Healthy Cranberry Sauce | 4 Ingredients + Refined-Sugar Free

GFGluten FreeGRGrain FreeNFNut FreeOFOil FreeSFRefined Sugar Free

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This healthy cranberry sauce is naturally sweetened and made with only 4 ingredients! It’s perfectly sweet and tangy – great as a Thanksgiving side or holiday jam.

Cranberry Sauce: it’s either a hit or miss for most people. For me, it’s a total hit – the cravings come as soon as November and December roll around. I’ll happily enjoy this sweet & tangy condiment over cornbread, alongside my savory thanksgiving sides, or sometimes simply by the spoonful.

My family used to buy the canned stuff growing up, but since that I’ve learned how easy it is to make your own, I’ve never looked back! You only need is 4 healthy ingredients and 15 minuteto make this Healthy Cranberry Sauce Recipe – so let’s get into it!

Bowl of cranberry sauce with gold serving spoon on wooden serving board surrounded by orange sliced and cinnamon sticks

Ingredients for vegan cranberry sauce in small bowls on marble background. Clockwise text labels read maple syrup, orange juice, orange zest, fresh cranberries, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla extract

INGREDIENTS + INSPIRATION

As always, I tried to keep things as fuss-free as possible. You can keep this cranberry sauce simple and sweet, or try some of the optional add-ins for a spiced variation! All you’ll need is:

  • Fresh Cranberries: fresh is best, but
  • Maple Syrup: to keep things refined sugar-free, I opted to use maple syrup instead of traditional table sugar! Coconut sugar will also work well here – both sweeteners have a wonderful depth of flavor that adds more oomph to the cranberry sauce.
  • Orange Juice: I personally prefer to use OJ in my cranberry sauce because it adds a nice floral component while also cutting down on the amount of required sweetener. You can leave it out if you’d like, but you’ll need to add more maple syrup. I don’t notice a difference between fresh orange juice or pasteurized since it gets simmered, so you can use whatever you prefer!
  • Vanilla Extract: Again, this provides more depth of flavor and makes the sauce taste sweeter.

There’s a lot of cranberry sauce variation out there, so feel free to modify/add in as you please. Some other great options would be to add spices like cinnamon and cloves, texture with chopped nuts, or some extra orange zest to really amp up that citrus flavor.

Cooked cranberry sauce in sauté pan with a wooden spoon

HOMEMADE CRANBERRY SAUCE RECIPE:

Quite simply, add everything to a pot, bring to a simmer, and cook until most of the cranberries have popped, stirring occasionally. The sauce will become thick and glossy – keep in mind that it will thicken more as it cools, so you may want to stop cooking just before your desired thickness.

Most of the cranberries will burst while simmering, but you can choose to pop all of the cranberries by using a fork or potato masher too. I like to leave some whole for more textural variation.

KITCHEN TIPS + FAQ:

  • Can I make this ahead of time? Yes! You can make this recipe up to 3 days before serving -honestly, it gets even better when it sits overnight! Store your cranberry sauce in an airtight container or jar in the refrigerator; leftovers will keep for up to one week. You can also store your leftovers in the freezer for up to 2 months.
  • Can I make this with frozen cranberries? fresh cranberries are best, but frozen cranberries will work in a pinch. If you do go with frozen, you’ll need to simmer the cranberry sauce for a few minutes longer in order for it to thicken up.
  • Can I reduce the sugar? I recommend using the amount of sugar as stated in the recipe – it’s not overly sweet and perfectly zesty. If you’d like a truly low sugar cranberry sauce you can try cutting the maple syrup down to 2 tablespoons, but it will be very tart. I have not experimented with sugar substitutes here, but imagine they could work, too.

Bowl of cranberry sauce with gold serving spoon on wooden serving board surrounded by orange sliced and cinnamon sticks

SERVING SUGGESTIONS:

Cranberry sauce is most traditionally served as a Thanksgiving side dish – it’s sweet but tangy flavor complements mashed potatoes,  sweet potato casserole, and even roasted Brussels sprouts! You may have leftovers though, so here are some of my favorite ways to use them:

  • Breakfast: dollop your cranberry sauce over pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, biscuits, or English muffins for a festive refined sugar-free jam. This would also be excellent with some vegan cream cheese on a bagel or toast!
  • Snacks: serve a spoonful of this cranberry sauce with your favorite granola for an easy sweet treat. You could also pair it with dairy-free yogurt for another breakfast option 🙂
  • Dessert: serve with or alongside cheesecake, brownies, or you use it as the filling in these Cranberry Orange Crumble Bars!

