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Make Ahead Cranberry Sauce is effortless and will WOW your guests! The BEST homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe hands down! You'll never buy canned sauce again! This simple recipe contains only a few ingredients: fresh cranberries, orange juice, orange marmalade, sugar and some special spices. It's made in only one saucepan and takes less than 15 minutes!
How to make ahead the BEST cranberry sauce
Have you ever wondered how to make homemade cranberry sauce? Are you a no longer a fan of the can-berry sauce and looking for an easy alternative? Or maybe you're just trying to mix it up from your regular Thanksgiving cranberry sauce recipe. Well, have I got a recipe for you! This effortless recipe is a bit on the tart side, as most cranberry sauces should be, but the flavors—oh my! The mix of orange and cranberry is divine!
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—Want the recipe right now? Simply scroll straight to the bottom!—
And the leftovers—did I mention how to use this with your turkey leftovers? You will love smearing make ahead cranberry sauce on a bagel with cream cheese and the turkey the very next day. And good news - it's just as good all year long! I usually always have a batch of homemade cranberry sauce on hand. I love to put the whole berry jelly in the crockpot with a pork tenderloin on busy winter days. During the summer, it's a fun mix in with lemonade.
I've updated some photos to give this popular recipe some justice! (We've come a long way baby!). I originally published this post in November of 2014! Holy cow, that was a while ago! And you know what? Every year. Without fail. People flock to this recipe. Because it's just.that.good!
I can't believe how sad this photo looks to me now. The good news is even though I wasn't a fantastic photographer, Y'all were forgiving and tried my cranberry sauce anyways! For those of you who initially started to pin it on Pinterest, thank you. For those of you who are new and are pinning it this year- thank you! Blogging can sometimes be an isolating world, but the feedback keeps us going. Your feedback is truly appreciated!
I make cranberry sauce throughout the year because I adore turkey, cream cheese and cranberry jelly sandwiches. Loaded on a bagel, smothered in cream cheese, with big chunks of yesterday’s Thanksgiving turkey taking center stage. Mmmmm. Want to make it even better? Ditch the bagel and use yesterday's rolls!
Nice whole berry cranberry sauce. Cooked to perfection. Our family and most of my readers prefer whole berry, but it's just as easy to make smooth. A simple immersion blender will make it more like the traditional solid can-berry sauce. This is my FAVORITE immersion blender!
Another twist I love to do is to add pickled jalapenos and to make a sweet & spicy jelly for sandwiches and roasts. We eat spicy cranberry pork tenderloin sandwiches all year long (easiest weeknight meal ever!)
I love to serve the cranberry sauce in white dishes. The color of it is just so fantastic. I love that this dish goes with the antique ladle I picked up at Round Top (yep, Joanna Gaines favorite place is mine too!). This dish comes with a cover, so I can simply place the cranberry jelly straight into it, cover it and pop it in the fridge until I'm ready to serve it.
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The color in the jellied cranberry sauce plays off the napkins from World Market as well! Funny how that works out! A sprig of rosemary gives a fun flourish to finish it off.
It always amazes me how quickly these cute little guys will burst and turn into the jellied friend we eat every November. I think this is my kiddos favorite part, waiting to see them "pop" in the pan.
I guess if you aren’t a whole berry fan and you don't have an immersion blender, you could smooth this out in a standard blender or food processor, but our family goes for the chunky.
This side dish is perfect throughout the winter. Toss your extras in the slow cooker and make cranberry bbq pulled pork, in a cranberry cream cheese coffee cake, or on sandwiches as shown above. We sometimes just smear it on toast alone.
By whipping up your make-ahead cranberry sauce, you’ll have one less thing to worry about on Thanksgiving day!
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I love the comments that I get from people every year. This recipe has been pinned over 60K times! WOW! It's been featured on major websites like MSN.com. I can't tell you how much I appreciate each and every share!
Some comments on my make ahead cranberry sauce recipe:
Thank you so much for sharing! This really is the best cranberry sauce ever and it was so easy to make. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
Just made your recipe, will never eat canned cranberry sauce again.
