Cranberry Sauce

Scented with orange and sweetened with maple, this cranberry sauce recipe is a delicious version of the Thanksgiving classic. Great for making ahead!

Cranberry Sauce

Meet my best cranberry sauce recipe! This homemade cranberry sauce is easy to make with 5 simple ingredients. It’s thick, tart, and jammy, and maple syrup and orange zest give it wonderful depth of flavor. It’s the perfect addition to a Thanksgiving table, but it’s so delicious that I’d happily eat it at any time of year.

If you’ve never tried homemade cranberry sauce before, I hope you’ll make this recipe. I grew up eating the kind from the can, so you can trust me when I tell you that this fresh cranberry sauce is SO much better. Since I started making it, cranberry sauce has become one of my favorite Thanksgiving side dishes. I hope you love it too!

Cranberry sauce recipe ingredients

Cranberry Sauce Ingredients

You just need 5 ingredients to make this cranberry sauce recipe:

  • Cranberries – Fresh or frozen cranberries work well here. If you’re using frozen berries, there’s no need to thaw them before you start to cook.
  • Maple syrup – It sweetens this recipe naturally and adds rich depth of flavor.
  • Water – It helps the cranberries soften into a glossy sauce.
  • Orange zest – Who doesn’t love cranberry and orange together?! The zest gives this sauce a mild orange flavor. If you’d like it to be stronger, feel free to add more zest or replace the water with fresh orange juice.
  • Salt – Just a pinch! It makes all the flavors pop.

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

How to Make Cranberry Sauce

If you’re making homemade cranberry sauce for the first time, you won’t believe how easy it is!

  • Combine the cranberries, maple syrup, water, orange zest, and salt in a medium saucepan.
  • Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stir often to prevent the syrup from burning!
  • As the cranberries begin to burst, reduce the heat to low.
  • Cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes or so, until the cranberry juices thicken. Tip: The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools, so I like to take it off the heat slightly before it reaches my desired consistency.
  • Remove from the heat, and enjoy warm or at room temperature.

That’s it! You’ll have fresh cranberry sauce ready in less than 20 minutes.

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Homemade cranberry sauce in small bowl with spoon

How to Store Cranberry Sauce

Store homemade cranberry sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

For longer storage, freeze it! Allow the sauce to cool completely after cooking. Then, transfer it to an airtight container, leaving at least an inch at the top for expansion. Store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow frozen sauce to thaw overnight in the fridge.

Can you make cranberry sauce ahead of time?

Yes! This recipe is the first thing I prep for Thanksgiving every year. You can make it a few days or even a few months ahead. See above for storage instructions.

Recipe Tips

  • Cranberry sauce thickens as it sits, so take it off the heat slightly before it reaches your desired consistency. By the time it cools, it’ll have the perfect texture!
  • It’s not just for Thanksgiving. Try using it as a topping for pancakes, waffles, or overnight oats, or swirl it into yogurt with granola. My husband Jack loves to put in on turkey sandwiches. It’s a great addition to a cheese board too!
  • Make it your own. There are so many fun ways to change up this sauce! Replace the water with fresh orange juice for a stronger orange flavor, or for a sweeter sauce, add other fresh fruits. I love this sauce with a peeled and diced apple or pear cooked in.

cranberry sauce recipe

More Thanksgiving Side Dishes

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

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Cranberry Sauce Recipe

rate this recipe:
5 from 24 votes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 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, or use frozen
  • 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 their juices thicken, 15 to 20 minutes, keeping in mind that the sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. Taste and add more sweetener or orange zest, if desired.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.


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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.