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You’ll never go back to canned cranberry sauce after you’ve tried making your own! This Easy Orange Cranberry Sauce is sweetened with honey and so easy to make.

On Thanksgiving and Christmas I load up my fork with turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. It’s just the absolutely perfect bite! So I’m a big fan of the gorgeous side dish but I prefer to make it at home versus using the store bought variety.

I have really never understood the appeal of store bought cranberry sauce. When you serve it the stuff literally plops out of the can and then sits there in the shape of the can. This is not an exaggeration. There is an actual sucking sound and then a plop. Does this make anyone else uncomfortable? Just me? Plus it’s loaded with high fructose corn syrup.

We can do better.

This naturally sweetened homemade version is easy and you can make it as tart or sweet as you like.

Most recipes for cranberry sauce will include a full cup of sugar. Instead I use honey or maple syrup to add a bit of sweetness. Start with 1/2 cup and adjust until you achieve the sweetness you want. If you like a tart sauce, you’ll be happy with a bit less than that.

For this recipe you’ll need only 5 ingredients:

  • Fresh cranberries
  • Orange juice
  • Orange zest
  • Cinnamon
  • Honey or maple syrup

To make this classic holiday side dish just add everything but the orange zest to a small pot. Let it simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Your cranberries will burst and the sauce will bubble up as it cooks.

Remove it from the heat when you’ve achieved the consistency you prefer. Keep in mind that it will thicken a little more as it sits. (I like to stop at 8 minutes.)

Stir in your orange zest. Taste. Add extra honey or maple syrup if you want it sweeter. That’s it!

Can you omit the cinnamon?

Yes, you’re totally welcome to skip it.

Can you use maple syrup?

Absolutely. I find that honey and maple syrup are often interchangeable for me. The maple flavor does come through a bit but it’s lovely so use it if you like.

Tart vs sweet cranberry sauce

If you prefer a tart cranberry sauce start with 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup and add a little at a time until you achieve the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness for you.

If you prefer a sweeter sauce use 1/2 cup of honey or maple syrup. You can still taste and add more if you like.

How to use leftover cranberry sauce

  • Use it as a spread in turkey sandwiches.
  • Add a dollop to oatmeal or yogurt for breakfast.
  • Serve it warm over ice cream.
  • Stir it into your favorite store-bought barbecue sauce.
  • Add it to muffin batter for delicious cranberry muffins.
  • Simmer it in a skillet on the stovetop with meatballs (either homemade or use meatballs from the freezer section of your grocery store).
  • Mix it with a chopped salad.
  • Use it and leftover turkey in enchiladas.
  • Blend it in a smoothie with banana, milk (any variety), and whatever fruit you have on hand.
  • Warm it up and serve over sautéed chicken breast cutlets.
  • Spread it on your morning toast.

More holiday side recipes:

Light & Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Crumble

Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad

Garlic Green Beans

Easy Roasted Broccoli

4.67 from 3 votes

Easy Orange Cranberry Sauce

By Christina
This classic holiday side dish is lightly sweetened with honey, requires only 5 ingredients, and is so easy to make! You’ll love this bright addition to your dinner table!
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings: 6 (1/4 cup) servings


  • 12 oz cranberries
  • 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup, can use more or less to taste
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • orange zest, about half an orange
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  • Combine cranberries, orange juice, cinnamon, and honey or maple syrup in a small pot on the stove. Cover. Let simmer on medium low heat for 8 to 10 minutes until cranberries burst and you achieve the thickness you prefer. (It will continue to thicken a bit after you remove it from the heat.) Watch it carefully because it cooks quickly.
  • Turn off the stove. Stir in orange zest. Taste and add more honey or maple syrup until you achieve the sweetness you desire. Serve warm or cold!


Nutrition information assumes 3 tbsp honey.


Serving: 0.25cup, Calories: 62kcal, Carbohydrates: 16g, Sodium: 1mg, Potassium: 68mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 11g, Vitamin A: 55IU, Vitamin C: 12.7mg, Calcium: 5mg, Iron: 0.2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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  1. Elizabeth says:

    I just made this for our Thanksgiving meal. It is so delicious! It will be our annual cranberry sauce for sure! I did have a question. Does it freeze ok?

  2. Sarah Ostrander says:

    So easy and delicious! 

  3. Carla says:

    This recipe is so easy and delicious! I love cooking with fresh cranberries and it tastes so yummy with hardly any work.