Suggestions for substitutions in Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- If you don't have orange marmalade, use apricot preserves.
- Add a little bourbon for a bit of a fun boozy addition
- If you are out of orange marmalade, a bit more OJ will be okay.
- If you don't have orange marmalade, use apricot preserves
Can you make the best ever cranberry sauce in the Instant Pot, pressure cooker or a slow cooker?
Absolutely! I've done both. One Facebook fan raves about making this in the crockpot. Simply place all the ingredients in the slow cooker and cook for several hours. If it isn't thick enough, you can remove the lid and allow some of the liquid to evaporate. Surprised to hear this? It's a technique used in my popular slow cooker apple butter recipe.
There are a couple of reasons why I would use a pressure cooker, and a few reasons why I wouldn't. So why would I? Well, it takes up one less burner on the stove when space is tight on a busy holiday like Thanksgiving. Another reason is that it doesn't require the constant stirring that the stovetop method does. To make it in an Instant Pot, place all ingredients in the pan. Seal and set on manual high for 4 minutes. Allow to naturally release (about 10-12 minutes). Remove lid, and switch to saute. Boil the mixture for 3-4 minutes, stirring about every minute. It will magically thicken up.
So why wouldn't I use the instant pot? It works, BUT the main thing I noticed-- the cranberries break down a lot. In the end, I had about ½ cup to 1 cup LESS cranberry sauce than the stovetop method makes. When feeding a crowd, this can really make a difference!
Storing cranberries and Make Ahead Cranberry Sauce
- Can you make cranberry sauce ahead--- YES! Save yourself the struggle on the big day!
- Are you asking yourself, "How far ahead can I make cranberry sauce?" According to Oceanspray, "We do suggest making sauce ahead of time and storing it in an airtight container in your refrigerator. It will keep for up to one week."
- How long can I let cranberry sauce sit out before chilling - food safety my friends! I let mine cool about 2o minutes. Be sure to put it in the fridge within 2 hours.
- How long can I keep cranberry sauce in the fridge? Mine doesn't last long, because we devour it so quickly, but 7-10 days seems to be the common answer.
- Can you freeze cranberry sauce? Yes! Use within 2 months of freezing.
- How do I store fresh cranberries? Pop those in your veggie bin in the fridge! Or place in your freezer for up to 10 months.
- Do I need to defrost cranberries? Nope! I love using frozen year round!
- How long can I keep cranberry sauce in the fridge? Mine doesn't last long, but 7-10 days seems to be the common answer.
FAQ's about Cranberries & Cranberry Sauce:
- Can I use frozen cranberries? Absolutely! I love them because I can use them year round! It will take just a bit longer for the berries to come to a boil.
- Can I substitute lemon juice for the orange juice? I wouldn't. This is less about the acidity and more about the flavor the orange brings.
- Do people in the UK eat cranberry sauce? Yes, my British cousins love it just as much. It's very popular at Christmas time, so it's not just an American dish!
- What meats do cranberries go with? Although turkey seems to be a favorite, cranberries work well with pork, chicken, cornish hens, and beef.
Doing lots of holiday cooking? I have more recipes to help you out on this!
Learn how easy it is to make sturdy whipped cream frosting! No more melting whipped cream all over that dessert you worked so hard on!
Ditch the box and make stuffing with sausage from scratch! Just like my cranberry orange cranberry sauce, this is way more simple than most people think! Not a fan of sausage? These stuffing balls are a bit more traditional without any meat and you can easily substitute gluten free bread for those guests who might have food allergies.
These Maple Snickerdoodle Cupcakes are a huge hit every fall! And they even use a box mix! If you are looking for a more traditional Thanksgiving dessert, it doesn't get much more traditional than this molasses pumpkin pie!
How about a side dish for your Thanksgiving Feast?
These cheesy jalapeño scalloped potatoes are a fun twist on the traditional mashed potatoes. Pressure cooker glazed carrots are also a big hit!
