Cranberry Sauce with Orange Juice is the perfect side dish for your next holiday meal. Made with only 4 ingredients, you can have this sweet, tart, and citrusy holiday condiment ready in just 20 minutes. It's jam-packed with flavor and can easily be made ahead.
Living in a town with more cranberry bogs than people (okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, but not by much), it feels wrong to use canned cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving. And, honestly, after experiencing homemade fresh cranberry sauce, I don't think I can go back to the canned stuff anyway.
And, honestly, after tasting homemade cranberry sauce, I can't imagine going back to the canned stuff anyway. That's how much better fresh cranberry sauce truly is.
Making cranberry sauce from scratch is super easy and takes no time at all. It's also ideal for making ahead since it needs time to chill in the refrigerator.
This cranberry sauce with orange juice is made with tart cranberries, freshly-squeezed orange juice, granulated sugar, and a pinch of orange zest. It's a fun little twist on classic cranberry sauce and will taste delicious with your next holiday dinner.
>> Need something to pair with your cranberry orange sauce? Try this Oven-Braised Turkey Breast with Gravy or this Lemon-Garlic Roasted Chicken.
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Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Fresh- When it comes to cranberry sauce, there's no contest that fresh is so much better than canned. Fresh cranberry sauce highlights the subtle flavors of the cranberry that you just can't taste with the canned version.
- Reduced Sugar- Traditional cranberry sauce recipes usually call for a 1:1 ratio of granulated sugar to liquid for every 12 ounces of cranberries. I played around with the ratio during testing and found that ¾ cup of sugar works just as well. Even better - using less sugar means the other flavors can shine through.
- Quick & Easy to Make- When planning your Thanksgiving menu this November, adding scratch-made cranberry sauce to the list can seem like too much extra work. But, it really isn't! This recipe is made with only four ingredients and comes together in just 20 minutes.
- Make-Ahead Friendly- I love a recipe I can make ahead knowing it's going to be just as good (or even better) after a few days. You can make this cranberry sauce with orange juice up to one week before Thanksgiving Day. Then, let it chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Here are some notes on key ingredients. For a full list of ingredients, check out the recipe card below.
- Cranberries- I've used both fresh and frozen cranberries to make this recipe and they both work perfectly. You'll need one 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries or about 4 cups of frozen cranberries.
- Fresh Orange Juice- You'll need about 4 fresh oranges for 1 cup of freshly-squeezed orange juice. Use a citrus squeezer or orange juicer to squeeze as much juice as you can from each orange.
- Granulated Sugar- Most recipes call for 1 cup of sugar, but I found that ¾ cup works just as well. Using less sugar means the tartness of the cranberries and the brightness of the orange shines through a little more.
- Orange Zest- For an extra punch of orange flavor, I love adding fresh orange zest to my orange juice cranberry sauce. Use a microplane or cheese grater to zest the orange peel, taking care not to grate any of the bitter white rind.
Step by Step Instructions
Here is how to make cranberry sauce with orange juice.
Step 1: Dissolve the sugar. In a medium saucepan, bring the orange juice and sugar to a boil over medium heat, whisking continuously to dissolve the sugar.
Step 2: Cook the cranberries. Reduce heat to low and add the cranberries to the pot. Allow the mixture to simmer for about 10 minutes or until most of the cranberries have burst. You can use the back of a wooden spoon to mash the cranberries until you achieve your desired consistency.
Step 3: Stir in orange zest and chill. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the orange zest. Allow the cranberry sauce to cool to room temperature before transferring it to a dish to chill in the refrigerator. The cranberry sauce will continue to thicken as it chills.
Tips for Success
- Use fresh or frozen cranberries. If you can't find fresh cranberries, frozen cranberries work just as well. There's no need to thaw them either. Keeping cranberries in your freezer can be a great way to quickly make a batch of cranberry sauce for your next holiday dinner party.
- Mix orange juice with water for a less intense flavor. If you're worried the orange flavor will be too strong for you, try using ½ cup water mixed with ½ cup orange juice instead. You can also leave the orange zest out altogether.
- Know your desired thickness. The more cranberries that burst while cooking, the more pectin is released into your cranberry sauce. Pectin is a natural thickener and it is what allows cranberry sauce to gel. If you prefer a thicker sauce, break up the cranberries with a wooden spoon. For a thinner sauce, leave some of them whole.
- Make ahead. Not only is it convenient that cranberry sauce can be made ahead of time, it's also necessary. Cranberry sauce needs time to thicken up and should be served chilled. So, plan on making your cranberry sauce early in the morning on Thanksgiving or, better yet, the day before.
Substitutions and Variations
Here are a few ways you can customize this cranberry sauce with orange juice recipe to fit your diet and taste preferences.
- Cranberries- While I haven't tested it myself, you can try making cranberry sauce with either dried cranberries or cranberry juice. However, these methods require you to use a thickening agent such as cornstarch or arrowroot powder.
- Fresh Orange Juice- Bottled orange juice, cranberry juice, apple juice, or water can be used in place of the fresh orange juice.
