Cranberry Orange Sauce

side view photo of the bowl of cranberry sauce garnished with orange slices with spoon in it. in the background are oranges, cranberries, and stems of fresh rosemary for props

This Cranberry Orange Sauce is incredibly easy, so tasty and super simple to whip up! Loaded with fresh cranberries, orange zest + juice and a few other secret ingredients, your tastebuds will be tingling with flavor and wanting another helping!

This recipe was originally published in November 2020 – I’ve since updated the photos and added additional blog content. Enjoy!

Alright so, full on truth time. I really didn’t ever eat cranberry sauce growing up. If (and that was a rare if) we did have it on our Thanksgiving table, it was the canned kind and y’all, that stuff is NOT my jam. 

I know some people prefer it but…not me! 

overhead photo of bowl of cranberry sauce garnished with 2 slices of orange and orange zest on a cream linen towel

However, a few years ago when I read Salt Fat Acid Heat, the author, Samin, discussed when she was at her first Ameican thanksgiving, she kept piling cranberry sauce on her plate to get that acid/punch that the other incredibly rich foods at the table were missing. After that, I knew I had to give it a try! 

And y’all, I am so not disappointed. 

Why This Isn’t Your Average Cranberry Sauce 

First off, this cranberry sauce isn’t your typical overly sweet sauce. I think it has the perfect blend of sweet, tart, a hint of bitterness and the coziest spices in it! It has a slight bite and it’s the perfect acidic and flavorful addition to your Thanksgiving spread! 

The cranberries are fresh and perfectly tart. I love when you make it how they pop and burst in the pan – it’s exciting and super cool to watch them go from being hard little berries to being a thick and delicious sauce. 

I love adding in the citrus burst of the oranges – I used both fresh orange juice AND orange zest. Please y’all, don’t skimp on the orange zest! It’s incredible how much flavor citrus zest adds to a dish! 

While this cranberry sauce isn’t SUPER sweet, of course there has to be some sugar in it! I really particularly love this recipe because I used a blend of light brown sugar and white granulated sugar. 

photo of colander with freshly washed cranberries

The brown sugar really helps add a molasses type sweetness which adds to the coziness of the dish while the granulated sugar is just, hello deliciously sweet! Using these two types of sugars results in the perfect blend of Fall inspired sweetness! 

Speaking of Fall inspired sweetness – I had to add a cozy Fall spice to this recipe, so I ended up using cinnamon! It’s not an overwhelming flavor but perfectly compliments the dish overall. 

And speaking of cozy…

My favorite MVP ingredient in this Cranberry Orange Sauce is…

BOURBON! Yup, you read that right. Straight up bourbon. Adding a splash of alcohol in this just elevates the flavor, really melds together with the citrus notes of the orange and just adds a bite to the sauce that really takes it up a notch overall. 

Ready to get into how to make it?! Let’s go! 

Ingredients You Need: 

  • Fresh cranberries – a must for this recipe! You can most likely also use frozen – just be sure to thaw them ahead of time.
  • Fresh oranges – you need these for both the fresh juice and zest!
  • Water – speaks for itself!
  • Light brown sugar and granulated white sugar – these add sweetness to the sauce to counteract the bitterness of the cranberries
  • Cinnamon – super cozy flavor!
  • Bourbon – this makes the sauce EXTRA delicious but feel free to skip it if you don’t have any on hand.

How to Make Orange Cranberry Sauce in 5 Simple Steps:

  1. To a medium sized pot, add in the water, fresh orange juice (can use store bought), brown sugar and granulated sugar. Mix to combine and let it come to a rolling boil. 
  2. Wash the cranberries, zest the orange and add them both to the pot. Stir to combine. photo of medium sized pot filled with cranberry sauce, orange zest, water, orange juice and sugar.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium high to make sure they are gently boiling. Let boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The cranberries will begin to pop. If needed, use your utensil to help pop them. 
  4. Add in the cinnamon and bourbon and mix together. Continue to let it cook – gently boiling – for another 5-7 minutes, continually stirring until it has thickened. photo of medium size pot of thickened cranberry sauce
  5. Once thickened, remove from the heat and let it cool. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Garnish with more orange zest and serve!

