Want to make homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving this year? It’s very easy to make and you’ll only need 3 ingredients!
For Thanksgiving dinner, when I was a kid, we always had canned jellied cranberry sauce. It was slid out onto a plate, complete with the distinctive ripples from the can. From there, it was sliced into perfect circles for serving.
When I started hosting my own Thanksgiving dinners, many years ago, I also served canned cranberry sauce. Sometimes it was the whole berry kind and sometimes it was jellied, but canned cranberry sauce was always on the holiday table.
Fast forward a few years and was looking at a bag of fresh cranberries in the produce section of our grocery store. I noticed that homemade cranberry sauce really only needs a few ingredients. And the steps were minimal too. I made my first batch of homemade cranberry sauce that year, using the recipe right on the back of the bag.
Today, I’ve been making homemade cranberry sauce Thanksgiving and Christmas for many years. It may never be the most popular side dish on our table (um, mashed potatoes will win every single time!), but I love it and those who like cranberries always enjoy it too. It’s a tradition and it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it!
If you are new to making homemade cranberry sauce, you may also be surprised at how easy it is to make. And once you start making your own cranberry sauce, you’ll want to make it every Thanksgiving!
How to Make Homemade Cranberry Sauce
To make your own basic cranberry sauce, you will only need 3 simple ingredients: fresh cranberries, an orange, and granulated sugar. You will also need water and a pinch of salt. If you wish, you could skip the orange and the salt, but we think it’s best with them.
Making your own homemade cranberry sauce starts with washing and inspecting the cranberries. Place your cranberries in a strainer and wash them. Also, check through them and get rid of any cranberries that are soft, wilted, or brown. Set your cranberries aside.
The next step is to zest an orange. Remove any produce stickers on your orange and rinse the outside of the skin. Zesting means to scrape away the very outside, bright-colored part of the skin of a piece of citrus fruit, such as orange, lime, or lemon. In this case, we’re doing it with an orange, which I do with a microplane grater which gives fine zest, perfect for this recipe.
Next, with the same orange that you zested, you’ll juice it. You can squeeze the juice by hand from the orange or use a citrus juicer, which is generally easier.
The juice from the orange is poured into a 1 cup measuring cup. Don’t be surprised if the orange juice doesn’t fill up the cup — it shouldn’t. You’ll probably only get about 1/3 of the cup, but that’s fine. Take however much orange juice you get, and fill the measuring cup up with water until it’s full to give yourself 1 cup of liquid (orange juice/water combo).
Pour your 1 cup of orange juice/water combo into a medium saucepan and stir in the sugar. Add the cranberries and heat everything to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the cranberries being to burst, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
If you prefer less whole berries, press the cranberries with the back of your cooking spoon while they are simmering. Remove the cranberry sauce from the heat and stir in the pinch of salt and most of the orange zest, reserving a pinch of orange zest for sprinkling on top.
Pour the cranberry sauce into a bowl or small serving dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining orange zest. Cover and cool at room temperature. Once cooled, refrigerate until ready to serve.
Cranberry Sauce Variations
There are multiple ways you can customize this cranberry sauce recipe!
- You can skip the orange completely if needed. This recipe can be made with 1 cup of water instead of the orange juice/water combo. You can also skip the orange zest, if you prefer, or if you don’t have a zester
- Instead of using a fresh orange, you can use already prepared orange juice. You won’t have the orange zest, but it will still be a great cranberry sauce. If you go this route, we recommend using 1/3-1/2 cup of orange juice, with the remainder of the cup being water. Using a full cup of orange juice also works.
- If you prefer non-chunky cranberry sauce, press the cooked cranberry sauce through a mesh strainer. To do this, place the strainer over your bowl or serving dish and press the sauce through the strainer with the back of a cooking spoon. This will give you a smooth cranberry sauce, without the larger pieces.
- Adding a pinch of cinnamon or ginger is delicious!
More Recipes with Cranberries!
If you love cranberries like I do, you’ll enjoy these recipes with cranberries too!
- Cranberry Jello Shots
- Cranberry Orange Bread
- Cranberry Trifle Dessert
- Lemon Cranberry Bars
- Stuffing with Cranberries & Apples
Here’s the full recipe, ready for you to print! If you like this recipe, be sure to share on Facebook or pin it to Pinterest.Print