Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce for People Who Think They Don’t Like Homemade

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Ditch the can this holiday season. Cranberry Sauce is incredibly easy to make yourself and it tastes amazing. It also freezes beautifully!

dinner table set with turkey and trimmings including bowl of cranberry sauce

I have always loved cranberry sauce. For years though, my preferred variety came in round slices with ridges. Oh yes, yes, it did.

The FishFam was Team Jellied for quite some time.

I didn’t think that we could ever change that. In fact one year, we did an experiment with Gramma’s Homemade and my canned. You can see who won.

But a few years, knowing I had a ton of cranberries in the freezer, and knowing that homemade sauce would be healthier than most commercial brands, I decided to give it another try.

And the rest, they say, is history.

bowl of cranberry sauce on red checked cloth

Yep. Homemade Cranberry Sauce is a winner around here. So much so, that I usually have to make a triple batch of this recipe in order to keep my people happy.

I made a few adaptations to traditionally cranberry sauce that I think really work here. Especially if you’re a slow convert to homemade.

I remembered that most people I’ve known who’ve made the sauce and not liked it, commented that it didn’t get thick. I decided to use less liquid in order to end up with a thicker product.

Oranges and cranberries are a classic combo, but I’ve never cared for the texture of the orange peel. It detracts. Instead I subbed in fresh orange juice for some of the liquid to add another layer of flavor. Without the bitter peel.

My final twist? I use brown sugar instead of white. I personally love the hint of molasses that brown sugar provides.

The result is a cranberry sauce that even my canned-only crowd LOVE! I hope your crowd does, too!

ingredients to make homemade cranberry sauce

What’s in cranberry sauce?

Cranberry sauce is typically a simmered concoction of fresh cranberries, water, and sugar. Some people add orange or lemon zest, ginger, or cinnamon. I like to use orange juice for some of the water.

What do you eat cranberry sauce with?

This sauce is great with cooked meats such as chicken, turkey, pork, or roast beef. The cool sauce is a tasty foil to the hot meat and trimmings. It’s a perfect budget Thanksgiving recipe since cranberries often go on sale.

Cranberry sauce is also delicious on ice cream, oatmeal, or pancakes.

Can cranberry sauce be frozen?

Yes! This homemade cranberry sauce recipe is an ideal Thanksgiving Recipes to Make-Ahead and Freeze. Cook the sauce according to the recipe instructions. Cool and chill before storing in the freezer.

Be sure to label with with the recipe name and date so you can be sure to use it at the right time.

fresh cranberries floating in a metal bowl of water

Is cranberry sauce supposed to be hot or cold?

Cranberry sauce is meant to be served cold, but warmed sauce would not be amiss on a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

What can you do with leftover cranberry sauce?

If you have any leftovers, you can package them into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Freeze the sauce for longer storage.

You can serve the sauce with leftover dinner items, just like you served it, or use it as a jam or fruit sauce substitute.

step by step photo collage for making cranberry sauce

How do you make homemade cranberry sauce?

Cranberry sauce is super easy to make!

  1. Set out your ingredients. This helps make sure you don’t fumble or burn something on the stove.
  2. Wash the berries. My mother-in-law, New England-born and raised, says you need to put them in a bowl of water. Use what floats. Ditch any that sink. Those are bad.
  3. Combine the cranberries, sugar, water, and orange juice in a medium stockpot. Stir well to dissolve the sugar.
  4. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until the berries split and the sauce thickens.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a covered container. Chill until ready to serve. 
  6. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freezer for longer storage.

Can you make jellied cranberry sauce?

We used to be Team Jellied, but we switched to the other side in ’13.

For old times sake, I attempted making jellied cranberry sauce a few years ago, using this recipe. It worked, but I felt that there was just too much going to waste once I strained away the seeds and peels. A lot of work yielded too little sauce.

Since we enjoy the whole berry sauce, it’s not worth it to me to make the jellied kind. But, if it’s important to you, go for it! 

spoon dipped in bowl of cranberry sauce atop red checked cloth

How can you save money making your own cranberry sauce?

So, the point of Good Cheap Eats is to:

  1. Enjoy great food.
  2. Spend less.
  3. Not go crazy in the kitchen.

This recipe fits the bill on all counts. This homemade cranberry sauce tastes much better than the canned variety and it has a better ingredients list. Plus, it’s easy to make so you won’t go crazy making it.

But, can you save money?

While canned cranberry sauce does go on sale at the holidays — current prices at my Walmart range from $0.92 to $1.50 per can.

Fresh cranberries are currently $1.54. Add in the cost of the sugar ($0.50) and orange juice ($0.10) and the homemade (the equivalent of 1 1/2 cans) costs about $2.14 or $1.42 for a can.

