Homemade Whole Cranberry Sauce for the Slow Cooker

What first attracted me to this recipe shared by a long-time Kitchen Parade reader: the convenience of cooking whole cranberry sauce in a slow cooker. What keeps me coming back: it fills the house with a sweet aroma of cranberries, fresh ginger and orange zest! More good news: for anyone who wonders about sweetening cranberry sauce with maple syrup (my favorite natural sweetener), the answer is yes, it works beautifully, just as well as regular sugar.

Homemade Whole Cranberry Sauce ♥ KitchenParade.com, the convenience of the slow cooker, the natural sweetness of maple syrup, the sweet aroma of cranberries, fresh ginger and orange zest! Recipe, cooking tips, nutrition and Weight Watchers points included.

Cranberry Sauce Made from Scratch. Fresh & Seasonal, Perfect for Thanksgiving and Winter's Cranberry Season. Not just vegan, Vegan Done Real. Budget Friendly. Naturally Gluten Free. Great for Meal Prep.

Why a Reader Shared Her Slow Cooker Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Thank you, Kitchen Parade readers! I love it when you share your very-most favorite recipes. So often, I can just tell, we are kindred spirits in the kitchen ...

Last fall, reader Karen Grosvenor responded to my complaints about slow cookers (see Easy Chicken or Turkey Tortilla Soup), suggesting her own favorite slow cooker cookbook, Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook.

She even gave a head start by recommending the Overnight Steel-Cut Oatmeal (excellent!), Ratatouille, Applesauce, the Salsa Chicken (excellent!) and Easy Cheesy Ravioli Casserole, which she says, believe it or not, is better in the slow cooker than the oven.

Karen also sent along this easy way to make cranberry sauce in the slow cooker, explaining, “My mother and I found this recipe for Homemade Whole Cranberry Sauce in Parade Magazine years ago. Even those who don't like cranberry sauce like it, including children, my mother-in-law and (formerly) me."

She went on. "In theory, cranberry sauce is easy. But it always seems to take longer than I think and requires lots of stirring and wondering if it's done. Now I just throw everything into my slow cooker and let it go while I prepare my other Thanksgiving dishes."

Thank you, Karen. Your recipe for Homemade Cranberry Sauce recipe is a winner!

Why This Recipe Is Special

  • POP! The sauce thickens but most of the cranberries turn soft but remain whole. That makes for great texture.
  • SCENT! While the cranberry sauce simmers away, the house fills with this lovely scent of cranberry, orange and ginger. Just lovely!
  • BALANCED! Store-bought cranberry sauce is sooooo sweet. Not this! It's sweet and tart at the same time, plus it's balanced by the natural acidity and flavors from the orange zest and orange juice.

  • CONVENIENCE! Toss the ingredients in the slow cooker and zip-zap, you've got whole cranberry sauce.
  • USEFULNESS! Whole Cranberry Sauce is good for Thanksgiving but I always-always make a double batch to keep on hand all winter long, it's easy to use up along the way. And come fall, if there are still frozen cranberries in the freezer, this is what I make first.
  • MAKE-AHEAD! Make this cranberry sauce a day, even a week ahead of time.

Experimenting with Different Sweeteners

I love Karen's recipe! In fact, it's become my go-to cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving, sure, but also throughout the winter months which, if you join me in loving cranberries should also be dubbed "cranberry season". It's great to have on hand, cranberry-fresh, slightly tart, just wonderful.

And once I have a go-to recipe, I start to play with it, making small and large variations to see how it might work in other kitchens. Naturally, I started playing around with the sugar, checking both amounts and alternatives.

  • SUGAR White sugar is the usual sweetener for cranberry sauce. The purpose of sugar is not only to sweeten but also to thicken the cranberry sauce. Still, could I do better?
  • LESS SUGAR? I've made Homemade Whole Cranberry Sauce with a single cup of sugar, the taste is great but unfortunately, the sauce just doesn't thicken as well.
  • STEVIA? Stevia is a no-calorie plant-based sugar substitute. I tried making Homemade Whole Cranberry Sauce with stevia and was unimpressed. The taste was “chemical-y” and the sauce didn’t thicken, bummer.
  • MAPLE SYRUP? The real excitement? Finally an excellent substitute for processed sugar! Call me delighted that Homemade Whole Cranberry Sauce adapted so easily to maple syrup! On the first try, I used a half cup of maple syrup instead of white sugar and that turned out to be just the right amount of natural sweetener. Plus, I really love the maple-y touch, it really works with orange and ginger. This is my new first-choice sweetener for Homemade Whole Cranberry Sauce.