Best Tips for Making Sauce: 

Alright, so, I know that making your own homemade sauce might seem daunting. But I promise it’s incredibly simple! 

From the minimal ingredients to the hands off cooking approach, I promise you can whip this up in no time! Here are a few of my favorite tips for making this dish:

Be prepared for the cranberries to pop/burst in the pan! You might not want to wear your Grandmother’s apron for this recipe, as sometimes the cranberries can pop/burst when they are boiling. 

You can help combat this by mashing down the cranberries with a wooden spoon as it continues to cook. 

Stir the pot occasionally because you don’t want the sauce to stick to the bottom of the pan. 

photo of bowl of cranberry sauce with spoon in it - zoomed in to see the flecks of orange zest

I added in the bourbon and the cinnamon about halfway through as I was making it – overall the sauce takes about 10-12 minutes to thicken. So, I added in the bourbon around 5 minutes in. 

My biggest tip though, as always with my recipes, taste and adjust as you go! 

You can add more sugar if you want it sweeter, more orange if you want it zestier or even more bourbon if you want a double kick of bite!

Garnish with extra orange zest, maybe even a slice or two of orange to make it look extra fancy and serve! 

How to Store Leftovers: 

Add your leftovers to a tightly sealed container and store it in the fridge for a few days. Stir it into oatmeal for a delightful breakfast treat 🙂 

Enjoy, my friends! XO – Haylie 

Did you like this recipe? Here are a few other holiday recipes you might enjoy: 

Butternut Squash Mashed Potatoes 

Cranberry Orange Croissant Bread Pudding

Honey Dijon Glazed Brussel Sprouts 

Thank you so much for following along here, friends! Want to see more? Be sure to follow ourbalancedbowl on Instagram and tag me with your photo if you end up making a recipe! You can also post a photo of your recipe to the Our Balanced Bowl Facebook page! Like a recipe that you saw? Follow me on Pinterest here! I always love to see your re-creations! If you do make a recipe, it would make my whole day if you were to rate and comment so I can get your feedback! Lots of love! – Haylie

5 from 1 vote

Cranberry Orange Sauce

This Cranberry Orange Sauce is incredibly easy, so tasty and super simple to whip up! Loaded with fresh cranberries, orange zest + juice and a few other secret ingredients, your tastebuds will be tingling with flavor and wanting another helping! 

Course Side, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword cranberry orange sauce, cranberry sauce, cranberry sauce with bourbon, homemade cranberry sauce, orange cranberry sauce
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 people


  • 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries 
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar 
  • 1/4 cup of light brown sugar 
  • 1/3 cup orange juice (can be freshly squeezed or store-bought) 
  • 1/2 cup of water 
  • 1 tsp bourbon (can leave this out if desired!)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon 
  • 2 tsp orange zest (plus more for on top) 


  1. Wash your fresh cranberries and make sure that they are all good and ready to go! (As in, no bad ones sneaking in!) Zest a fresh orange until you get about 2 tsp worth and set both aside.

  2. Add water, orange juice and sugar to a medium sized pot and bring to a rolling boil. 

  3. Once boiling, add in the cranberries and orange zest and turn the heat down to medium heat - it should be boiling gently.

  4. Cook on medium heat, a gentle boil for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. The cranberries should begin to pop (be careful, it could make a mess!) and the sauce should thicken. If needed, you can mash the cranberries down with a wooden spoon to help thicken and burst them.

  5. Once 5 minutes have passed add in the cinnamon (if desired) and a splash of bourbon. I did about 1 tsp of bourbon but feel free to adjust and add more if you desire. 

  6. Let it continue cooking for 5-7 more minutes, continually stirring the sauce, or until the sauce has thickened. 

  7. Taste and adjust seasoning. If you feel like it needs more orange, add a splash more orange juice or zest. More sugar? Add more! Let it cool and then add to a bowl or a mason jar. Store leftovers in the fridge!

  8. Garnish with fresh orange zest and an orange slice!

Recipe Notes

RECIPE NOTES: This Cranberry Orange Sauce yields about 14-16 oz of cranberry sauce (about 1 and 3/4 cup to 2 cups) - so the serving side varies on how much people get on their plates. I said this could serve up to 4 people, but it could also serve 6 depending on how much people get 🙂 

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