Learn how to make classic cranberry sauce with orange juice and brandy. This make ahead recipe includes freezer instructions and leftover cranberry sauce ideas.
This tried-and-true recipe is the most requested Thanksgiving recipe.
The tartness of cranberries pairs well with the natural sweetness of oranges for a winning combination for your Thanksgiving or Christmas meal.
Is Cranberry Jelly the Same as Cranberry Sauce?
Cranberry sauce and cranberry jelly differ in texture, ingredients, and usage.
Cranberry sauce features a chunky consistency with whole or crushed cranberries, often combined with other ingredients like sugar and spices.
On the other hand, cranberry jelly has a smooth, gelatinous texture achieved by using strained cranberry juice or puree, often mixed with sugar and pectin.
Both canned cranberry sauce and cranberry jelly are available at your local grocery store, but the flavors of homemade cranberry sauce are worth the effort, especially when you can add your own flavor combos
Cranberry Sauce Tips and Tricks
When a recipe instructs you to cook cranberries until they “pop,” you should continue cooking them until they burst open. Fresh cranberries have tough outer skin; as they heat up, the moisture inside them turns into steam, causing them to expand and burst.
This bursting is often accompanied by a distinct “popping” sound.
Cooking cranberries until they pop creates a smooth and well-textured sauce, as the burst cranberries release their juices, flavors, and natural pectin, which helps thicken the sauce.
The process of popping and releasing their juices transforms the firm cranberries into the soft, saucy consistency that we associate with cranberry sauce.
What is a microplane?
A microplane is a kitchen tool with a razor-sharp, fine-grated blade designed for effortless zesting and grating.
We will use this tool for the orange zest in this recipe. The zest adds a fragrant aroma, while the juice provides a tangy sweetness that complements the cranberries.
A microplane is commonly used to extract the colorful and flavorful outer peel (zest) of citrus fruits like oranges and lemons.
You an also use this tool to finely grate ingredients like cheese, ginger, or nutmeg.
To zest an orange, take your microplane or fine grater and gently scrape the outermost layer of the orange peel.
Be cautious not to include the bitter white pith underneath, as the vibrant outer layer contains the aromatic oils and flavor you want.
How to Make Cranberry Sauce
Scroll down to see the complete ingredient list and step-by-step instructions.
Wash Your Cranberries: Give the fresh cranberries a good rinse under cold water. This cleans them up and makes them ready for cooking.
Zest & Juice Your Oranges: Extract both the zest and juice from your oranges.
Combine Orange Zest With Water: Cook for fifteen minutes, reducing the liquid.
Simmer and Stir: To the cooked liquid add cranberries, sugar, cinnamon, orangie juice, and lemon juice. Let the cranberries simmer in the pot for about 10-15 minutes. You’ll see the cranberries start to soften and hear them pop.
Add Flavor: Remove the sauce from the heat and stir back in the zest and brandy into the cooked cranberries.
Cool Down and Store: When the sauce is completely cool, you can serve it in a bowl. You can keep it in the fridge if you’re not using it immediately.
This is a brief overview of my recipe. For comprehensive instructions, refer to the recipe card located at the bottom of this post.
Here are some of our most frequently asked questions for this recipe:
Is Cranberry Sauce Served Warm or Cold?
Cranberry sauce is typically served cold.
After it’s cooked and has thickened, allow it to cool down to room temperature and then chill in the refrigerator.
This chilled cranberry sauce is then served as a condiment alongside various dishes, especially during holiday meals like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Is it Necessary to Add Brandy?
Adding brandy is optional, but it does enhance the depth of flavor. It adds subtle warmth and complexity to the sauce. If you prefer not to use alcohol, the sauce will still be delicious without it.
Can I Make This Sauce Ahead of Time?
Cranberry sauce is the perfect make-ahead recipe.
This cranberry sauce recipe is better if you can prepare it beforehand. It allows the flavors of this sauce to meld even more.
After cooking, cool the sauce completely, then refrigerate it in an airtight container.
It will keep well for about a week.
Can You Freeze Cranberry Sauce?
Homemade cranberry sauce freezes well.
Allow it to cool to room temperature, then transfer it to an airtight container.
You can freeze it for up to three months.
Thaw the sauce in the refrigerator or by placing the container in a bowl of cold water.
Can Dogs Eat Cranberry Sauce?
Fresh cranberries can be a healthy dog treat in small, stem-free, and plain portions. Cranberries are safe, unlike grapes and raisins, which are toxic to dogs.
As for cranberry sauce, it’s not toxic but should be given sparingly due to its sugar content, especially for dogs with diabetes or sugar sensitivity.
Talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s specific diet needs and what they recommend.
What to Do With Leftover Cranberry Sauce?
Cranberry sauce is the perfect topping on leftover turkey sandwiches.
My favorite leftover cranberry sauce recipe is this 2-ingredient cranberry maple syrup sauce. This is perfect for topping pumpkin spice pancakes or ice cream.
Looking for more great dishes to make ahead? Check out these other ideas from MomAdvice.com.
Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes
Gluten-Free Green Bean Casserole
Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Gluten-Free Stuffing Recipe
Make-Ahead Gravy Recipe