It seems like cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes are kind of the ugly stepsisters of the Thanksgiving table–they’re presence seems to be guilt-induced, there’s plenty left over, and those leftovers often find themselves cold and lonely in the refrigerator as the rolls, mashed potatoes, gravy, and turkey get eaten in the days after Thanksgiving. Well, no more.

fresh cranberry sauce from our best bites

Not only do we hope that this recipe will help you like cranberry sauce more, but also see that you can use it in lots of different ways, not just for an obligatory taste with your turkey.

Can we get one thing clear? Cranberries don’t belong in gel form. If you LOVE slices of jellied cranberry, then more power to you, but if that’s all you’ve ever had and you don’t like cranberry sauce, then this year is the year to expand your horizons! This sauce is thinner than any commercial cranberry sauce, which I think makes it perfect for dipping without feeling overwhelmed by the sometimes-bitter cranberry flavor. It’s also awesome on sandwiches year-round (if you can track fresh cranberries down year-round!)

One of the things I love is that you can pop it in the oven. You could certainly do it on the stovetop, but then you have to babysit it. I don’t know about y’all (see how well I’m adjusting to life in the South?), but paying attention to sticky substances bubbling on the stove on Thanksgiving is not something that generally works for me. This can be easily made up to a week in advance, letting you focus on turkeys and rolls and pies. Easy.

fresh cranberry sauce from our best bites

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Fresh Cranberry Sauce

  • Author: Our Best Bites


Take cranberry sauce to a new level – perfect on sandwiches all year long, too!



1 12-ounce bag cranberries
1 cup white sugar
1 cup orange juice
1 cup water
1 stick cinnamon (optional)
1 very small pinch ground cloves (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash cranberries and place in 9×13 baking dish. Add water, cloves, cinnamon stick, and orange juice and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 1 hour. Remove from oven, remove cinnamon stick, and allow to cool. If you like it with a little texture, mash berries; if you prefer it smooth, process in blender or food processor until desired consistency is reached. Serve with turkey, Swedish meatballs, on pulled turkey, pork, or chicken sandwiches, or on top of ice cream or cobbler.


This can be made and refrigerated up to a week in advance or frozen for up to three months.


  1. My family makes Cranberry Sauce like this except we freeze it, plus a few more steps, it is a big hit always and adds some cold to a hot meals, plus it can be made up to a week before hand.

  2. Cranberry sauce is my favorite thing on the Thanksgiving table. I load up on bags of fresh cranberries during this time of year and freeze them to use all year long. I strain my cranberry sauce to get the smooth texture.

  3. hmmmm. . . tempting. tempting.

    I normally stay clear of the cranberry sauce. But this looks beautiful and easy. So I just MIGHT give it a try.

  4. I to love Cranberry Sauce. Other versions I have tried, have been too complicated. This looks wonderfully easy. Can’t it be made ahead of time? How long does it keep?

  5. My favorite addition to cranberry sauce is a pinch of cloves. A very small pinch. Too much and it’s overpowering, but a little hint of spice really jazzes it up.

  6. I’m going to insist that we try this this year. I recently discovered that I really liked cranberries when I noticed that they sold fresh ones this time of year. Never knew that. I just made cranberry bread last night and it’s so good. I love the tartness. Thanks for the recipe! Hopefully the family gives it a try.

  7. That looks great! I agree with you though that people don’t readily go after the cranberries because who wants to eat something that is still in the shape of the metal can it came in?

  8. that looks like a nice sauce. i’m gonna show my mom this recipe. she’s in charge of the sauce every year and last year it was WAYYYY to sour (emphasis on the WAYYY). haha

    every holiday, my favorite food is the sweet potato casserole. need i say more?

  9. You mean you don’t like how it comes with its own lines in a can?

    My family has many cranberry sauce recipes, so I’ve been spoiled by the good stuff!

  10. I found a recipe last year somewhere online for a cranberry sauce that is very similar but you do it on the stove top instead of baking it. It is so yummy! And while you are cooking it, add a cinnamon stick to mixture and it gives it a great kick! Just remember to take out the stick when you are ready to serve it!

  11. Hmmm, I’ve never done the cranberry sauce thing either. But ::husband:: LOVES it. So this year I’m trying it. I’m curious, too, as to whether it freezes well? Just wondering if I can make it this week and then pull it out before we head up north.

