3-Ingredient Cranberry Sauce Recipe (2024)

Jump to Recipe

Want to make homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving this year? It’s very easy to make and you’ll only need 3 ingredients!

3-Ingredient Cranberry Sauce Recipe (1)

For Thanksgiving dinner, when I was a kid, we always had canned jellied cranberry sauce. It was slid out onto a plate, complete with the distinctive ripples from the can. From there, it was sliced into perfect circles for serving.

When I started hosting my own Thanksgiving dinners, many years ago, I also served canned cranberry sauce. Sometimes it was the whole berry kind and sometimes it was jellied, but canned cranberry sauce was always on the holiday table.

3-Ingredient Cranberry Sauce Recipe (2)

Fast forward a few years and was looking at a bag of fresh cranberries in the produce section of our grocery store. I noticed that homemade cranberry sauce really only needs a few ingredients. And the steps were minimal too. I made my first batch of homemade cranberry sauce that year, using the recipe right on the back of the bag.

Today, I’ve been making homemade cranberry sauce Thanksgiving and Christmas for many years. It may never be the most popular side dish on our table (um, mashed potatoes will win every single time!), but I love it and those who like cranberries always enjoy it too. It’s a tradition and it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it!

If you are new to making homemade cranberry sauce, you may also be surprised at how easy it is to make. And once you start making your own cranberry sauce, you’ll want to make it every Thanksgiving!

3-Ingredient Cranberry Sauce Recipe (3)

How to Make Homemade Cranberry Sauce

To make your own basic cranberry sauce, you will only need 3 simple ingredients: fresh cranberries, an orange, and granulated sugar. You will also need water and a pinch of salt. If you wish, you could skip the orange and the salt, but we think it’s best with them.

Making your own homemade cranberry sauce starts with washing and inspecting the cranberries. Place your cranberries in a strainer and wash them. Also, check through them and get rid of any cranberries that are soft, wilted, or brown. Set your cranberries aside.

The next step is to zest an orange. Remove any produce stickers on your orange and rinse the outside of the skin. Zesting means to scrape away the very outside, bright-colored part of the skin of a piece of citrus fruit, such as orange, lime, or lemon. In this case, we’re doing it with an orange, which I do with a microplane grater which gives fine zest, perfect for this recipe.

3-Ingredient Cranberry Sauce Recipe (4)

Next, with the same orange that you zested, you’ll juice it. You can squeeze the juice by hand from the orange or use a citrus juicer, which is generally easier.

The juice from the orange is poured into a 1 cup measuring cup. Don’t be surprised if the orange juice doesn’t fill up the cup — it shouldn’t. You’ll probably only get about 1/3 of the cup, but that’s fine. Take however much orange juice you get, and fill the measuring cup up with water until it’s full to give yourself 1 cup of liquid (orange juice/water combo).

3-Ingredient Cranberry Sauce Recipe (5)

Pour your 1 cup of orange juice/water combo into a medium saucepan and stir in the sugar. Add the cranberries and heat everything to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the cranberries being to burst, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

If you prefer less whole berries, press the cranberries with the back of your cooking spoon while they are simmering. Remove the cranberry sauce from the heat and stir in the pinch of salt and most of the orange zest, reserving a pinch of orange zest for sprinkling on top.

Pour the cranberry sauce into a bowl or small serving dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining orange zest. Cover and cool at room temperature. Once cooled, refrigerate until ready to serve.

3-Ingredient Cranberry Sauce Recipe (6)

Cranberry Sauce Variations

There are multiple ways you can customize this cranberry sauce recipe!

  • You can skip the orange completely if needed. This recipe can be made with 1 cup of water instead of the orange juice/water combo. You can also skip the orange zest, if you prefer, or if you don’t have a zester
  • Instead of using a fresh orange, you can use already prepared orange juice. You won’t have the orange zest, but it will still be a great cranberry sauce. If you go this route, we recommend using 1/3-1/2 cup of orange juice, with the remainder of the cup being water. Using a full cup of orange juice also works.
  • If you prefer non-chunky cranberry sauce, press the cooked cranberry sauce through a mesh strainer. To do this, place the strainer over your bowl or serving dish and press the sauce through the strainer with the back of a cooking spoon. This will give you a smooth cranberry sauce, without the larger pieces.
  • Adding a pinch of cinnamon or ginger is delicious!

