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Easy Cranberry Sauce Recipe

This recipe for classic Cranberry Sauce is so easy and made with just 3 ingredients. No matter how many batches of cranberry sauce I’ve made, I always come back to this one. It’s simple, it’s classic, and it’s really the best.

Once you try homemade cranberry sauce, there’s just no going back to storebought. It’s better in taste, texture, and presentation. Pair this iconic holiday side dish with your Juicy Roast Turkey for a burst of sweet-tart flavor in every bite.

A bowl of homemade cranberry sauce with a spoon.

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We love cranberries for the holidays, from Sugared Cranberries (and you can use leftovers to make this cranberry sauce!) to moist and fluffy Cranberry Bread. If you are looking for a go-to cranberry sauce, this is it! Plus, you can change it up in so many different ways and make it your own (see variations below).

Classic Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Homemade Cranberry Sauce is iconic for the holidays and a staple of our Thanksgiving menu every year. Nothing pairs better with Thanksgiving Turkey. The combination of sweet and tangy with savory meats is irresistibly good. 

Read on for our tips on how to sweeten this recipe the natural way, without processed sugar. We’ve also included some fun variations to really make this recipe your own because there are a hundred ways to make cranberry sauce.

Ingredients

You don’t need much to make a good cranberry sauce (scroll down to get the full amounts available in the recipe card):

  • Sweetener – Use your choice of granulated sugar or a natural sweetener, like honey or maple syrup. My favorite is maple syrup because it adds a nice layer of maple flavor.
  • Cranberries – We love making this recipe with whole fresh cranberries. Many grocery stores will carry bags of fresh cranberries when they’re in season.
The ingredients for homemade cranberry sauce.

Pro Tip: You don’t need cornstarch to set this perfect cranberry sauce. Cranberries contain pectin, a natural thickener that is released when the berries are heated. If you simmer the sauce long enough, it will thicken all on its own.

Can I Use Frozen Cranberries?

Yes, this recipe will work with frozen cranberries, too. Frozen cranberries will take a little longer to come to a boil and simmer, but the texture always turns out just as delicious.

It’s easy to freeze fresh cranberries in the bags they came in (or transfer them to a freezer bag). They’ll keep frozen for up to a year, and we almost always have a stash in our freezer.

Bags of frozen cranberries sealed inside a large zip-top bag.

How to Make Cranberry Sauce from Scratch

We just love how quickly this recipe comes together on the stovetop. It’s just 3 steps:

  1. Dissolve the Sugar – In a saucepan, combine your sweetener of choice with water on the stovetop, and bring it to a simmer. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. 
  2. Add Cranberries and Cook – Add the cranberries to the pot and let them come to a low boil, then cook, uncovered, until the sauce thickens. Remember to stir occasionally.
  3. Cool and Serve – Stir in additional sweetener to taste, then leave the cranberry sauce to cool. See below for easy serving suggestions.
Photo collage showing how to make cranberry sauce.

Pro Tip: If your cranberry sauce still tastes a bit bitter or too tart after it’s cooked, you can add more sweetener to taste.

Easy Variations

My favorite variation is this classic and simple version, but there are so many ways you can change up and enjoy this sauce. Below are more easy variations and add-in ideas (see the recipe card for more detailed instructions):

  • Cranberry Orange Sauce
  • Lemon zest and freshly-squeezed lemon juice 
  • Orange zest and orange juice
  • Dried cherries and pecans

Common Questions

What is the difference between Cranberry Sauce and Cranberry Relish?

Cranberry relish is generally more bitter, made from raw cranberries that are minced up in a food processor.

Can I add less sugar?

Yes! Less sugar or added sweetness will result in a more tart and tangy sauce. Start with ½ cup of sweetener and add more to taste.

Can I double the recipe?

Homemade cranberry sauce freezes beautifully (see below), so go ahead and make a double batch if you’d like to have extras.

Cranberries simmering in a pot with sugar and water.

