Homemade Cranberry Sauce – Budget Bytes

I guess I take pleasure in the little things because I get the most excited about this Homemade Cranberry Sauce recipe out of all the Thanksgiving food every year! The amount of flavor that comes out of just three simple ingredients is unreal. And because homemade cranberry sauce is this easy to make, I’ve started making it as a side dish for my dinners all winter long. It’s great with so many different meals!

Overhead view of a pot full of homemade cranberry sauce being stirred.

Need more easy Thanksgiving recipes? Check out our Easy Thanksgiving Dinner for Beginners guide!

Cranberry sauce is so incredibly easy to make that you’ll only need these simple ingredients:

  • Cranberries: You can use fresh or frozen cranberries to make this sauce. Make sure to look for plump and firm cranberries and pass on any that look dull, mushy, or wrinkled.
  • Sugar: Cranberries are incredibly tart on their own, so we’ll need a good dose of sugar to balance their tart flavor.
  • Water: A little water helps the cranberries boil and creates a saucy texture with the sugar.
  • Orange: This ingredient is optional, but I find that the addition of a little orange juice and a pinch of orange zest really adds a nice little dose of freshness on top of the bright cranberry flavor.

Sugar Substitutions

If you don’t want to use white sugar in your cranberry sauce, you can substitute the sugar with honey or maple syrup, keeping in mind that they will produce slightly different flavors and textures in the final sauce. And while I have seen recipes that use sugar-free sweeteners, like stevia or erythritol, I have not tried making cranberry sauce with these ingredients myself.

This simple cranberry sauce recipe can be modified in various ways to add other flavors. Here are some other ingredients you can add to cranberry sauce to make it your own:

  • Jalapeños
  • Red wine
  • Apples
  • Figs
  • Raspberries
  • Cinnamon or Nutmeg
  • Vanilla extract
  • Cloves
  • Ginger
  • Balsamic vinegar

How to Store Leftovers

This cranberry sauce holds up beautifully in the refrigerator, so feel free to make it a day or two ahead of your Thanksgiving meal. It will stay good in the refrigerator for about 4-5 days, or you can freeze it for up to three months.

How to Use Cranberry Sauce

We all know and love cranberry sauce with Thanksgiving turkey, but it’s also awesome served in other ways! Try adding it to chicken, stirring it into your oatmeal, adding it on top of buttered toast or an English muffin, on top of a bagel with cream cheese, or even on some vanilla ice cream! And you can use it to make my favorite Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip for New Year’s Eve. 😉

Overhead view of cranberry sauce in a bowl with orange zest and a spoon.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

This easy three ingredient homemade cranberry sauce is fast, flavorful, and the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving meal!

Author: Beth – Budget Bytes

Thickened cranberry sauce in the pot being stirred.

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  • 12 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries ($2.00)
  • 1/2 cup sugar ($0.18)
  • 1 cup water ($0.00)
  • 1 small orange ($0.99)
  • Add the sugar and water to a medium saucepot. Stir to combine. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

  • Rinse the cranberries, then add them to the boiling sugar water, and place a lid on top. Allow the water 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 and the mixture has thickened. You can simmer longer if you prefer an extra thick cranberry sauce.

  • While the cranberries simmer, zest and juice the orange

  • Once the cranberry sauce has thickened, remove it from the heat and stir in2 Tbsp orange juice and 1/4 tsp zest to the sauce. Allow the sauce to cool slightly, then serve.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.

Serving: 0.5cupCalories: 93kcalCarbohydrates: 24gProtein: 0.3gFat: 0.1gSodium: 3mgFiber: 2g

Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.

Try serving this homemade cranberry sauce over a wheel of baked brie for an extra special holiday treat!

How to Make Homemade Cranberry Sauce – Step by Step Photos

Water being poured into a pot with sugar.

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.

Fresh cranberries added to the pot with the water and sugar.

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

Half boiled cranberries in the pot.

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

Thickened cranberry sauce being stirred.

Continue to let the cranberries simmer over medium-low, without a lid, until they have broken down and thickened (about 5-7 minutes). Stir the mixture occasionally as it simmers.

Juiced and zested orange.

While the cranberries are simmering, zest and juice one small orange. You’ll only need about ¼ tsp zest and 2 Tbsp juice unless you really like citrus and then you can measure with your heart!

Zest and juice added to the pot.

Stir the juice and zest into the cooked cranberry sauce.

Finished cranberry sauce in the pot.

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.

Thickened cranberry sauce in the pot being stirred.

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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