This healthy cranberry sauce recipe is incredibly easy to make using just 5 whole-food ingredients. It’s naturally sweetened with maple syrup, making it a much healthier alternative to the store-bought variety.
Cranberry sauce is best known for its sweet-tart flavor and is most commonly eaten at Thanksgiving. Unlike the majority of Thanksgiving foods, the cranberries’ ruby red hue adds a splash of color to the plate.
Homemade vs Store-Bought Cranberry Sauce
If you live in the U.S., you know about the infamous canned cranberry sauce. Its weird gelatinous cylinder shape leaves you feeling like you’re about to eat a science project.
Store-bought cranberry sauce is anything but healthy. The ingredients on a popular brand of cranberry “sauce” are cranberries, high fructose corn syrup followed by more sugar making it a heavily processed, overly sweet, and nutrient-void condiment.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that all homemade cranberry sauce is automatically healthy though. Many recipes still call for heaps of sugar.
This healthy cranberry sauce recipe uses a fraction of the sweetness yet still tastes incredible. Plus, it’s so easy and quick to make that you have no excuse but to make your own!
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Fresh cranberries. Fresh cranberries are best, but if you only have frozen those will work too! No need to thaw first, just throw them right in the pan.
- Maple syrup. Adds unrefined, natural sweetness as well as antioxidants and minerals.
- Fresh orange juice. This helps to build the flavor and make it more dimensional.
- Cinnamon sticks (optional). This adds more flavor, warmth, and spice.
- Orange zest (optional). The zest adds brightness to the dish and helps to balance the flavors.
- Pinch of salt. This balances out the sweetness.
How to Make Healthy Cranberry Sauce
Remember when I said cranberry sauce was easy to make?
Add your fresh cranberries to a colander, rinse well, and drain off any excess water. Sift through the cranberries, discarding any squishy berries.
In a medium saucepan, you’ll bring the fresh cranberries, maple syrup, and orange juice to a boil over medium-high heat.
Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low, add the cinnamon stick, salt, and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally until the cranberries have popped open and the sauce has thickened.
The whole process takes about 8-10 minutes.
Now you’ll never buy the cranberry space tube again. Homemade healthy cranberry sauce for the win!
- If you don’t have access to fresh cranberries, you can also use frozen, but you may need to simmer the sauce for an extra 1-2 minutes since they release more liquid when cooking.
- Instead of maple syrup, you can also use honey.
- Apple juice or apple cider works in place of the orange juice.
- Using a cinnamon stick is completely optional. You can either use ground cinnamon (1/4 tsp) or leave it out completely.
- Orange zest is optional. You can add it or leave it out.
Helpful Recipe Tips
Removing the Zest
The easiest way to remove the zest is by using a Microplane grater. Make sure to zest the orange before you cut it if using orange juice. It’s much easier to get the zest when the fruit is whole.
Using an organic orange is ideal, but if you can’t, that’s okay too. Just make sure to wash your orange really well.
Storage, Freezing, & Making Cranberry Sauce Ahead of Time
If you’re making this healthy cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving or Christmas and you have a million other things to do, you can make this sauce ahead of time.
Once it has cooled down, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 10-14 days.
Interested in freezing cranberry sauce? It’ll last in the freezer for up to 2 months.
How to Use Leftover Cranberry Sauce
- Add to a parfait with granola and yogurt
- Put on crackers with cheese (it pairs really nicely with this cashew ricotta or vegan mozzarella).
- Spread it on toast with nut butter for a seasonal spin on a classic sandwich.
Healthy Cranberry Sauce
- 1 12 oz bag fresh cranberries
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup orange juice
- 1 tsp orange zest (preferably organic, optional)
- 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
- pinch of salt
- In a medium saucepan, bring the fresh cranberries, maple syrup, and orange juice to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low, add the cinnamon stick, pinch of salt, and continue to simmer.
- Stir occasionally until the cranberries have popped open and the sauce has thickened. This takes about 8-10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, stir in the zest (if using) and chill until ready to use.
- This recipe makes about 2 cups of cranberry sauce.
- Use within 10-14 days.