How to Make Cranberry Sauce

This super easy Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce recipe has only 4 ingredients. If you’ve been wondering how to make cranberry sauce from scratch but found yourself feeling a bit intimidated, or short on time, this is the perfect gluten-free Cranberry Sauce recipe for you.

To make this easy cranberry sauce recipe all you need is fresh cranberries, honey, orange zest, and water. If you count ingredients the way the Food Network does, then this is a 3-ingredient Cranberry Sauce recipe. They do not count water and salt as well as some other basic items as ingredients, which I think is kinda funny, but I’m happy to go with it.

Now, instead of canned cranberry sauce with who knows what ingredients, preservatives, and way too much sugar, you can have fresh homemade cranberry sauce. This paleo Cranberry Sauce recipe is one of my family’s favorites at Thanksgiving. For years, as soon as the boys have seen fresh cranberries in the grocery store, they’ve asked for it. Did you know that the first recipe I wrote on this website in November 2006 was for Cranberry Sauce?!

How to Make Cranberry Sauce

Print Pin Recipe
Servings 6


  • 1 pound fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup water
  • cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest


  • Pick through cranberries, discarding soft and rotten ones
  • Rinse the remaining cranberries, then drain with a steel colander
  • In a medium pot, combine cranberries and water and bring to a boil
  • Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes
  • Add honey and orange zest and cook for 5 more minutes
  • Serve
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Tried this recipe?Mention @elanaspantry or tag #elanaspantry!

I love homemade cranberry sauce because it’s not only easy to make, it’s incredibly healthy. Cranberries are referred to as a “super food” because they are high in vitamin C, vitamin E, and fiber.

Cranberries have fantastic anti-inflammatory properties and contain an array of phytonutrients. The consumption of cranberries is said to prevent cancer, protect against heart disease, and help detoxify the kidneys and liver. I buy organic cranberries to make our Cranberry Sauce, since non-organic cranberries can be heavily sprayed with pesticides, which we avoid.

Below is my super easy how to make Cranberry Sauce tutorial, so let’s get going!

How To Make Cranberry Sauce

First, as shown in the photo above, I’ve placed the fresh cranberries in a large bowl filled with water. After that, I sort through the cranberries, discarding any that are soft.

How To Make Cranberry Sauce

In the next step, as shown in the photo above, I’ve placed the fresh cranberries in a steel colander to drain the water.

Now it’s time to make the Cranberry Sauce, so I put the the fresh cranberries and one cup of water in a medium pot, bring them to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes, until the cranberries break down. After that, I add the honey and orange zest and cook for a few more minutes. Below, is the finished product, my homemade Cranberry Sauce!

How To Make Cranberry Sauce

Remember, cranberries are very sour. We love the tangy tartness of this homemade Cranberry Sauce. However, we do not eat much sugar at all, even natural sweeteners. So if you find that this recipe is too tart, sweeten it up to taste with more honey, or add a few drops of stevia.

Now that you know how to make cranberry sauce there’s no need for store bought stuff loaded with sugar and preservatives! Here are some of my other homemade paleo cranberry sauce recipes!


24 responses to “How to Make Cranberry Sauce”

  1. I just followed your recipe using large cranberries, and the result is very soupy instead of the thicker consistency I recall. Should I cook it longer or toss this batch and start over?

    • Thanks for your comment Elizabeth, I’m happy to help you trouble shoot this. Did you change the recipe in any way other than using large cranberries? My cranberry sauce sets up very nicely after it’s thoroughly cooled, so make sure to allow this to cool and it should thicken right up :-)

      • If it’s a little too juicy, just sift it through a colander and save the juice to add to water, just a little goes a long way. I do that with jam sometimes too, since I reduce the sugar it will not thicken well.

  2. Cranberry sauce is a classic member of the Thanksgiving table. This recipe is particularly delicious and thanks for sharing it.

  3. Elana hello, what is your point of view about honey… some people say that ones honey is heated becomes toxic,??
    Tnk you!

    • Chio, I use honey sparingly; sometimes we heat it sometimes we don’t. I think most sweeteners are somewhat unhealthy regardless of their temperature and now stick to a high-fat diet:

      If you are worried about heating the honey in this recipe feel free to experiment with other sweeteners :-)


  4. Honey should not be heated. It becomes very toxic to the body. I will switch to half of cup of map,e syrup and couple of spoons of coconut sugar..

  5. Hi Elana, what can I swap the orange zest for? My family cannot have citrus of any kind.
    Your advice would be gratefully received


    • Patricia, I’m so sorry, I have to confess, I haven’t ever made cranberry sauce without citrus! If you do experiment please let us know how it goes :-)

    • Try apples and cinnamon to make a cranberry apple sauce . Add apples after cranberries have popped, I use six. Then cook until apples are soft. Stir in a teaspoon of Cinnamon. Serve warm or cold.

  6. I always make my own. Similar to yours, but I add the juice and sometimes the pulp of the orange and often a chopped apple, as well. I like to add cinnamon. This year I added a little allspice and fresh grated ginger. I’ve added blueberries or cherries before, too, but cranberries are always the main attraction. I used coconut sugar this year.

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