- Granulated Sugar- For a richer, more caramelized sweetness, swap the granulated sugar for brown sugar. Alternatively, use ½ cup of maple syrup or honey and reduce the amount of orange juice to ½ cup.
- Orange Zest- Feel free to use dried orange zest or 1 teaspoon of orange extract in place of fresh orange zest.
- Spiced- Stir in ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg.
- Nuts- A ¼ cup of toasted and chopped walnuts or pecans will give your cranberry relish a tasty crunch.
- Dried Fruit- For cranberry sauce with a little something extra, stir in ¼ cup of dried cranberries, cherries, raisins, or apricots.
- Spicy- Add 1-2 fresh minced jalapeños to give your cranberry sauce a little kick.
What to Serve with Cranberry Sauce
The acidity and sweetness of this cranberry sauce with orange juice compliments many savory, hearty dishes quite well. Try pairing this condiment with some of these recipes.
- Oven-Braised Turkey Breast
- Lemon-Garlic Roasted Chicken
- One-Pot Chicken and Vegetables
- Dutch Oven Chicken Pot Pie
How to Use Up Leftovers
- Baked Goods- muffins, bars, cookies, cakes, cupcakes, crisps, pies, or cheesecake
- Glaze for Protein- chicken, turkey, pork, fish, or meatballs
- Spread- sandwiches, charcuterie boards, crostini, toast, bagels, muffins, pancakes, waffles, or french toast
- Thanksgiving Leftovers- pizza, egg rolls, pot pie, croissant ring, sandwiches, casseroles
- Cranberry Mayonnaise or Salad Dressing
- Ice Cream Topping
Storage and Reheating
How to Store
- Room Temperature- Never leave perishable food out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. If serving cranberry sauce as part of a holiday spread, keep an eye on how long it sits on your counter. After 2 hours, perishable foods at room temperature likely have unsafe levels of bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses.
- Refrigerator- Store leftover cranberry sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 10-14 days.
- Freezer- Cranberry sauce can be frozen and will maintain optimal quality for up to 2 months. Be sure you store any leftover cranberry sauce in a freezer-safe container or plastic bag. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
How to Reheat
Generally, cranberry sauce is served chilled or at room temperature so there is no need to worry about reheating it. If your cranberry sauce has been stored in the freezer, leave it in the refrigerator overnight to defrost before serving.
Homemade cranberry sauce is the perfect make-ahead Thanksgiving side dish.
When stored properly, it lasts for what seems like forever in the refrigerator. If necessary, you can make cranberry sauce up to 10 days before you want to serve it. However, for the freshest-tasting cranberry sauce, I recommend making it 1-2 days before Thanksgiving.
Frequently Asked Questions
Orange and cranberry are flavors that pair beautifully together. In fact, cranberry orange is quite the popular holiday flavor combination in everything from drinks and appetizers to desserts. The natural sweetness and acidity of orange juice balance the tartness of the cranberries.
If your cranberry sauce turned out thin, there could be a few issues. You either used too much liquid, the cranberries themselves released a lot of liquid (this sometimes happens if you use frozen cranberries), or you didn't use enough sugar.
When liquid is the problem, just keep cooking the cranberry sauce on the stove until it reaches your desired consistency. For sugar, you may need to add a few more tablespoons to help the sauce gel.
On the other hand, if your cranberry sauce turned out too thick, it's likely due to the pectin. When cranberries burst, they release pectin - a natural thickener and the reason why cranberry sauce gels in the first place.
To fix this, simply add a splash or two of orange juice or water until your desired consistency is achieved.
Cranberry sauce is meant to be served as a chilled dish. If you don't like it cold, I recommend serving it at room temperature.
Yes! Homemade cranberry sauce actually freezes quite well and will maintain its fresh flavor for up to 2 months if properly stored. To defrost it, place it in the refrigerator overnight.
Be sure to leave a comment below if you have any questions about the recipe. You can also connect with me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or via email at [email protected].
More Holiday Side Dish Recipes
- Sourdough Stuffing
- Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- Roasted Green Beans and Carrots
- Crispy Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Pumpkin Soup
- Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese
- Brown Butter Cornbread
Cranberry Sauce with Orange Juice
- 1 cup (about 4 oranges) freshly-squeeze orange juice
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 12 ounces (about 4 cups) whole cranberries fresh or frozen
- Zest from ½ of an orange
- In a medium saucepan, bring the orange juice and sugar to a boil over medium heat, whisking continuously to dissolve the sugar.1 cup (about 4 oranges) freshly-squeeze orange juice, ¾ cup granulated sugar
- Reduce heat to low and add the cranberries to the pot. Allow the mixture to simmer for about 10 minutes or until most of the cranberries have burst. You can use the back of a wooden spoon to mash the cranberries until you achieve your desired consistency.12 ounces (about 4 cups) whole cranberries
- Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the orange zest. Allow the cranberry sauce to cool to room temperature before transferring it to a dish to chill in the refrigerator. The cranberry sauce will continue to thicken as it chills.Zest from ½ of an orange
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