Cranberry Sauce takes all of 15 minutes & 5 simple ingredients to make, and it kicks the canned stuff to the curb! It’s the perfect balance of sweet and tart, and it’s flavored with a little maple syrup, allspice, and orange zest. You’ll want to eat this fresh cranberry sauce straight out of the bowl with a spoon – it’s THAT good!
This recipe is so simple, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been making it all along. Plus, this recipe is naturally gluten-free and vegan, making it perfect for Thanksgiving dinner or for holiday dinners where you may have guests with dietary restrictions. I love serving cranberry sauce throughout the holiday season – don’t reserve it just for your Thanksgiving table! I often serve this with Christmas dinner, too.
Why you’ll love this Easy Cranberry Sauce Recipe:
- Easy Recipe – Just 20 minutes and 5 ingredients stand between you and this delicious recipe! It’s the easiest Thanksgiving recipe you’ll ever make, and a great recipe to start with if you have to bring a dish to Thanksgiving for the first time.
- Fresh Cranberries – This is a great way to use up any fresh or frozen cranberries you have at home. Not to mention, the U.S. produces a lot of cranberries, so it’s a great way to support farmers at your Thanksgiving meal (shoutout to my home state of WI – the top cranberry producer!)
- Incredible Flavor – Fresh cranberries flavored with a little sugar, maple syrup, allspice, and orange make this dish incredibly flavorful. It tastes infinitely better than a can of cranberry sauce!
- Make-Ahead Recipe – This can be made ahead and kept in the fridge for 3-4 days before serving. It can also be frozen ahead!
As always, the full recipe with measurements & directions can be found at the bottom of this post.
- Cranberries – Use fresh or frozen whole cranberries. If using frozen, use them directly from the freezer – do not thaw them first! Find them in the produce section at the grocery store as we get close to thanksgiving. Some stores likely carry them in the freezer section year round.
- Sugar – A little white sugar balances the tart flavors of the cranberries.
- Maple Syrup – Maple syrup pairs beautifully with cranberries! Use pure maple syrup, not the artificial stuff. It has the most incredible flavor!
- Orange Zest – A little orange zest adds bright flavor.
- Allspice – Allspice adds a little bit of cozy fall warmth. You could also use a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg.
- Cinnamon Stick – Adding a cinnamon stick while the cranberries cook adds depth of flavor!
- Dairy–free and Vegan – This recipe is naturally dairy-free and vegan!
- Gluten-free – This recipe is naturally gluten-free!
How to Make the Best Cranberry Sauce Recipe Step-by-Step:
Step 1: Cook Sugar & Water. First, cook the water + sugar together in a saucepan for a few minutes, until the sugar is dissolved.
Step 2: Cook Cranberries. Then, add your fresh or frozen cranberries and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until they’re mostly broken down and thickened.
Step 3: Add Mix-ins: Stir in your add-ins! This is the fun part. I love using a little maple syrup, bourbon, and orange zest. I even add a pinch of allspice as well. You can use just one or all of these – customize it to your taste!
Serving + Storing this Recipe:
The sauce will thicken a bit more as it cools. Serve warm or cold. Add to a pretty serving bowl with a sprinkle of orange zest on top, and a few cinnamon sticks for garnish, and it will look stunning on your holiday table. Store cooled leftover cranberry sauce in a mason jar or airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
Expert Success Tips:
- Heat the Sauce Enough – Make sure you bring the cranberry mixture to a boil before reducing the heat to cook them down. If you don’t, the cranberries won’t break down and thicken properly. If this happens to you, don’t worry! Just bring the mixture back to a boil for a minute or so, then reduce back to a simmer and cook, stirring, until thickened like in the photos.
- Leftover Turkey – Make leftover turkey sandwiches on the next day and spread cranberry sauce on for the most delicious leftovers you’ll ever have!
- Cranberry Sauce as a Thanksgiving Band-Aid – Ok, that doesn’t sound yummy BUT if it’s your first time cooking turkey and it comes out a bit dry, spoon cranberry sauce over a serving platter of the slices, and no one will even notice.
Yes you can! The cook time given in the recipe card may be a bit shorter if you halve it, and it will definitely be longer if you double it. Follow the visual cues given to know when it’s done.
Yes! Store cooled sauce in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before using.
Yes! Let the sauce cool at room temperature, then store in an airtight container or mason jar in the fridge for 3-4 days before serving. Then store leftovers for an additional 3-5 days.
It pairs beautifully with every dish on the table at Thanksgiving, and it goes well with any holiday meal, such as Christmas or Easter. I like it on biscuits or rolls, on ham or turkey, or even spread on my morning bagel!
- Bourbon – Omit the bourbon if needed. A splash of apple brandy could be yummy too!
- Maple Syrup – Omit the maple syrup if you don’t have it on hand. Add a pinch of brown sugar instead.
- Orange Juice – I often add a splash of orange juice along with the zest. I’ve even seen people use pomegranate juice for a delicious alternative.
- Medium Saucepan – Use a medium saucepan to cook your sauce in!
- Wooden Spoon – I love wooden spoons for a multitude of uses in the kitchen, including making soups, sautéing veggies, and making sauces.
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More Recipes for your Thanksgiving Feast:
- Quick Bacon Green Beans
- Best Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Streusel
- Baked Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash with Bacon
- White Cheddar Mac & Cheese with Brown Butter Breadcrumbs
- Brussels Sprouts Salad with Maple Dressing
- Homemade Green Bean Casserole
More Cranberry Recipes to Love:
- Cranberry Apple Slab Pie
- Cranberry Apple Crisp
- Cranberry Slice & Bake Cookies
- Puff Pastry Bites with Gouda & Cranberry Sauce
Did you make this recipe? Snap a photo and leave a comment!
Homemade Maple Cranberry Sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 cups fresh or frozen whole cranberries If using frozen, do not thaw
- 1 cinnamon stick optional
- 2 tsp bourbon Omit if needed
- 2 tsp orange zest adjust to taste
- 2 tsp orange juice adjust to taste
- 1 pinch allspice adjust to taste
- Make the Cranberry Sauce: Rinse your cranberries. Add the water, maple syrup, and sugar to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved (this will only take a 1-2 minutes). Once the sugar is dissolved, lower the heat to a simmer (low heat) and add the cranberries and a cinnamon stick. Bring the mixture to a boil again, and then reduce the heat to a simmer over medium low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries are mostly broken down and thickened – about 10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick, and taste to see how much more spice it may need before you add anything else.Next, stir in your mix ins! Taste, and adjust as desired.
- Serve + Store: The sauce will thicken a bit more as it cools but it's technically ready to eat once your mix-ins have been stirred in! Store leftovers tightly covered in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- Make Ahead Tips: Cranberry Sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored in the fridge. Gently reheat in the microwave or in a pan on the stovetop when ready to serve. Yield: 1.25 cups or about 6 servings, assuming people are adding a dollop to their plates at thanksgiving.
- Troubleshooting Tips: If your cranberry sauce hasn't cooked down or thickened by the end of the 10 minute cook time, never fear – you probably didn't let the mixture come to a boil before simmering for the 10 minutes. It's easily fixed! Turn the heat back up a bit until the mixture just starts to boil, then reduce back to a simmer and continue cooking until the cranberries break down and thicken up more.