Cranberry sauce with orange zest is a classic holiday side dish that's often served with Thanksgiving dinner. Fresh cranberries are cooked into a sweet relish with a hint of orange zest and cinnamon.
Homemade cranberry sauce is a must at the holiday dinner table. This cranberry sauce with orange zest recipe is so easy to make that you'll never reach for the canned stuff again.
Cranberry sauce is one of the easiest holiday dishes to prepare - it's ready in just 15 minutes on the stovetop! A dash of cinnamon adds a warm, cozy flavor and fresh orange zest adds a touch of brightness.
Serve cranberry sauce as a side dish for your next holiday meal. It can be used as a garnish on sliced turkey, spread on dinner rolls like jam, or added to your Thanksgiving charcuterie board.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Cranberries - Fresh or frozen cranberries can be used in this recipe.
- Sugar - Necessary to add sweetness and cut through the tartness of the cranberries. If the sugar in this recipe is reduced, your sauce will turn out tart. I like the combination of granulated and brown sugars, but all granulated sugar can be used if necessary.
- Cinnamon - Optional, but adds a depth of flavor and warmth to your cranberry sauce that is perfect for the holidays.
- Orange - You'll need about two teaspoons of orange zest for this recipe. While optional, it adds brightness and a bit of citrus flavor to the cranberry sauce. I don't recommend omitting this ingredient.
Cranberry sauce, in it's simplest form, can be made with just cranberries and sugar. Anything extra is there to add flavor. Try adding some of these extras next time you make cranberry sauce:
Orange juice - Substitute half the listed water with orange juice for added citrus flavor.
Fresh fruits - Add ½ cup of other fresh fruits along with the cranberries, like chopped apples, orange, or pineapple.
Brown sugar - Use all brown sugar for a deeper, caramelized flavor.
Nuts - Add ½ cup of chopped pecans or walnuts for added crunch after your sauce is done cooking.
Ground ginger - Add ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger along with, or instead of, the ground cinnamon.
What to serve with cranberry sauce
Cranberry sauce is traditionally served at holiday meals like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Here are a few other recipes to make a complete holiday menu:
- Marmalade glazed ham
- Oven roasted turkey breast
- Southern sweet potato casserole
- Green bean casserole from scratch
- Creamy mashed potatoes
- Southern cornbread dressing
- Easy pecan pie
Frequently asked questions
If your cranberry sauce is already cooked and it tastes a little too tart for your liking, add a bit of liquid sweetener, like honey or maple syrup. Stirring granulated sugar into cooked and cooled cranberry sauce will add a grainy texture.
Cranberries naturally contain a lot of pectin, so there's no need for added thickeners in this recipe. As the sauce cooks down, it thickens on its own. If your sauce is still very thin after cooking, try adding a slurry made with 1 teaspoon of cornstarch and a small amount of water.
Yes! Cranberry sauce is an excellent recipe to make a day or two ahead of a holiday dinner. Prepare the recipe as directed, allow to cool to room temperature, then store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Yes, cranberry sauce can be frozen for up to one month (or more in ideal conditions) in a tightly sealed, freezer-safe container. To thaw, transfer to the refrigerator to thaw overnight.
Cranberry Sauce with Orange Zest
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup water
- In a saucepan over medium heat, add cranberries, sugars, orange zest, cinnamon, and water. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
- Cook cranberries for about 10-12 minutes, or until cranberries burst and sauce begins to thicken. Optionally, gently mash cranberries with the back of a spoon as they cook.
- Remove from heat and pour into serving bowl. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Sauce can be served warm, room temperature, or cold.
- Ground ginger can be used in addition to, or instead of, ground cinnamon.
- Cranberry sauce can be served warm, room temperature, or cold. Keep in mind the sauce may thicken substantially if refrigerated.
- Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to a month.