, or to have more whole berries, cook it for less time, about 12 to 15 minutes.
  • Taste and adjust. Make sure to taste this cranberry sauce before you serve it. I like mine nice and tart, but if you prefer a sweeter or zestier cranberry sauce, feel free to adjust it! Add additional maple to make your sauce sweeter, or stir in extra orange zest for a stronger orange flavor.
  • Make it in advance. This homemade cranberry sauce keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. If you make it ahead of time, allow it to come to room temperature before serving.
  • Save the leftovers! Have a little sauce leftover from a holiday feast? Don’t let it go to waste! Think of the leftover sauce as a thick, tart jam. Dot it onto oatmeal or overnight oats, top it onto pancakes or French toast, or spread it onto a sweet and savory autumn sandwich. If you have more serving ideas, let me know in the comments!

cranberry sauce

More Favorite Holiday Recipes

Looking for more side dishes to round out your holiday menu? These recipes are some of my favorites:

Cranberry Sauce

rate this recipe:
5 from 19 votes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Serves 8
This homemade cranberry sauce recipe is easy, delicious, and naturally sweetened with maple syrup. Perfect for a holiday feast!


  • 4 cups fresh cranberries
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • Pinch of salt


  • In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the cranberries, maple syrup, water, orange zest, and salt. Bring to a simmer, stirring often so that the maple syrup doesn’t burn.
  • Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until the cranberries burst and the sauce has thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if desired, and serve.


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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. Brittany J

    I have made this recipe multiple times. It’s delicious and has replaced the canned cranberries of my childhood. Sometimes if I’m feeling spicy, I add chopped jalapeños.
    Makes an incredible filling for homemade cranberry pop tarts, with leftover pie crust.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad it you’ve enjoyed it!

  2. Enaan

    5 stars
    Love the plant-based recipes

  3. Jo Ann Kugle

    5 stars
    The maple syrup is genius! I did not have fresh orange for zest so I used abt 2 Tbls of frozen orange juice concentrate. After it cooked down I used my immersion blender to make it look like the photo. Super flavor and texture! This is truly the best cranberry sauce.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      So glad you loved the sauce!

    • Donna

      Using the immersion blender is a great idea. I’ll try that.

  4. Luz Molinari

    making it right now. I am always looking for natural alternatives to making things with less sugar so I was very pleased when I found it.

  5. Sabine Walter

    I actually make this whenever I run out; in other words I always have some “extra sour cranberry sauce” in the fridge–mostly for toast! 🙂 I love the tartness and the texture. The next batch I will make with maple syrup! That’s a cool idea. My last batch had Gran Marnier in it. That went well with the orange zest.

  6. LJ

    5 stars
    I usually use sugar but I’m going to try this recipe this year. I usually add a pint of blueberries to my cranberry sauce for a nice pop of sweetness.

  7. Fi

    5 stars
    Cannot believe how easy to make and delicious this cranberry sauce is! I was like – is that it! Am a total convert. Nothing like the canned stuff which I’ve had, is usually sweet. This will def be on our table every year.

    Have no inclination to add anything or change ingredients as just a perfect balance of berries to orange zest. Made it for Christmas Day yesterday, as we don’t have Thanksgiving over here.

    Great with any mains (meat or veggie) and cheese and biscuits course (if not vegan). A classic. Very long post all (v. sorry) but feel it really deserves it.
    Thanks Janine.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  8. Shannon Loveless

    I LOVE the simplicity of this recipe. Couldn’t find my microplane grater to zest the orange so I peeled thick strips and added them while cooking then removed after. Also added a splash of Grand Mariner.

  9. Où se trouve

    5 stars
    I want to try this recipe too. It looks really beautiful.

  10. Emily from

    I check your blog every year for Thanksgiving ideas. Thank you for always being consistent with the posts! I cannot wait to try making this… My grandmother’s recipe uses canned cranberries. I will try to convert her recipe to one with fresh instead!! I hope you are staying healthy.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Aww, I’m so glad you’ve been loving our thanksgiving recipes! I hope you enjoy the cranberry sauce.

  11. mary

    Ohh I agree I LOVE Cranberry Sauce!! this looks lovely – the orange is such a lovely addition:)

  12. Diane Desrosiers

    I add one orange in small dices in my sauce and I love Cranberry Sauce with plain yogurt or Vanilla or Chocolate ice cream. It is delicious with your Healthy Banana Bread or your Zucchini Chocolate Bread. It is also good with beans or with meats like chicken or duck or veal (for non-vegetarians). Thanks for your delicious recipes. I share your Web site with my friends and they love it too.

  13. Jeannean

    Stir into plain yogurt tart and sweet at the same time!

  14. Susan

    Pomegranate juice is delicious for the liquid part.

  15. Gordon W Subject

    Love all of great recipes, l love cranberries and beets. Their taste with no added sweetener is my favorite!!!

  16. 5 stars
    I love cranberry sauce any way I can get it! (Even from a can!) You are right – making cranberry sauce couldn’t be easier. I love adding a bit of ginger and chopped apples – it pairs really well. You can’t have Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce!


      I AGREE!!!!!!!!!!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.