Healthy Cranberry Sauce
Published Nov 12, 2021, Updated Feb 15, 2023
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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!
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.
- 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.
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!
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
- Cranberry Smoothie
- Cranberry Energy Balls
- Sparkling Cranberry Vodka
- Cranberry Banana Bread
- Cranberry Sweet Potato Muffins
Popular Side Dishes to Try
- Wild Rice Stuffing
- Sweet Potato Casserole
- Roasted Root Vegetables
- Mashed Cauliflower
- Green Beans Almondine
- Cinnamon Maple Roasted Kabocha Squash
- Green Bean Casserole
- Healthy Mashed Potatoes
- Sourdough Stuffing
Be sure to check out the full collection of Thanksgiving recipes here on EBF!
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
- ½ cup maple syrup plus more to taste
- ½ cup orange juice
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- zest from 1 orange
- 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.
- Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and orange zest. Taste and add more sweetener if needed.
- Serve immediately or let cool in the fridge until ready to serve.
- Store in the fridge in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks.
- 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 information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Brittany this is so delicious! Maybe best I ever had! Thank you! Wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving!
Ahhh this makes me so happy. Thank you Cathleen!
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!
Ah yay! Thrilled to hear this cranberry sauce was a hit, Gretchen! Thanks for the review :).
Can this recipe be doubled and frozen?
Hi Judy – Yes, you can double this recipe and store in an airtight freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Enjoy!
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 🙂
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!