Make Ahead Cranberry Sauce


Total Time:

9 minutes



Did you know cranberry sauce can be made days ahead of time!? So make it this weekend and it’s one less thing to worry about come Thanksgiving day!

Make Ahead Cranberry Sauce from (@whatsgabycookin)

Here’s the deal, I love taking a shortcut from the store but I draw the line at cranberry sauce. It’s embarrassingly easy to make. So let’s get it out of the way this weekend and then keep it refrigerated until the big day on Thursday. According to Thomas, cranberry is the most important part of the side dish game on Thanksgiving. (I’m partial to gravy) but hey, to each their own! This recipe is literally 5 ingredients and takes almost no time to whip up. Some key things to keep in mind…

What does cranberry sauce go with?

Depends who you ask but for our family, it’s mostly eaten on Thanksgiving with the Turkey!

Can cranberry sauce be frozen?

Sure can! I’ve stored it for a few months in the freezer no problem.

Do you heat up cranberry sauce?

I don’t heat it up before serving, but if it has been previously frozen, I will completely thaw it out and let it come to room temperature. Same thing if you made it and refrigerated it for a few days… let it come to room temperature before serving.

How long does cranberry sauce keep?

10-14 days in the fridge! Months in the freezer

How far in advance can cranberry sauce be made?

I make it about a week before. This weekend leading up to Thanksgiving is a great time to prep the cranberry sauce. It’ll only take you a few minutes and it’s one less thing to worry about day of!

Zesty Cranberry Sauce

5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 2 mins
Cook Time 7 mins
Total Time 9 mins
Servings 8 people


  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg


  • In a large pot combine the equal parts water and sugar and bring to a boil until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Add the fresh cranberries, turn heat to medium low, and let simmer until the cranberries start to gently pop, about 10-15 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and add the orange zest and nutmeg. Transfer to a serving bowl and let cool. The cranberry sauce will thicken as it continues to cool.

Photo by Matt Armendariz / Food Styling by Adam Pearson / Prop Styling by Stephanie Hanes // Recipe by What’s Gaby Cooking

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Recipe Rating


  1. monika

    This looks so beautiful. I think I could just dip a spoon in there and it it plain!

  2. marla

    I just love fresh cranberry sauce & could eat it all year long. Love the idea of adding it to muffin batter 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving! xo

  3. Kristen

    I’ve never been a huge fan of cranberry sauce, but I think I just haven’t had the right cranberry sauce. Looks delicious!

  4. The Italian Dish

    They are so lucky to have you cooking for Thanksgiving, Gaby! It all sounds great.

  5. Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking

    Wow, what a sauce! Unfortunately, I was a kid who loved the canned junk, but I’m starting to “class up” my taste for cranberry sauce as an adult, haha! This looks beautiful and full of flavor, Gaby. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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  7. LimeCake

    That sauce looks so jammy and delicious! Think I wouldn’t mind slathering some of that on toast. Yum!

  8. Kristan

    Gaby – could this recipe be made a day or two ahead of time or would you recommend making it the day of? Thanks!!

    • Gaby

      you can totally make it ahead of time and take it out the day of Thanksgiving! That’s what I always do 🙂

    • Kristan

      Perfect, thank you! Just trying to plan way ahead 🙂

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  10. Michelle Quiroz

    Made the zesty cranberry sauce today and it was such a hit! LOVE IT.

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  12. PJ

    Looks delish.. very stupid question probably.. by 4 cups, you mean 12 oz/340g? thanks!

    • Gaby

      A 12-oz bag of cranberries is approximately 2 1/2 cups of cranberries! So a little more than 1 bag

  13. Nicole

    Should this sauce be thick? I’ve had it in the fridge for 24 hours and it didn’t thicken up that much.

    • Gaby

      ya it should be thick – you could cook it down for 15-20 minutes to thicken it up if needed and then pop it back in the fridge!

  14. Sally

    Thanks for this great make ahead recipe! I just finished mine today and excited to serve on Thanksgiving.

  15. Brandice Buda

    I could swear you changed this to brown sugar, didn’t you use to use white sugar?

    • Gaby

      yes! either works but I tested it with brown and like the flavor better

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  17. Monika

    5 stars
    What a great idea. This will take some of the pressure off of the kitchen on Thursday.

  18. Sharon

    How do you make a good turkey gravy without the dripping. I’m doing Thanksgiving but someone else is bringing the turkey so I have no drippings

    • Gaby

      Do you have access to a deli that has schmaltz? If so, I’d use that and follow my recipe with the schmaltz rather than the drippings

  19. Kim Hawes

    Delicious! I had to adjust the ingredients to allow the use of orange marmalade instead of orange zest and 1/4 cup of brown sugar (it’s what I had on hand) but do t think it changed the outcome. Nicely sweet with a little tart, perfect! Thanks Gaby

  20. Debbie Schiavone

    I add a cut up Granny Smith apple to the cranberries while they’re cooking. So good!!!

  21. Jen

    5 stars
    Just made this last night and it IS Sooo easy and sooo good! I made an amazing grilled cheese last night with it and can’t wait to have it with everything else for the feast today!

  22. Katherine

    The sauce turned out beautifully. It’s a bit on the sweet side for me. I like a more tart taste. Do you think I could I reduce the amount of brown sugar by 1/4 cup and still get same texture and thickness?

  23. Yvonne Shorb

    5 stars
    I made this today and LOVE it. I added a diced apple and a diced orange. Delicious!