Slow Cooker Cranberry Sauce

5 from 1 vote
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This slow-cooker cranberry sauce is an easy, hands-off method. Fresh cranberries gently simmer with orange juice and cinnamon for citrus and spice-infused flavor. A delicious addition to your holiday feast!

This sauce is perfect for serving with other Thanksgiving staples like roast turkey, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole.

Slow cooker cranberry sauce served in a white bowl.

Have you ever tried to make a fresh cranberry sauce in a Crock-Pot? It’s a stress-free, minimal-effort way to prepare the sweet and tart condiment. Add the cranberries, juice, and seasonings in just one pot to enhance the flavor. Then, just set it and forget it! Serve it warm, or make it several days in advance. It’s a great option to save you space on the stovetop for other delicious holiday dishes.

I’ve adapted my orange cranberry sauce recipe to the slow cooker. You can easily customize the flavors to your liking! As the sauce cooks and reduces, the berries pop, thickening the consistency. The citrus and cinnamon make the house smell incredible throughout the day!

Cranberry selection

Fresh or frozen healthy cranberries can be used. If frozen, it will take more time to defrost and cook in the Crock-pot. Around mid-October, you can find 12 ounces bags at the grocery store. This size yields about 1 ½ cups of sauce. Rinse the whole cranberries well to remove any dirt and debris from harvesting. If you see any bruised or mashed fruit, discard them.

Flavor the sauce

You can use water as the liquid component of the sauce. However, I like to add orange juice for sweet and tangy notes. Adding some fresh lemon zest punches up the aroma and infuses the orange oil into the sauce.

To sweeten the mouth-puckering berries, I use pure maple syrup. It adds a hint of caramel, providing more depth. Honey or brown sugar are great substitutes. Add granulated sugar for a more pure sugar taste—Cook the sauce with cinnamon sticks and vanilla extract to add warm baked flavors.

A cinnamon stick submerged in a slow cooker with cranberries and orange juice.
Step 2. Submerge the cinnamon stick

How to make cranberry sauce in a slow cooker

I use a 6-quart Crockpot to make the sauce. It’s relatively large, making it easy to scale up the recipe. You can use a smaller size, down to a 3-quart slow cooker. Add the cranberries, maple syrup, orange juice, zest, and cinnamon stick to the slow cooker. Cook on high setting for 3 to 4 hours or low setting for 7 to 8 hours.

The sauce will look thinner than cooking on the stovetop but thickens as it cools. The long cook time creates a more concentrated cooked berry flavor, similar to dried cranberries, with hints of caramel. The color will also be more Burgandy in tone.

Front view of a crock pot with the lid on.
Step 3. Cover and cook

Make ahead

If you want to make a batch of crockpot cranberry sauce in advance, you can make it up to 1 week ahead of time. Let it cool down, then transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate. Alternatively, freeze in a resealable plastic bag for up to 3 months, and defrost the day before serving.

Serve this with

Frequently asked questions

How do you get the bitterness out of cranberry sauce?

Add more sweeteners like white sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey. The cranberry sauce needs to be warm to dissolve the sugar crystals if granulated. Start with 1 teaspoon at a time until the bitterness is not as strong.

Does cranberry sauce need a thickener?

No, the pectin released from the whole cranberries will combine with the sugar and acids, thickening the consistency of the sauce. As the sauce cools, the pectin will create a thicker gel, making it thicker. If the sauce appears watery, cook longer to evaporate some of the moisture.

How can you flavor homemade cranberry sauce?

For the liquid, use orange juice, apple juice, or cider for fruitier notes. Add minced ginger and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ground, or whole spices. Vanilla bean or vanilla extract for depth. Liquor like rum, brandy, bourbon, or Grand Marnier. Make it spicy with jalapeno peppers.

Cranberry sauce that was made in a slow cooker.
Step 5. Serve the sauce warm

Recipe Science

How do you make slow cooker cranberry sauce thicker?

The sauce will look juicier than stovetop recipes because the steam is trapped inside the cooking vessel. This prevents as much moisture from quickly evaporating. Stir, cover, and cook on high for 30 to 60 minutes more. This will help further concentrate the sauce. It will firm up and thicken as it cools down or is refrigerated.

Slow Cooker Cranberry Sauce

For this Thanksgiving, if you're out of room on the stovetop, try making slow cooker cranberry sauce with citrus and spice-infused flavor.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time4 hours
Total Time4 hours 10 minutes
Servings 24 servings
Course Condiment
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

  • 12 ounces cranberries, washed
  • ½ cup maple syrup, or honey
  • ½ cup orange juice, or water
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest, optional
  • 1 cinnamon stick, optional
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, optional

Instructions 

  • Add Ingredients – In a 6-quart slow cooker add the cranberries, maple syrup, orange juice, and zest. Stir to combine.
  • Add the Cinnamon – Submerge the cinnamon stick in the cranberry mixture
  • Slow Cook Cover and cook on high setting for 3 to 4 hours or low setting for 7 to 8 hours. The sauce is ready when the cranberries have popped, and the sauce thickens to a loose jam consistency. Stir and cook longer if needed.
  • Season – Remove the cinnamon stick. Stir in the vanilla. Taste the sauce and add more sweetener if desired. The sauce will thicken more as it cools.
  • To Serve – Serve the sauce warm, or transfer it to a serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately.

Equipment

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: About 1 ½ cups
  • Serving Size: 1 tablespoon
  • Storing: Cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Freeze for up to 3 months; defrost before use. 
  • Sweetener: Granulated sugar or brown sugar can be used.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 24 servings
Calories 28kcal (1%)Carbohydrates 7g (2%)Protein 0.1gFat 0.03gSaturated Fat 0.003gPolyunsaturated Fat 0.01gMonounsaturated Fat 0.005gSodium 1mgPotassium 38mg (1%)Fiber 1g (4%)Sugar 5g (6%)Vitamin A 20IUVitamin C 5mg (6%)Calcium 11mg (1%)Iron 0.1mg (1%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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