Can you tell I'm a HUGE fan of cranberries? I even have a whole tab of my recipe index for all things cranberries! See what I've done with any cranberry sauce that is leftover! Find all my cranberry love recipes HERE.
Cranberry Crush : A recipe collection from Major Hoff Takes A Wife
Happy cooking my friends! Be sure to follow me on Pinterest so you can see all the fun things I am cooking up!
EFFORTLESS MAKE AHEAD CRANBERRY SAUCE
- 1 cup orange juice
- ¼ cup brown sugar if you like it sweeter, you can double
- ¼ cup regular sugar
- ¼ cup orange marmalade
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ginger
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- 12 oz fresh cranberries, 1 bag in the produce or frozen section
Directions for Stove Top Method:
- Combine the orange juice, both sugars, marmalade, cinnamon, ginger, all spice and the whole cranberries in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.
- Reduce to a gentle boil and stir for 10 minutes.
- The berries will burst (the kiddos love this part) and will eventually break down to the sauce we love.
- Let cool and then refrigerate. You can serve warm if you want to, but I like to chill for at least 2 hours.
Directions for making cranberry sauce in an Instant Pot:
- To make it in an Instant Pot, place all ingredients in the pan. Stir well to get the cranberries coated.
- Seal and set on manual high for 4 minutes.
- Allow to naturally release (about 10-12 minutes).
- Remove lid, and switch to saute.
- Boil the mixture for 3-4 minutes, stirring once about every minute or so. You just want to make sure nothing gets stuck to the bottom of the pan!
- It will magically thicken up.
- Serve warm, or cover and place in the fridge for about 2 hours for it to really thicken up!
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You have no idea how much your comment warmed my heart! Thanks so much for letting me know that you've been using this recipe for years- that is truly wonderful to hear. My boys are old enough that they can make it now- but they never out grow the fun of watching cranberries burst. I've heard it's converted a lot of can-berry loyalists! Thanks for stopping by! I hope you are able to find some other gems in the recipes on my site!
Lynn Bonneau says
This looks really good. I am going to make it for family even though I won’t be able to eat it myself. It interferes with my blood thinner. 😢
Oh no Lynn, I had no idea about this! So sorry! I hope the rest of your family enjoys it, but still sad you will miss out!
Best if you can make it a day ahead so it will gel better. Everyone loved it & so easy.
Alisa Massey says
I was wondering we are going out of town and won’t be back until the day before Thanksgiving... can I make this ahead and freeze it? Are there any other Thanksgiving recipes that I can make ahead and freeze? Everything is on my shoulders this Thanksgiving so I I’m trying to keep it simple!
Abigail Scheibner says
I've been making this recipe now for 3 years! I'm so glad I came across it. It's my signature side. I married into a large family who loves Thanksgiving and everyone had their dish. The cranberry sauce was woefully missing. It was a hit when I brought it last year and my parents also can't get enough! I usually double the recipe and jar it up as a gift
You are so sweet Abigail- thank you so much for sharing this! It made my day to read this and I'm so glad you've found your signature dish 🙂 Enjoy your holidays!
Looking forward to making this for Thanksgiving, how long and what temperature should it cook in a crockpot? Thanks!
Hi Jennie, my friend told me this about cooking it in the crockpot: It took about 3 hours on high. I served it hot, and today after refrigeration it is very nice. The flavors are great! Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, thanks for stopping by!
Hi, I want you to know how much i love this sauce! I actually make it into jam and water bath can it every year.I have been doing it for at least 3yrs, maybe more, i cant remember! I add a pint of fresh raspberries to it and a bit of maple syrup to set it but it makes the best spread for toasted home made sourdough. Its my favorite. I could eat it with a spoon! I look forward to it as if it were Christmas!
Can this be frozen for a few weeks?
Yes, it can be. But you should use it within 2 months. Thanks!
Hi there Alisa, yes, you can freeze it up to 2 months ahead of time. Sorry I missed your comment previously, hope you had a nice holiday!