Learn how to make the best homemade, thick and luscious whole berry cranberry sauce with this quick and easy recipe! This simple spiced cranberry sauce is sweetened with maple syrup and flavored with fresh orange juice and whole spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and star anise.
I’ve been making this easy cranberry sauce recipe for years and it is always a favorite at Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a must-have delicious side dish for every holiday meal!
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The Best Cranberry Sauce with Maple Syrup and Spices
Fresh cranberry sauce is incredibly easy to make with just a few ingredients and is ready in under 30 minutes. Imho it’s so much better than the canned stuff and worth the extra bit of effort to make it from scratch. What makes this recipe so delicious is the combination of tart whole cranberries, orange zest and orange juice, real maple syrup and warming spices. Sometimes called cranberry chutney or cranberry compote, this whole berry sauce is perfect sweet and tart condiment for fall and winter meals. It pairs wonderfully with poultry and meats and all the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner sides.
Maple syrup and spices really set this whole cranberry sauce recipe apart from the rest. While you can use any sweetener for this, I highly recommend going with real maple syrup. It adds as depth of flavor to the sauce and pairs really well with the whole fall spices. I like to use whole spices to impart their flavor but not overpower the fresh cranberries and orange flavor. The combination of cinnamon sticks, star anise, nutmeg and vanilla really takes this cranberry sauce to new heights. As a bonus, a wonderful aroma will fill your home as the sauce is bubbling on the stove.
Cranberries – Use whole berries for this recipe. You can use fresh cranberries or frozen cranberries. Because cranberries don’t contain a lot of natural sugar they will naturally thicken into a jammy consistency when cooked. There is no need to add any thickeners like pectin, in fact you may need to loosen the sauce by adding more orange juice or a splash of water as it cooks.
Maple syrup – I suggest dark amber maple syrup (formerly called grade B) for the best maple flavor. This recipe is on the tart side as that is how i like it, but you can adjust the level of sweetness to your liking, just taste he sauce as it cooks and add more maple syrup to make it sweeter. Substitutions: You can substitute maple syrup with any sweetener of your choice. Other refined-sugar-free options are honey or whole cane sugar. You can also you granulated sugar or brown sugar which are readily available at grocery stores.
Whole orange – I like to add the juice from 1 whole orange and then add the squeezed orange rinds to the sauce to impart even more flavor from the orange zest. Simply remove the orange rinds when the sauce is done cooking. Feel free to use store bought orange juice if you prefer. Substitutions: Try adding a peeled and chopped apple, apple sauce or raspberries to the sauce for different versions of this recipe.
Whole Spices – Adding warming fall spices is a great way to impart so much flavor and a wonderful aroma to the sauce. I love the combination of cinnamon stick, star anise, vanilla bean and nutmeg. These spices add a festive flavor that is perfect for this time of year. Feel free to leave out the spices entirely or add other spices that you may like. Substitutions: Use ground spices instead of whole spices, but I suggest using just a pinch of each, since ground spices can impart a stronger flavor. Try adding allspice, cardamom, or clove for other holiday flavors.
Kosher salt – This is optional but add a pinch of salt to bring out all of the flavors and sweetness of the cranberry sauce.
How to Make Easy Cranberry Sauce from Scratch
Step 1: Add ingredients to pan
If using fresh berries, first rinse them off. Add the cranberries, orange juice and orange rinds, maple syrup and spices to a medium saucepan. If you are using vanilla extract, wait to add it until the sauce is finished cooking so the flavor doesn’t cook out.
Step 2: Cook the sauce
Cook the sauce over medium heat and when the cranberries pop reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir it occasionally to make sure the sauce doesn’t start to burn on the bottom of the pan. Let the sauce cook until your desired thickness is reached. Remember the sauce will continue to set and thicken as it cools later on. Taste the sauce as it cooks and adjust the level of sweetness to your liking.
Step 3: Cool and refrigerate
Cool the whole berry cranberry sauce to room temperature and remove the orange rinds and whole spices. make sure to scrape out the vanilla bean seeds is using a whole vanilla bean. Refrigerate the maple spiced cranberry sauce in an airtight container until you are ready to use it.
Homemade spiced cranberry sauce will keep for up to 2 weeks refrigerated in an airtight container. This is a great recipe to make ahead and have ready for Thanksgiving day so you have one less thing to worry about. For longer storage freeze the cranberry sauce in freezer-safe containers for up to 6 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.
