Cranberry sauce with orange, cinnamon, and cloves is a family favorite and an absolute must on our Thanksgiving table.  This sauce is so easy to make and far better than the canned stuff!

Cranberry sauce in white bowl with squeezed orange in background.

Homemade cranberry sauce is usually reserved for the holidays making it a very special condiment.

Our version uses fresh cranberries, orange liqueur, and orange as the dominant flavors with just hints of cinnamon, clove, and vanilla to round it out.

We serve our orange cranberry sauce with a dry brined turkey breast, sage and onion stuffing, and some of our other favorite side dishes.

And if you’ve got leftover cranberries, freeze them and use them to garnish a refreshing cranberry mule or to make these flaky cranberry orange scones! 

Ingredients shown: cranberries, orange liqueur, oranges, sugar, vanilla, cloves, and cinnamon stick.

How to make it

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

  1. In a saucepan or pot over high heat, combine 24 ounces of fresh cranberries, 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar, 1 1/2 cups of water, 1/4 cup of orange juice, and a 1/4 cup of orange liqueur.  Bring the mixture to a boil (Photo #1).
Cranberry sauce recipe process shot collage group number one showing a saucepan with cranberrys, sugar, and water simmering.
  1. Periodically stir the mixture and once boiling, reduce the heat to medium (Photo #2).
  2. Add 1 cinnamon stick and 3 cloves and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have burst (about 10 minutes). You can use the back of your spoon to mash some of the cranberries against the side of the pan (Photo #3).
Recipe process shot collage group number two showing hands placing cinnamon stick into cranberry and orange zest.
  1. Once the cranberries have burst, add 2 tablespoons of orange zest and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and allow to simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow the cranberry sauce to come to room temperature.  If the sauce is too thick for your liking, you can add a little water at a time, and keep in mind that the mixture will continue to thicken as it cools.  Once at room temperature, chill in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve with plenty of turkey or (roast chicken) and sides (Photo #4)!

Top tips

  • Sweetness. You may be reading the ingredients and thinking that 1 1/2 cups of sugar is a lot but cranberries are extremely tart.  In fact, if you taste your sauce and find that it’s still too tart, add additional sugar, or even maple syrup to help sweeten it a bit more.
  • Orange liqueur. We added orange liqueur to this recipe to help enhance the orange flavor.  Other additions could include bourbon or amaretto.  If you prefer to not use any alcohol, you can omit it entirely.
  • Thickness.  Keep in mind that the cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools so if you prefer your sauce to be a little thinner than ours, consider adding a little extra water after removing the sauce from the heat.
Spoonful of cranberry sauce over blue bowl.

More holiday favorites

While we’d happily eat cranberry sauce all year round, we realize it really is more of a holiday treat.  Here are a few more of our favorite holiday dishes.  We hope you enjoy!

If you’ve enjoyed this orange cranberry sauce recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and tell us about it in the comments below.

We strive to satisfy a number of learning styles.  If you are someone who prefers to learn by watching, you can find most of our recipes on YouTube and our Facebook Page.

Cranberry Sauce

5 from 5 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 18
Homemade cranberry sauce with orange, cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla is so easy to make and is the perfect complement to your holiday table!


  • 24 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup water plus more if needed
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  • In a sauce pot over high heat, add the cranberries, sugar, water, orange juice, and orange liqueur and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to medium, add the cinnamon stick and cloves and allow to cook, stirring occassionally until the cranberries have burst, about 10 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the vanilla extract and orange zest stirring to combine, and cook for an additional 5 min, then remove from the heat and allow to come to room temperature.
  • Once cooled to room temperature, chill in the refrigerator until you're ready to use.


  • If the sauce is too thick for your liking, add a touch more water after the sauce is removed from the heat.
  • To make this alcohol-free, omit the orange liqueur.
  • Cranberry sauce can be stored in a container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


Calories: 91kcal | Carbohydrates: 20.5g | Potassium: 71mg | Fiber: 1.4g | Sugar: 18.3g | Calcium: 6mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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  1. Karen Simolon says:

    Good, don’t be afraid to try it!

  2. Paul M says:

    5 stars
    This is an excellent recipe. I may opt for ground cloves next time to avoid biting into a clove by mistake, which I did today. You also may wish to cut back just a bit on the vanilla, but that is personal preference. This one is a keeper.

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Paul, we’re so happy you enjoyed and really appreciate the comment!

  3. Tess says:

    5 stars
    I’ve made cranberry sauce for years, but decided to try yours this Thanksgiving and it was spectacular! I used Grand Marnier and powdered cinnamon & cloves, added a little water, but otherwise followed your recipe to the letter. Rave reviews. One person even put it over the vanilla ice cream. This one is forever. Thank you Jim & Tara!

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Tess, we’re so happy you enjoyed this one and really appreciate your comment!

  4. ray says:

    Jim, Just finished cranberry sauce. Fantastic. I added a tad more sugar and used 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves instead of whole cloves. Grew up in north Jersey and my grandmother was a supper Italian /American cook. I see your recipe for ratatouille. my grandmother would make the Italian version GIAMBOTTA(Jumbot) which was great. Also looking for a Xmas staple recipe for cold Baccala salad (hot peppers, baccala, garlic, olives, hard provolone slices). Do you have something similar? Thanks.

    1. James says:

      Hi Ray, thanks for the comment and glad you enjoyed the cranberry sauce. I also have a recipe here on the website for ciambotta. As far as baccala, I have recipes on the site for baccala fritters and baccala alla napoletana – just search for “baccala”. The only cold seafood salad recipe I have currently is calamari salad which you may like. Here’s the direct link to that one.

  5. C K Chenoweth says:

    5 stars
    Great recipe. I don’t use the cinnamon or cloves. I add peeled orange sections in last five min of cooking, use orange zest and orange liqueur. Thanks.

  6. Mindy says:

    Tara, can this be frozen? I try to get a jump on Thanksgiving dishes way ahead of time. Thanks for the info!

    1. James says:

      Hi Mindy, yes, this one can be made ahead and frozen. Hope you enjoy!

      1. Mindy says:

        James, should I take out the cinnamon stick before freezing?

        BTW, I made your Beef Bourguignon and it was soooo good! I love your recipes!

        1. James says:

          Hi Mindy, you can remove the cinnamon stick before freezing if you’d like but I don’t think it matters much. I’m so happy to hear you’re enjoying the other recipes and thanks for the comment!

  7. Mary says:

    Do you have to remove the cloves before serving?

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Mary, you can remove the cloves and cinnamon stick if you prefer.

  8. Eva says:

    5 stars
    This looks so bright and refreshing, the color is gorgeous. I love this type of fresh sauce over vanilla ice cream or mixed in Greek yogurt. Thank you for all your recipes and sharing your beautiful family with us, a very Happy Thanksgiving to you.

    1. Jim says:

      Thanks for the comment, Eva! I’m happy you’re enjoying the recipes and happy Thanksgiving to you as well!