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This Thanksgiving, sink your spoon deep into a bowl of homemade Cranberry Orange Sauce. It’s tart, sweet, subtly spiced, and the EASIEST Thanksgiving side.

recipe for cranberry sauce with oranges in a white bowl with spoon

It’s time for some Thanksgiving life advice.

Do not, I repeat, do not buy canned cranberry sauce or cranberry jelly.

I’m saying this because I care.

The holiday meal you spend hours preparing deserves the real deal.

Cranberry Sauce with orange zest in a bowl with a spoon inside of it

5 Star Review

“This sauce couldn’t be easier to make. I don’t think I will ever go back to the slab of canned sauce everyone else sticks on the table. Tangy, tart, but semi-sweet.”

— Kathleen —

This Thanksgiving, I’m on a mission to eradicate canned cranberry sauce and demonstrate to all that homemade cranberry sauce is:

  • Easy. Simply dump all the ingredients into a saucepan, stir, and BOOM. Bright, blissful cranberry orange sauce that’s the perfect tart bite against juicy Thanksgiving turkey, Glazed Sweet Potatoes, and Balsamic Brussels Sprouts.
  • Healthy. Made without preservatives and naturally sweetened with honey, with fresh berries giving you vitamins to boot.
  • Extra delicious. With notes of orange, cinnamon, and floral honey, this recipe elevates everyday cranberry sauce beyond expectations.
healthy cranberry orange sauce no sugar with orange and cinnamon in a white bowl with a spoon beside

How to Make Cranberry Orange Sauce

Tart, yet sweet and fresh cranberries are accented by hints of orange, warm spices, and naturally sweet honey to create the BEST cranberry orange sauce for roast turkey.

The Ingredients

Fresh cranberries, orange, honey, and cinnamon for making cranberry orange sauce
  • Fresh Cranberries. Ditch the can and head to your produce department for a bag of fresh whole cranberries. You also can often find frozen cranberries.
  • Orange Juice + Zest. For a fresh, festive pop that brightens and sweetens the cranberry sauce. Burst of happy flavor!
  • Honey. Save the granulated sugar for Pecan Pie Cobbler and instead grab a bottle of honey. I love the subtle floral flavor it lends the sauce. And less sugar also means saving your calories for other delicious parts of the meal.

Dietary Note

For a vegan cranberry orange sauce that’s still sugar free, omit the honey and sweeten with maple syrup. The overall flavor profile will be different but it will still be a delicious, naturally sweetened cranberry sauce alternative.

  • Cinnamon + Cloves. Add warmth and subtle spice.
  • Salt. Pinch of salt balances all the flavors in this homemade cranberry orange sauce recipe.

The Directions

A saucepan with fresh cranberries, orange zest, cinnamon, and honey
  1. Bring all ingredients to a boil then simmer over medium heat in medium saucepan.
A saucepan with cooked cranberry orange sauce for turkey
  1. Cook, stirring often, for 10-15 minutes until the cranberries break down and the sauce thickens. Remove, let cool, serve. ENJOY!


For the best cranberry orange sauce ever, follow these tips:

  • Sweeten to Taste. Some like it tart, others like it sweet. Add an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey to the sauce, if desired (be careful when you taste—the sauce is hot!).
  • Perfect Consistency. If sauce becomes too thick, add a little extra water to thin the sauce until the desired consistency is reached.

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Store cranberry orange sauce in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator. 
  • To Freeze. Homemade cranberry orange sauce may be kept in the freezer for up to 6 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge before serving.
  • To Reheat. Warm in the microwave or on the stovetop to the desired temperature. You may also serve leftover cranberry sauce at room temperature or chilled from the refrigerator.

Meal Prep Tip

Knock one thing off your Thanksgiving to-do list. Cranberry orange sauce can be prepared ahead of time and then chilled in the fridge or frozen until ready to serve.

Cranberry sauce with orange juice and cinnamon in a bowl with a spoon

Leftover Ideas

Spread leftover fresh cranberry sauce over toast, stir it into your morning oatmeal, layer it in these yummy yogurt Leftover Cranberry Sauce Parfaits, jazz up ham or pork chops, use it to top these Cranberry Cream Cheese Appetizer Bites, or spread leftover turkey sandwiches.

What to Serve with Cranberry Orange Sauce

Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe

  • Saucepan. A standard saucepan like this will be your handy sidekick not just on Thanksgiving, but every day of the year.
  • Measuring Spoons. An essential tool no cook should be without.
  • Serving Bowl. Because even cranberries deserved to get dressed up for the holidays.
  • Microplane. The perfect grater for zesting the orange peel.

The Best Saucepan

This highly reputable All Clad 3-quart saucepan is made from materials designed for rapid, even heat distribution. Works well on gas, electric, and induction cooktops.

Let this be the year of homemade cranberry orange sauce.

Instead of the “plop” of the canned stuff, you’ll hear only a spoon clinking against the bottom of an empty serving bowl.

That’s beautiful Turkey Day music, my friends. I’m glad we had this talk.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Can I Add to Cranberry Sauce?

Don’t be afraid to jazz up your easy cranberry sauce further with a dash of maple syrup, garnish of cinnamon stick, splash of red wine, or a few chopped dried apricots or cherries.

Why is My Cranberry Sauce Not Thickening?

Be patient. It can take time for cranberries to break down, reduce, and thicken. Give this sauce the full 15 minutes to simmer and do its thing. Also, note that the sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.

Why are Cranberries Bitter?

Cranberries are bitter because they contain powerful antioxidants, called tannins. Adding something sweet, like honey or orange juice, helps balance the flavors so that the sweetness of the cranberries can shine.

