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Cranberry Sauce with Orange Zest

Cranberry sauce with orange zest takes the traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas side dish to the next level. Fresh cranberries are simmered in a pot with orange zest, cinnamon and sugar. This easy sauce pairs beautifully with roasted turkey and chicken.

cranberry sauce with orange zest in a white bowl with silver spoon and kitchen towel beside the bowl

We love easy Thanksgiving and Christmas side dishes like our cranberry jello salad, easy mashed sweet potatoes, cinnamon sweet potato with squash, and of course this cranberry sauce with orange zest! There’s no doubt about it, making cranberry sauce from scratch will take your holiday dinner to the next level.

Easy Cranberry Sauce with Orange Zest Recipe

It’s time to ditch the canned cranberry sauce because this homemade version is so much better! The process to make it is simple: all you need is a saucepan and four simple ingredients to make cranberry sauce full of fresh and zesty flavors.

If you’ve never made homemade cranberry sauce before, this recipe will convert you! We promise it’s so much better than the canned stuff. This sauce is tart and sweet with the perfect hint of orange.

close up of cranberry sauce with orange zest

Recipe Ingredients

This is an easy holiday side dish to pair with turkey, beef or chicken. You only need four ingredients to make this delicious sauce:

  • Fresh Cranberries – Fresh cranberries are what makes this recipe so delicious. You’ll need one bag (12 oz) of fresh cranberries or about 1½ cups.
  • Sweetener – I used coconut sugar. You can also use white sugar, brown sugar, honey or maple syrup.
  • Cinnamon – A warm spice to flavor the sauce.
  • Two Navel Oranges – Two large navel oranges are used. The peel is used to create orange zest and the flesh can be squeezed to create orange juice. I always use organic oranges for this part because we are adding the peels to the dish, but you can use whatever works for you.

How To Make Cranberry Sauce with Orange Zest

Whether you’ve made Thanksgiving dinner for your family plenty of times, or you’re a beginner, this recipe is a keeper. Use a small saucepan and stir the ingredients often to avoid the sugar from burning.

  1. Prep: Wash and scrub the navel oranges. Use a cheese grater to zest the clean orange peel. After zesting, slice each orange in half and squeeze out all the excess juice through a strainer to remove any seeds and pulp.
  2. Add to saucepan: Add the orange juice, orange zest, sugar and cinnamon to a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring it to a boil then reduce and let it simmer. Stir the pot often to prevent the sugar from burning.
  3. Add cranberries: Add in the cranberries and let them simmer for 10-15 minutes, until they start to “pop” and break open. Use the back of a spoon or fork to gently help speed up the process. Continue to stir often to prevent the sugar from burning.
  4. Let cool: At this point the sauce will be thicker, and the cranberries will have broken down. Remove the sauce from the heat and let it cool for one hour at room temperature. Then add it to an airtight container and store in the fridge overnight before serving.

Pro Tip: Help speed up the process of the cranberries breaking down by gently pressing them with the back of a wood spoon or a potato masher with small holes. If you don’t have either of these, try using the back of a fork being careful not to get too close to the sauce as it will be hot.

cooked cranberry sauce in a white pot with wooden spoon.

Tips For The Best Cranberry Sauce

Here are a few quick tips to make the best cranberry sauce for your holiday dinner:

  • Make A Double Batch – We love this recipe so much that I usually make a double batch and save some for leftovers. A single batch is usually gone after Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Control The Sugar – You can control how much sweetness you want. You can add more or less sugar, depending on preference. Cranberries are naturally tart and adding sugar really helps to balance that out. I like to add 1/2 cup of coconut sugar. You can use white sugar or brown sugar. For a sugar-free option, try also using Lakanto monkfruit sweetener (sugar-free) or erythritol (also sugar-free).
  • Avoid Liquid Sugar – I don’t recommend using a liquid sugar like maple syrup or honey because it tends to burn easier while you’re simmering the cranberries. I speak from experience – last year I burnt a double batch of cranberry sauce using fresh cranberries from the farmer’s market. I was so disappointed!
  • Stir Frequently – I highly recommend sticking close to the stove while you’re making this recipe. The sugar can burn if you let the sauce sit too long. Stirring often is important to avoid that.
  • Make In Advance – You can make this sauce 2-4 days in advance and store it in the fridge. This is convenient if you’re preparing other recipes on Thanksgiving day. Cranberry sauce stores well in the fridge and tastes better cold. It will make life easier if you prep in advance and cross it off your list.