Ways to Serve Cranberry Sauce

We’ll often serve this homemade sauce cold or at room temperature. Here are just some of the many ways to enjoy it:

Make-Ahead

This classic condiment keeps well for days after it’s made. Here’s how to store your leftovers:

  • To Refrigerate: Store the cooled cranberries airtight in the fridge for up to 1 week.
  • Freezing: You can freeze homemade cranberry sauce for up to 2 months. Seal it in a freezer-safe container or freezer bag to store, and defrost it in the fridge before serving.
A spoonful of cranberry sauce with a bowl of sauce in the background.

We can’t wait for you to try this simple, yet unbelievably tangy and tasty 3-ingredient cranberry sauce. 

More Cranberry Recipes

Can’t get enough cranberries for the holidays? Check out even more easy cranberry recipes:

Easy Cranberry Sauce Recipe

5 from 17 votes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
A bowl of homemade cranberry sauce with a spoon.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce is an iconic Thanksgiving side dish made with just 3 ingredients. You can sweeten it with sugar or use a natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup (our favorite!). The sweet and tangy flavors pair perfectly with savory turkey.

Author: Natasha Kravchuk
Skill Level: Easy
Cost to Make: $2-$6
Keyword: cranberry sauce, homemade cranberry sauce, how to make cranberry sauce
Cuisine: American
Course: Condiments, Side Dish
Calories: 116
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar, or 3/4 cup honey or maple syrup, plus more to taste
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries

Optional add-ins at the start of cooking:

  • 2 wide strips of lemon zest, plus 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 wide strips of orange zest, plus 1/4 cup juice
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick

Instructions

  1. In a large saucepan, combine sugar (or maple syrup or honey) and water. Set over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add cranberries and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens, about 12-15 minutes.

  2. Add more maple syrup, honey, or sugar to taste if needed, then remove from heat and cool sauce to room temperature before serving.

Recipe Notes

  • To Store: Once cranberry sauce has cooled to room temperature, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Nutrition Facts
Easy Cranberry Sauce Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 116 Calories from Fat 1
% Daily Value*
Fat 0.1g0%
Saturated Fat 0.004g0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.02g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.01g
Sodium 2mg0%
Potassium 35mg1%
Carbohydrates 30g10%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 27g30%
Protein 0.2g0%
Vitamin A 26IU1%
Vitamin C 6mg7%
Calcium 4mg0%
Iron 0.1mg1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Natasha Kravchuk

Welcome to my kitchen! I am Natasha, the blogger behind Natasha's Kitchen (since 2009). My husband and I run this blog together and share only our best, family approved and tested recipes with YOU. Thanks for stopping by! We are so happy you're here.

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Read comments/reviewsAdd comment/review

  • Janet Parker
    November 27, 2022

    I made this with just a little lemon juice it was very good and very easy to make.

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      November 27, 2022

      Sounds good, Janet. Thanks for the good review!

      Reply

  • Marimar
    November 25, 2022

    I using the juice of freshly squeezed orange! I also add maple syrup/honey. So good

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      November 26, 2022

      Yum! Thank you so much for sharing that with me, Marimar! I’m so happy you enjoyed that!

      Reply

  • Bernice Mosteller
    November 24, 2022

    Hi Natasha, I love all your shows and recipes! You are such a delight to watch! You always seem so happy and bubbly! It sure makes me smile! Hope you and your family has a Blessed Thanksgiving!! Love and Prayers!!🙏🏻❤️

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      November 24, 2022

      Aww, thank you for that! Happy Thanksgiving! Be Blessed.

      Reply

  • Donna and Paige
    November 23, 2022

    Hi Natasha!
    We are making the cranberry sauce now. I had pancake syrup but it didn’t say “maple” so I’m using honey. Do I have to add anything to put it into a jello mold?

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      November 23, 2022

      Hi Donna! I have not tested this recipe in a jello mold. The cranberry sauce naturally thickens but not thick like jello, so it wouldn’t hold it’s shape the same way as gelatin.

