With its minimal prep time and delectable taste, this slow cooker cranberry sauce will become a staple at your holiday table.
As the holidays approach, the search for the perfect side dish to complement your festive feast is on. Slow cooker cranberry sauce is a delightfully sweet and tangy condiment that is not only easy to prepare but also brimming with the comforting flavors of cinnamon, vanilla, and orange. Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any holiday in between, this homemade cranberry sauce will become a staple at your holiday table, with its minimal prep time and delectable taste.
❤️ Why You Will Love This Recipe
- Effortless Preparation: Just combine the ingredients in your slow cooker and let it do the magic.
- Rich in Flavor: The mix of vanilla, cinnamon, and orange juice creates a depth of flavors that store-bought sauce can’t match.
- Perfect for the Holidays: This sauce is a quintessential addition to your holiday meal, adding that homemade touch.
- Versatility: It pairs wonderfully with classic Thanksgiving main dishes, but you can also use it to enhance sandwiches, desserts, and more.
- Adjustable Sweetness: With options for brown sugar or coconut sugar, you can tailor the sweetness to your liking.
- Nutritious: Cranberries are rich in vitamin C and fiber, adding a nutritional boost to your dish.
- Aromatic: The cinnamon stick and orange zest fill your home with a warm, inviting scent.
- Make-Ahead Magic: This sauce can be prepared in advance, saving you time on the big day.
- Natural Thickening: No need to worry about the sauce being too runny; the natural pectin in cranberries will give it the perfect consistency as it cools.
🗒️ Ingredients and Substitutes
Whole Cranberries: The stars of the show, whole cranberries, fresh or frozen, bring the classic tartness and rich color to your sauce. They also contain natural pectin, which helps thicken the sauce as it cools.
Orange Juice: Adding a layer of citrusy sweetness, orange juice complements the tart cranberries and helps to break them down into a sauce. It’s best to use freshly squeezed juice for the brightest flavor.
Granulated Sugar: Whether you choose simple white sugar, brown sugar for its deep molasses flavor, or coconut sugar for a more caramel-like sweetness, this ingredient is key for balancing the tartness of the cranberries.
Vanilla Extract: A dash of vanilla extract adds a warm, complex flavor that makes the sauce taste even more homemade.
Cinnamon Stick: A whole cinnamon stick infuses the sauce with its unmistakable warm and spicy aroma. Plus, it’s easy to remove once the sauce is done.
Orange Zest: This optional garnish not only adds a pop of color but also an extra zing of fresh citrus flavor to brighten up the sauce.
🥣 How to Make Cranberry Sauce in a Crock Pot
- Place the cranberries into the slow cooker, ensuring they are evenly spread out. Pour the orange juice over the cranberries, giving them a lovely citrus base to cook into, and then sprinkle your chosen sugar evenly across the cranberries. Add a splash of vanilla extract, and finally, nestle the cinnamon stick among the cranberries. As the sauce cooks, the cinnamon will infuse it with a festive spice.
- Secure the lid on your slow cooker and set it to high heat for 4 hours or low heat for 6 hours. This long, gentle cook allows all the flavors to meld together beautifully.
- Once the time is up, take a moment to enjoy the aromatic holiday scents filling your kitchen! Then, gently mash the cranberries with a wooden spoon or spatula to your desired consistency.
- Allow the sauce to cool with the lid off, which will enable it to thicken to that classic cranberry sauce texture.
- Spoon it out to serve as is, or garnish with a sprinkle of orange zest for an extra burst of citrus.
🍽️ How to Serve Cranberry Sauce
The Traditional Thanksgiving Companion
Of course, no Thanksgiving or Christmas would be complete without a spoonful of cranberry sauce. The acidity and sweetness cut through the richness of the main dish, balancing each bite. My Vegan Meatloaf is a great option for a vegetarian main!
A Sweet Addition to Leftovers
A dollop of cranberry sauce can transform a day-after Thanksgiving sandwich from a simple leftover into a gourmet experience. The sauce adds moisture and a burst of flavor that makes for a delightful lunch.
