Homemade cranberry sauce is quick and easy to make from scratch with fresh or frozen cranberries. This lower sugar cranberry sauce is not too sweet and is easy to customize. It can be prepared a week before your holiday dinner making it the perfect cranberry sauce recipe for beginners and first time hosts!
No holiday feast is complete at our house without cranberry sauce (not to be confused with canned cranberry jelly). First of all it's such a gorgeous, vibrant ruby red color that adds a perfect festive touch to the holiday table. Secondly, this reduced sugar version comes together in 20 minutes or less, uses only a handful of ingredients, and makes the perfect side to savory dishes like vegan turkey and easy vegan stuffing.
Next day vegan turkey sandwiches (hot or cold) are just not the same without leftover cranberry sauce!
Cranberry Sauce Recipe Ingredients
You need only 4 basic ingredients to make this homemade cranberry sauce:
- Cranberries: Fresh or frozen work.
- Sugar or maple syrup: To sweeten the cranberry sauce.
- Orange juice and zest: Adds a mild orange flavor and bright zestiness.
- Cinnamon: Optional warming spice for depth of flavor.
- Salt: Just a pinch to enhance flavors.
Ingredient Variations & subs
- Sweetener: Use any sugar ie. white, brown, coconut or sub in maple syrup for naturally sweetened cranberry sauce. Cranberries are a tart fruit so taste the sauce as you go adjusting the sugar level to suit your personal taste.
- Orange Flavor: Orange flavor goes so well with cranberry, but use all water if preferred.
- Add some heat: If you like a spicy cranberry sauce, stir in some diced fresh jalapeños (optional).
How to Make Cranberry Sauce
This easy cranberry sauce is quick to make from scratch - it's a super customizable and forgiving recipe. Plus you can make it in advance of your big dinner which is very convenient for beginners (and everyone else)! Let's get started:
- To a medium saucepan, add the cranberries, sugar/maple syrup, water, and orange juice.
- Bring the mixture up to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low for ~10-15 minutes until the cranberries burst and become jammy. Press the berries with the back of a large spoon while you are stirring to help break the fruit down. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Add a pinch of salt and orange zest (if using).
- Remove from the heat right before the cranberry sauce is the texture you like as it continues to thicken while cooling.
Here's a few tips I'd share with you if we were making cranberry sauce together in my kitchen:
- Customize the texture: Cranberry sauce continues to thicken as it cools down. The longer you cook the cranberries (without a lid) the more water cooks off and the thicker and jammier the sauce will become. For a smoother cranberry sauce, break up the fruit with a potato masher or the back of a large spoon as it's cooking.
- You can always make it sweeter: Remember you can always add more sugar/maple syrup to your cranberry sauce, but you can't take it away. However, to save a too sweet sauce, add some apple cider vinegar.
- Million Dollar Tip: Keep in mind what you're pairing the cranberry sauce with: if it's something sweet, keep the sauce a bit tart. If it's something savory, salty or sour/bitter, make the cranberry sauce a bit sweeter.
- Make ahead friendly: This homemade cranberry sauce keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a week. If you make it in advance, bring it to room temperature then stir in a splash of water to correct consistency (as needed) before serving. Tip for Newbies: I recommend making the cranberry sauce ahead and crossing it off your To Do List early!
- Storage: Store any leftover cranberry sauce in the fridge. Or freeze it in ice cube trays (for quick thawing and smoothies!) and then transfer to a freezer bag for up to ~3 months.
- Leftover cranberry sauce?: Serve on a charcuterie board. Pile on a slice of french bread with herby cream cheese or homemade hummus. For breakfast, stir into your overnight oats, your blueberry banana smoothie or enjoy cranberry jam on toast with homemade peanut butter!
More Vegan Holiday Recipes
If you need some ideas for vegan appetizers, side dishes, main dishes or desserts for your vegan holiday menu, here's a few tasty ideas:
- Vegan Sausage Rolls
- Vegan Mashed Potatoes
- Crispy Brussels Sprouts
- Vegan Gravy (the best!)
- Easy Vegan Stuffing (Dressing) Recipe
- Shepherd's Pie (vegan version)
- Sage and Onion Seasoning
- Apple Galette
If you tried this Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce recipe, please leave a rating and review below! Be sure to follow along on Instagram and Pinterest or sign up for my Sunday morning newsletter for tips on how to make vegan food taste incredible.
Super Easy Cranberry Sauce
Rate this recipe!
- 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries (1 package)
- ½ cup sugar (or maple syrup)
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup orange juice, fresh
- pinch sea salt
Optional Add Ins
- orange rind or zest
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- Add cranberries, sugar, water, and orange juice to a medium saucepan. Bring up to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium or medium-low for ~10-15 minutes until the cranberries burst and become jammy. Stir often to prevent sticking.
- Taste and adjust the level of sweetness (this recipe is a reduced sugar version of classic cranberry sauce). Add more sugar/maple syrup to increase sweetness or a splash of apple cider vinegar to cut the sweetness. Stir in a pinch of salt and the orange zest (if using).
- Cranberry sauce thickens as it cools. If it becomes too thick, add more water to correct. If it's too thin, put it back on the stove to simmer further (no lid).
- Tart or Sweet?: This healthier cranberry sauce recipe as written is semi-sweet tart. To make it sweeter, add more sugar/maple syrup. Too sweet? Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to cut the sweetness.
- Refined sugar free version: Use maple syrup in place of sugar for a naturally sweetened cranberry sauce.
- They pop and burst!: If this is your first time making cranberry sauce from scratch, be prepared for the cranberries to pop and burst while they cook. You may need to place a lid partially over the pot.
- Thick or berrylicious?: The longer you cook the cranberries, the more they breakdown and become jammy. So if you like a juicier cranberry sauce with chunks of berries, remove from the heat a little sooner.
- Make Ahead Friendly: Cranberry sauce can be made 7 in advance and stored in the fridge until ready to use. You may need to stir in another splash of water to correct consistency before serving.
- Leftovers: Just like my homemade berry jam, leftover cranberry sauce is amazing on toast with peanut butter. It's also delicious in a homemade pop tart made with leftover pieces of pie dough or puff pastry from your apple pie or apple galette.
This recipe is from simplyceecee.co food blog. All images and content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images or republish this recipe without prior permission. Thank you.