The eponymous sauce to go with Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners, homemade cranberry sauce is a world away from the shop-bought version! This fruity, slightly sweet, slightly tart, jammy sauce is so delicious. The bursts of cranberries cut through the richness of classic festive feasts. Once you’ve made it yourself (and seen just how quick and easy it is), you’ll never go back to buying it again!
When my husband and I hosted our first Christmas together, he was horrified that I was going to make my own cranberry sauce and insisted that I also buy the jarred version that he was used to. We did a taste test between the two and he couldn’t believe how sweet and bland the jarred version tasted in comparison! He's never looked back!
I make a double batch of cranberry sauce in November every year and take half to my friend's Thanksgiving dinner and freeze the other half to use for Christmas lunch. It makes me feel good to know that I’ve already got a head start on Christmas lunch a month in advance!
Mind you, once I’ve got the taste for it in November, I have been known to use up the frozen batch in pies and sandwiches throughout December and then have to make more for Christmas Day as well!
Very few ingredients are needed for this delicious easy homemade cranberry sauce recipe.
- Cranberries (fresh or frozen)
- Orange – just one orange zested and juiced but you could use orange juice instead at a push.
- Star anise – for that lovely spiced depth of flavour!
- Sugar – there’s no getting away from it, you need the sugar to sweeten up the cranberries and give it that lovely jammy consistency. It’s also the thing that preserves the sauce so that it keeps for longer. I normally try to avoid refined sugar but since you tend only to have a spoonful of cranberry sauce on the side of your plate, I think this is fine now and again!
- Melt the sugar in the orange juice over a low heat.
- Once all the sugar has melted, add the cranberries and star anise and turn the heat up to bring to the boil.
- Once boiling, turn the heat down and let the cranberries simmer for 15-20 minutes until most of the berries have burst and it has gone to a jammy consistency.
This homemade spice cranberry and orange sauce is a classic accompaniment to rich festive meals like those served at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is great for cutting through the richness of meats served at those meals but even for a vegan or plant-based meal, it goes brilliantly with rich nut roasts and creamy pies. Serve at room temperature or you could warm it up in the microwave or over a low heat in a pan if you prefer it warm.
See this Thanksgiving meal ideas page for more ideas of what to cook at Thanksgiving!
By all means, if you don’t like star anise, swap to another spice that you prefer. Cinnamon would work well or nutmeg. Likewise, if you like it less orangey, just use less orange zest.
Making ahead & storage
Due to its high sugar content, this cranberry sauce keeps well in the fridge for a week or more. If you want to keep the cranberry sauce for longer than a few days, you should sterilize jars by washing them thoroughly then heating in an oven set to 100°C for 15 minutes, and then pour the jammy sauce straight into the jars and close immediately. The sugar content will mean that, as long you don’t open the jar, it will keep for quite a while just like jam. I like to keep it in the fridge just to make sure, since I don’t have a sugar refractometer to measure the exact sugar concentration. It keeps happily in the fridge for at least a month if you do this.
It also keeps really well in the freezer (see my notes above about making a double batch in November and using half for Thanksgiving then freezing the other half for Christmas). Just defrost in the fridge overnight and leave out for an hour or so to come to room temperature before serving. If it is too thick for your liking, just put it in a pan with a touch of water and warm gently while stirring the water into the sauce.
Recipe Card 📖
Homemade Cranberry and Orange Sauce
- 1 orange zest and juice
- 150 g caster sugar
- 340 g cranberries fresh or frozen
- 2 star anise
- Put the orange juice and sugar in a saucepan and gently heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.1 orange, 150 g caster sugar
- Once the sugar has fully dissolved, add the cranberries, star anise and orange zest and stir well. Bring to the boil then immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the cranberries have burst and the sauce has thickened.340 g cranberries, 2 star anise
- Because of the high sugar content, this sauce, rather like jam, lasts well in a sealed jar in the fridge. Alternatively, you can freeze it and it will keep for much longer!
- Sterilize your jars first to make sure that your sauce isn’t spoiled – see blogpost for more instructions on how to sterilize.
If you like this homemade cranberry and orange sauce recipe, you may like these other delicious vegan and gluten-free holiday recipes too:
I’d love to know how you get on with this recipe. Let me know what you think in the comments section below and please give it a star rating too! Thank you!