Homemade Cranberry Sauce

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This tangy, sweet homemade cranberry sauce with lemon trumps anything you can buy at the store.

Do you know how easy it is to make cranberry sauce? If you can boil water, I promise you can make cranberry sauce.

Homemade cranberry sauce in white bowl with ladle

For years, I bought cranberry sauce in a can and my husband and boys ate every last bit of it. They clearly enjoy cranberry sauce. We even bought an extra can or two every year, just for the leftovers.

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I love so many other cranberry recipes, from cranberry apple pie to Christmas cake, cranberry jalapeno dip to cranberry pancakes. But cranberry sauce? That was never my thing. It was only ever something we had for the boys in the house – until now.

Cranberry Sauce with Lemon

About a dozen years ago, that changed for me. I tried a sandwich that stacked turkey with cranberry sauce and I fell in love with the combination.

It was not a sugary sweet cranberry sauce, it was tangy and just a bit sweet at the same time. I now understand why so many people think it just isn’t Thanksgiving without the cranberry sauce.

I’ve made cranberry sauce a few different ways over the past 10 or so years, but this cranberry sauce with lemon is my favorite version. This is the easiest of the Thanksgiving side dishes to make ahead of time for the holidays too.

cranberry sauce in saucepan

How to Make Cranberry Sauce

You’ll need the following ingredients to make this recipe:

  • cranberries
  • water
  • sugar
  • salt
  • fresh lemon juice

Fresh or frozen cranberries may be used to make cranberry sauce. I typically toss the fresh cranberries in the freezer when I get home from the store

strain the cranberry sauce for a smooth result

Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

When the cranberries start to pop, the sauce is done. Cool completely and then place in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Most of the time, I prefer a smooth sauce, so I often press the cooked mixture through a strainer while it is still warm. It’s easy enough to do and if you’re a house divided, you can strain just half of the sauce.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce on wooden table with floral napkin

How Long Does Homemade Cranberry Sauce Last?

Cranberry sauce can be made a week in advance and then stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator until it is needed. Homemade cranberry sauce will last 10-14 days in the refrigerator.

I typically make our cranberry sauce the week before Thanksgiving. The convenience and ease of prepping side dishes in advance of Thanksgiving Day can’t be overstated.

Can You Freeze Cranberry Sauce?

Yes, you can! Homemade cranberry sauce can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator and stir it before serving.

Want a stress-free Thanksgiving dinner? Find out what you can make-ahead and follow the timeline to get it all done on time!

Are you a list maker? Do you love having a plan for everything and then checking things off? If so, this post is for you.

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cranberry sauce in saucepan

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

5 from 3 votes
This tangy, sweet homemade cranberry sauce trumps anything you can buy at the store.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 12 servings (about 3 cups worth)


  • 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice about half a lemon's worth


  • Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes.
  • When the cranberries start to pop, the sauce is done. Cool completely and then place in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • For a smooth sauce, place a mesh strainer over a large bowl and press the hot cooked sauce through it. Use the back of a wooden spoon or a large spatula to do this. Scrape the underside of the strainer as you do this, there will be a lot of sauce there too.


Calories: 77kcal · Carbohydrates: 20g · Protein: 0.1g · Fat: 0.1g · Saturated Fat: 0.003g · Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.02g · Monounsaturated Fat: 0.01g · Sodium: 50mg · Potassium: 24mg · Fiber: 1g · Sugar: 18g · Vitamin A: 17IU · Vitamin C: 4mg · Calcium: 3mg · Iron: 0.1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @barefeetkitchen or tag #barefeetkitchen!

{originally published 11/18/11 – recipe notes and photos updated 11/22/23}

bright red cranberry sauce in white bowl with silver spoon

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Mary Younkin

Mary Younkin

Hi, I’m Mary. I’m the author, cook, photographer, and travel lover behind the scenes here at Barefeet In The Kitchen. I'm also the author of three cookbooks dedicated to making cooking from scratch as simple as possible.

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  1. Oklahomama says

    I use the juice of an orange instead of a lemon, for one of my varieties on Thanksgiving, when I make traditional and two other variations for my "Cranberry Trio". I serve them in a divided shallow dish or platter – the family and friends love them. Typically I make traditional, orange, and apple/pecan (with fairly fine chopped pecans!) Doesn't sound nearly as yummy as it is, or as the empty dish says!

  2. Marilyn says

    I replace the water with half juice and half white wine…. comes out yummy! I've added some frozen strawberries and fresh apples to it also…. sometimes add cinnamon…. mine is never exactly the same, but I never used straight water.

  3. Anonymous says

    Have made it this way for years but do not put lemon juice in mine… The DIRECTIONS are on the cranberry bag folks!!!!!

  4. Kara says

    I made your homemade cranberry sauce and all I can say is that I will not be buying cranberry sauce in a can. My family and I enjoyed your recipe. Fresh Cranberry Sauce Forever!! Thank you

  5. Dawn says

    Zest an orange, substitute fresh orange juice for the water, add the zest after cooked. I also add diced Granny Smith apple, unpeeled with the zest off heat.

    • Stephanie Connors says

      Peggy, that was a different recipe of Mary’s
      1 small habanero pepper or 1 cayenne pepper seeded and finely minced
      12 ounces fresh cranberries rinsed
      ▢1 cup sugar
      ▢1 cup water
      ▢1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
      ▢pinch of salt
      combine all in saucepan and bring to a boil for 10 min. when the berries start to pop, they’re done.

  6. Jan says

    I have been looking for a. recipe like this one and I am so happy that I found it.
    You have so many great recipes and I can’t wait to try them .5 stars

  7. Norma Curran says

    I’ve been making this for years. I stock up on berries ,during the holidays, to use year around. I usually have some sauce in the fridge ! I enjoy freshly grated ginger in mine.5 stars

  8. Kasey says

    An award winning chef in northern Wisconsin shared his secret recipe for Cranberry Sauce. It is Cranberries, water, a little honey. Cook down a bit. After off the heat, add a splash of Creme de Cassis, which is black current liquor. It elevated the sauce to a level you won’t believe. Also the honey gives it more dimension than just cane sugar.