  12. okay, i made it. a practice, if you will. (i'm a nervous cook). i used pineapple-orange juice because i didn't realize it. but it was delicious! we've eaten it hot & cold with harvest bread (pumpkin, walnuts, cranberries, and raisins), as a topping with granola, as a topping with ice cream, on cold cut sandwiches, and my favorite: vanilla bean ice cream, granola, AND cranberry sauce. Left it really lumpy. Loved the little punch from the (inadvertent) pineapple. Thanks for another keeper!

  13. I was wondering, can these be made a head of time at all? Like, could I made them today (the day before Thanksgiving)? Just put them in the fridge after making them? Or will it totally not work as well?

  14. mmmmmmmmm….made this today and my husband LOVED it. He has never been a fan of cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, but he couldn't get enough of this. For me it was the perfect touch our dinner needed. I loved the cinnamon in it.

  15. Always hated the cranberries. Wondered why it was necessary to take up table space for it. However, I’m putting this on the table this year and I bet I’m going to love it.

  16. I was wondering if you have a measurement of how many cups of cranberries in the “bag” of cranberries…i bought the huge bulk bag at costco and am pretty sure that’s not the size bag you’re referring to. i usually buy the cans of whole cranberries as a base and add crushed pineapple, mandarin oranges and sliced apple in cherry jello gelatin for thickness–my grandma’s recipe and it too is one of my thanksgiving fav’s. but all natural made that easy sounds a whole lot better than canned =) thanks

  17. I make my cranberry sauce just like this except I also add a few allspice berries and a couple of tablespoons of Cognac. Talking about over the top. Oh and I also use half brown sugar to white sugar. This is the only way my family wants them now. No more can stuff for us.

    1. Stacy, I am cooking mine as I type this. If fresh cranberry sauce can be frozen, or you can use fresh or canned in a jello salad, then I would certainly think you could make it a day or two ahead of time.

  18. If I doubled this would it be way too much? I bought a bag of cranberries for this but then we were at the farmer’s market and someone was selling them fresh and I couldn’t resist…

    1. Alyssa, depending on how many guests are invited, I would think that it would be okay to double the recipe. The recipe as is, fills a medium size serving dish. After all, it is yummy enough to eat not only with turkey dinner but also on rolls, ice cream, or whatever.

  19. Just a quick update…This is so easy and absolutely delicious! If you like cinnamon and cloves, be sure to add them. Yummy!!!

  20. Cranberry sauce is my favorite accessory on the thanksgiving table! I add half a pear and apple into a very similar recipe and cook it down with the cranberries. Yum!

  21. I never had cranberry sauce until I moved to the US. I cook fresh cranberries, same as your recipe, but I also grate an orange and add a little fresh grated ginger. Sometimes, I also add a little Port to the sauce. I make a lot of it and use it as jam on muffins for breakfast.

  22. I doubled this recipe and it did not turn out well. Halfway through cooking the cranberries I realized the huge amount of liquid was never going to reduce and I poured out at least 3 cups. At that point I tasted the cranberries and while they were soft and not crunchy, they were still incredibly sour. I added more sugar on top and kept baking, hoping for the best. After cooking at least an hour and 20 minutes, I took them out (we were already sitting down to eat!) and had to add even more sugar to make the whole dish edible. 🙁 Overall, the recipe is lackluster and I don’t recommend it.

    1. Also, “1 bag cranberries” is not descriptive enough. They do come in bags of all sizes. I used 2 bags that were about 12 oz. each when I doubled the recipe. I’m sure the bags used in this recipe were probably much larger, which is why there was so much liquid I ended up pouring out.

  23. Just made cranberry sauce this year. 2 bags of 12oz cranberries, 1 1/2 cans ginger ale, 1 1/2 c sugar, pinch of nutmeg, and and a shot of lemon juice. Turned out really well.

  24. I also add diced apples, diced oranges and golden raisins (chopped up so raisin haters don’t know they’re there) to my sauce. It sweetens it up a lot. I also add a little bit of orange zest and then some vanilla extract at the end. I’ve also made it with fresh apple juice from the orchard instead of orange juice. YUMMY!

  25. I used to love canned cranberry sauce until I started making your recipe a few years ago. Now I can’t stand the canned stuff! I add about a tsp. of grated fresh ginger to give it a little snap! I have to make double batches now! Thanks for a great recipe — love your blog!

    1. Just an update: I stopped baking after two hours because it was taking too long. I strained the sauce and berries, reduced the sauce from 2 1/2 cups to about 1 1/4 cup, then combined it with the berries. It is so delicious, I am tempted to take a can of sauce to my gathering and keep the fresh stuff for myself. Next time I will cook it on the stovetop a day or two in advance

      Thanks for he recipe!