To Serve With Orange Cranberry Sauce

Like traditional cranberry sauce, this recipe is best served cold alongside your holiday meal. Add to a bowl with a spoon and let guests add to their plates for a delicious sweet and tart treat.

Cranberry orange sauce tastes particularly delicious with roasted turkey or chicken. Leftovers can be added to turkey sandwiches, alongside a turkey pot pie, or in our turkey leftover casserole.

cranberry sauce in a white bowl with silver spoon.

Common Questions

Can I use canned cranberries?

Canned cranberries could work but will not give nearly the same results. For the best flavor and texture, use fresh cranberries. Nothing beats the taste of fresh homemade cranberry sauce!

Can I serve right after I make this?

Typically cranberry sauce is served cold, so it is best to make this recipe in advance and store in the fridge for at least 6 hours before serving. I typically make this recipe 2 or 3 days before Thanksgiving (or Christmas) because it stores well and frees up time for other recipes closer to the day.

How to store cranberry orange sauce

If you have leftover cranberry sauce you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

I’ve been making this recipe for a few years now. I’ve used it at our own Thanksgiving dinner and brought it over to other Family dinners. It’s an easy, yet thoughtful side dish to bring as a guest. I always get compliments on it.

More Thanksgiving Recipes

If you enjoy holiday side dishes as much as we do, you are sure to find some easy favorites on our list. Keep these in mind for your next Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner:

Cranberry Sauce with Orange Zest

Orange zest takes this homemade cranberry sauce to the next level. All you need is 4 ingredients and 20 minutes to make this sauce that pairs incredibly with turkey and chicken.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 oz fresh cranberries
  • ½ cup sweetener - coconut sugar, lakanto monkfruit sweetener, erythritol etc.
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice - approx. two oranges
  • ¾ cup orange zest - zest from two oranges

Instructions

  • Wash and scrub the two large navel oranges, then use a cheese grater to create zest from the entire orange peel.
  • Slice each orange in half and use a juice squeezer to squeeze the juice from the two oranges.
  • Add the orange zest, orange juice, sweetener, and cinnamon to a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir frequently to prevent the sugar from burning. Once the sauce starts to bubble, reduce the heat to let simmer.
  • Now add the cranberries. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until cranberries break down and the sauce thickens.
    The cranberries will start to "pop" as they break open. You can help the process along by gently squishing them while you're stirring.
    Note: Because there is sugar in the saucepan you want to stir frequently to prevent it from burning.
  • Once the sauce is thick and cranberries broken down, remove from heat and let cool at least 1 hour. Add to an airtight glass container and store in the fridge for a minimum 3-4 hours before serving, but preferably overnight.
    Optional: Add a small amount of fresh orange zest to the top of the cranberry sauce just before serving.

Recipe Notes:

  • Avoid Liquid Sugar – I don’t recommend using a liquid sugar like maple syrup or honey because it tends to burn easier while you’re simmering the cranberries. I speak from experience – last year I burnt a double batch of cranberry sauce using fresh cranberries from the farmer’s market. I was so disappointed!
  • Stir Frequently – I highly recommend sticking close to the stove while you’re making this recipe. The sugar can burn if you let the sauce sit too long. Stirring often is important to avoid that.
Nutrition
Calories: 36kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1mg | Potassium: 87mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 95IU | Vitamin C: 26mg | Calcium: 21mg | Iron: 1mg

Please note these nutritional values provided above are just an estimate. Actual numbers will vary based on brands and ingredients you choose, and your preferred portion sizes.

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