What’s the Difference Between Cranberry Sauce and Cranberry Relish?

Cranberry sauce is cooked and sweetened, whereas cranberry relish, like this Cranberry Orange Relish, is made of fresh fruit pureed in food processor and served cold.

Cranberry Orange Sauce

4.78 from 9 votes
This easy cranberry orange sauce is the best! Quick to pull together and WAY better than the can. Perfect with turkey, for duck or dessert!

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 20 minutes

Servings: 2 cups, approx.


  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries thawed if frozen
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 3/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup honey plus 2 tablespoons (plus additional 1 to 2 tablespoons to taste)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt


  • Bring cranberries, orange zest, orange juice, 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey, water, cinnamon, cloves, and salt to a simmer over medium heat.
  • Continue cooking, stirring often, until the cranberries break down and the sauce thickens. Taste (careful, it will be hot!) and add an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey as desired. If sauce becomes too thick, add a little extra water to reach the desired consistency. Let cool, then serve.


  • TO STORE: Store cranberry orange sauce in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator. 
  • TO FREEZE: Homemade cranberry orange sauce may be kept in the freezer for up to 6 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge before serving.
  • TO REHEAT: Warm in the microwave or on the stovetop to the desired temperature. You may also serve leftover cranberry sauce at room temperature or chilled from the refrigerator.


Serving: 1(of 8); about 1/4 cupCalories: 62kcalCarbohydrates: 16gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gPotassium: 89mgFiber: 2gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 72IUVitamin C: 17mgCalcium: 8mgIron: 1mg

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Round out your holiday spread with these other healthy Thanksgiving side dishes.

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

Learn more about Erin

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  1. Hi Erin! Found your recipe via Pinterest and am going to attempt for Thanksgiving this year! I was wondering if you used whole or ground cloves? Also, would this be ok to make the day before? Thank you so much and can’t wait to try!

    1. Hi Rebekah! I’m so happy that you found this recipe and honored that it will be a part of your Thanksgiving. Use ground cloves, and you can absolutely make it the day before. Just store in the fridge. Enjoy and happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Erin! I made this recipe for Thanksgiving this year, and it was a hit. I had recipe requests, and family members who don’t even like cranberry sauce told me how much they enjoyed it. Thanks a million! I hope you’re having a fantastic trip in Thailand :)5 stars

  3. This recipe was great! Not going back to canned!! Highly recommend adding a little bit of sugar as mine was a little tart.4 stars

  4. This sauce couldn’t be easier to make. I don’t think I will ever go back to the slab of canned sauce everyone else sticks on the table. Tangy, tart, but semi-sweet, the citrus perks up the underlying tones of the cranberries. I fudged a little bit and used a 1/4 cup of dry red wine with the orange juice, just for the deliberate tannin addition.
    At this time of year, I stock up on bags of fresh cranberries, mix up a big batch and freeze meal-sized batches I can use throughout the year. The berries manage freezing very well if carefully packaged. The frozen bags thaw out beautifully, and add a great touch to chicken, fish, or even basic muffins/bread-type loaves. This is now my go-to for dressing up simple meals.5 stars

    1. Hi Kristen! There are notes in the bottom of the recipe card for more storing options. Hope this helps! Store cranberry orange sauce in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator.

    1. Hi Linda! I’ve never tested this with cranberry juice so I am unsure that would work. The orange juice balances well with the cranberry flavor! If you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes!

  5. I made this for our Thanksgiving, we are excited with the flavor and finally finding a recipe we love to compliment our turkey on Thanksgiving. I have tried many recipes in the past and this is the best!!! You must try!!!5 stars

  6. If I had known how easy it was to make cranberry sauce, I’d have been making it all along. I never really liked the canned stuff, but this recipe has me licking my fingers and considering not taking it with me to my cousin’s house tomorrow. It will be a huge hit, but I’d like to keep it all to myself! My house smells amazing! I think you could also drizzle this sauce over cheesecake, that would be amazing. Will post the finished product on Instagram. Thanks, Erin!5 stars

  7. I haven’t made this cranberry orange sauce yet, but have a question about the cloves. Are you calling for whole cloves or clove powder? Your recipe calls for 1/8 tsp cloves, but not sure if this means the powder or whole cloves.

    Thank you.

  8. I’m sorry this recipe wasn’t to your tastes, Linda. I (and many other readers) have truly enjoyed it, so I wish you would’ve too!

  9. This recipe is made with easy to find fresh ingredients in just a little time. I don’t buy canned sauce either! One guest mentioned too much cinnamon for his taste. I did add extra honey but it was still pretty tart.4 stars

  10. Everyone loved this cranberry sauce, thank you for an amazing simple recipe! (I did add a bit more honey but perfect otherwise)5 stars

  11. I made this to go on top of a brie pastry appetizer. I looked at the ingredients and it sounded like a winner. I love anything with zest. However for some reason, these ingredients did not taste good together. I always make homemade cranberry sauce and the only thing this recipe had that my recipe doesn’t is cinnamon and instead of honey I use a mix of water and sugar. I omitted cloves because I don’t like them. For some reason the combination of adding the zest of a whole orange, cinnamon, and honey just did not work. I was shocked. It tasted like medicine but less sweet. Such a bummer, because I had such high hopes!

    1. I’m sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy this Freya. Making any changes to the recipe would result in it tasting differently.

  12. Hi! This is M.C. I tried this recipe for Thanksgiving, and mine turned out VERY tart and sour, but a guy from our church liked it, and the taste made a strong impression to go with all the memories. I spent Thanksgiving night watching vintage commercials and eating this with leftover corn pudding, (a very nostalgic thing to do, even for someone who wasn’t born then). :-)