This delicious Orange Spiced Cranberry Sauce, made with Grand Marnier, is ridiculously easy to make. Ready in about 20 minutes.
The Easiest Recipe on Your Holiday Menu
Like many people, I grew up thinking cranberry sauce naturally came in round, can-shaped gelatin-cylinders, ready to slice into thin cran-pucks for Thanksgiving. It never even occurred to me that you could make it at home.
Then one year, I saw a display of fresh cranberries at the store, and decided to give it a go. I soon learned that homemade cranberry sauce is about the easiest thing you'll ever make this side of a cheese quesadilla. In fact, my first thought after making it was, "Why didn't anyone ever tell me how freaking easy this is to make‽"
Why this Recipe Works
Cranberries are naturally rich in pectin (the stuff that thickens homemade jams and jellies) so they gel easily under the right conditions. Pectin needs both sugar and acid to gel properly, and it requires a little time to do it.
This recipe has just the right balance, with acid from the cranberries and added sugar. All you need to do is heat them all up gently and let them do their thing.
We've spent the last few years perfecting this recipe, each time cutting back a little more on the sugar and adding a little more of this and that – Mr B and I both like our sauce with a little bit of bite.
This recipe is practically foolproof. We usually double the batch and freeze the extra for use throughout the year.
What Goes into this Recipe
Ingredient Notes & Substitutions
★ Fresh cranberries: Fresh cranberries are available at the grocery store throughout the holiday season. You can also use frozen fresh cranberries.
★ Orange juice & zest: Use fresh orange juice and zest if possible.
Substitutions: Frozen orange juice will also work, but it tends to be more intensely flavored, so be sure to taste the sauce before adding the sugar.
★ Sugar: Use plain white sugar. Do not use brown sugar for this recipe.
We tend to like our cranberry sauce on the tart side. If you prefer yours sweeter, you can add additional sugar; however, we suggest that you do this after the recipe has cooked down, so you can taste it and adjust as needed. Cranberries will vary slightly in tartness from year to year.
★ Spices: Use fresh, whole spices - cinnamon sticks, allspice, cloves, and star anise. Do not use ground spices.
★ Grand Marnier: The Grand Marnier is optional, but it adds another layer of flavor that you just cannot get from orange extract.
If Grand Marnier isn't something you keep around the house, it takes exactly one mini-bottle to make this recipe.
No alcohol option: Sub in 1 teaspoon of orange extract for the Grand Marnier, and increase the sugar to 2 cups
How to Make this Recipe
Place fresh cranberries, orange juice, orange zest, and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
Place cloves, allspice berries, and cinnamon sticks in the center of a square of triple-thick cheesecloth.
Gather corners together to make spice bag and secure the top with a piece of twine.
Place the prepared spice bag in the pot with the cranberries, and push the bag down to submerge it in the cranberry mixture.
Cook, stirring frequently, until cranberries begin to burst; about 10 minutes. (As the cranberries cook down, you will hear them pop.)
Stir in sugar and reduce the heat to low.
Continue cooking 5 minutes, or until all the sugar has dissolved.
Add Grand Marnier (or orange extract) and cook 2 minutes more.
Be sure to stand back when you add the Grand Marnier, because the alcohol is cooks out almost immediately, and if you are standing over the pot looking at it, the alcohol may blast your face as it is released.
At this point, it is a good idea to taste the mixture. Add additional sugar if desired.
Remove from heat and allow to cool. Discard spice bag.
If you like your cranberry sauce more saucy, you can smoosh the berries a bit with a potato masher, or puree it with an immersion blender. This is all a matter of personal preference.
The cranberry sauce is ready to serve right away right away; however, we recommend that chilling it for 8 hours (or overnight) before serving to allow the flavors to blend.
FAQs & Expert Tips
Holiday Hostess Gift Idea
A jar of homemade cranberry sauce makes a great hostess gift!
Properly stored, homemade cranberry sauce will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. For longer storage, seal in an airtight container, canning jar, or freezer bag and freeze for up to one year.
More Holiday Recipes
Are you ready for the holidays? Be sure to check out these recipes, perfect for celebrating.
Orange Spiced Cranberry Sauce
- 1 medium saucepan
- 1 piece of cheesecloth
- 1 12" length of kitchen twine or string
- Place fresh cranberries, orange juice and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Place cloves, allspice berries, and cinnamon sticks in the center of a square of triple-thick cheesecloth. Gather corners together to make spice bag and secure the top with a piece of twine.
- Place the prepared spice bag in the pot with the cranberries, and push the bag down to submerge it in the cranberry mixture.Cook, stirring frequently, until cranberries begin to burst; about 10 minutes. (As the cranberries cook down, you will hear them pop.)
- Stir in sugar and reduce heat to low. Continue cooking 5 minutes, or until all the sugar has dissolved.
- Add Grand Marnier (or orange extract) and cook 2 minutes more.At this point, it is a good idea to taste the mixture. Add additional sugar if desired.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool. Discard spice bag.
- The cranberry sauce is ready to serve right away right away; however, we recommend that chilling it for 8 hours (or overnight) before serving to allow the flavors to blend.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.
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Originally published November 15, 2015. This post has been updated with new content, images, and recipe instructions to improve reader experience.