      Reply

  • Nancy White
    November 21, 2022

    Crystallized ginger bits make a tasty addition to cranberry sauce.HAPPY THANKSGIVING to your family!

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      November 21, 2022

      You too! Thanks for the idea and suggestion, Nancy.

      Reply

  • Mommie P
    November 21, 2022

    I love using the juice of freshly squeezed clementines! I also add maple syrup/honey. So simple!

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      November 21, 2022

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

      Reply

  • Marie
    November 20, 2022

    Could you do this recipe then put through sieve to eliminate seeds and skin ?

    Reply

    • marie
      November 23, 2022

      I did this with a double recipe.
      I now have berry and gel type cranberry sauce on my table.
      Thanks, Natasha, for another fabulous recipe.

      Reply

  • Reva
    November 20, 2022

    Natasha could you research/try making this receipt sugar free for us diabetics. There are so few available from chefs like you that it would like tapping into a new audience.

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      November 20, 2022

      Hi Reva, thanks for your suggestion. I haven’t tested that yet but hopefully, I can try that version in the future.

      Reply

  • Connie
    November 19, 2022

    Can I use dry cranberries like Cranraisins? Trying to just use what I have in pantry. With prices today, trying to save money for the turkey!

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      November 19, 2022

      Hi Connie, I haven’t tested that to advise, we’ve made this with fresh for the best outcome.

      Reply

      • Treva
        November 19, 2022

        I made some with dry cranberries a couple of weeks ago and did not like it. The consistency and taste is just not as good. My husband was okay with it but I went back to fresh cranberries. 🙂

        Reply

        • Natasha's Kitchen
          November 20, 2022

          That’s why we prefer to use fresh always.

          Reply

  • Tammy
    November 18, 2022

    I’m planning on making homemade cranberry sauce for the holidays, but could you use orange marmalade instead of orange juice?

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      November 18, 2022

      Hi Tammy! I haven’t tested it to advise. I think it could work but you’d have toe experiment with it.

      Reply

  • Cathy
    November 18, 2022

    I always change 1/3 of the sugar to brown sugar. Half the water to orange juice and the zest of 1 orange, and end with a pour of orange liqueur. The liquor makes it.

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      November 18, 2022

      Thank you so much for sharing that with me.

      Reply

  • Marianne C. Whitman
    November 17, 2022

    Love your column and many recipes. Make zucchini rounds now like I learned from you. Slice zucchini, coat with flour then egg, then bread crumbs. Love them. Always made but didn’t flour first. What a better yummy recipe. You are a genius girl, ❤️ I used to love ocean spray cranraspberry sauce in the can, always bought for years and years, few years ago cannot find. It was so delicious and I miss it and wish could make. Happy Turkey day to you and your lovely family, marianne

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      November 17, 2022

      Hi Marianne! That’s wonderful! Thank you for the lovely feedback. Happy Thanksgiving.

      Reply

  • Mary Hill
    November 17, 2022

    I’m a big fan of yours I’ve made a big hit with your apple pie thanks a million. Love

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      November 17, 2022

      Hello Mary, thank you for your love and support. Hoping that you will love all the recipes that you will try from us!

      Reply

  • Kristyn
    November 17, 2022

    Thanksgiving dinner is not complete without the cranberry sauce!! This is delicious!!! We pour it over everything 🙂

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      November 17, 2022

      It’s a must-have for Thanksgiving! Thank you for your excellent review, Kristyn!

      Reply

  • Olivia
    November 17, 2022

    I tried this recipe with maple syrup as the sweetener and it tasted incredible! So easy to prepare too. I will definitely be making this again for the holidays!

    Reply

    • Natasha
      November 17, 2022

      Great choice! Maple syrup is my favorite for cranberry sauce. Thank you for the great review!

      Reply

  • Kristen
    November 17, 2022

    I made this for my son since Cranberry Sauce is his favorite and he loved it.

    Reply

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