More Recipes with Cranberries!

If you love cranberries like I do, you’ll enjoy these recipes with cranberries too!

Here’s the full recipe, ready for you to print! If you like this recipe, be sure to share on Facebook or pin it to Pinterest.


3-Ingredient Cranberry Sauce Recipe (8)

Red Velvet Pudding Shots Recipe

★5 Stars☆★4 Stars☆★3 Stars☆★2 Stars☆★1 Star☆No reviews
  • Yield: 12 1x
Print Recipe


ThisRed Velvet Pudding Shots Recipecreates the ultimate boozy treat for your Valentine’s Day party! Made with red velvet pudding mix and cake mix, creme de cacao liqueur, and whipped topping.



12 (2 oz) plastic soufflé cups with lids
3 oz box Red Velvet JELL-O instant pudding mix
1/4 cup red velvet cake mix
1 1/2 cups cold milk
1/2 cup creme de cacao liqueur
2 cups Cool Whip, thawed
For Decorating: Whipped cream and Sprinkles


  1. Add the pudding mix and cake mix to a large mixing bowl. Pour in the milk and whisk to combine.
  2. Add the creme de cacao and stir well to incorporate. Fold in the Cool Whip.
  3. Spoon the pudding mixture into the plastic cups and chill overnight or for at least 4 hours. If you are not serving the pudding shots after the 4 hours, you can place lids on the cups until ready to serve.
  4. Before serving, add a generous dollop of whipped cream to eat pudding shot. Sprinkle with Valentine sprinkles.
  • Category: co*cktails
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: party shots, creme de cacao, liqueur, cake mix, valentines day, booze, party

Recipe Card powered by3-Ingredient Cranberry Sauce Recipe (9)


3-Ingredient Cranberry Sauce Recipe (10)

3-Ingredient Cranberry Sauce Recipe

★★★★★5 from 4 reviews
  • Author: Brandie Valenzuela
  • Yield: 2 1/4 cups 1x
Print Recipe


This Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe is easy to make and only needs 3 ingredients!



1 orange, medium size
Water (amount varies)
1 cup granulated sugar
12 ounces fresh cranberries; rinsed, inspected, and drained
Pinch of salt (optional)


Remove any produce stickers on the outside of the orange and rinse the orange. Zest the orange to get as much orange zest as the orange allows. This amount will vary, but 1 teaspoons is great. Set the zest aside until later.

Cut the zested orange in half and juice it. Pour the juice into a 1 cup measuring cup (it won’t fill the cup). Add water to the orange juice in the measuring cup until you have 1 full cup of liquid.

In a medium sauce pan, combine the 1 cup of orange juice/water and the sugar. Add the cranberries and bring everything to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the cranberries being to burst, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. If less whole berries are desired, press the cranberries with the back of your cooking spoon. Remove from the heat and stir in the pinch of salt and most of the orange zest, reserving a pinch for sprinkling on top.

Pour the cranberry sauce into a bowl or small serving dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining orange zest. Cover and cool at room temperature. Once cooled, refrigerate until ready to serve.


–You can skip the orange zest, if you prefer, or if you don’t have a zester.

–The orange in this recipe can be completely omitted, if you prefer. Simply use 1 cup of water instead of the orange juice/water combo.

  • Category: Side Dishes
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: cranberry sauce recipe, cranberry orange sauce, 3 ingredients, fresh cranberry sauce, thanksgiving

Recipe Card powered by3-Ingredient Cranberry Sauce Recipe (11)

3-Ingredient Cranberry Sauce Recipe (2024)


How many cranberries are needed to make one can? ›

The average number of cranberries used per can of sauce is 200. If you lay out all the cans of sauce consumed in a year from end to end, it would stretch 3,385 miles.

Why is my homemade cranberry sauce not thickening? ›

One possibility is that you may not have used enough sugar: Sugar helps the sauce firm up, so be sure to use the full amount called for in a recipe. Another possibility is that the cranberries need to boil for longer, releasing their pectin and ensuring a jelly consistency.

Why does my homemade cranberry sauce taste bitter? ›

Dear Evelyn: I had the same problem when I first started making my own cranberry sauce. I found out that you should cook them just until they pop. Further cooking will make them bitter, and once that happens, you need to start again.

