What is Thanksgiving without Cranberry Sauce? Here’s a recipe for a homemade cranberry sauce that you can make up ahead of time or whip up minutes before the meal.

Bursting with bright fruity flavors, this cranberry sauce is delicious chilled, warmed up or served at room temperature.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce served in a red bowl

Balanced with fresh citrus flavors, this sauce hits the tart, sweet balance we all know and love from a good cranberry sauce.

Why you’ll love this cranberry sauce

  • Fresh ingredients: This recipe uses fresh cranberries, which are packed with flavor and are nutrient-dense. 
  • Perfect balance of flavors: The sweet maple syrup and tangy citrus juices in this recipe perfectly balance the tartness of the cranberries.
  • Easy to make: With just a few ingredients and simple instructions, this cranberry sauce is easy to make even for novice cooks.
  • Customizable: The recipe offers several variations and add-ins, so you can customize the sauce to your liking.
  • Healthier than store-bought: Homemade cranberry sauce has less sugar and preservatives than store-bought versions, making it a healthier choice.
  • Make-ahead friendly: This sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge, making it a convenient option for holiday meals or entertaining.
  • Great for leftovers: Leftover sauce can be used in sandwiches, wraps, or as a topping for oatmeal or yogurt.


Ingredients and substitution notes 

  • Fresh cranberries.  If you want to make this recipe out of season, you can use frozen cranberries. Ensure you thaw and drain off any excess liquid.
  • Maple syrup. You can use agave nectar instead of maple syrup if you need to – just keep in mind it’s a little sweeter than maple syrup.
  • Orange juice. Use lovely fresh orange juice for optimum results. You can use apple juice or cranberry juice if you like.
  • Lemon juice. Use fresh lemon juice as opposed to bottled juice. You can use lime juice instead. 
  • Salt. 

Cranberry Sauce Recipe variations and add-ins

While this cranberry sauce recipe is delicious on its own, there are a few variations and add-ins that you can try:

  • Add a cinnamon stick or a pinch of cinnamon for a warm, spicy flavor.
  • Add some chopped pecans or walnuts for some crunch.

Top tips

Here are a few tips to help you make the perfect cranberry sauce:

  • Be sure to rinse your cranberries before using them.
  • Use a non-reactive pot, such as stainless steel or enamel-coated cast iron, to avoid a metallic taste.
  • Don’t overcook the crsauce – it should be thickened, but not too thick.
  • Let the sauce cool completely before storing it in the refrigerator.
Cranberries cooked into a sauce

Make ahead instructions and storage

You can make this cranberry sauce up to a week ahead of time. Just let it cool completely, then transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. 

When you’re ready to serve, just reheat it gently on the stove or in the microwave.

Serving suggestions 

This cranberry sauce is perfect for serving alongside your Thanksgiving meal but it’s also delicious on toast, oatmeal, or yogurt. Check out these cool serving suggestions:

You can also use it as a topping for ice cream or cheesecake

  • As a side dish to your favorite vegan Thanksgiving meal.
  • Use it to top waffles, pancakes, or vegan French toast.
  • A wonderful condiment for a healthy veggie-filled sandwich.
  • As a filling for a tart or pie.
  • Add a dollop to vanilla ice cream or baked vegan cheesecake.
  • As a dip for cheese or charcuterie platters.
  • Spoon some over your morning oatmeal or yogurt bowls.
  • As a flavoring for salad dressings or marinades.


Can I use frozen cranberries instead of fresh?

Yes, you can use frozen cranberries instead of fresh. Just be sure to thaw them completely before using them.

Can I use brown sugar instead of maple syrup?

Yes, you can use brown sugar instead of maple syrup. Just use the same amount.

How long does homemade cranberry sauce last?

It will last for up to a week in the refrigerator.

How do I make homemade cranberry sauce?

To make homemade cranberry sauce, combine fresh or frozen cranberries, sugar, orange juice, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens. Let cool before serving.

Can I substitute honey or maple syrup for sugar?

Yes, you can substitute honey or maple syrup for sugar, but keep in mind that the flavor will be slightly different. Remember that honey is not technically vegan though – try using agave nectar as a vegan alternative to maple syrup. 

Cranberry Sauce served in a bowl

Can I add other fruits to my cranberry sauce?

Yes, you can add other fruits like apples, pears, or oranges for additional flavor and texture.

Can I make cranberry sauce in advance?

Yes, you can make it in advance and store it in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

How can I adjust the sweetness?

You can adjust the sweetness by adding more maple syrup or whichever sweetener you are using.

Can I make cranberry sauce in a slow cooker?

Yes, you can make this sauce in a slow cooker. Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on low for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally.

Can I freeze cranberry sauce?

Yes, you can freeze this sauce for up to 3 months in an airtight container.

How can I use leftover cranberry sauce?

Leftover sauce can be used as a topping for yogurt or oatmeal, as a spread on toast or sandwiches, or as a filling for baked goods like muffins or turnovers.

Here is My Cranberry Sauce Recipe Video:

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Cranberry Sauce served in a white bowl

Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce

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  • Author: Chef Ani


Bursting with bright fruity flavors, this cranberry sauce is delicious chilled, warmed up or served at room temperature.


  • 12 oz. of fresh cranberries

  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup orange juice

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • pinch of salt (optional)


  1. In a colander rinse cranberries with cold water.  Place in a saucepan.
  2. Add maple syrup, orange juice, lemon juice and salt. 
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, let simmer until the cranberry sauce reaches the desired consistency (about 7-12 min.)

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