To preserve cranberry sauce for shelf stable storage fill sterilized jars with the hot cranberry sauce, cover them with sterilized lids and secure the lids with ring seals. Process the jars in a hot water canning bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars from the canning bath and let them cool overnight then remove the ring seals and store them for up 12 months at room temperature in a cool dark cabinet or pantry.
Smooth Cranberry Sauce: To make a smooth sauce, puree the cooked sauce in a blender after you’ve removed the orange rinds and spices then strain it through a fine mesh sieve to remove the cranberry seeds and skins.
Apple Cranberry Chutney: Add 2 cups of peeled, cored and chopped apples to the recipe and adjust the amount of sweetener to taste.
Cranberry Raspberry Sauce: Add 2 cups of fresh pr frozen raspberries to the recipe and adjust the amount of sweetener to taste.
What to Serve with Cranberry Sauce
Spiced maple cranberry sauce is the perfect complement to Thanksgiving turkey and all of the sides. It pairs well with both savory and sweet dishes and is the perfect addition to every holiday dinner. It is a must on Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches too.
This sauce is wonderful as a jam or preserve on it own. I love it on buttered toast, over granola and yogurt, overnight oats or with pancakes for breakfast. Spoon it over ice cream for a delicious dessert.
If you have a lot of leftover cranberry sauce add it to corn muffins or fold it into scones with almonds to give it new life.
Nantucket Cranberry Festival
A couple of week’s ago the island celebrated its cranberry harvest with the annual Nantucket Cranberry Festival. We try to make it every year and the weather is usually always stellar for the festival. This year did not disappoint with beautiful blue skies and light mild breeze. The barn swallows were flying like crazy over the flooded bogs. It was such a lovely day and seemed like the whole island came out for it.
Iley was taken with the antique cranberry sorter, which sorts out the best berries by how high they bounce. The higher the bounce the better, because cranberries are hollow inside and filled with air. This is also why they float in water. To harvest cranberries the farmers flood the bogs with water, then pick the berries off the plants with a machine harvester that moves in the water (see the photos below), and the berries float to the top. So cool!
Yes, to freeze cranberry sauce for longer storage, transfer the cooled sauce to airtight and freezer-safe containers, label them with the date and freeze them for up to 6 months. Thaw the sauce in the fridge before using it. Once thawed, the sauce should last up to two weeks it the refrigerator.
Make fresh cranberry sauce up to 1-2 weeks in advance of using it and refrigerate it in an airtight container.
Homemade cranberry sauce will last up to two weeks in the fridge if stored properly in a clean airtight container.
Cranberry sauce will continue to thicken as it cooks so keep cooking it at a simmer until the thickness is just right for you. Remember that whole berry cranberry sauce will continue to thicken and set as it cools.
To can cranberry sauce for shelf stable storage fill sterilized jars with the hot cranberry sauce, cover them with sterilized lids and secure the lids with ring seals. Process the jars in a hot water canning bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars from the canning bath and let them cool overnight then remove the ring seals and store them for up 12 months at room temperature in a cool dark cabinet or pantry.
This recipe shouldn’t be bitter. To make it sweeter simply add more sweetener to your taste. The maple syrup, orange juice and vanilla balance out the tartness fo the cranberries.
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Maple Spiced Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce Recipe
- 4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1-1/2 cups maple syrup or more to taste
- 1 whole orange or 2 mandarins
- 2 whole cinnamon sticks or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 whole star anise pod or 1/4 teaspoon ground star anise or allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
- 1 whole vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt optional
- Rinse cranberries if fresh and add them to a saucepan. Cut orange in half and squeeze juice in to saucepan, catching any seeds. Add the squeezed orange halves to the pan as well.
- Add everything else to pan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes until a thick jammy consistency is reached. If using vanilla extract, wait to add it after the sauce is finished cooking.
- Remove from heat and remove orange halves and whole spices.
- Pour cranberry sauce into a clean glass jar and let it cool to room temp. Then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Cranberry sauce will keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
- If the sauce seems too thick add a bit of water or more orange juice to thin it out as it simmers.
- To thicken the sauce continue simmering it until the desired thickness is reached. Cranberry sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.
- For longer storage freeze the cranberry sauce in freezer-safe containers for up to 6 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.
- To preserve cranberry sauce for shelf stable storage fill sterilized jars with the hot cranberry sauce, cover them with sterilized lids and secure the lids with ring seals. Process the jars in a hot water canning bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars from the canning bath and let them cool overnight then remove the ring seals and store them for up 12 months at room temperature in a cool dark cabinet or pantry.