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4 ingredients and 15 minutes are all you need to make this naturally sweetened cranberry sauce. It is so much better than canned or store-bought sauce and there are endless ways to enjoy this iconic Thanksgiving side dish.

A close up shot of cranberry sauce in a white plate.
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Homemade Healthy Cranberry Sauce

Thanksgiving can be bustling and full of activity, especially with all the cooking. I used to opt for canned cranberry sauce for the sake of convenience. But let me tell you, this homemade cranberry sauce is incredibly simple to whip up, tastes miles better, and the best part? You can prepare it in advance, cutting down on the cooking frenzy on the big day!

This cranberry sauce boasts an amazing medley of flavors that’s not too tart, not too sweet, just perfect for adding a burst of yum to your meal!

It goes amazingly well with roasted turkey breast and fits right in with all the familiar Thanksgiving side dishes, such as cheesy mashed potatoes, creamy mashed cauliflower, healthy cornbread, and green bean casserole without mushroom soup.

Ingredients

All the ingredients laid out on a white background.
  • Cranberries – Fresh cranberries are best for Thanksgiving since they are in season and offer optimal flavor, but you can also use frozen.
  • Oranges – Really brightens up the flavor and pairs really well with the tartness of cranberries.
  • Applesauce – along with oranges, counters the tartness of the cranberries and adds natural sweetness. You can use store-bought or homemade unsweetened applesauce.
  • Honey – It’s a delicious alternative to refined sugars and artificial sweeteners. You can also use maple syrup if you wish.
  • Cinnamon (optional) – can also experiment with adding other warm spices like cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Orange wedges squeezed.

Step 1: If squeezing oranges by hand, I’ve found that cutting the orange into 8 slices yield more juice than large pieces.

All the ingredients added to a pot.

Step 2: Add all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.

Simmering the sauce.

Step 3: Reduce heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cranberries start to burst. Keep in mind the sauce will continue to thicken as it cools so stop cooking just before it reaches your desired consistency.

Finished sauce scooped with a wooden spoon.

Step 4: Mash if you prefer a smoother consistency. Taste and add more honey, if you desire more sweetness.

Tips for Success

  • Preparing oranges – zest the orange prior to juicing it. Be careful not to press too hard to avoid reaching the white pith, which can make your sauce bitter. To juice an orange by hand, first roll the orange on a countertop using your palm. You can use a juicer or squeeze by hand. If doing the latter, I’ve found that cutting the orange into 8 slices yield more juice than large pieces.
  • Adjust the sweetness to your preference by adding more honey for a sweeter profile. For a tangier and brighter taste, incorporate additional orange juice.

Make-Ahead Cranberry Sauce

A close up shot of the sauce to show plump cranberries and thick sauce.

I highly recommend preparing this cranberry sauce in advance! Its flavors truly shine after 2-3 days. To store, transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate.

What to do with leftover cranberry sauce

Cranberry sauce can be served cold, warm, or at room temperature. And there are so many ways to transform leftovers. Here are some suggestions!

  • Spread it on toast, bagels, or muffins.
  • Mix it into yogurt or oatmeal.
  • Blend it into smoothies.
  • Spoon over pancakes or waffles
  • Mix it with cream cheese to create a flavorful dip for crackers or fruit slices.
  • Incorporate it into salad dressings for a unique sweet-tart twist.
  • Coat meatballs – like these turkey meatballs or baby meatballs.

Storage

Transfer leftovers to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

To freeze, if planning to use the sauce in smaller portions, divide it into smaller containers or ice cube trays. This way, you can thaw only the amount you need without having to defrost the entire batch.

Freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use frozen cranberries?

You can! There’s no need to thaw – simply add the frozen cranberries to the pot along with the other ingredients and extend the cooking time until you achieve the desired consistency. Additionally, I suggest buying fresh cranberries during the season and freezing them, allowing you to enjoy their freshness year-round. When frozen, they can last up to 12 months in the freezer.

Did you make this recipe? Leave a rating below and let me know how you liked the recipe! Your feedback means so much to me!

5 from 4 votes

Healthy Cranberry Sauce

4 ingredients and 15 minutes are all you need to make this naturally sweetened cranberry sauce. It is so much better than canned or store-bought sauce.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 5
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Ingredients 

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (about 2 medium oranges)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup honey, see note
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions 

  • Add all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cranberries start to burst. Keep in mind the sauce will continue to thicken as it cools so stop cooking just before it reaches your desired consistency.
  • You can mash if you prefer a smoother consistency. Taste and add more honey, if you desire more sweetness.

Notes

I highly recommend preparing this cranberry sauce in advance! Its flavors truly shine after 2-3 days. To store, transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate.

Nutrition

Calories: 107kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 1g | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 137mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 21g | Vitamin A: 108IU | Vitamin C: 26mg | Calcium: 16mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

About Min

Thank you so much for stopping by! I am Min, a Registered Dietitian, a Christ follower, a wife, and a mom to our two miracle babies! Currently, I’m having a ton of fun feeding their tummies and sharing our baby led weaning journey! Follow me on Instagram if interested in seeing daily menu as well as tips and tricks.

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2 Comments

    1. You can use maple syrup instead. Even though it’s unrefined it’s still considered added sugar, though, so I suggest setting aside a portion for your baby (add more applesauce if it’s too tart) and then add the honey or maple syrup for the rest of the family