Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce is like Christmas without a tree. In this article, I share my delicious Thanksgiving cranberry sauce recipe, which I hope will make your gluten-free holidays a little more bright. This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosures.
I don’t know how cranberries forged their place in American history as a must-serve Thanksgiving side dish, and who am I to argue with this tradition? Cranberry sauce tastes delicious and enhances the Thanksgiving meal. It’s as simple as that.
Growing up, I ate jellied cranberry sauce from a can because that’s what my parents served as the holiday cranberry sauce.
I remember a congealed cylinder of cranberry sauce mixed with high fructose corn syrup would slither out of the can, and my dad would slice it like a yule log.
To this day, my parents bring their own can of cranberry sauce to the Thanksgiving meal, even though I make this delicious homemade cranberry sauce every year. It’s hard to break with tradition; my parents like what they like.
My homemade gluten-free cranberry sauce recipe is infused with more than just cranberries and sugar. It contains apples, lemon and orange zest, fresh orange juice, and cinnamon. This sauce feels and smells like Thanksgiving.
How to Make Homemade Cranberry Sauce
This is one of the most straightforward homemade Thanksgiving cranberry sauce recipes you’ll ever make. All you have to do is add the following ingredients to a large pot:
- Diced apples
- Lemon zest
- Orange zest
- Freshly squeezed orange juice
- Cinnamon sticks
Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the temperature to a simmer (rolling boil) and stir, stir, stir until the cranberries and apples have softened and the flavors have fused.
Once the cranberries start popping like crazy and the mixture looks like the consistency of homemade cranberry sauce, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool at room temperature. Simple, right?
It’s Cranberry Sauce Time!
This homemade cranberry sauce hits all the right notes. The tart cranberries are sweetened with natural sugar and sweet apples. The orange zest and juice, along with the lemon zest, give it a citrusy zing. And the cinnamon adds a wonderful smell and spicy taste.
Cranberry sauce is the ultimate make-ahead dish. You can prepare it 1-2 days before your Thanksgiving meal, and it’ll taste great, maybe even better, as the flavors meld together.
Double the recipe to feed a crowd, although most guests only take a small scoop. A little goes a long way in a meal full of turkey and tasty Thanksgiving side dishes.
Fresh vs. Frozen Cranberries: If you’re making this recipe for Thanksgiving or Christmas, you can easily find fresh cranberries at the grocery store. I highly recommend using fresh cranberries when possible. If you can’t find fresh cranberries, you can alternatively use frozen cranberries. Defrost and drain frozen cranberries before cooking as instructed in the recipe card below.
Add-Ins: Feel free to add other spices and textures to your cranberry sauce. I sometimes add ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamon to my cranberry sauce. I’ve also been known to add dried crystallized ginger pieces to my sauce. Check out my Warm Brie Cheese and Spiced Cranberry Compote Appetizer for a spicy cranberry sauce recipe.
Apples: I use Honeycrisp, Red Delicious, or Fuji apples. I recommend using sweet apples because the cranberries are already quite tart.
Don’t Have a Cinnamon Stick? Add 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon instead.
More Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Recipes
Try these delicious tried-and-true gluten-free recipes, all of which are perfect for Thanksgiving dinner and dessert:
- Pull Apart Gluten-Free Dinner Rolls (such a great addition to any Thanksgiving meal)
- Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping
- Easy Gluten-Free Pie Crust Recipe (3 Ingredients!)
- Festive Cranberry Jalapeno Dip (Salsa)
- The BEST Gluten-Free Apple Pie Recipe (what would Thanksgiving be without apple pie?)
- Amazing Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie Recipe (super tasty – a must!)
- Easy Gluten-Free Stuffing for Thanksgiving – Savory Recipe
- Baked Brie with Walnuts, Pomegranates, and Honey (great Thanksgiving appetizer!)
- Gluten-Free Gravy Mixes – Tested for Hidden Gluten
Are you struggling with your gluten-free diet this holiday season? Enroll in my Gluten-Free Holiday Survival Mini-Course to learn how to navigate the holidays with ease and without compromising your diet or health.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce (Naturally Gluten-Free)
- 1 large pot
- 16 ounces fresh cranberries washed – frozen okay but fresh preferred
- 2 diced apples peeled and cored
- 1 cup orange juice freshly squeezed
- 1 tbsp zest of orange equals zest of 1 lemon (approximate)
- 1 tbsp zest of lemon equals zest of 1 orange (approximate)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1-2 cinnamon sticks
- Add all ingredients into a large saucepan, then bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer. Stir the mixture often until the sugar dissolves, the cranberry skins begin popping, and the liquid cooks down.
- Remove the cranberry sauce from the heat and cool at room temperature. The cranberry sauce will set as it cools. Remove the cinnamon stick(s).
- Store the cooled cranberry sauce in an airtight sealed container In your fridge until serving. You can enjoy the sauce cold or even slightly warm.