  26. It’s so funny, I never realized until we had some friends over for Thanksgiving a couple of years ago that some people didn’t like cranberry sauce. As a kid, it was one of the only things at Thanksgiving that I liked… given, this is very similar to my family’s recipe.

  27. We just made this and also thought it was too tart. I added about 1/4c more sugar and my husband thought it was perfect. Everyone else still thought it needed more, so I added another 1/4c. I still think it’s pretty tart, but since I know how much sugar is in it already, I refuse to add more. (I like things sweet… but am trying to cut back on it.) I added the cinnamon and cloves, and it smells DELICIOUS!

  28. after an hour mine was still really liquidy as well. so i just transferred it to a saucepan and boiled it for about 10 mins until the liquid reduced. it does set up a lot as it cools.

  29. I made a double batch of this fantastic cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. My husband even liked it, and he has never been a fan of cranberry sauce. I did use a slightly larger glass baking dish (15×17) and it took a little over 2 hours to cook properly, but I had figured that double the liquid would take double the time to cook, so it worked out well for me. I actually made it the night before, so it was all ready for Thanksgiving Day. I absolutely LOVE the fact that other than stirring a few times, I am able to put it in the oven and not worry about it while I’m doing a million and 5 other things 🙂
    Thanks, Sara and Kate for making one more recipe so much easier… I used to make cranberry sauce on the stove, just never thought to put it in the oven 🙂 You are both Awesome!

  30. I pinned this because the added cloves and cinnamon stick look really good. I always make my cranberry sauce with orange juice but have not added this. I know it will be delicious. [I add grated orange rind, too] Thank you for posting this!

  31. This is very similar to the recipe I’ve fallen in love with (no water in mine and includes orange zest). I had leftover sauce last year so I froze it in 1 c. portions and used it throughout the year. It was amazing with white chocolate chips in a sweet bread, as a filling in cookies (think raisin-filled cookies but with cranberry sauce instead) – incredible!!! Just thought I’d share some more uses for the sauce in case anyone else has leftovers!

  32. I made this last year and it was fantastic! It was gone way too fast though, so the next week I attempted to double the recipe and it wasn’t near as good. Is there a change I should make it did I just make an oopsie? I can’t wait to have more this year! <3

  33. This will be my 3rd thanksgiving in a row making this dish (along with your sweet potato casserole) it is always a huge hit with both my family and my husband’s family. I always make a double batch but i have found that the sauce turns out best when I just cook one batch at a time. So I usually do one batch and let it cool before refrigerating and then do it all over again one more time. It is seriously so good and the best cranberry sauce I have ever made. I also usually make it the Tuesday before thanksgiving and keep in my fridge and in think the extra standing time allows it to thicken even more which I really like. Thanks Sara and Kate for all these delicious recipes!

  34. If I use fresh squeezed orange juice (no added sugar) do I need to add more than 1 cup of sugar to the dish to make up for the loss of sweetness from store bought orange juice?

  35. I made this yesterday for tonight’s Christmas Eve dinner. I made only one batch, used a 12-oz. bag of cranberries as called out in the comments (that measurement needs to be added to the recipe itself, by the way so that people don’t have to read through all the comments to figure that out) and followed the recipe exactly. I mashed with a potato masher after baking and the texture is perfect. It set up very nicely as it chilled in the refrigerator. I know it will be perfect with our turkey tonight. Thank you for such a simple and yummy recipe.

  36. Can I make this with Splenda? I have made this the past three years as the recipie calls but have a diabetic guest coming this year!

  37. Ok, just finished a big Tennessee Thanksgiving dinner and I am totally disgusted that my relatives like AND REQUEST the canned cranberry sauce!!! I have bookmarked this for next year to try your homemade cranberry sauce. Looks delicious!

  38. I just did a small batch of canned spiced cranberries (left whole) that were essentially this recipe, plus ground nutmeg and oh my so good! Definitely trying this recipe this year!

  39. I’ve never been a fan of cranberry sauce, but last year I made this recipe and I loved it!!! I will be making it again this year:) Love you guys!!!

  40. I’ve been making this for a few years now and we love it! This year I cooked it in my instant pot. Reduced the liquid a smidge and cooker under high pressure for 5 minutes. Success!

  41. You didn’t specify the size of bag of cranberries. I have bought different sizes before. Is it s 12 oz. bag?

  42. I’ve been making homemade cranberry sauce for well-over a decade now. I use 1 bag cranberries, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup port-wine. I cook until the cranberries pop, mash them around a little, and serve warmed. It is a staple on our table, and I have converted many cranberry sauce-haters over the years! So yummy!

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