Pick the Right Slow Cooker

The size of your slow cooker matters here.

SMALL SLOW COOKER I use a small red stoneware slow cooker from Hamilton Beach. Unfortunately, it's no longer easily available. I picture it above, as of 2022 it's still possible to find both new and used versions on E-Bay and other sites. J ust search for "Hamilton Beach small red stoneware party crockpot" then compare the images to the one above.

That pretty red stoneware "party" crockpot is small. Officially, it's a 1-1/2 quart slow cooker, designed for small batch slow cooking, especially for one or two. That equates to 6 cups but really, it maxes out at about 4 cups. I mention all this because it's a useful size and may help readers judge which slow cooker to use.

But don't worry, a large slow cooker does work, it's what I use.

LARGER SLOW COOKER But I have the idea if you were to make this recipe (as written, with 12 ounces of cranberries) in a larger slow cooker, it could well burn quickly because of more surface area for the same volume. To counteract this, just double the recipe.

HOW ABOUT SLOW-COOKING IN THE OVEN? Yes! I need to try this myself and will report back. Regular readers know that I already rely on the oven instead of a slow cooker all the time, see Slow Cooker & Oven Slow-Cooking. Let me work on this. But for anyone who wants a headstart, I'd set the oven at 225F or 250F and check every hour to get the time right.


Bookmark! PIN! Share!

How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If this recipe for whole cranberry sauce from scratch hits the mark, go ahead, save and share! I'd be honored ...

Homemade Whole Cranberry Sauce for the Slow Cooker ♥ KitchenParade.com, the convenience of the slow cooker plus the sweet aroma of cranberries, fresh ginger and orange zest!


Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 3 hours
Makes 2-1/2 cups (made with sugar) or
2 cups (made with maple syrup)

This fits a small slow cooker, do double (or triple) the recipe for a larger slow cooker.
  • 12 ounces (340g) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1-1/2 cups (300g) sugar or 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest (from about 2 oranges)
  • 3/4 cup (200g) fresh orange juice (from about 2 large or 4 small oranges)

Finger through the cranberries under running water, seeking out soft or shriveled or unripe berries to discard.

Combine the cranberries and remaining ingredients in a smaller slow cooker (2 quarts or under).

Cook on high for 2 – 2-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Avoid letting the slow cooker run longer, as the cranberries lose their beautiful color and begin to decompose. After cooking, the mixture will “appear” to be quite liquid but will thicken slightly once it's chilled.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Keeps several days, even a couple of weeks, it's great to have on hand during the holidays for odds 'n' end uses both savory and sweet. It also freezes well.

ALANNA’s TIPS If you like, cook the cranberry sauce a day (or several days) ahead. But then again, it really makes the kitchen smell good so consider putting it in the slow cooker early Thanksgiving morning. I love how this cranberry sauce leaves the cranberries soft and juicy but still, mostly whole. My notes say that fresh cranberries make cranberry sauce that's just a tidge "fresher" but not to worry, frozen cranberries work great too. That said, when making a double batch, I've also learned to not mix fresh and frozen berries in the same batch, I can't think why this wouldn't work but that particular batch turned out really watery. Use a lemon zester for the orange zest and a large-holed rasp for the fresh ginger. The orange and ginger flavors stay in the background but somehow they make the cranberries taste more like cranberries! I make this a couple of times each year, it's just nice to have on hand! I also use it to make Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Cranberry Sauce and Cranberry Orange Spread, a great holiday appetizer. The food blog Farm Fresh Feasts added beets and fresh ginger to make a Cranberry, Orange & Beet Salad. Creative!

