Homemade Cranberry Sauce (Slow Cooker + Stovetop)
A simple 5-ingredient homemade cranberry sauce recipe that’s made on the stovetop or the slow cooker! You can even make it ahead and just reheat the day of. It doesn’t get easier than this!
You either can’t live without it at the big Thanksgiving feast or you’re not even looking in its general direction. Which side of the spectrum do you fall on? Is it a texture thing? Okay, but are we hating on cranberry sauce because all you’ve had is the canned stuff? Because that doesn’t count.
Swap it out for the real deal made with fresh cranberries and simmer it in a pot with orange juice and a few add-ins like a cinnamon stick or a sprig of rosemary and tell me you still hate it. That taste is far superior to the canned sauce you get.
Okay, but what if it wasn’t a side dish to the turkey? I love the idea of smearing leftover cranberry sauce on my chicken or turkey sandwiches the next day. It makes all the other flavors pop! The moist maker gravy-soaked bread, the herb roasted turkey. It’s all there and it’s all just a little better with homemade cranberry sauce smeared in there.
Ingredients for homemade cranberry sauce:
- Fresh or frozen cranberries: You’ll want to use whole cranberries for this recipe. I usually just buy a bag, or fresh cranberries and give them a good rinse in a colander before tossing them in the simmering liquid. If you’re using frozen cranberries, you don’t need to defrost them. Simply add them to the simmering liquid and go!
- Fresh orange juice: Adds brightness to the sauce. It sweetens it up and gives the cranberries a rich flavor. I usually like to use freshly squeezed orange juice but the store-bought stuff will also work if you want to use that! It’s typically a bit sweeter, so you may want to use a little less and sub in some extra water.
- Orange Zest: brightens and gives the cranberry sauce a pop of citrus flavor. Feel free to use lemon zest if you prefer that instead.
- Granulated white sugar: Adds sweetness to the sauce and balances the natural tartness of cranberries. Brown sugar would also make a good sub if you’re looking to give the cranberry sauce a deeper flavor. You could also cut back on the orange juice or omit it and use maple syrup or even honey instead if you’d like.
- Optional add-ins: You can use just about anything you like! A cinnamon stick, star anise pods, cardamom, fresh rosemary, black peppercorns, vanilla extract, and a squeeze of honey. Other spices like nutmeg would also work well here! The possibilities are endless.
How to make cranberry sauce from scratch:
- Rinse them well. Start by giving the berries a good rinsing under cold running water in a colander.
- Make the simmering liquid. Add the orange juice, sugar, a 1/2 cup water, and any add-ins you want to use to a medium pan over medium-high heat. When the sugar has dissolved, add the cranberries and the orange zest.
- Cook it down. Simmer over medium heat for 10-12 minutes or until you can hear the cranberries popping and forming a jam-like texture. Remove the cranberry sauce from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature before refrigerating or freezing the sauce. Don’t worry if the sauce looks a little thin; it’ll naturally thicken as it sits!
FAQs about this recipe:
Cranberry sauce can be made a few days in advance and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for Thanksgiving. You can also freeze this up to 3 months in advance. I suggest defrosting it in the fridge overnight and then heating it through in a saucepan.
Yes! I’ve provided both stovetop and slow cooker directions on the recipe card.
It’s okay if the sauce looks thin when you pull it off the stove. The natural pectin found in cranberries will aid in thickening the sauce as it cools. So don’t worry! I promise it’ll set up beautifully!
Other thanksgiving recipes you might like:
- Homemade Gravy (with or without pan drippings)
- Best Creamed Spinach
- Irresistibly Creamy Green Bean Casserole
- Creamy Asiago Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- Caramelized Onion Gruyere Drop Biscuits
- Slow Cooker Creamed Corn
Original recipe shared Nov 2015, updated with new images, stovetop directions, and post Oct 2022.
- 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries (do not defrost)
- ½ cup fresh orange juice
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- Optional add-ins: cinnamon stick, star anise, cardamom pods, fresh rosemary sprig, black peppercorns, vanilla extract, etc.
- RINSE: Rinse the cranberries under cold running water in a colander.
- SLOW COOKER: Add cranberries, orange juice, orange zest, sugar, 2 tablespoons water, and any extra add-ins to a 3-quart slow cooker. Stir to combine. Allow the sauce to cook on high for 3-4 hours OR on low heat for 7-8 hours. The sauce will thicken significantly as it cools. Remove add-ins before storing or serving.
- STOVE TOP: Add the orange juice, sugar, ½ cup water, and any add-ins to a saucepan over medium-high heat. When the sugar has dissolved, add the cranberries and orange zest. Simmer over medium heat for 10-12 minutes or until the cranberries burst. Let the sauce cool to room temperature before refrigerating. The sauce will continue to thicken significantly as it cools. Remove add-ins before storing or serving.
- The sauce may look thin when it is done but as it cools the natural pectin in the cranberries will thicken the sauce.
- Recipe can easily be doubled and made in the same 3 quart slow cooker.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 127Carbohydrates: 32gSugar: 28gProtein: 0g
The nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is just an estimate. To get the most accurate information, please input the ingredients you've used into a nutrition calculator.