Put down the can of cranberry sauce and slowly back away! Instead, make this easy, 5-ingredient, fresh cranberry sauce from scratch with whole cranberries and freshly squeezed orange juice and zest. The perfect addition to your holiday table alongside the roasted delicata squash and brussels sprouts, cornbread and bacon stuffing, and buttery cornbread.
Every holiday in my family centered around cranberry sauce for me. All I needed was a can of that jellied fruit and sugar and a spoon to be happy. You could have taken away all of the rest of the food at the table and I couldn’t have cared less – as long as I had my cranberry sauce.
As I grew older, I came to realize I could probably afford to go homemade and try something new. That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes pick up a can just for nostalgia’s sake – because I do.
But the point is that for the special occasions where a family gathers to feast, they could use a little home-cooked lovin’ instead of fruit in a can that comes out with ridges and makes a slurping sound when it’s plated.
You know exactly what I’m talking about.
Making homemade cranberry sauce
- Zest one orange. Make sure your orange has been washed and dried, then use a microplane zester or grater to remove only the orange outer colored portion of the peel. Zesting further than that will penetrate the white pith, which has a bitter taste.
- After you’re done zesting, slice the orange in half.
- Hold one of the orange halves tightly and squeeze it by hand, or use an orange juicer (aff link) to get all the juice out.
- You want ¼ cup orange juice – depending on the size of your orange, you may need to use the other half of the orange as well.
- In a medium saucepan, add water, orange juice, orange zest and sugar.
- Stir frequently over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, a minute or two.
- Gently add cranberries.
- Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer.
- Stir frequently until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. If you’d prefer the sauce to have less whole cranberry chunks, use a potato masher about halfway through the cooking time to smash them more for a somewhat smoother sauce.
- It will still have lumps of the cranberries, and that’s what you want!
- Remove from heat and store in the fridge for 2-3 hours.
Oh, also – I recommend putting paper towels around your spoon rest and wearing an apron and/or clothes you don’t mind getting a little cranberry splatter on because cranberry juice splatters and can stain if you’re not careful!
I just know that after you’ve tried making your own cranberry sauce from scratch you’ll never want to go back to the canned stuff.
But if you’re really feeling nostalgic, you could pour the freshly made, still warm cranberry sauce into an aluminum can to chill. Then you can plop it out onto a plate and slice it up. The choice is yours.
I’d highly recommend making two batches of this – one for the dinner table, and another for my cranberry fluff.
Kids love it, and frankly… well, so do I.
After you’ve made this recipe, please consider coming back to share your experience with others by leaving a comment below with a star rating!
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup orange juice, no pulp – freshly squeezed is best
- Zest of one orange
- 1 cup sugar, or honey
- 1-12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries, set a handful aside as garnish, optional
- Rosemary sprigs, optional
- In a medium saucepan, add water, orange juice, orange zest and sugar. Stir frequently over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, a minute or two.
- Gently add cranberries and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. It will still have lumps of the cranberries, and that’s what you want!
- Remove from heat and transfer the sauce in a serving bowl. Chill in the fridge for 2-3 hours.
- When you’re ready to serve, just use a fork to stir and break it up a little bit, then garnish with fresh whole cranberries, orange zest, and/or rosemary sprigs. Enjoy!
- The cranberries might pop while they’re cooking, so I recommend wearing an apron and/or clothes you don’t mind getting a little cranberry splatter on!
- If you’d prefer the sauce to have less whole cranberry chunks, use a potato masher about halfway through the cooking time to smash them more for a somewhat smoother sauce.
This post was originally published in December 2013 and was updated for clarity and new photos in October 2019.