This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy.
Sweet and tart Cinnamon Orange Cranberry Sauce adds citrus and warm spice to the all-time favorite holiday side dish. Simmer fresh cranberries with orange juice and cinnamon sticks to take a classic jellied cranberry sauce recipe to the next level and make your house smell amazing while it cooks.
Table of Contents
Cranberry Sauce with Orange Juice and Cinnamon
Making your own homemade jellied cranberry sauce adds a special touch to your Thanksgiving menu. And when you cook cranberry sauce with orange juice and cinnamon sticks plus brown sugar, you get even more amazing holiday flavors.
Sweet and tart, with the brightness of the orange, and the taste of the holidays that a bit of spicy cinnamon always brings, I guarantee it will be a welcome new addition to your menu. I love to smear it on my turkey instead of gravy for Thanksgiving. And if you make it for Christmas, you can use it to top a Cranberry Rubbed Prime Rib Roast.
While some people prefer the whole berry style, my family likes the jellied cranberry sauce. So this recipe is cooked for quite a while to thicken it up and then the skins are strained out. Then you end up with a smooth and sparkly sauce with a deep red crimson color infused with delicious flavors.
Plus, the way it makes your house smell as it simmers away, well, there are no words. It is just the best aromas of the holiday season!
How do you thicken homemade cranberry sauce?
Cranberry sauce is thickened simply by cooking it to evaporate the moisture and let it release its natural pectin. You can typically cook it long enough to be a thick sauce or even to mold it. If it is not thick enough, you can always try adding gelatin or pectin, though I have not tried that in this recipe.
But sometimes I get impatient. I think I have cooked it down enough, but then I turn it out onto the platter and it doesn’t quite hold its shape. If that happens, just pour it into a bowl. Maybe not as pretty, but just as delicious.
Ingredients in Homemade Cranberry Sauce
This easy recipe has only four ingredients that pack a punch of flavor.
- Fresh cranberries – be sure to rinse and drain the cranberries, then pick through them quickly to remove any that might be bad.
- Oranges – you’ll need the zest of one orange, plus two cups of juice. You can squeeze a few extra oranges to use all fresh juice, or use a carton of orange juice to get the full two cups.
- Brown sugar – coconut sugar or an equal amount of maple syrup also works. If you use syrup, you’ll just need to simmer it a bit longer.
- Cinnamon sticks – these are simmered in the sauce and then removed. Make sure they are food-safe and not ones meant for decoration.
Combine the ingredients. Add the cranberries to a saucepan. Then zest the oranges and squeeze the juice, adding both to the pot with the cranberries. Stir in the brown sugar and toss in a couple of cinnamon sticks.
Simmer till thickened. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. While it simmers, squish the berries with the spatula so they release their juice and pectin. As the mixture thickens, you’ll need to stir it more frequently to keep it from sticking and burning. If you just want a thick but spoonable sauce, it could take about thirty minutes to simmer and thicken. However, if you want to pour your cranberry sauce into a mold, it will take longer. You’ll see that once you run a spatula through it and it holds in place for a few seconds instead of running back to the bottom of the pot, it should be thick enough to mold.
Strain to remove the cranberry skins. Strain and push the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl to remove the cinnamon sticks and cranberry skins. Finally, let it cool slightly. Transfer to a bowl, or, if desired, pour it into a mold.
Chill it out. Store it in the refrigerator until ready to serve. If you’ve let it cook long enough, once cool you can unmold it like the jellied cranberry sauce you get from a can.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is cranberry sauce served hot or cold?
Most people serve cranberry sauce cold, or at least at room temperature. That is why I recommend making this dish at least a day in advance. It gets quite hot while it is cooking. So this will ensure it has plenty of time to cool before serving.
Can Cranberry Sauce be made ahead of time?
Yes, this orange cranberry sauce recipe can definitely be made in advance. You can leave it in the refrigerator for at least a week. In fact, I typically make it the weekend before Thanksgiving, and we eat it with leftovers throughout Thanksgiving weekend.
Does homemade cranberry sauce need to be refrigerated?
Yes, because of the fresh and perishable ingredients, it will need to be stored in the refrigerator. If kept chilled, you can keep it for at least a week. For those that prefer to eat it at room temperature, just pull out as much as you’ll need at one time a little while before you plan to serve it.
Is cranberry sauce gluten free?
Yes, similar to nearly all other cranberry sauce products and recipes, this one is gluten free. It is made simply with fresh cranberries, fresh orange juice and orange zest, dark brown sugar, and cinnamon sticks. The thickening comes from the natural pectin in the fruit, not from any flour or starch.
This gluten free cranberry sauce also happens to be vegan. If you’d like to make it paleo, use coconut sugar or maple syrup in place of the brown sugar. With the syrup, you’ll just cook it longer to reduce the extra liquid.
Tips for Success
- I like to use my Microplane zester to zest my orange, then squeeze that orange with my juicer to make this with fresh orange juice.
- Be sure to use a spatula that is heat resistant, as the mixture gets quite hot. Once it starts to thicken, you’ll need to stir it frequently to keep it from sticking or burning.
- To get a nice, smooth jellied cranberry sauce, I always like to strain it through a fine mesh sieve.
What to Make with Leftover Cranberry Sauce
It is certainly amazing mixed some mayo for the ubiquitous day-after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich on some nice slices of gluten free bread. But you can also get a little more creative with your leftovers.
- Cranberry Balsamic Glazed Cauliflower Wings
- Three-Ingredient Cranberry Balsamic Salad Dressing
- Cranberry Balsamic Ketchup
- Slow Cooker Cranberry Balsamic Beef
- Cranberry BBQ Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- Cranberry Sauce Smoothie from Wonky Wonderful
- Chipotle Cranberry BBQ Pizza from A Mind Full Mom
Cinnamon Orange Cranberry Sauce
- Two 12 oz. packages of fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
- Zest of one orange
- 2 cups orange juice, preferably freshly squeezed (see Note)
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan over medium high heat.
- Bring to a boil, then lower heat and allow to simmer until very thick, stirring occasionally, and using a spoon or spatula to “pop” the cranberries. As it becomes thicker, you may have to lower the heat and/or stir more constantly.
- Reduce to desired thickness. This could take 30-40 minutes. If you want to be able to mold it, it should almost hold shape when you push it to the side of the pan with a spoon or spatula.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
- Strain and push the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl to remove the cinnamon sticks and cranberry skins.
- If desired, pour into a mold.
- Chill completely.
More Thanksgiving side dishes
- Gluten Free Cornbread with Apple Butter
- Cheesy Mashed Potatoes with Bacon
- Orange Glazed Green Beans with Cranberries
- Gluten Free Stuffing
- Maple Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Butternut Squash
Originally published on Nov. 15, 2013.