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  • Dairy Free
  • Gluten Free
  • Nut Free
  • Vegan
  • Vegetarian

Easy Cranberry Sauce with Citrus

Sweet Cranberry Sauce is one of the best holiday treats! It's easy to make and complements a holiday meal. Thanksgiving dinner isn't complete without it!

This cranberry sauce is quick, homemade, and you can make it ahead of time for the big day! Enjoy the sweet-tart cranberry and the warming spice of cinnamon spread over your food of choice. In just 15 minutes, you can have a Thanksgiving essential ready to go!

What are the health benefits cranberry sauce healthy for you?

Cranberries are full of loads of vitamins, minerals, and fiber! The sauce itself includes added sugar, which is fine in moderation, so it really depends on your perspective.

Do you serve cranberry sauce hot or cold?

It’s actually most commonly served at room temperature, but if you have a strong preference for hot or cold you can enjoy it whichever way you want.

What do you serve cranberry sauce with?

So many things! I suggest waffles and pancakes, on toast, on a scone, stirred into yogurt, blended in a  smoothie, etc. At Thanksgiving, we generally put it on top of literally everything, especially leftover Thanksgiving sandwiches. There’s something about the turkey and cranberry combo that can’t be beat!

How should I store my cranberry sauce if I make it ahead?

– Make at least one day before bc it’s best at room temp
– Let it cool before you store it
– Air tight container in fridge for about 10 days
– Freeze up to a year and let it defrost in the fridge the day before use

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Why I Love This Recipe For Cranberry Sauce

Cranberries are delicious and nutritious, and since I’ve made my own Cranberry Jam and Cranberry Juice before, I figured it was time to dive into the fall classic: Cranberry Sauce. 

Homemade cranberry sauce is an absolute must-have for Thanksgiving, and it’s one of those rare recipes that tastes even better the day after. Slather some on a leftover turkey sandwich, maybe with some stuffing, and you’ll never look back. 

Of course, cranberry sauce can be enjoyed year-round in a variety of ways. You can use it as a spread for toast, a topping for ice cream, or a filling in french toast, among many other things. But one thing’s for sure; the tartness of the cranberry balanced with a bit of sugar and citrus creates a combination everyone at the table will love!

I used to buy canned cranberry sauce for the holidays. It seemed like one less thing to cook or prepare. But one year, I got around to reading the ingredients on the cans. There’s a huge list for a seemingly simple dish. Why is it so difficult to use just basic ingredients? So I set out to make the perfect cranberry sauce on my own.

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This wasn’t too easy at first.

There were so many recipes out on the Internet about how to make the “perfect cooked cranberry sauce” that gave a bad turnout. When I wanted stronger orange flavor, it was just always a little bit too much, overpowering the berries. I even tried maple syrup, orange liqueur, and Stevia! Less sugar meant more tartness, and the “perfect amount” never seemed to work out. I always ended up with leftover sauce and no one willing to eat it because it just wasn’t right.

Key Ingredients to Make This Cranberry Recipe


  • You can use fresh or frozen; it doesn’t matter! Its a natural base to cranberry sauce. They’re perfectly tart.


  • Use both the orange zest of the orange juice AND the juice.  After zesting it, you can juice it. Nothing goes to waste here! The citrus is necessary for stabilizing the sauce (and allowing it to keep for longer), and the zest adds lots more flavor. 


  • Use a whole stick of cinnamon. It’ll simmer in the sauce so the heat allows the cinnamony flavor to disperse throughout the mixture. It adds the subtle holiday flavor that we all enjoy without overpowering the orange and sweet cranberry flavors.

Sugar and Water

  • Classic staples and to balance out the tartness of the cranberries. 
  • Water makes the sauce smoother.
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Finally, I found the perfect ratio of sugar-to-cranberries.

Cranberries generally come in a 12-ounce bag. One bag of cranberries plus one cup of sugar equals the perfect ratio of sugar to cranberries! One orange and one stick of cinnamon plus a half-cup of water, and you’re ready to go. This is a super easy recipe to remember each year.

In that first year, I made this sauce 3 times: for the Thanksgiving table, Christmas dinner, and another family New Year’s gathering. This homemade cranberry sauce recipe just flew off the table! It became a holiday classic in our family and since then, I’ve never had leftover cranberry sauce.

After one year, I started making a special batch to freeze it, for minimal prep time in the next year. Let me tell you, when frozen cranberry sauce is defrosted, it’s just as tasty as when you make it the first time.


  • Less sugar, add to taste
  • Stir in nuts at the end
  • Use more orange juice, less water
  • Add another cinnamon stick
  • Or pumpkin pie spices
  • More texture? Reserve some whole (fresh) cranberries to add towards the end so they don’t completely break down

Here are more Thanksgiving recipes to enjoy this year:

A tasty salad for your leftover turkey meat that has a dairy-free ranch dressing!

10-minute gravy recipe that is a lifesaver in a pinch.

Some soft dinner rolls to enjoy with the gravy!

Related Recipes To Try


Cranberry Sauce

Sweet Cranberry Sauce is one of the best holiday treats! It's easy to make and complements a holiday meal. Thanksgiving dinner isn't complete without it!
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Course: Desserts, Side Dish, Spread, Starters and Sides
Cuisine: American, Jam
Keyword: cranberry jam, crnaberry sauce, homemade jam recipe, sweet jam
Allergy: Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Nut Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 176kcal


  • 12 oz fresh cranberries (or frozen)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 large orange, for zest
  • 1 large orange, juiced, about ½ cup
  • 1 stick cinnamon


  • In a small pan mix together all the ingredients.
  • Over medium-high heat, bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until most of the cranberries burst.
  • Remove the cinnamon stick from the pan and let the sauce cool completely. The sauce will thicken when it cools.


Calories: 176kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 0.2g | Saturated Fat: 0.01g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.04g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.02g | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 128mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 40g | Vitamin A: 134IU | Vitamin C: 31mg | Calcium: 29mg | Iron: 0.2mg

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