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Classic Cranberry Sauce

This one deserves all the superlatives—we’re sharing the most classic, the very best, absolutely easy cranberry sauce recipe.


homemade cranberry sauce in a serving bowl on the counter with a wooden spoon

Simply the Best, Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe!

Garnet-red and dazzling, a dish brimming with homemade cranberry sauce is a must on every self-respecting Thanksgiving table! We love the jellied stuff, too, but real, fresh cranberry sauce is what we always reach for first. Glistening red, that lovely color brightens up a table that’s often dominated by beiges, creams and browns. And the flavor of homemade cranberry sauce is such a welcome contrast to the salty, fatty richness that tends to also dominate the table. There are a million ways to make whole cranberry sauce, but this particular fresh cranberry sauce recipe is as classic and easy as can be. Orange juice compliments the cranberry’s assertive punch of tartness and adds just the right amount of sweetness. In addition to the OJ, we’ve added a hint of the warm spices that define the season—clove and cinnamon—as well as a dusting of brown sugar. Plus, did you know that homemade cranberry sauce is incredibly quick and easy to make, and it keeps for a long time in the fridge? In other words, it’s the Thanksgiving make-ahead recipe of your holiday hosting dreams.

cranberries, orange juice, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, spices and water in bowls on the counter for cranberry sauce

The Best Cranberry Sauce Calls for the Best Cranberry Sauce Ingredients

We’ve dabbled in cranberry chutney, cranberry relish, cranberry salsa, and even served the canned stuff, but it always comes back to this delicately spiced, OJ cranberry sauce recipe! It’s traditional, classic, easy and gorgeous. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • Cranberries, fresh or frozen

  • Apple cider vinegar

  • Brown sugar

  • Cloves

  • Cinnamon

  • An orange

  • Vanilla extract

ingredients for homemade cranberry sauce in a saucepan

All Of Your Cranberry Sauce Questions, Answered!

Of all the things on your Thanksgiving table, cranberries are truly a food of the New World—they were a staple food for Native Americans long before colonists arrived, and today they’re grown in five states across the country. For our cranberry recipe, you can use either fresh cranberries or frozen—either will work just fine, and you’ll find that cranberry sauce isn’t just easy to make, it’s also quite forgiving. Just to make you feel super confident going into your Thanksgiving meal prep, let’s cover some of the most commonly asked questions about making cranberry sauce:

  • Is cranberry sauce served warm or cold? It’s up to you! We typically make this cranberry sauce recipe a few days before Thanksgiving, so that we can reserve our stovetop real estate for other things on turkey day. Because of that, it’s usually cold from the fridge when we dish it up. However, if you make the cranberry sauce in the moment, it’ll be fine to serve it warm from the stove! It will thicken a bit as it cools, and that’s just fine.

  • What do you eat the cranberry sauce with? Everything! Truly, we put a big dollop in the middle of the plate and it always ends up getting into everything, the same way gravy does. But traditionally, cranberry sauce is for the turkey. And of course, when it comes to making leftover turkey sandwiches, the cranberry sauce is as essential as the mayo—in other words, extremely essential!

  • How do you make cranberry sauce thicker? Cranberries have a lot of pectin, which means that they’re naturally prone to thickening as they cook. In fact, in our experience, the issue with cranberry sauce isn’t achieving thickness or getting it to gel—rather, it’s more common to feel that the cranberry sauce has become too thick too fast because of all that pectin. If you do find that the sauce is more runny than you prefer, simply simmer it a bit longer to cook off a bit of the liquid. It should thicken up rather quickly.

  • Is cranberry sauce healthy? Yes! Cranberries are incredibly good for you—loaded with antioxidants and anthocyanins, vitamins and minerals. They’re a superfood, and they taste good, too.

