A Homemade Cranberry Orange Sauce recipe made with fresh or frozen berries, orange juice and zest, and natural honey or maple syrup to sweeten it. Learn how to make this recipe for your Thanksgiving or Christmas meal. This easy sauce recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, and tastes so much better than the canned kind!
Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce
Say goodbye to canned cranberry sauce and hello to this fresh and homemade version with orange juice and zest!!
Seriously, though. As a kid I always turned up my nose at the gelatinous glob of maroon jiggle. Who wants to eat something that looks like a science experiment?!
And then, I married my husband. And the main dish he looked forward to at Thanksgiving dinner was…
Cohl always looked forward to the fresh homemade cranberry sauce (or some would call it “relish”) that his mom cooked up from scratch. And rightfully so. It is incredible!
Using fresh ingredients gives the sauce a delightful tartness while also being slightly sweet from a bit of natural sugars.
And if you like that sweet-and-savory combo, you’ll love coating your turkey slices with it on Thanksgiving day!
Plus it’s naturally gluten-free, Paleo (if using unrefined sugars!), vegetarian, and can easily be made vegan, too. So just about everyone at your dinner table can enjoy it!
You will only need a few easy-to-find ingredients for this holiday sauce recipe.
What goes in fresh cranberry sauce?
- Cranberries – You can use fresh or frozen. (See more info below.)
- Oranges – Fresh orange juice and zest is the best. (See more info below.)
- Honey or maple syrup – Use honey if you are not vegan and maple syrup or agave nectar if you are.
- Salt – You only need a pinch to bring out the natural sweetness.
Fresh or Frozen?
You can either use fresh cranberries or frozen when making this homemade sauce.
Fresh cranberries can be found in a bag in your produce section.
If you buy fresh, make sure to store them in the refrigerator and use within 3-4 weeks for best results.
Frozen cranberries are located in the freezer section of your grocery store.
There is no need to defrost if using frozen before making this recipe.
If using frozen, you have up to a year to use them in this side.
Cook’s Tip: Do NOT use dried cranberries. These will NOT work when following this recipe.
Best Type of Oranges
Navel oranges work best in this recipe and is what I recommend using. However, you can also experiment with blood or mandarin oranges.
As shown below, the recipe calls for orange juice and orange zest.
PS – It is TOTALLY worth squeezing to get fresh orange juice and pulling out your zester or microplane grater.
Cook’s Tip: A microplane works better when zesting the orange since it will create smaller pieces of zest. If you do not have a microplane, simply zest and then finely chop the zest into tiny pieces.
Can I Use Juice from a Carton?
Yes, you can use orange juice from a carton to save you a bit of time.
If you do, make sure you get FRESH and not from concentrate.
Fresh orange juice can often be found in the refrigerated area of your produce section.
Don’t forget to still grab an orange to get a bit of fresh zest into this holiday favorite recipe!
How to Make
Now that you have all of your ingredients, let’s take a look at how to make this traditional Thanksgiving sauce:
- Pour orange juice, water, and sweetener into a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil.
- You can either use a stainless steel (personal preference) or a non-stick saucepan.
- Reduce heat to medium and add fresh or frozen cranberries, orange zest, and a pinch of salt.
- Cook for 10-12 minutes UNCOVERED, stirring occasionally.
Cook’s Tip: It is VERY important you keep the saucepan uncovered or until the texture thickens.
- Turn off the heat once the cranberries burst.
- Mash berries with the back of a spoon until your desired consistency is reached.
- The sauce will continue to thicken as it sits and cools to room temperature.
- Cool to room temperature before storing in the refrigerator.
How to Store
Now that you have finished cooking, how do you store it?
How long will it last?
Fresh cranberry sauce will last for up to 2 weeks if stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
It is best to refrigerate within 2 hours of cooking.
Can you freeze cranberry sauce?
Yes, you can freeze it. It will have the best taste and texture if used within 1-2 months.
Cook’s Tip: The texture may become a bit more watery once defrosted.
How to Prep Ahead of Time
One of the best things about making cranberry relish is that it can be prepared up to 4-5 days in advance.
In fact, I think it actually gets a little better with more time in the refrigerator.
So instead of rushing around on Christmas or Thanksgiving morning, you can make this recipe ahead of time!
Other Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes:
- Green Bean Casserole Recipe
- Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Oat Crumble
- Southern Cornbread Dressing Recipe
- Chopped Kale Salad
- Cauliflower au Gratin
- Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
Cranberry Orange Sauce Recipe
An easy and homemade Cranberry Orange Sauce recipe that is made with fresh or frozen cranberries, orange juice, orange zest, and a bit of honey or maple syrup.
- ⅓ cup orange juice fresh
- ⅓ cup water
- ⅔ cup honey or maple syrup*
- 12 oz. cranberries fresh or previously frozen*
- 2 tsp. orange zest finely chopped*
- ⅛ tsp. salt
Add orange juice, water, and honey to a medium saucepan and bring ingredients to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium and add cranberries, orange zest, and salt. Cook for 10-12 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally.
Once cranberries begin to pop, turn off heat and mash remaining cranberries to your desired consistency.
Let sit at room temperature until chilled and store in refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Fresh and frozen cranberries work equally as well in this recipe. Do NOT get dried cranberries.
- Feel free to use maple syrup, or agave nectar to make this recipe vegan.
- You can use a microplane grater instead of chopping the orange zest.