$1.42 for a can’s worth  of superior cranberry sauce.

You can save even more by buying the cranberries on sale. Around the holidays, you should find them for about a dollar. I’ve found them as low as 25-cents a bag on clearance. At those times, I stock up and stash them in the freezer for all kinds of baking and saucing needs.

cranberry sauce on plate next to turkey and trimmings

If you prepare this recipe, be sure to take a picture and hashtag it #GOODCHEAPEATS. I can't wait to see what you cook up!
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spoon dipped in bowl of cranberry sauce atop red checked cloth
Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
20 mins
Ditch the can this holiday season. Cranberry Sauce is incredibly easy to make yourself and it tastes amazing. It also freezes beautifully!
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cranberries, cranberry jam, cranberry sauce
Servings: 8
Calories: 128 kcal
Author: Jessica Fisher
  • 12 ounce package whole cranberries may be frozen
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  1. In a large saucepan combine the cranberries, sugar, water, and juice.
  2. Bring to a boil, stirring.
  3. Cook at a low rolling boil, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
  4. Cool completely at room temperature, then cover and chill in the refrigerator until cold. Serve cold with cooked meats.
Recipe Notes

Sauce can also be stored in the freezer, for up to 2 months. Leftovers are delicious with ice cream, pancakes, and oatmeal.

Nutrition Facts
Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Amount Per Serving
Calories 128 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 9mg0%
Potassium 88mg3%
Carbohydrates 33g11%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 29g32%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 41IU1%
Vitamin C 10mg12%
Calcium 26mg3%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

This post was originally published in November 2013. It has been updated for clarity and relevance.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. teresa says

    sounds yummy – super idea to use orange juice and brown sugar.

    laughing at the thought of ADDING a few steps: chilling in a can (clean, of course) then running a knife along edge, release and slice.

  2. LizA says

    And what to do with the leftover? Take those frozen pie shell/sheets (the ones you probably bought after Christmas last year like I did) and cut rounds. Fill with a tablesoon or so of cranberry sauce, fold in half and use a folk to seal. Whip an egg and brush that over the tops, dust with cinnamon sugar, poke a couple times to let the steam escape, and bake.

    • Sounds yummy!

    • Sandi says

      I don’t have any frozen pie shells but I could surely purchase one. Do you just bake until brown?

  3. Rachel B says

    I go for cranberry coffee cake with all the frozen bags of frozen cranberries.

  4. Sandi says

    This is similar to the recipe I’ve used for the past few years. I would suggest you add a cinnamon stick or even some ground cinnamon while it is cooking. Adds great flavor. Last year, I cut back the sugar by 1/3 cup and added some grated apple. I also added some orange zest. Tossed it all into the crock pot. When it was cooked, the flavor was good but the apple visual wasn’t great. I used the immersion blender to smooth it out a little bit. That ended up being my favorite dish on the whole menu. I found that odd, since I’ve never been a big cranberry sauce fan until I started using this recipe. I will most definitely make it this way again forever more amen.

  5. Vicky says

    Jessica, do you think this would freeze well? I have company coming and want to make as many things as I can ahead of time. Thanks for your thoughts!

  6. Carla says

    Although we prefer it with apple juice instead of orange (what is it with me and citrus–I did try it that way first), I’m glad I saw this as we have enjoyed making our own for the last couple of months. Was at Kroger this morning and what did I find? $ 0.59 bags—considering price increases I decided to run with it and bought a LOT of bags. The Fam was a bit concerned. Making a double batch to have handy over the New Years break & some for the freezer. Now to remove the turkey (I toss one in the freezer during the Thanksgiving sales) from the freezer so I have room for the rest of the cranberries. I want to try that coffee cake of yours with some of these too.

  7. Krista says

    I made your cranberry sauce and asked my mom to try it before I froze it for Thanksgiving. I’d already put most in my freezer bag but gave her a bit on a spoon. She took a taste reluctantly, noting she doesn’t usually enjoy cranberry sauce, and then proceeded to scrape what was left out of the bowl. She said “I guess I like this sauce.” 🙂

  8. Ruth Ledyard says

    My recipe is my mothers and we all love it. It has apples, orange sections, pecans, cranberries ( these are chopeed in a food processer) and then she used knox geletin , just enough to make it not runny . You are so right, it is not Thanksgiving without it. I already have regular cornbread dressing, gluten free cornbread dressing, turkey gravy, squash casserole, mashed potato casserole, sweet potato casserole, pecan pie, gluten free crustless pecan pie, and 2 german chocolate cakes in the freezer, (one a surprise for a friend). If I didn’t do it ahead since I am getting older, I wouldn’t have the stamina to hold out. This puts the fun back in Thanksgiving. Best to you and your family.

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