Classic Cranberry Sauce

Sides, Thanksgiving

Classic Cranberry Sauce //

I know this week I’ve thrown you some renditions of Thanksgiving classics, but when it comes to cranberry sauce I like my stuff simple. Classic Cranberry Sauce. Don’t throw sage in my dang cranberry sauce. Don’t put bacon in my cranberry sauce. I’ll get an attitude.

I have very fond memories of buying cranberry sauce from the can and plopping it onto a plate and carefully slicing it in between the can-rivets. I loved it. For years, even after I got into cooking, I’d still buy cranberry sauce from the can–it was emotional, I think! But now I just can’t do it, especially considering how simple and easy and delicious homemade cranberry sauce is.

Classic Cranberry Sauce //

The tartness of the cranberry sauce is so essential when you’ve been consuming nothing but stuffing and gravy and potatoes and more bread. It’s the brightest thing on the table and it’s the thing that makes the days after so special. Thanksgiving sandwiches NEED cranberry sauce. I don’t think anyone would disagree with me.

This cranberry sauce is definitely traditional. It’s not weird or strange with surprising new-to-me-and-you ingredients, but it is special. I love the combination of sugars. I love the orange zest and orange juice (critical to cranberry sauce, in my opinion) and I love love the freshly grated ginger and essence of cinnamon and star anise.

Everything is pretty balanced–you won’t take away a strong ginger-y or cinnamon-y or star anise-y flavor, but together it’s magical. I hope you make it, I hope you love it!

While I love Thanksgiving savory foods, what I love even more is pie. Monday is pie week on this here lil’ blog and I’ll be starting things off with the basics and then move into a variety of pies that have become my favorites. I can’t wait!

Classic Cranberry Sauce //

Classic Cranberry Sauce //

Classic Cranberry Sauce

Calories: 86kcal
Classic cranberry sauce is so easy to make. It's a million times better than the canned stuff. This is perfectly spiced with the most delicious hint of vanilla.


  • 1 (12-ounce) bag of fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • Juice from 1 orange, about 3 to 4 tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise


  • In a medium saucepan, set over medium heat, add all of the ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the cranberries have burst and the sauce has reduced slightly. Give it a taste (be careful, it'll be hot!) and adjust the seasonings.
  • You may want it to be a bit sweeter. Remove the star anise and cinnamon stick and discard. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill. The cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.


To Make Ahead: 
This recipe is great to make-ahead. Make the recipe in its entirety and transfer to an airtight container. When completely cool, place a lid on it and keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat, if you like, over low heat and serve. 
CourseSide Dish
CuisineAmerican, Thanksgiving
Keywordclassic cranbery sauce, cranberry orange sauce, cranberry sauce, cranberry sauce recipe, how to make cranberry sauce
Nutrition Facts
Classic Cranberry Sauce
Amount Per Serving
Calories 86
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Did you make this recipe?Tag @acozykitchen on Instagram and hashtag it #acozykitchen
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Leave a Reply

  • Reply Emily @ Life on Food November 15, 2013 at 4:24 am

    I got excited this week and ordered a Thanksgiving sandwich at a local deli. Thick turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce on a pretzel roll. Amazing! Yes, it definitely needed cranberry sauce. I like the classic too.

  • Reply Sarah November 15, 2013 at 6:21 am

    Cranberry sauce is my favorite part of Thanksgiving. I have to make it every year! And I am so looking forward to pie week.

  • Reply Christina @ The Beautiful Balance November 15, 2013 at 9:44 am

    I loved canned cranberry sauce too! Now I make my own, but there is definitely a flashback to childhood when you think of canned cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving.

  • Reply Nicole November 15, 2013 at 9:55 am

    PIE WEEK! YESSSSS! Getting ready to test out pie recipes for T-Day. You rock my mismatched socks! I’m excited. 🙂

  • Reply Jen @ Fresh from the... November 15, 2013 at 10:30 am

    I never knew I loved cranberry sauce until a few years ago. I think the can glop always freaked me out as a child rather than fascinated me. Homemade is so much better and not all alien-looking! Yay!

  • Reply Holly Henderson November 15, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    I love that you consider the orange essential, I do too!

  • Reply Kasey November 15, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    This sounds a lot like the cranberry sauce I make every year! I also have those Heath salad plates 🙂

  • Reply Jennifer November 15, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    I definitely need to attempt real cranberry sauce this year!

    xo Jennifer

  • Reply Karla November 16, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Yummy, I’m getting excited here! This is what I always bring to a friend’s house every year, and it is always a big hit. There’s something about the combination of turkey and cranberry sauce that’s made in heaven. But I’ll have to try incorporating brown sugar too. Orange zest really kicks it over the top! As far as the canned stuff goes…YES! The little girl in me still secretly hopes that it will be there. Along with the canned Lindsey black olives.

  • Reply Tammela November 17, 2013 at 8:23 am

    I love homemade cranberry sauce, simple like this. So sad that I can’t find fresh/whole/frozen cranberries here in the UK…

    • Reply Hope November 26, 2013 at 3:41 am

      Try Morrisons… I don’t know where you live but there is one in Peterborough and I saw cranberries there a few days ago… I am going tonight to buy some I hope they have them

  • Reply Brittany November 17, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    Yes!! I loved the canned cranberry sauce as a kid and refused for SO long to try the real, homemade kind. Once I did, I’m pretty sure a choir started singing and I totally got it! I make a pretty similar recipe, too! 🙂

  • Reply meredith s. November 18, 2013 at 5:57 am

    I just made this last night—-and it is hands down the best cranberry sauce I have ever had!! I made it for a work event this week, and I am pretty sure everyone is going to love me.

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  • Reply Theresa Johns November 20, 2013 at 6:38 am

    Awesome post! Thank you for sharing! As a “newby” to the kitchen and a newlywed trying to hold her own this holiday (yikes!) I have a quick question for the experts! Can I buy star anise at a local whole foods store or where can I get some? Would it change the taste terribly if I didn’t have it?

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme November 20, 2013 at 7:44 am

      Yes! You should be able to buy it at the normal grocery store, but if you can’t find it you can skip it. The dish will still be great.

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  • Reply Anna November 27, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    It looks like I can make this ahead of time, right? I’m thinking of making this tonight for tomorrow’s dinner. I’ve never had homemade cranberry sauce so I am so excited!

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme November 27, 2013 at 12:19 pm

      Definitely make this ahead of time! It heats up great, or you can serve it cold or room temp!

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  • Reply Tammie-Jo November 24, 2014 at 7:48 am

    Made this last year and it was delicious! Making again this year fir Thanksgiving. Thank you for the great recipe. I’m making today with hopes it’ll be fine 3 days later to serve 🙂

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme November 24, 2014 at 1:18 pm

      Oh it definitely will. This recipe holds up in the fridge like a champ!

  • Reply Leanne November 25, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Just had to let you know, one year later, that I made this last year and it was a HUGE, HUGE hit!!! Everyone– from my MIL who made decades of old-school style Thanksgiving meals (complete with canned cranberry sauce! Which I also loved!) to my nephews who are the pickiest eaters in all of space and time– loved it!! I’m definitely making it again this year, and always. I make it three days earlier because who needs the added stress and dishes, day of,right? Thanks for the fab recipe!

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme November 26, 2014 at 10:09 am

      YAAASSSS! Love this. I’m making this cranberry sauce right now. It’s the PERFECT thing to make a few days ahead. It changes nothing and keeps in the fridge so well.

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