FOR MORE INFO If you "skipped straight to the recipe," please scroll back to the top of this page for ingredient information, ingredient substitutions, tips and more. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See https://www.kitchenparade.com/2013/11/homemade-whole-cranberry-sauce-recipe-slow-cooker.html .
Made with Sugar (makes 2.5 cups) Per Four Tablespoons: 63 Calories; 0g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 0mg Sodium; 16g Carb; 2g Fiber; 13g Sugar; 0g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 1 & PointsPlus 2 & SmartPoints 3 & Freestyle 3 & MyWW green3 & blue3 & purple3 & future WW points

Made with Maple Syrup (makes 2 cups) Per Four Tablespoons: 83 Calories; 0g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 2mg Sodium; 21g Carb; 2g Fiber; 16g Sugar; 0g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 1 & PointsPlus 2 & SmartPoints 4 & Freestyle 4 & MyWW green4 & blue4 & purple4 & future WW points

More Ideas for the "Cranberry Course"

~ cranberry ~
~ more Thanksgiving recipes ~
Cranberry Chutney ♥ KitchenParade.com, a thick relish with pecans, raisins, dried apricots, ginger and spices. One of my oldest recipes, perfect for Thanksgiving and beyond.
  • THE RECIPE Cranberry Chutney A holiday tradition, fresh cranberries plus dried fruit, nuts and wintry spices.
  • ANOTHER TAKE Savory Rhubarb Chutney A savory chutney made with rhubarb, onion and dried fruit.

Cranberry Salsa ♥ KitchenParade.com, raw cranberries plus an explosion of seasonal flavors for a Christmas salsa vibe. Weight Watchers Friendly. Vegan. Gluten Free.

Homemade Cranberry Applesauce in Yogurt Applesauce Parfaits ♥ KitchenParade.com, a simple, healthy fruit dessert.

Seasonal Cooking: Preparing for Thanksgiving, This Same Week, Across the Years

Light & Fluffy Homemade Whole-Grain Bread & Buns Perfect Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins Squash Puff Turnip Puff Perfect Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes (Party Potatoes) Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple Oven-Baked Whole-Grain Pilaf with Quinoa, Barley, Kamut & Other Grains Pumpkin Bread Pudding Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars Pumpkin Pecan Pie Apple-Butter Pumpkin Pie Cranberry Linzer Tart Mom's Perfect Biscuits How to Make Perfect Biscuits (Step-by-Step Photos & Detailed Instructions + Eight Tips for Extra-Good Biscuits) Mulled Apple Cider

This Week, Elsewhere

~ Bread Pudding ~
from Sunset 44 Bistro
~ more St. Louis Restaurant Recipes ~
My Weekly Column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

~ Pioneer Woman's Broccoli Wild Rice Casserole ~
~ more Recent Recipes ~
A Veggie Venture

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ cranberry recipes ~
~ maple syrup ~
~ orange recipes ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail, you'll find my current address in the FAQs. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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2013, 2014, 2015, 2019 (repub) & 2022

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Catherine11/18/2013

    I love apples in my cranberry sauce, so I imagine that would work well with this recipe. I heard adding pear can also be good! I have successfully added thick peel orange marmalade to my cooked on the stove cranberry sauce.

  2. Karen G11/18/2013

    loved opening my email this morning to find my cranberry sauce recipe! So glad you have enjoyed it. I had to smile that it was one of my mom's recipes. (We both clipped it from the paper, but she made it first.) My mom hated to cook, but could rise to the occasion when needed. She would have gotten a huge kick out of seeing this recipe on your blog. Thanks for bringing a smile to my face.
    loved opening my email this morning to find my cranberry sauce recipe! So glad you have enjoyed it. I had to smile that it was one of my mom's recipes. (We both clipped it from the paper, but she made it first.) My mom hated to cook, but could rise to the occasion when needed. She would have gotten a huge kick out of seeing this recipe on your blog. Thanks for bringing a smile to my face.

  3. Alanna,
    This sounds like a terrifically easy way to make cranberry sauce--and easily customizable as well. Perfect for my little crock. However, I'd do it the day before since I really like chilled cranberry sauce as a temperature contrast on my plate.


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna