Healthy Cranberry Sauce

DF GF V VG

Skip the canned version and make this healthy cranberry sauce instead! It’s naturally sweetened and the perfect addition to your holiday menu. Plus, it comes together in under 20 minutes with just 5 simple ingredients!

There always seems to be cranberry sauce on the Thanksgiving table but do you usually take it or skip right over it?! There’s no wrong way to eat cranberry sauce – some like it on its own while others like to pile some on their turkey. If you’re looking for a sweet addition to your holiday plate, I highly recommend this simple recipe!

A serving dish containing cranberry sauce. A spoon rests at the top of the bowl and there are whole cranberries scattered around the bowl.

Why You Need to Make This

  • It’s way better than canned cranberry sauce… way better!
  • It’s so simple to make. Just two easy steps.
  • You can prep it in advance for your Thanksgiving dinner.
  • It includes less sugar than traditional cranberry sauce.
Ingredients measured out to make cranberry sauce: maple syrup, vanilla, cranberries, orange juice and an orange for orange zest.

Ingredients Needed

  • fresh cranberries – cranberries are in season from September-November so you should be able to find fresh cranberries in your local grocery store!
  • maple syrup – the natural sweetener in this recipe to counter the tartness. If you’re looking for a sugar-free alternative you can use stevia, Truvia, Splenda or monk fruit in place of the maple syrup.
  • orange juice and zest – I love the flavor fresh orange juice and zest adds to cranberry sauce! The slight sweetness and acidity balances out the tartness of the cranberries. If you don’t have orange juice on hand or don’t want that added flavor, water works as well!
  • vanilla extract – a flavor enhancer that brings all of the flavors together.
Side by side photos of pots. The first pot is full of fresh cranberries and a hand is pouring over maple syrup. The second photo is a pot of cranberry sauce with orange zest on top.

How to Make Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Making your own cranberry sauce is super simple! Combine the fresh cranberries, maple syrup and orange juice in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low heat to simmer. Stir the mixture occasionally so it doesn’t burn. The sauce is ready when the cranberries have popped open and the sauce has thickened a bit.

Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and orange zest. Taste and add more maple syrup if it’s too tart for you.

Can I Use Frozen Cranberries?

I tested this with frozen cranberries and it definitely works but takes longer for the sauce to thicken! I still preferred the recipe with fresh cranberries but if you only have frozen cranberries on hand, that’s just fine!

A bowl containing healthy cranberry sauce. A spoon is resting in the bowl and there are a few whole cranberries scattered around the bowl.

How to Serve

The most asked question when I did some cranberry sauce research was, “Do I serve it warm or cold?” My answer: serve it however you prefer! I like serving it immediately after making (while it’s still warm) but you can also let it cool in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.

Cranberry sauce is a traditional side dish for Thanksgiving dinner. Some like to get a little bit of each flavor on their plate in each bite while others like to keep everything separate. You really can’t go wrong!

If you have leftovers, it’s delicious on turkey sandwiches! I made these tasty collard green wraps with leftover turkey and leftover cranberry sauce. I’ll be making these again this year!

Want to take this recipe in a completely different direction? Serve homemade cranberry sauce on a scoop of ice cream! It would be so good on my one-ingredient banana ice cream. It would also be delicious mixed into a bowl of oatmeal or served over pancakes like these almond flour pancakes.

Can Cranberry Sauce be Made in Advance?

Absolutely! This cranberry sauce is one of the best make-ahead recipes for the holidays and can be made up to 5 days in advance! Yay for one less recipe to make on the day of.

How to Store Leftovers

Store any leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks. This cranberry sauce will also store well in the freezer in an airtight freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.

More Cranberry Recipes to Try

Be sure to check out the full collection of Thanksgiving recipes here on EBF!

Cranberry Sauce

4 from 68 votes
Skip the canned version and make this healthy cranberry sauce instead! It's naturally sweetened and the perfect addition to your holiday menu. Plus, it comes together in under 20 minutes with just 5 simple ingredients!
A serving dish containing cranberry sauce. A spoon rests at the top of the bowl and there are whole cranberries scattered around the bowl.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • ½ cup maple syrup, plus more to taste
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest from 1 orange

Instructions
 

  • Combine cranberries, maple syrup and orange juice in a saucepan over medium high heat. Bring mixture to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens up to your desired consistency and the cranberries have popped. This will take about 10-15 minutes.
    A saucepan containing whole cranberries. A hand is pouring maple syrup into the saucepan from a small ramekin.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and orange zest. Taste and add more sweetener if needed.
    Cooked cranberries in a saucepan with grated orange zest added on top.
  • Serve immediately or let cool in the fridge until ready to serve.
  • Store in the fridge in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks.

Notes

  • Orange juice: If you don’t have orange juice on hand or don’t want that added flavor, water works as well.
  • Frozen cranberries: I tested this with frozen cranberries and it definitely works but takes longer for the sauce to thicken! I still preferred the recipe with fresh cranberries but if you only have frozen cranberries on hand, that’s just fine! 

Nutrition

Serving: 1/8 of recipee Calories: 78kcal Carbohydrates: 20g Sodium: 3mg Potassium: 107mg Fiber: 2g Sugar: 13g
Course: Side
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cranberry sauce

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

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Recipe Rating




    6 comments
    1. Erica
      December 1, 2021 AT 6:54 pm

      5 stars
      I embarrassingly loved the cranberry sauce from the can as a kid, but haven’t eaten any cranberry sauce in years. I LOVE this cranberry sauce! The orange flavor gets a chef’s kiss and I love that it’s sweetened with maple syrup!! This might just have to make an appearance every Thanksgiving from here on out 🙂

      1. Brittany Mullins
        December 2, 2021 AT 10:38 am

        Ah yay! This makes me so happy to hear, Erica! Thanks so much for trying out this cranberry sauce and coming back to leave a review. It means the world to me!

    2. Gretchen
      November 25, 2021 AT 10:28 pm

      5 stars
      Made my first Thanksgiving dinner this year for myself. Brittany’s cranberry sauce was the perfect side to my small Cornish hen. The sauce is the perfect balance between tart and sweet. Love it!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        November 29, 2021 AT 10:49 am

        Ah yay! Thrilled to hear this cranberry sauce was a hit, Gretchen! Thanks for the review :).

    3. Cathleen
      November 24, 2021 AT 1:17 pm

      5 stars
      Brittany this is so delicious! Maybe best I ever had! Thank you! Wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        November 24, 2021 AT 3:08 pm

        Ahhh this makes me so happy. Thank you Cathleen!

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