When it comes to this sweet cranberry holiday classic, skip the canned stuff and make this deliciously fresh and easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce recipe. Loaded with fresh cranberries, mixed with cinnamon, orange, and a hint of vanilla, it is the perfect combination of sweet, citrus, and spice for a warming holiday treat.

This is the best cranberry sauce recipe, and it only takes about 10 minutes to make! It’s the perfect accompaniment for your Thanksgiving or festive holiday dinner, and it’s so much better than any store-bought variety. This recipe is from House of Nash Eats.

Why We Love This Recipe

  • You can control the level of sweetness. If you prefer it less sweet and more tart, go ahead and cut back on the sugar by 2-3 tablespoons.
  • Using real cranberries makes the sauce have a fresh and fruity flavor. Orange juice and the cinnamon stick give this homemade cranberry sauce a rich depth of flavor that is more interesting and complex than the Ocean Spray canned kind.
  • You only need a few ingredients and just 10 minutes to make this sauce.

What You’ll Need

  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar – This thickens the fruit into a sauce and makes it deliciously sweet.
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup Orange Juice – Fresh orange juice is always best but use what you have.
  • 12-ounce Bag of Cranberries (fresh or frozen) – One of those 12-ounce bags will do.
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick – Gives the sauce a rich spiced flavor.
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract – Adds a warm sweetness to the sauce.
  • Pinch Salt – To slightly intensify the flavors.
  • Orange Zest from 1 orange – Use mixed into the sauce and also to garnish.


  • Combine the sugar, water, and orange juice in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  
  • Add the whole cranberries (no need to thaw first if using frozen berries; see note below about holding some in reserve for whole cranberry sauce), cinnamon stick, orange zest, if using, and salt. Bring to a boil for 1 minute before reducing the heat to medium low and simmering for 10 minutes, or until the cranberries have burst.
  • Remove the pan from heat, take out the cinnamon stick, and stir in the vanilla extract. Let the sauce cool to room temperature before transferring to a container to chill in the fridge until ready to serve. Garnish with orange zest, if desired.



  • Make-ahead instructions: This recipe can be made 7-10 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to serve. Serve cold or at room temperature.
  • Freezing instructions: You can freeze cranberry sauce for 2-3 months. Be sure to let it thaw on the counter for a few hours or overnight in the fridge before serving.
  • Substitutions: Do not use dried cranberries to make this recipe. You won’t get the same results.
  • Jellied cranberry sauce: You can cook the berries an additional 10 minutes and mash them well, then press through a fine mesh sieve for more of a jellied version. Pour the gel into a bowl, jar, or mini loaf pan lined with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray and chill for 3 hours to mold into a sliceable shape.
  • Whole cranberry sauce: You can reserve ¼ of the cranberries to add at the end if you would like more of a whole berry approach for texture and bursts of tartness.

Substitutions and Variations

  • Use more cinnamon sticks if you want a more intense cinnamon flavor.
  • You can use ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon if you don’t have cinnamon sticks.
  • Adding orange zest to the sauce is optional if you want a more citrusy sauce. You can also garnish the sauce with orange zest. Use lemon zest in a pinch.
  • Substitute white sugar for brown sugar or pure maple syrup.

Tips for Success

  • If you like whole berries in your cranberry sauce, just reserve some cranberries and add them in during the last minute of cooking time. I love the extra burst of tartness in those whole-cranberry bites!
  • You can use fresh or frozen cranberries for this recipe, and you don’t need to thaw frozen ones before making using them!
  • If you prefer jellied cranberry sauce, simmer all the cranberries a bit longer until they are completely broken down, then pour it into a mold and chill well before unmolding and serving.
  • Amp up the citrus factor with orange zest in addition to the orange juice called for in the recipe below, or leave it out if you don’t have an orange on hand.
  • For a beautiful presentation, you can garnish with extra orange zest sprinkled on top or plate with rosemary sprigs or sugared cranberries around the bowl.

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