Learn how to make homemade Thanksgiving cranberry sauce with only 3 ingredients. This recipe is made with fresh or frozen cranberries and can be made ahead of time (up to 6 days before Thanksgiving).
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Preparing for Thanksgiving dinner is always a big task. One way that I like to make sure I'm ready for the big day is by preparing some dishes ahead of time.
I'm going to show you how to make cranberry sauce with only 3 simple ingredients. Plus, this recipe is way better than canned cranberries that you can buy at the grocery store.
What You'll Learn In This Recipe
- How to make cranberry sauce ahead of time. This is a great dish to make days before Thanksgiving dinner.
- The correct amount of cranberry sauce to serve per person.
- The best way to store cranberry sauce in the refrigerator and freezer.
Don't forget to grab my free Thanksgiving timeline and checklist so you're ready for the big day!
Ingredients You Need
- Cranberries: You can use either fresh or frozen cranberries for this recipe. If you use frozen cranberries, you don't even need to defrost them before cooking.
- Granulated sugar: Since cranberries are tart, the sugar helps to add a bit of sweetness.
- Orange peel: Freshly grated orange zest helps add bright flavor to this cranberry sauce. Don't forget to zest the oranges with a microplane before cutting them open to juice.
- Orange juice: Once you've zested the oranges, it's time to cut them open and squeeze out all of the juice. You can simply use your hands for this process, or a juicer.
- Water: The water helps add some liquid to the cranberry sauce.
How To Make This Recipe
This make ahead cranberry sauce is so simple to make! If this is your first time making this dish, you'll be amazed at how easy it comes together.
1. Add cranberries, sugar, orange peel, orange juice, and water to a large saucepan.
2. Cook over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce the heat as needed to avoid scorching until cranberries begin to burst and a dark red, syrupy juice forms.
3. Continue to cook until the cranberry sauce reduces and thickens, about 25 minutes. The cranberry sauce will continue to thicken slightly as it cools.
Then, allow the cranberry sauce to cool to room temperature, transfer it to an airtight container, and refrigerate for up to 6 more days.
4. To serve, transfer cranberry sauce to a serving bowl and serve chilled or warmed. Optionally, heat cranberry sauce in the microwave on 100 percent power (high) for 45 - 90 seconds, until warmed through.
- You can freeze the cranberry sauce for longer term storage. Place the cranberry sauce in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months. Allow to thaw in the fridge before serving.
- For a boozy twist on this make ahead cranberry sauce, swap half of the water ¼ cup for bourbon or brandy.
- If you like some spice in your cranberry sauce, you can stir in ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice to the cranberry sauce after it's done cooking. Optionally, also add some pecans or raisins for an extra bite or crunch.
- Want a smooth cranberry sauce? Use an immersion blender to blend up any large pieces of cranberry.
If stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, cranberry sauce should last about 7 days. If you notice any signs of mold, foul odor, or discoloration, discard it immediately.
In general, I would recommend planning for about ¼ cup of cranberry per person. If you need help planning other Thanksgiving serving sizes, grab my free planning guide.
There are many delicious ways to use leftover cranberry sauce. You can use it as a spread on a sandwich, in this champagne cranberry cocktail, or on crostini with a slice of brie cheese on top.
More Thanksgiving Recipes
Make Ahead Cranberry Sauce (3 Ingredients)
- large saucepan
- 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange peel
- juice of 4 oranges (about ¾ cup)
- ½ cup water
- Add cranberries, sugar, orange peel, orange juice, and water to a large saucepan.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce the heat as needed to avoid scorching until cranberries begin to burst and a dark red, syrupy juice forms. Continue to cook until the cranberry sauce reduces and thickens, about 25 minutes. The cranberry sauce will continue to thicken slightly as it cools.
- Allow cranberry sauce to cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 6 days.
- To serve, transfer cranberry sauce to a serving bowl and serve chilled or warmed. Optionally, heat cranberry sauce in the microwave on 100 percent power (high) for 45 - 90 seconds, until warmed through.