It only takes 20 minutes to make this delicious and vibrant Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce. It’s made with orange, cinnamon, and spiced rum for a perfect pairing for turkey!

If canned cranberry products scare you, you’ve got to try making fresh cranberry sauce. It’s SO much better.

Cranberry Sauce - In a Blue Heart Dish on Wooden Board

When I was a kid, I always thought of cranberry sauce as the stuff that made that creepy suction noise as it fell out of the can in one giant log…and jiggled anytime someone got up from the table.

…it’s alive! The cranberry sauce is alive!

So for most of my life I stayed away from it altogether.

I finally fell in love a few years ago when my friend Jess came to my house for Thanksgiving and showed me how to make homemade cranberry sauce with fresh cranberries.

Fresh Cranberries In a Bowl

Now this wonderfully bright and flavorful sauce is one of my favorite parts of the Thanksgiving meal, and it’s always the dish I make first.

It can be made several days in advance, and only takes about 20 minutes from start to finish.

If only all Thanksgiving dishes were that easy.

How to Make It Step by Step:

Start by sorting through a bag of fresh cranberries, and discard any cranberries that are shriveled or brown:

Shriveled Cranberries on a Wooden Surface

Next gather up an orange and the secret ingredient, which is…spiced rum!

I’m telling you, I’ve never been much of a drinker, but I think cooking with alcohol is one of the secrets to great cooking.

Adding spiced rum (or orange liqueur, which I like too) to the cranberries really enhances the flavor:

Spiced Rum and Oranges on a Wooden Board

Zest a fresh orange or tangerine, then squeeze out all the juice.

Add the zest and juice to a pan with the cranberries, a cinnamon stick, and the spiced rum:

Pouring Orange Juice Into Pan with Cranberries, Orange Zest, and Cinnamon

Add sugar and cook for 15 minutes until all the cranberries burst.

That’s really all it takes.

Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce Recipe - Served in a Blue Heart Dish with Orange Zest

Sweet Potato Casserole, Potato Gratin, Roasted Acorn Squash, and Thanksgiving Stuffing are some of my other yearly staples for the big meal.

For dessert I make Lemon Buttermilk Pie, Bread Pudding, and Pumpkin Chip Gingersnap Cookie Ice Cream. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

This cranberry sauce is vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free.

Can Cranberry Sauce be frozen? Yes, for up to 2 months.

Can Cranberry Sauce be Made Ahead? Yes, it will keep in the fridge for up to 5-7 days.

Cranberry Sauce In a Blue Heart Dish on Wooden Board

Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce

This wonderful cranberry sauce is made with orange, cinnamon, and spiced rum for a perfect Thanksgiving side for turkey!

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  • 12 oz bag fresh cranberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar*
  • 1 softball sized orange zested and juiced
  • 2 tbsp spiced rum
  • 1 cinnamon stick


  • Sort through the cranberries, discarding any that look brown and shriveled. 
  • Rinse the cranberries and place them in a heavy bottomed saucepan with the sugar, orange zest, orange juice, spiced rum, and cinnamon stick.
  • Place a lid on the pan and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. The cranberries will begin to pop!
  • When it looks like most of the cranberries have popped, remove the pan from the heat. If the sauce looks too liquidy, keep in mind that the pectin in the cranberries will make the sauce thicken up quite a bit as it cools. If you would like a thinner texture, you can add more water or orange juice. 
  • Serve the cranberry sauce cold or at room temperature. Enjoy!


*You are sweetening to taste here. If it’s too tart for you, feel free to add more sugar.


Calories: 218kcal, Carbohydrates: 52g, Protein: 1g, Sodium: 2mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 44g

Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.

Post updated in November 2018. Originally published November 2013.