Homemade Thanksgiving cranberry sauce with fresh cranberries is flavored with with orange juice and orange zest making it the perfect holiday dish!
It's the age old debate. Should you serve homemade cranberry relish for the holidays, or should you serve the canned stuff? You know, the can of cranberry sauce that comes out in the shape of the can, horizontal lines and all.
People tend to have strong opinions about which one should earn a place on the table as a traditional Thanksgiving dinner side.
And the beautiful garnet color makes serving cranberries at Christmas as much a centerpiece as a side dish.
So....who's to say you can't serve both?
Because quite honestly, this recipe has only a few simple steps to make and here's the real kicker - you can make it a few days in advance.
When it comes to holiday meal planning, why not get a few shortcuts into your mealtime plans?
Why I love Make Ahead Cranberry Sauce
- You'll have fewer dishes to wash on the day of your celebration
- The flavors have a chance to blend, meld, combine - whatever you want to call it - while your cranberry sauce chills in the fridge
- Christmas dinners and our Thanksgiving meal wouldn't be the same without it!
- You'll have a chance to enjoy your holiday instead of slaving away like a crazy person in the kitchen.
- It tastes fresh. Like, really, really fresh flavors that will make your taste buds stand up and take note!
Ingredients to make Orange Cranberry Sauce
You only need a few ingredients to make this simple cranberry sauce recipe with fresh cranberries and you can find them all at your local grocery store.
You'll need fresh cranberries, which are readily available in most grocery store (including Aldi!) around the holiday season. You'll also need an orange, sugar and cinnamon.
Well, cranberries are pretty tart on their own. I've tried making sugar free cranberry sauce and once I was finally able to remove the pucker set in place on my face, I decided to stick with the tried and true cranberry sauce recipe!
How to make cranberry sauce with fresh cranberries
STEP 1: First, wash the fresh cranberries by rinsing in a mesh strainer.
STEP 2: Using a microplane or a grater, grate your orange zest, getting only the orange peel part of the orange. Don't add the white pith to your zest or it will add a bitter element.
Once your orange is zested, slice it in half and squeeze the fresh orange juice into a measuring cup or small bowl.
STEP 3: In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, sugar, and orange zest. Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Once the cranberry mixture comes to a boil, reduce to low heat and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until cranberries begin to soften and "pop".
Listen carefully, you'll actually hear a "popping" noise when the cranberries burst. This releases pectin, similar to what you'd find in jellies and jams.
This awesome reaction is what will help thicken your sauce as it simmers.
Pretty neat, right?
And since we're tuning into our kitchen senses, do yourself a favor and take a BIG sniff.
Do you hear that??
It's the angels singing la, la, LAAAAA! So deliciously fragrant!
I LOVE holiday cooking!
Step 4: Remove from heat and add orange juice and just a pinch of cinnamon. Cover and chill the cranberry sauce until you're ready to serve.
And there you go...my make ahead cranberry sauce recipe!
How far in advance can you make cranberry sauce?
You can make these 2-3 days in advance. Store it covered, in the refrigerator.
HOW MUCH CRANBERRY SAUCE PER PERSON?
Made from scratch cranberry sauce isn't really a dish you load up on. Holiday stuffing, turkey, corn casserole - those are the big portion items.
A spoonful of cranberry sauce is the perfect complement to tender and juicy Thanksgiving turkey, so a little bit goes a long way.
Is cranberry sauce gluten free?
Yes, cranberry sauce is gluten free!
TIPS FOR HOMEMADE CRANBERRY SAUCE WITH FRESH CRANBERRIES
- Cover it as it sits in the refrigerator so it doesn't pick up any other smells.
- Use leftover cranberry sauce in Cranberry Turkey Pinwheels
- It will gel up a little (thank you, natural pectin, so you may wish to put it into your serving dish ahead of time.
- Make a reminder note that it's in the fridge for your dinner so you don't forget to add it to your holiday table. You can serve it chilled or at room temperature.
Trust me on this one...we know things, especially refrigerators and kitchens, tend to get crazy and crowded around the holidays! Take the help where you can get it and it's one less thing to worry about.
Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes
If you like your cranberry sauce with Granny Smith apple and brown sugar, check out my Cranberry Apple Chutney
These are some of the best dishes to add to your Thanksgiving table!
- Butternut Squash Casserole with Pecans and Bacon
- 12 Make Ahead Holiday Appetizers
- Christmas Dinner Menu
- Orange Fluff Jello Salad
- Cheesy Corn Salad
- Cranberry Pecan Goat Cheese Appetizer
- Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
When you make your own cranberry sauce using this simple recipe, drop a comment and tell me what you think! Our family loves it and I know yours will too!
Make Ahead Cranberry Sauce
- 12- ounce bag of cranberries
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoon grated orange zest
- 2 T. orange juice
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Wash the fresh cranberries by rinsing in a mesh strainer.
- Using a microplane or a grater, grate your orange zest, getting only the peel part of the orange. Don't add the white pith to your zest or it will add a bitter element.
- Once your orange is zested, slice it in half and squeeze the juice into a measuring cup or small bowl.
- In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, sugar, and orange zest. Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil.
- Once the cranberry mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until cranberries begin to soften and "pop".
- Remove from heat and add orange juice and a pinch of cinnamon.
- Cover and chill the cranberry sauce until you're ready to serve.