Easy cranberry sauce made from fresh or frozen cranberries, mandarin oranges, and walnuts. Essential for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner!
This easy cranberry sauce is made from fresh or frozen cranberries, mandarin oranges, and walnuts. This recipe is ridiculously easy, ready in 20 minutes, and essential for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner!
Delicious, sweet, and tangy with a burst of citrusy flavor. Did I mention it’s gorgeous?
Why is cranberry sauce a holiday staple?
No meal is complete with a sauce or dip, and the holidays are no exception! The traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are rich and heavy. Delicious? Yes!
But all those decadent foods need something acidic, fresh, and tart to balance them out.
Traditional cranberry sauce can be as simple as cranberries, sugar, and water. Adding mandarin oranges and walnuts takes this cranberry sauce to the next level. It’s sophisticated enough for a holiday without being overly complicated.
It’s tangy, sweet, and bursting with cranberry and citrus flavors. Add in the fact that it’s ridiculously easy to make, and it’s easy to see why cranberry sauce became a holiday staple!
This whole berry cranberry sauce is a big step up from the stuff that comes from a can!
I love that cranberry sauce is also gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan, which makes it a winner for just about everyone at your holiday table!
Fresh or frozen cranberries start out as hard, bitter, and sour berries. Cook them down into a compote and use sugar, sweet oranges, and heat to coax them into a soft, complex, tart, and sweet jam.
Sugar adds sweetness to balance the bitter and sour taste of the cranberries. It’s a must to transform them into the beloved sauce.
Fresh squeezed mandarin orange juice and zest. Any fresh mandarin-type oranges are perfect for this recipe. They are sweet, juicy, and have delicate, not-too-bitter peels. Use clementines, tangerines, or satsuma. I love clementines because we usually have a bag of cuties on the counter for snacking!
Toasted walnuts are stirred in to add a nutty flavor and light crunch to the sauce.
Substitutions & Variations
Looking for ways to customize your cranberry sauce?
- Use navel oranges instead of mandarin oranges.
- Omit the oranges and walnuts and replace the orange juice with ½ cup of water.
- Make it nut-free by leaving out the walnuts.
- Add a splash of Grand Marnier in the beginning with the orange juice.
- Add a cinnamon stick with the cranberries and leave it in the mixture while it cooks. Remove the cinnamon stick before serving.
How to make cranberry sauce with mandarin oranges and walnuts
1. First lightly toast the walnuts. I like using my handy dandy 12-inch cast iron skillet for jobs like this.
2. Add the cranberries, orange juice and zest, and sugar to a saucier or a small pot.
3. Bring the mixture to a boil and keep cooking until all the berries pop and it thickens into a jam.
4. Remove it from the heat and stir in the walnuts.
5. Let it cool and then serve. You can make it ahead and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use!
How to serve whole berry cranberry sauce
- Serve it with turkey or ham at Christmas and Thanksgiving.
- Use it as a dip for ham delights (ham and cheese sliders).
- Use it as a crostini topping. These cranberry & cream cheese crostini are soooo good!
- Make Turkey and Cranberry Sliders.
- Make Cranberry Sauce Meatballs.
- Try it for breakfast in place of your favorite jams or jellies.
- Make cranberry cream cheese dip.
- Use it as a topping for baked brie for a fancy holiday appetizer.
How to impress your guests with cranberry orange sauce
- Start with a great recipe! This beautiful cranberry sauce speaks for itself!
- Choose a beautiful yet simple serving dish that doesn’t distract from the bright red sauce. I like using a pale blue stoneware dish because it complements the red sauce.
- Add a beautiful garnish to finish the dish. I like using a citrus zester with a channel knife tool to create little curls or ribbons of orange zest. They look beautiful sprinkled on top of the cranberry sauce.
Frequently asked questions about cranberry sauce
Yes. Cranberry sauce freezes well. You can freeze it in freezer bags or in freezer-safe jelly jars with a tight lid. Freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw: allow to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Stir it before serving.
Store homemade cranberry sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week. A pint-sized jar works great.
Fresh mandarin oranges are sweet, juicy, and have tender, not too bitter peels. They add a citrusy flavor, a bit of sweetness, and a pleasing aroma to the cranberry sauce.
No. This recipe needs the juice and zest of fresh oranges.
Yes, you can make a large batch of cranberry sauce. I have included a 2x and 3x button in the recipe card to easily double or triple the recipe. This comes in handy for feeding a big crowd. You can also make a large batch at Thanksgiving and freeze half of it for Christmas dinner!
Grocery stores carry bags of fresh cranberries in the produce section. They will be stocked around Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you can’t find fresh cranberries, check the frozen fruit aisle. There will usually be bags of whole frozen cranberries there year-round. Frozen cranberries work fine.