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Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Bright red and bursting with tartness, this homemade cranberry sauce marks the beginning of the holiday season. With hints of maple syrup and star anise, it’s got enough warmth and sweetness to make you want to pour it on everything.

Homemade cranberry sauce in a serving bowl.

The Best Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Loaded with fresh, fruity flavors, this homemade cranberry sauce will be the star of your Thanksgiving menu. With a splash of ruby port, you’ll be getting requests for this recipe for all your upcoming gatherings. Time to load up on cranberries!

Made with a splash of ruby Port for extra depth and a bit of booze, it’ll beat any other sauce in terms of color, consistency, and flavor. For a bit of spice, don’t forget the star anise! It adds natural warmth and earthiness to balance out the tartness with the help of a little salt. Sweetened with maple syrup or raw honey, what more could you ask for?

Finished off with a sprinkle of orange zest once it’s off the stove, this cranberry sauce only gets better with time. Good luck having the patience to let it cool. It’s so good you’ll want to eat it before it even meets your turkey dinner on a plate.

Why You’ll Love Learning How To Make Cranberry Sauce

You’ll want to make this homemade cranberry sauce way past the holidays once you’ve had a taste.

  • Freezer-friendly. Make it in advance and thaw it overnight before the big day (Thanksgiving). It’s convenient!
  • Easy. Even beginner cooks can nail this simple recipe, especially if you check out the Tips section.
  • Tart. Fresh or frozen cranberries plus a dash of orange zest make this recipe perfectly tart. It goes well with all your turkey dinners and sides.
  • Homemade. No more weird canned stuff! This recipe will put an end to years of store-bought sauce with lots of sugar and sodium.
  • Options for texture. Whether you like it smooth with bits of cranberry or chunky with candied pecans, you’re in charge of the texture since it’s your sauce.
Cranberries in a strainer.

What You’ll Need

You can’t have cranberry sauce without cranberries! Check the recipe card at the bottom of the post for exact amounts.

  • Ruby Port – This is an easy-to-drink sweet and fruity red wine.
  • Maple syrup – Raw honey and agave syrup work too.
  • Star anise – Use the whole spice, not ground star anise.
  • Salt
  • Cranberries – Feel free to use fresh or frozen.
  • Orange zest – Only use freshly grated zest.
Overhead photo of cranberry sauce in a bowl.

How to Make Cranberry Sauce

Learning how to make cranberry sauce only takes 6 easy steps. Check the recipe card at the bottom of the post for more detailed instructions.

  • Whisk the liquids. Mix the port, maple syrup, star anise, salt, and 1/2 cup of water in a medium-sized pot.
  • Boil it. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove it from the heat immediately. Cover the pot and let it rest for 20 minutes to let the star anise infuse in the liquid.
  • Prepare the cranberries. Remove any stems from the cranberries. Rinse and drain well. Set them aside.
  • Add the cranberries. Return the pot to the stove and bring it to a boil again.
  • Simmer it. Reduce the heat to let the sauce simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Most of the cranberries should have popped and the sauce should have thickened.
  • Add the zest. Use a fork or spoon to remove the star anise. Stir in the zest. Remove it from the heat. Let the sauce come down to room temperature, serve with your favorite dishes and enjoy.
Cranberry sauce with half an orange in the background.

Tips & Variations

These tips will help you improve any cranberry sauce recipe you come across:

  • Swap the zest. Use lemon or lime zest for a similar touch of citrus goodness if you’re out of oranges.
  • Change the wine. Lambrusco is a sweet and fruity wine that can work beautifully with this cranberry sauce.
  • Add spices. A 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon or allspice adds extra warmth to this recipe.
  • Replace the water. Swap the water for cranberry, pomegranate, or grape juice for a boost of flavor.
  • Make it chunky. Mixing 1/4-1/2 cup of candied pecans into the sauce will give it extra sweetness and wonderful crunch.
  • Use non-stick. To prevent burnt messes, use a non-stick pot for cooking your sauce. Stainless steel is great but it’s easier for syrups to stick to it.

Serving Suggestions

This homemade cranberry sauce is perfect when drizzled over your Thanksgiving turkey. If you’re not a fan of turkey, serve it with my Honey Butter Roasted Chicken. I also love it with my Blueberry Grilled Pork Tenderloin or Orange Rosemary Pork Tenderloin. For side dishes, don’t forget some Garlic Mashed Potatoes or Mashed Sweet Potato with Bourbon Glaze.

How Far In Advance Can You Make Cranberry Sauce?

You can make it up to 2 months in advance and keep it in the freezer for longer storage. It’ll also help you beat the holiday craze and stores being out of cranberries for a homemade sauce. Thaw it in the fridge overnight a day before serving and then reheat as usual.

Proper Storage

Once fully cooled, refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container or bag for up to 2 weeks. Keep it away from direct heat, sunlight, and humidity when on the counter for reheating or serving. Always check that there aren’t any bubbles or white foam to make sure it’s still good. To reheat it, pop it into the microwave for 1-2 minutes. You can also heat it in a pot ver medium-low heat for 7-8 minutes.

More Holiday Recipes

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Prep Time40 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time1 hour
Servings: 10 servings


  • 1/2 cup ruby port
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 whole star anise
  • Pinch salt
  • 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest


  • In a medium saucepan, combine the port, maple syrup, star anise, salt and 1/2 cup water.
  • Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to blend. As soon as it starts to boil, remove it from the heat, cover and let stand for 20 minutes to infuse the star anise into the liquid.
  • Pick through the cramberries fro stems, rinse them well in a colander and drain.
  • Return the liquid to boil over medium high heat and add the cranberries. When the mixture again returns to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook, occasionally stirring gently, until most of the berries have popped open and the sauce thickens slightly. 8-10 minutes.
  • Discard star of anise. Stir in zest and let sauce cool to room temperature.
Course: Sauces
Cuisine: American


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1 thought on “Homemade Cranberry Sauce”

  1. Amy Sue this cranberry sauce recipe sounds amazing! I’m not a fan of the stuff either but the addition of port and star anise I think would make it really yummy. And what a great way to use port! Not that I don’t like drinking it too – it’s too sweet for me to want more than an occasional small glass though, and once opened, ruby port should be consumed within a week (according to my sommelier hubby). Now if it were a great Pinot or Cab, well that’s another story.
    Anyways, thanks for the great idea – now I know what to do with that half bottle of port that’s been sitting on my counter since last Sunday.

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