How to improve cranberry sauce? ›

Adding a teaspoon or two of fresh lemon or orange zest, a tablespoon of chopped candied peel, or even a splash of juice to your canned sauce will brighten flavors and bring in some homemade flavor.

How much is 3 cups of cranberries? ›

One 12-ounce bag of cranberries equals 3 cups.

How much cranberry sauce per person? ›

How Much Cranberry Sauce Do I Need Per Person? If you're making fresh cranberry sauce, plan on at least 1/4 cup per person—more if your family really likes cranberry sauce. I usually make about 1/2 cup per person and find I have plenty left over for a few days of slathering cranberry sauce over everything.

What to do when cranberry sauce doesn t set? ›

If you have followed these instructions, and for some reason the sauce still won't gel, add 1 envelope of unflavoured gelatin to the sauce and bring to a hard boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-high; cook an additional 5 minutes.

How do you thicken cranberry sauce after it cools? ›

The sauce will thicken as it cools. If you want a cranberry mold that holds its shape, continue to boil the mixture so that more pectin is released from the fruit, additional water evaporates, and the sauce becomes thick enough to set into a firm gel.

Is canned cranberry sauce better than homemade? ›

While there are some editors who prefer homemade cranberry sauce, the canned variety also has quite a following. "There's something so beautifully perfect about the texture of canned cranberry sauce, and none of those homemade mess will ever compete," says Senior Digital Food Editor Kimberly Holland.

What if I add too much water to cranberry sauce? ›

What to do if the cranberry sauce is too thin or loose. If you inadvertently added too much water, simply bring the cranberry sauce back to the stove top and bring it to a low boil, cooking it down just a bit to help thicken it up.

Why do you open cranberry sauce upside down? ›

But why? Ocean Spray says this is to get the cranberry sauce out in one intact piece. “The rounded part of the can that looks like the bottom has an air bubble in it,” Ocean Spray's representative explains. The bubble is there so you can “break the seal the sauce makes with the can.”

Why is cranberry sauce packaged upside down? ›

The cans are "filled and labeled upside down with the rounded edge on top and the sharp can-like edge on the bottom to keep the jelly whole." This creates an air bubble vacuum on the rounded side (the top) so customers "can swipe the edge of the can with a knife to break the vacuum and the log will easily slide out."

Why is my homemade cranberry sauce runny? ›

Though they won't tolerate runny sauce, so it's time to fix that. The simplest reason that your cranberry sauce is too runny is that it has too much liquid in it. Usually, this is just water, but some people use orange juice or other flavored fluids. No matter what you're using, the answer is to cook it longer.

Why is cranberry sauce so expensive? ›

Costs are up

That includes cranberry sauce, whose price is up about 18% compared to last year because cranberry crops are smaller this year, sparking a supply squeeze.

What makes cranberry juice taste better? ›

If you'd prefer, you could use simple syrup, coconut sugar, cane sugar, sugar-free sweetener, maple syrup, or raw honey. You could also omit the added sugar and make an unsweetened cranberry juice if you'd prefer. Fresh Citrus: oranges and lemons add sweet and acid to balance the cranberries tartness.

How many cranberries is 12 oz? ›

There are three cups of cranberries in a 12 oz.

How many cranberries does it take to make a bottle of juice? ›

There are about 4,400 cranberries in one gallon of a typical cranberry juice product.

How many cups are in a 12 oz bag of cranberries? ›

Cooking with Cranberries. The commonly sold 12-ounce bag contains about 3 cups of cranberries.

How many cranberries in a bottle of Ocean Spray? ›

Enjoy the crisp, clean taste of real cranberries straight from the bog. Each bottle is 100% cranberry juice, made from the juice of over 850 cranberries. It's a delicious way to get the health benefits of cranberry in a pure, authentic form.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Twana Towne Ret

Last Updated:

Views: 6164

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (44 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Twana Towne Ret

Birthday: 1994-03-19

Address: Apt. 990 97439 Corwin Motorway, Port Eliseoburgh, NM 99144-2618

Phone: +5958753152963

Job: National Specialist

Hobby: Kayaking, Photography, Skydiving, Embroidery, Leather crafting, Orienteering, Cooking

Introduction: My name is Twana Towne Ret, I am a famous, talented, joyous, perfect, powerful, inquisitive, lovely person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.