Make Ahead Cranberry Sauce

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Looking for a fun and easy way to jazz up your holiday table? This zesty cranberry sauce is the perfect solution! It’s simple to make and bursting with delicious flavor. Plus, it’s the perfect addition to any cocktail party. So why not give it a try? Your guests will love it!

Also, 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!

PS – are you thinking of putting this on your Thanksgiving menu? Check out the full What’s Gaby Cooking menu here along with the master prep schedule to keep things organized and on track!
And if you need more Thanksgiving Ideas check out this roundup of 80+ Thanksgiving Recipes and Ideas

Zesty Cranberry Sauce

5 from 7 votes
Prep Time 2 mins
Cook Time 7 mins
Total Time 9 mins
Course Side Dish, sauce
Cuisine American
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 / Recipe by What’s Gaby Cooking


  1. 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!

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

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

    1. 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!

  2. 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

    1. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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!

  5. 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?

  6. This is so good! I don’t know why I would buy canned stuff! I have never been a fan of cranberry sauce so I just buy the canned stuff and then this yeah I decided to make this (early so i can check one thing off my box) and it’s beyond good. Sweet, citrusy, perfect.

  7. 5 stars
    All I can say is yum yum yum!! How can you eat the canned stuff after trying this. Sooo easy and so good. I used the dark brown sugar and I love it. Gabby to the rescue (again)!!!

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