Here’s our favorite Thanksgiving staple recipe: Cranberrysauce. Made from 5 ingredients, this easy sauce is ready after 15 minutes on the stove. Flavored with fresh orange juice, brown sugar and a hint of vanilla – my secret – it’s a cut above the rest.
I’ve been making this cranberry sauce for years. It’s our family’s favorite recipe and when I first taste it on Thanksgiving I always wonder why I wait until the holidays to make it?! Honestly, this stuff deserves to be a year-round habit.
I never really thought of publishing the recipe on my website because it’s not (1) a big side dish, (2) dessert, or (3) baking related. But I thought: if something is so easy AND so tasty… why not?! And thankfully, this recipe is one of my very best.
Why this is my best cranberry sauce
- Fast-only 15 minutes on the stove
- Simple-do not boil the water and sugar together first
- Useful-only 5 simple ingredients, including water
- Tasteful—made with fresh orange juice and zest
- Texture-moderately thick with whole cranberries in it
- Make ahead—make it a few days in advance so it’s ready!
- Unlike the rest—I use brown sugar and vanilla
I didn’t think there was any way I could screw up this recipe, but when I was filming the video I overcooked the cranberries over a high heat. I literally stood over the pot and before I knew it the cranberries shriveled and the sauce thinned out. So make sure you cook on a lower heat and keep a close eye on it. 🙂
Also, don’t be like Chandler Bing and rinse your cranberries with dish soap.
Grab these ingredients
No cornstarch or other thickeners needed!
- cranberries: Use fresh or frozen cranberries. Do not use dried.
- Water: The cranberries cook in liquid, so we use a combination of water and orange juice. I find that using all the orange juice overpowers the cranberry flavor.
- Fresh orange juice: Squeeze 1/4 cup juice from a fresh orange. You’ll need the orange zest anyway, so why not use the juices? Orange and cranberry are a natural combination. Have you tried mine orange cranberry bread already?
- Brown sugar: Why use regular white granulated sugar when there is brown sugar?! That’s my motto and it certainly applies to cranberry sauce. I usually only use 3/4 cup, but if you want a really sweet cranberry sauce, increase to 1 cup.
- Orange peel: Before you squeeze the orange, grate some of the zest off. Add the zest after the sauce comes off the heat. Why? When I cook the cranberry sauce with the skin on, the end result tastes a bit bitter.
- Vanilla extract: I don’t see many cranberry sauce recipes using this ingredient, but I swear by it. A dash of vanilla extract tastes incredible with orange, brown sugar, and cranberry flavors. (And bonus! Smells great too.)
How do you make quick cranberry sauce?
It couldn’t be easier.
Set aside 1/2 cup of cranberries. We’ll stir those in at the very end, which will add even more texture. Put most of the ingredients in a saucepan and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in orange zest and vanilla extract. That’s all, you’re done. While I don’t recommend it, you could probably do this with your eyes closed.
If you must bring a dish to Thanksgiving, bring this cranberry sauce (and bring cranberry cake for brunch or dessert!). It is low maintenance and you can make it ahead of time. You can also freeze the cranberry sauce for up to 3 months. Simple!
Use for cranberry sauce
More Thanksgiving side dishes
Made from 5 ingredients, this easy sauce is ready after 15 minutes on the stove. It will thicken as it cools. You can use fresh or frozen cranberries. See notes.
- Read before you start: You will need fresh orange juice and orange zest. I recommend grating the orange first, setting aside the zest and then cutting the orange for the juice. (Harder to grate a sliced orange!) You’ll need about half of a large orange for 1/4 cup of juice. Juice the other half of the orange if you need more to get 1/4 cup.
- After rinsing the cranberries, set aside 1/2 cup of the cranberries. You stir this at the end for extra texture.
- Combine remaining cranberries, water, orange juice, and brown sugar together in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally as the mixture comes to a boil. Once it simmers, reduce the heat to medium. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced and the cranberries have cracked and thickened, about 10 more minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup reserved cranberries, orange zest, and vanilla extract. Sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.
- Sauce is excellent served hot or at room temperature. Cover leftovers and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
- Make ahead & Freezing Instructions: You can prepare the sauce 3 days in advance. Let cool completely, cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to use. Bring to room temperature or warm on the stove/microwave, if desired, before serving. To freeze, let the sauce cool completely. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature or warm on the stove/microwave before serving.
- cranberries: A 12 ounce bag is usually between 3 and 4 cups. You can use fresh or frozen cranberries. It is not necessary to defrost completely. Before use, rinse the cranberries with water in a colander. No need to pat dry – some water droplets are fine.
- Brown sugar: I usually use 3/4 cup of brown sugar, which makes a moderately sweet cranberry sauce. You can increase to 1 cup (200 g) if you like your cranberry sauce extra sweet.
- Special tools (affiliated links): Zester & Citrus press
Keywords: cranberries, Thanksgiving, side dish
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