If you’re looking for more wholesome thanksgiving recipes, you’ll also love this Tahini Gravythis Easy Vegan Cornbread, and this Cranberry and Green Bean Salad.

Finally, if you make this recipe and decide to share it on Facebook or Instagram, don’t forget to tag me @FromMyBowl + #FromMyBowl! I love seeing your delicious recreations 🙂

Print

Healthy Cranberry Sauce

healthy cranberry sauce in white bowl with spoon on wood cutting board and marble background

This healthy cranberry sauce is naturally sweetened and made with only 4 ingredients! It’s perfectly sweet and tangy – great as a Thanksgiving side or holiday jam.

  • Author: Caitlin Shoemaker
  • Prep Time: 2 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 Minutes
  • Total Time: 12 minutes
  • Yield: about 2 cups 1x
  • Category: Side
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
Scale

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces (340 g) fresh or frozen cranberries*
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh-squeezed orange juice* (about 1 large orange)
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) grade A maple syrup 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional add-ins: ½ teaspoon orange zest, cinnamon stick, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, chopped pecans, blueberries, etc.

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to a medium pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 6-8 minutes. Stir the mixture frequently to ensure nothing burns or sticks to the pan. The filling is “done” once it has thickened and most of the cranberries have popped. 
  2. Use a fork or potato masher to pop the remainder of the cranberries, if desired. Let cool completely before serving as desired; leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to one week.

Notes

  • Cranberries: frozen cranberries work well here, but you will need to simmer them for an additional 1 to 2 minutes as they release more liquid in cooking
  • Orange Juice: There isn’t a huge final difference in flavor if you use fresh or pasteurized OJ, since the mixture is being cooked. Use whatever is easier for you!
  • Sweetener: maple syrup can be replaced with equal parts date syrup, vegan honey, coconut sugar, or brown sugar

Keywords: healthy cranberry sauce, cranberry orange sauce, easy cranberry sauce, homemade cranberry sauce, cranberry sauce sugar free

This post was updated with new photos and copy 11/2021. The recipe remains the same.

 

About the Author

Hey there, I’m Caitlin! I make easy-to-follow, wholesome, and budget-friendly vegan recipes that are mostly gluten-free and refined sugar-free. I’m also an avid yogi, love the great outdoors, am chocolate-obsessed, and enjoy eating almond butter straight off of the spoon.

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Comments

  1. I made this yesterday for thanksgiving and it was absolutely delicious!!! It will now become a staple for me every thanksgiving!!!

  2. This is a super easy recipe that tastes so good! It’ll definitely be part of my Thanksgiving meal every year. I just used a bag of cranberries and some orange juice from Trader Joe’s. Delicious!

  3. Once this stuff is completely cooled, you can’t even tell it’s sweetened with maple syrup. So yummy and guilt free!

  4. Used this recipe this year and brought it to two family thanksgiving dinners – it was wiped out so clean I didn’t even get leftovers! And a plus, even family members that don’t “care for” cranberry or have always used the canned version, were asking me for the recipe! So so so delish. Thanks, Caitlin!

  5. So good!! So easy! 10/10 would recommend making exactly as written! I’m going to have to make this year round! I used fresh cranberries and a carton of OJ from Trader Joe’s.

  6. I would like to use dried cranberries instead of fresh because where I live you can’t find fresh nor frozen cranberries anywhere. If I soak them in water do you think it’ll work??
    Thanks for the awesome recipe!

    1. Definitely never tried it before! It would be a bit different in consistency and maybe even flavor, but I would say you could definitely cut the recipe down and give it a shot just to see! If you try it let us know how it turns out!

  7. This is so good! I added a finely chopped green apple because I thought it would taste good, and it did! Highly recommend