Classic Homemade Cranberry Sauce

$2.77 recipe / $0.46 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.41 from 5 votes
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I guess I take pleasure in the little things because I was most excited about this Classic Homemade Cranberry Sauce out of everything that I cooked today. The simplicity of this sauce is unreal especially for the amount of flavor it has. Fresh cranberries provide a strong refreshing tartness that is only kept in check by the sweet orange juice and sugar. Zest from the orange provide layers of flavor to tickle your tongue after the cranberry’s burst dies down. This easy recipe is so quick and delicious, I will surely be making it year-round!

Originally posted 11-19-09, updated 11-14-16.

A pot full of simple and classic homemade cranberry sauce, ready to liven up your holiday table!

See this recipe in my Easy Thanksgiving Dinner for Beginners meal plan.

What is in Cranberry Sauce?

Cranberry sauce really is as simple as three ingredients. At its most basic, cranberry sauce includes:

  • Cranberries
  • Sugar
  • Water

I’ve added a touch of orange to brighten up the flavors just a bit and add an extra level of flavor, which prevents the sauce from being one dimensional. You can leave out the orange in a pinch, but I’m telling you, it really makes this simple cranberry sauce spectacular.

Can I Make Cranberry Sauce Without Sugar?

Yes, you can substitute the sugar listed below with honey or maple syrup, keeping in mind that they will produce slightly different flavors and textures in the final sauce.

Try These Other Fresh Cranberry Sauce Flavors

You can also play around with the flavor by adding other ingredients like red wine, cinnamon, raspberry, apple, or even jalapeño. Check out some of my other fresh cranberry sauce recipes:

Close up of a spoonful of thick cranberry sauce, made from scratch, with orange essence.
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Classic Homemade Cranberry Sauce

4.41 from 5 votes
This simple cranberry sauce only requires three ingredients but has enough flavor to add excitement to your holiday meal.
cranberry sauce dripping off a spoon into a bowl
Servings 6 (1/2 cup ea.)
Prep 5 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Total 20 minutes


  • 12 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries ($2.00)
  • 1 small orange ($0.33)
  • 1/2 cup sugar ($0.09)
  • 1 cup water ($0.00)


  • Add the sugar and water to a medium saucepot. Stir to combine. Place the pot over medium heat and bring the liquid to a boil.
  • While the liquid in the pot is heating, rinse the cranberries. Once the water and sugar are boiling, add the cleaned cranberries and place lid on top. Allow the liquid to come back up to a boil, at which point the cranberries will begin to pop.
  • Once all the cranberries have popped, remove the lid, give it a stir, and turn the heat down to medium low. Let the pot continue to simmer over medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the cranberries have completely broken down.
  • While the cranberries simmer, remove the zest from the orange using a microplane, zester, or small-holed cheese grater. Cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice into a bowl (about 1/2 cup juice).
  • Once the cranberries have broken down, stir the orange juice into the sauce. Remove the pot from the heat, then stir in about 1 tsp of the orange zest. Allow the sauce to cool slightly, then serve.

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Serving: 1ServingCalories: 53.58kcalCarbohydrates: 14gProtein: 0.42gFat: 0.08gSodium: 1.13mgFiber: 2.42g
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Try serving this homemade cranberry sauce over a wheel of baked brie for an extra special holiday treat!

Close up of a spoonful of thick cranberry sauce, made from scratch, with orange essence.

How to Make Fresh Cranberry Sauce – Step by Step Photos

Sugar and Water

Start by adding 1/2 cup sugar and 1 cup water to a medium sauce pot. Stir to combine, then place the pot over medium heat and allow it to come to a boil.

Rinse Cranberries

While waiting for the water and sugar to boil, rinse one 12oz. package of fresh cranberries. You can actually use either fresh or frozen cranberries for this recipe. If using frozen, just allow them to thaw first.

Cranberries in Pot

Add the rinsed cranberries to the boiling sugar water. Place a lid on top and allow it to return to a boil. 

Popped Cranberries

When it begins to boil again the cranberries will begin to pop (that’s why you need a lid!). Once they have all popped, remove the lid, give it a good stir, and reduce the heat to medium-low.

Cranberries Broken Down

Continue to let the cranberries simmer over medium-low until they have broken down (about 5-7 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Zest and Juice an Orange

While the cranberries are simmering, zest and juice one small orange. You’ll need about 1 tsp zest and 1/2 cup juice.

Stir in Orange Zest

Stir the juice into the cooked cranberry sauce. Remove the pot from the heat, then stir in the zest.

Stir Cranberry Sauce

Stir everything together then let it cool slightly (it will thicken as it cools). Then it’s ready to serve! You can make this a day or two ahead of time if needed.

A pot full of simple and classic cranberry sauce brightened with orange essence.

Fresh cranberry sauce is so delicious and you can put it on just about anything. Of course, it is good on all of the usual thanksgiving items but don’t forget it on your turkey sandwich the next day! Because it is so jam-like it’s also amazing on a piece of toast with butter in the morning. Try it over ice cream too! What do you put your cranberry sauce on?

A bowl of thick cranberry sauce ready for serving on your holiday table
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  1. Looking forward to making this this year! How freezer-friendly is it? I’d love to make it ahead of time.

    1. Homemade cranberry sauce freezes beautifully. Use the frozen cranberry sauce within a couple of months, and defrost in the refrigerator overnight. XOXO -Monti

  2. Nutrition question- specifically sugar and added sugar per serving. For the diet I’m trying, I need to account for sugar and I didn’t see sugars in the nutrition section of the recipe 

  3. I doubled this and it worked great, but it’s way way too orangey unfortunately (measured out 1 cup juice for a doubled recipe). Going to try again with less.

  4. This was so tart as written! I had to double the sugar and the zest was a little overpowering. I think I’ll just use the juice next time. Otherwise, I love the recipes on here!

  5. This is so delicious yet simple.  Could I use the leftovers to put over cream cheese like in your other recipe? 

  6. Hi! May cranberries be replaced with other red berry? Or a blend of other red berries

    1. I’m not sure, actually, I think I’d need to try it out to see. I think the main things you’d need to consider are that berries vary quite a bit in sweetness, and so you may find that you need to adjust the amount of sugar to compensate (cranberries are VERY tart, so they need a lot of sugar to balance). Berries also vary in the amount of pectin, which helps the sauce gel up. Reducing the sugar will also reduce the thickening power. So there are a lot of things to consider with both flavor and texture when swapping out berries.

  7. You don’t keep a cup of pasta water to add the past dinner? I heard it’s very important to do this step. Or us it?

  8. This was the first time I’ve ever made cranberry sauce. I don’t know what took me so long! This was a straight-forward , simple recipe. Delish! I can’t wait to use the left overs with a pork loin roast.

  9. Making this easy and fresh cranberry sauce in the morning of Thanksgiving, 2nd year in a row. 💖💖💖