Dessert and Breakfast Transformations
Don’t limit cranberry sauce to the main course. Swirl it into yogurt or oatmeal for a festive breakfast. For dessert, use it as a topping for cheesecake or vanilla ice cream, or even layer it in a parfait.
🥡 How to Store Slow Cooker Cranberry Sauce
Once your leftover cranberry sauce has cooled to room temperature, transfer it to an airtight container. It’ll keep in the fridge for up to 10-14 days. The flavors will actually deepen and meld together even more over the first few days, so don’t be surprised if it tastes even better the next day!
For longer storage, cranberry sauce freezes beautifully. Spoon it into a freezer-safe airtight container or a zip-top bag with as much air removed as possible. It can be frozen for up to 2 months. When you’re ready to use it, defrost it in the fridge overnight.
If you prefer your cranberry sauce warm, it’s simple to reheat. Just place the desired amount in a saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s gently warmed through. If it seems too thick once reheated, you can stir in a little water or orange juice to reach your desired consistency.
🥡 Top Tips
Consistency: The natural pectin in cranberries will cause your sauce to thicken as it cools, but if you find it’s not quite as thick as you’d like, don’t fret. A longer cool-down period can often do the trick. Alternatively, you can put the sauce back into the slow cooker on a low setting, uncovered, to allow some of the liquid to evaporate.
Balancing the Flavors: Cranberries are naturally tart, and while sugar helps balance that tartness, be mindful of how much you’re using. Start with the recipe’s suggested amount and then taste and adjust if needed. Remember, the flavors will intensify over time, especially after the sauce has been refrigerated.
Spicing It Up: Don’t be afraid to get creative with spices. While cinnamon and vanilla are classic choices, adding a pinch of cloves or nutmeg can introduce a new warmth to the sauce. If you’re feeling adventurous, a bit of grated ginger can add a nice zing.
Garnishing for Extra Flair: Presentation matters when it comes to setting a festive table. A sprinkling of orange zest not only adds flavor but also makes for a beautiful garnish. For texture, consider adding some chopped walnuts or pecans to the top of your sauce before serving.
❓ Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make cranberry sauce ahead of time?
Absolutely! Cranberry sauce can be made several days in advance. It keeps well in the fridge and the flavors often improve after a day or two.
Is it possible to make cranberry sauce without a slow cooker?
Yes, you can make it on the stovetop by simmering the ingredients over medium heat until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens.
How can I sweeten cranberry sauce naturally?
You can use honey, maple syrup, or even apple sauce as natural sweeteners in place of granulated sugar.
How do I know when the cranberry sauce is done cooking?
The cranberry sauce is done when the berries have burst and the sauce has reached a jam-like consistency. It will thicken more as it cools.
Is cranberry sauce vegan?
This cranberry sauce can be vegan, depending on the sugar used. Be sure to use a vegan sugar option if that’s a concern.
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Slow Cooker Cranberry Sauce
- 16 ounces whole cranberries frozen or fresh
- ¾ cup orange juice
- ¾ cup granulated sugar of choice I like to use brown sugar or coconut sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cinnamon stick
- orange zest optional for garnishing
- In a slow cooker, add the cranberries, orange juice, sugar, vanilla and the cinnamon stick.
- Place the lid on and then set the slow cooker to high heat for 4 hours, or low heat for 6 hours.
- Once the cooking time is up, lightly mash the cranberries to your desired consistency with a wooden spoon or spatula, then allow the cranberry sauce to set and cool. The sauce will thicken considerably as it cools.
- Serve and enjoy!
- Fridge: Once your cranberry sauce has cooled to room temperature, transfer it to an airtight container. It’ll keep in the fridge for up to 10-14 days.
- Freezer: Spoon it into a freezer-safe airtight container or a zip-top bag with as much air removed as possible. It can be frozen for up to 2 months. When you’re ready to use it, defrost it in the fridge overnight.
- Reheating (optional): If you prefer your cranberry sauce warm, it’s simple to reheat. Just place the desired amount in a saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s gently warmed through. If it seems too thick once reheated, you can stir in a little water or orange juice to reach your desired consistency.