A simple 5-ingredient homemade cranberry sauce recipe that can be made on the stovetop or in the slow cooker! You can even make it ahead of time and reheat it the same day. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
Either you can’t live without it at the big Thanksgiving feast, or you don’t even look in its direction. Which side of the spectrum are you on? Is it a matter of consistency? Okay, but do we hate cranberry sauce because you only ate it from a jar? Because that doesn’t count.
Substitute real cranberries, boil them in a pot with orange juice and a few additions, like a cinnamon stick or a sprig of rosemary, and tell me you still hate them. It’s so much better than canned sauce.
OK, but what if it wasn’t a turkey topping? I love the idea of spreading leftover cranberry sauce on chicken or turkey sandwiches the next day. It really brings out all the other flavors! Wet bread dipped in the sauce, turkey baked with herbs. It’s all there, and it’s even better when you drizzle it with homemade cranberry sauce.
Ingredients to make homemade cranberry sauce:
- Fresh or frozen cranberries: you must use whole cranberries for this recipe. I usually buy a bag of fresh cranberries and rinse them thoroughly in a colander before throwing them into the boiling liquid. If you use frozen cranberries, there is no need to thaw them. Just add them to the boiling liquid and you’re done!
- Fresh orange juice: gives the sauce more sparkle. It makes it sweeter and gives the cranberries a strong taste. I prefer to use freshly squeezed orange juice, but store-bought orange juice is fine too if you want to use it! It tends to be a little sweeter, so you can use a little less and add a little more water.
- Orange zest: makes the cranberry sauce more vibrant and gives it a touch of citrus flavor. You can also use lemon zest if you like.
- White granulated sugar: adds sweetness to the sauce and balances the natural tartness of the cranberries. Brown sugar is also a good substitute if you want to give the cranberry sauce a richer taste. You can also reduce or omit the orange juice and use maple syrup or even honey instead, if you like.
- Optional Extras: You can use almost anything you like! Cinnamon stick, anise pods, cardamom, fresh rosemary, black pepper, vanilla extract, and a drizzle of honey. Other spices, like nutmeg, also work well! The possibilities are endless.
How to make cranberry sauce from scratch:
- Rinse them well. First, rinse the berries in a colander under cold water.
- Prepare a boiling liquid. Pour the orange juice, sugar, half a cup of water, and any ingredients you wish to use into a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. When the sugar has dissolved, add the cranberries and orange zest.
- Cook everything together. Braise over medium heat for 10-12 minutes, until the cranberries begin to pop and look like jam. Remove the cranberry sauce from the heat and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate or freeze it. Don’t worry if the sauce seems a little runny – it will thicken on its own as it sits!
Frequently asked questions about this recipe:
How can I use leftover cranberry sauce?
You can use it as a jam on toast, in my cranberry brie pieces with walnuts or pecans, on a stack of buttermilk pancakes, or on Greek yogurt with homemade granola.
Can it be made ahead of time?
Cranberry sauce can be made a few days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator until the harvest festival. You can also freeze it three months in advance. I recommend thawing it overnight in the refrigerator and then reheating it in a saucepan.
Can I prepare the cranberry sauce in a slow cooker?
Yes, the recipe card contains instructions for making it on the stovetop and in a slow cooker.
My cranberry sauce looks runny; should I keep cooking it?
It’s okay if the sauce looks runny when you take it off the heat. The natural pectin in the cranberries helps thicken the sauce as it cools. So don’t worry! I promise it will be perfect!
Other Thanksgiving recipes you might like:
- Homemade gravy (with or without roast gravy)
- The Best Creamed Spinach
- Incredibly Creamy String Bean Gratin
- Creamy Roasted Garlic and Asiago Mashed Potatoes
- Caramelized Onion and Gruyere Cookies
- Creamy Slow Cooked Corn
YIELD: ~1 ½ CUPS
Homemade Cranberry Sauce (Slow Cooker + Stovetop)
prep time 5 MINUTES cook time 10 MINUTES total time 15 MINUTES
A simple recipe for a homemade cranberry sauce with five ingredients that you can make at the stove or in the slow cooker! You can even make it in advance and reheat the same day. It doesn’t get any easier than this!
- 12 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries (not thawed).
- ½ cup fresh orange juice
- 2 teaspoons of orange zest
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- Optional additions: cinnamon stick, star anise, cardamom pods, fresh rosemary sprig, black peppercorns, vanilla extract, etc.
- RINSE: rinse cranberries in a colander with cold water.
- Simmer pot: place cranberries, orange juice, orange zest, sugar, 2 tablespoons water and any other additions in a 3-quart slow cooker. Stir to combine everything. Let the sauce cook on high heat for 3-4 hours or on low heat for 7-8 hours. The sauce will thicken considerably as it cools. Discard the additions before storing or serving.
- SAUCE INGREDIENTS: Place the orange juice, sugar, ½ cup water and any additions in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When the sugar has dissolved, add the cranberries and orange zest. Let the sauce simmer over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until the cranberries burst. Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature before placing it in the refrigerator. The sauce will continue to thicken considerably as it cools. Discard additives before storing or serving.
The sauce may seem thin when it is ready, but as it cools, the natural pectin from the cranberries thickens the sauce.
The recipe can easily be doubled and prepared in the same 3-quart pot.