  • Can you freeze cranberry sauce? Yes, you can freeze cranberry sauce! It’ll keep for up to a year in the freezer, but it’ll taste best if you use it within two months.

ingredients for homemade cranberry sauce in a saucepan

How To Make Cranberry Sauce

Our easy cranberry sauce recipe really is the best. You can make it ahead! You can use farmers market cranberries or you can use frozen cranberries, or a mixture thereof! It only takes about ten minutes to make and it is seriously fool proof. Yep, cranberry sauce is probably going to be your favorite thing to make at Thanksgiving from now on. If you’re hosting, you can get it done way ahead of time. If you’re being hosted, offer to bring the cranberry sauce! It’s always welcome. Here’s how absolutely easy it is to make cranberry sauce from scratch:

  1. Pour everything into a saucepan.

  2. Bring the cranberry sauce to a boil. Because of how quickly it’ll thicken, cranberry sauce has a tendency to splatter, so keep a close eye on it and stir it pretty often. It’s also a good idea to use a bigger saucepan that you think you’ll need so the sauce has plenty of room.

  3. Simmer over low heat until it looks the way you want it to—usually it’s ready in about ten minutes. Remember, it will continue to thicken and gel as it sits and cools, too.

homemade cranberry sauce in a saucepan

Yes, You Can Make Cranberry Sauce Ahead of Time!

Wondering how to store cranberry sauce? Well, it keeps beautifully! Like we mentioned before, it does just fine in the freezer. It’ll keep in the freezer for up to a year, but we really prefer to store it for no more than two months to keep the flavor fresh and vibrant. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, cranberry sauce will stay fresh for up to two weeks!

homemade cranberry sauce in a serving bowl with a wooden spoon

Tools You’ll Need:

More Classic Thanksgiving Side Dishes

homemade cranberry sauce in a serving bowl with a wooden spoon

The Jewel of the Thanksgiving Table

Honestly, even if you think you’re a little lukewarm about cranberry sauce, make it. It’s such a gorgeous addition to the table, and if you don’t like eating it with turkey, keep the leftover cranberry sauce and use it as a festive, wintery topping for vanilla ice cream. When you make our cranberry sauce recipe, let us know how it all works out, OK? Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

Classic Cranberry Sauce

  • Serves: 10
  • Prep Time:  5 min
  • Cook Time:  10 min
  • Calories: 51


  • 12 oz bag fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • A pinch of Ground cloves
  • A pinch of Sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp Ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp orange zest
  • 1/3 cup orange juice (about 1 orange)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Turn the heat down to low and simmer gently until the cranberry sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring regularly to avoid burning.
  3. When the cranberry sauce reaches your desired consistency*, pull it from the heat. It will thicken a bit more as it sits, too.
  4. Cranberry sauce will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks, and will keep in the freezer for up to one year.

    *If you like a smoother cranberry sauce, smash the cranberries with a wooden spoon or spatula as they burst. If you like a cranberry sauce with more texture, then just gently stir until all berries are tender.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories51
  • Protein0 g
  • Carbohydrates11 g
  • Total Fat0 g
  • Dietary Fiber1 g
  • Cholesterol0 mg
  • sodium18 mg
  • Total Sugars9 g

Classic Cranberry Sauce

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Lis

    Hi, Just wondering about the addition of Apple Cider Vinegar? This seems unusual to me but just wondering it adds to the sauce? Thanks :)

    We love the balance it lends and the way it compliments the tartness of the cranberries. It just sort of livens everything up!

  • Mariacarmen zamora

    How much is a serving size? The recipe yields 11 servings

    About 1/4 cup.

  • Dawn Gardner

    Truly the best cranberry sauce I've ever had! I'm done buying anything in a can or searching for another recipe. My family is in full agreement. I've made this a few times already and there were no left overs! When does that ever happen with cranberry sauce?! I should have reviewed this a long time ago. Holidays are coming up fast, snag some frozen cranberries people! Love your content!

    Thanks so much Dawn, we are so happy that you loved it!

  • Jenn

    My family usually just serves canned cranberry sauce so I decided to be a bit fancier and make it from scratch and I'm so glad I did. This was incredible!

    That's so great, nice job! We are glad you enjoyed it!