15-Minute Orange Cranberry Sauce

from 4 votes

All you need is 15 minutes and four simple ingredients for this fast and fresh Orange Cranberry Sauce that can be served hot, cold or at room temp alongside Thanksgiving turkey, or used in more than a dozen ways!

Orange cranberry sauce and pomegranate arils atop goat cheese toast on a white plate.

Why You’ll Love It

  • It’s slightly sweet. 
  • It’s slightly tangy. 
  • It’s made with just 4 ingredients.
  • It can be made ahead.
  • It’s prepped, primed and ready in 15 minutes or less.

How to Serve

Cranberry sauce isn’t just for turkey! It pairs beautifully with chicken, pork and even as a topping for desserts like no-bake cheesecake or vanilla ice cream. Are you ready for all this sauce has to offer? Take a deep breath, because you can use this delectable sauce-spread-condiment-relish in the following dozen (and then some!) ways:

The list goes on and on! And while I have, admittedly, been a canned cranberry sauce fan in the past (old habits die hard), one taste of this homemade orange cranberry sauce and I was no longer missing the sliceable and ever-so-jellied tube-o-cran.

Make-Ahead Tip: Whip up this sauce a day in advance to really give the flavors a chance to develop, then serve it hot, cold or room temp alongside your Thanksgiving turkey or any of the dozen-and-one ways listed above.

Just 4 Ingredients

An orange next to three bowls containing white sugar, fresh cranberries and brown sugar.
  • Orange: Serves as a dual-purpose ingredient in this recipe, providing both zest and juice.
  • Fresh or frozen cranberries: If you’re starting with frozen cranberries, thaw them first then continue with the recipe as written. 
  • Sugar: Used to sweeten the sauce and balance the tartness of the cranberries. The amount can be adjusted according to personal preference. Add more for a sweeter sauce or less if you prefer a tangier flavor.
  • Light brown sugar: Adds a subtle molasses flavor and richness.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

How to Make Orange Cranberry Sauce

  1. Zest and juice the orange. Zest the orange and add 1 tablespoon of the zest to a medium saucepan then cut the orange in half and squeeze all of the juice from both halves into the saucepan.
  2. Cook the cranberries. Add the cranberries, sugar and brown sugar to the saucepan and cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened and the cranberries begin to pop, 8 to 10 minutes.
Cranberries, white and brown sugars, orange juice, and orange zest in a saucepan.
  1. Cool and serve. Remove the cranberry relish from the heat and let it cool before serving.
A spatula covered in homemade cranberry sauce above a saucepan containing more sauce.

Kelly’s Note: The sauce will thicken significantly as it cools.

Recipe Tips

  • Fresh vs. Frozen Cranberries: Both fresh and frozen cranberries work well in this recipe, so use what you have on hand. If using frozen, thaw them first.
  • Zest Like a Pro: Be careful to only zest the orange part, avoiding the bitter white pith.
  • Adjust Sweetness: Taste the sauce as it cooks and adjust the sweetness accordingly. If you prefer a sweeter sauce, add a bit more sugar.
  • Make-Ahead: This sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

How to Store

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Check out my list below for creative ways to use up your leftover sauce!

How to Freeze

If you want to extend the shelf life, cranberry sauce can be frozen. Place it in a freezer-safe container, leaving some space at the top to account for expansion. It can be frozen for up to 2-3 months.

Ways to Use Leftover Cranberry Sauce After the Holidays

The holidays are over and you’ve got a container of leftover cranberry sauce you don’t want to go to waste. Transform those leftovers into delicious next-day eats with these recipes:

Common Questions

What consistency should cranberry sauce be?

The consistency is really up to what you like best! Typically, it’s a thick, saucy texture with some whole or broken cranberries. It should coat the back of a spoon and hold its shape, but not be too gelatinous. Whether you prefer it smooth like jelly or with a bit of berry chunkiness, it’s all about your personal taste. Adjust the cooking time to get it just right for you!

How do I avoid a sauce that’s too tart?

Adjusting the sweetness is key. Taste the sauce as it cooks and add sugar gradually until it reaches your desired sweetness.

Can I make cranberry sauce in advance? How long does it keep?

Absolutely! Homemade cranberry sauce can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can also freeze it for longer storage. Just be sure to use airtight containers to maintain freshness.

What can I do if my cranberry sauce is too thin?

If your sauce is thinner than desired, you can continue simmering it for a few more minutes to evaporate excess liquid and achieve a thicker consistency. Keep in mind that the sauce will thicken significantly as it cools. 

Can I make cranberry sauce without sugar?

Sure! Honey, maple syrup or agave nectar can all be used if you prefer a sauce with less refined sugar. Adjust the quantity based on your taste preferences.

More Thanksgiving Side Dishes

While the turkey is important, the side dishes often steal the spotlight. Find inspiration with classic and creative recipes guaranteed to elevate your holiday table:

A small bowl filled with fresh cranberries is next to goat cheese toast topped with orange cranberry sauce and pomegranate arils on a white plate.
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Appetizer

15-Minute Orange Cranberry Sauce

All you need is 15 minutes and four simple ingredients for this fast and fresh Orange Cranberry Sauce that can be served hot, cold or at room temp alongside Thanksgiving turkey, or used in more than a dozen ways!
Author: Kelly Senyei
4.50 from 4 votes
Orange cranberry sauce and pomegranate arils atop goat cheese toast on a white plate.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 1 cup

Ingredients 

  • 1 medium orange
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (See Kelly’s Note)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

Instructions 

  • Zest the orange and add 1 tablespoon of the zest to a medium saucepan then cut the orange in half and squeeze all of the juice from both halves into the saucepan.
  • Add the cranberries, sugar and brown sugar to the saucepan and cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened and the cranberries begin to pop, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Remove the cranberry relish from the heat and let it cool before serving. 

Kelly’s Notes

  • If you’re starting with frozen cranberries, thaw them first then continue with the recipe as written. 
  • Be careful to only zest the orange part, avoiding the bitter white pith.
  • Taste the sauce as it cooks and adjust the sweetness accordingly. If you prefer a sweeter sauce, add a bit more sugar.
  • The sauce will thicken significantly as it cools.
  • This sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  • ★ Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!

Nutrition

Calories: 713kcal, Carbohydrates: 184g, Protein: 2g, Sodium: 26mg, Potassium: 547mg, Fiber: 14g, Sugar: 160g, Vitamin A: 445IU, Vitamin C: 103mg, Calcium: 133mg, Iron: 1.2mg

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Recipe by Kelly Senyei of Just a Taste. Please do not reprint this recipe without my permission. If you'd like to feature this recipe on your site, please rewrite the method of preparation and link to this post as the original source.


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4.50 from 4 votes

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Comments

  1. Just finished cooking this and it is thickening up nicely. I added just a bit more zest at the end and am going to refrigerate it for tomorrow’s family dinner. Tastes great so far!!

  2. 5 stars
    Dad and I were cooking Christmas dinner today, and we forgot to do Cranberry Relish ahead of time. Your recipe came up, and worked wonderfully! It was absolutely delicious!

    I added some ground ginger to it (about 1 tbsp) and used a handheld blender for about half of the cranberries. Family raved over it! Thank you so much!

  3. 5 stars
    Yum! Thickened nicely. I used full 12 oz. bag of cranberries since only about 3 cups, did not adjust sugars, and it came out great.