This easy Instant Pot Cranberry Sauce with orange juice is naturally sweetened and a perfect complement for your Thanksgiving turkey. It can be made several days ahead to free up your time on Thanksgiving day. Stovetop instructions included
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How to make Instant Pot cranberry sauce with orange juice
Making cranberry sauce is always super easy. The additional benefit about making it in the Instant Pot is that it is almost completely hands off.
Orange Peel & Juice
Start by cleaning an orange. Then using a vegetable peeler, peel off 2-3 wide but thin strips of orange peel.
You want to make sure there is no white orange pith on the underside because it is bitter and could impart a bitter flavor to the cranberry orange sauce as well.
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Of course, you could zest the orange too, but I find zesting rather tedious and messy. While peeling off a couple of strips of orange peel takes no time at all and creates no mess either.
Then cut the orange in half and squeeze out all the juice. It should yield about ½ cup for the sauce.
I simply squeezed it by hand, but you can of course use an orange squeezer as well. My husband (who uses more orange juice than me) has this handheld juicer on his Christmas wish list.
Now add the cranberries along with water, the freshly squeezed orange juice, ¼ cup honey, and a pinch of salt and pepper to the Instant Pot's inner liner. Stir until the honey has dissolved.
Place the cinnamon stick half and orange peel strips on top and close the lid. (Be sure to use your secondary sealing ring reserved for sweet recipes to avoid any savory scents being transferred.)
Turn the pressure valve to sealing and select the Manual cooking cycle for 2 minutes.
The pot will take about 5 minutes to pressurize before the timer starts counting down. At the end of the pressure cooking cycle, let the pressure release naturally (NPR) for 10 minutes.
After that you can release any remaining pressure by turning the pressure valve to release. Open the lid and and remove the cinnamon stick and orange peel strips.
Stir the healthy cranberry sauce and give it a little taste. If you prefer more sweetness add more honey. I usually add 2 more tablespoons - sometimes up to 4 if the cranberries and orange juice were extra tart.
Cancel the Keep Warm cycle the Instant Pot went into automatically after pressure cooking and turn on the Sauté function to reduce the fresh cranberry sauce a little further.
I usually just use a wooden spoon but for extra smooth cranberry sauce you could also use a potato masher or even an immersion blender.
I like a little chunky texture and just let the cranberries break up naturally while I am stirring the sauce during reducing.
Most of them will burst, releasing their natural pectin, which is also what will thicken the cooked cranberry sauce. After just a few minutes of simmering you'll notice the sauce thickening up quite a bit.
Now let the homemade cranberry sauce cool. It will thicken even more as it cools.
Orange Juice: If you prefer it that way or just don't have it on hand, you can definitely make Instant Pot cranberry sauce without orange juice. Just replace the juice with an equal amount of water.
You'll probably want to leave out the orange peel in that case too.
Vegan: To make this recipe vegan use maple syrup or agave nectar instead of honey.
Keto/Low Carb: To make sugar free cranberry sauce replace the orange juice with water and use a sugar free sweetener alternative. I recommend maple flavored monk fruit syrup or use about double the amount of granulated monk fruit sweetener.
Paleo: No need to make any adjustments to make this Instant Pot cranberry sauce paleo. It already is!
What do you eat cranberry sauce with
The most traditional way to serve cranberry sauce is of course with Thanksgiving dinner - especially as condiment for the roasted turkey.
But turkey certainly isn't the only thing cranberry sauce goes well with. I like it on any poultry, like chicken, duck, or goose.
Cranberry Sauce also goes exceptionally well with pork - tenderloin or pork chops.
Use any leftover sauce as spread on turkey sandwiches the days after Thanksgiving dinner. It also makes a great sweet condiment on pancakes or waffles. You can stir cranberry sauce into plain muffin batter for delicious leftover cranberry sauce muffins.
Can I make cranberry sauce ahead of time
Yes! I actually recommend making this simple cranberry sauce at least a day before your Thanksgiving dinner. It needs to cool down after cooking anyway and keeps fantastically in the fridge.
Furthermore, if you are making my Instant Pot mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving as well, your Instant Pot will be occupied with those. You can also make the mashed potatoes ahead but on the same day you want to serve them, and then just keep them warm until needed with the handy Keep Warm function.
Can I double or half this Healthy Cranberry Sauce Recipe?
Yes. I have made a half batch of this sauce in my recipe testing phase and the Instant Pot had absolutely no trouble coming to pressure, even with only about ½ cup of liquid inside.
While I personally haven't tested a double batch, I have seen several Instant Pot cranberry sauce recipes that use two bags of cranberries. So it should work just as well to double this recipe.
How long does cranberry sauce last
To make it last longest, store this easy homemade cranberry sauce in a covered glass or plastic container in the fridge. This way it will be good 10-14 days.
Can homemade cranberry sauce be frozen
If you want to store homemade cranberry sauce beyond those 10-14 days it needs to be frozen. Transfer it to an airtight freezer safe container and freeze for 1-2 months.
To defrost, simply move the frozen cranberry sauce to the fridge overnight.
Tools I used for making Cranberry Sauce
My trusty Wooden Spoon was part of a beautiful olive wood utensil set from BeldiNest.
More Amazing Must-Make Holiday Recipes:
Instant Pot Cranberry Sauce
- 12 ounces (1 bag) fresh cranberries
- ½ cup fresh orange juice
- ½ cup water
- ¼ - ½ cup honey
- pinch salt and (white) pepper
- ½ cinnamon stick
- 2-3 large strips of orange peel
- Add cranberries, orange juice, water, ¼ cup honey, salt & pepper to the Instant Pot and stir to combine and dissolve the honey.
- Close the lid and turn the pressure valve to sealing. Cook on Manual high pressure for 2 minutes. (The pot will take about 5 minutes to build up pressure)
- When the cook cycles finishes, let the pressure release naturally (NPR) for 10 minutes. Then turn the sealing valve to release any remaining pressure.
- Open the lid and turn on the Sauté function. Remove cinnamon stick and orange peels. Taste the cranberry sauce and add more honey if desired for more sweetness.
- Use a wooden spoon or potato masher to break up some of the cranberries to desired texture.
- Sauté for a couple minutes for some liquid to reduce until the sauce has thickened a little. It will thickened more as the cranberry sauce cools.
- Let the sauce cool fully before serving with turkey or other poultry.
- Add all ingredients to a medium-sized saucepan. Heat on medium. Stir to combine the everything and dissolve the honey.
- When the sauce starts to bubble and boil turn heat down to low and simmer while stirring regularly.
- The sauce is done when the cranberries are bursting and the sauce starts to thicken.
- Remove the cinnamon stick and orange peel. Let the sauce cool fully before serving with poultry.
Pressure cooking Time: 2 minutes
Natural Pressure Release: 10 minutes
Sauté: 3-5 minutes
If your homemade cranberry sauce isn't thickening, it might be because it hasn't cooked long enough. Cranberry sauce thickens as it cooks and cools. You can simmer it for a bit longer to help it thicken, or you can add a natural thickening agent like chia seeds or cornstarch if needed.
You can avoid bitterness by ensuring you remove the white pith when peeling the orange. Adjust sweetness with honey or maple syrup after cooking.
Overcooking can result in a thicker, jelly-like consistency. Watch the sauce closely during the reduction process to avoid this.
You can add various spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves for extra flavor. You can also experiment with different types of sweeteners like maple syrup or agave nectar.