Healthy Cranberry Sauce with 3 ingredients and a perfect balance of sweet and tangy. Naturally sweetened and ready only in 10 minutes!

Perfect addition to your Thanksgiving table with juicy oven roasted turkey breast, healthy gravy and mashed potatoes.

Healthy cranberry sauce in white bowl with orange peels and cinnamon.

There is no more easy Thanksgiving side dish to make than this healthy cranberry sauce. You will be wondering why you haven’t made it until now, just like me.

I have been avoiding store-bought canned stuff but haven’t made my own cranberry sauce for years!

Not only ingredients in a store-bought one are unhealthy, but I am also not a fan of how the shimmering cylinder of gelatinous cranberry jelly looks on a plate. Must be all that high fructose corn syrup!

Now, this homemade cranberry sauce recipe is a different story! It will become a staple on your holiday table. I absolutely love to pair it with savory bacon wrapped turkey breast and healthy stuffing.

Closeup of cranberry sauce with ladle in it.

Why You Will Love This Recipe

Here are the reasons why you should make it every holiday season from now on!

  • Naturally sweetened: This refined-sugar free cranberry sauce is made with pure maple syrup which contains vitamins and nutrients.
  • Easy: Only 3 simple ingredients and 2 minutes of prep time.
  • Delicious with anything: Sweet and tangy, with real pieces of cranberries, it’s the way the best cranberry sauce should taste! It makes amazing turkey quesadillas and just try it mixed with plain Greek yogurt!
  • Pretty: Its ruby-red vibrant color adds a burst to otherwise beige looking Thanksgiving meal.

Ingredients and Notes

Cranberries in a colander, orange juice and maple syrup on kitchen counter.

This healthier cranberry sauce consists of 3 simple ingredients. Of course, you can add any seasonings, you wish. Use it as the base.

  • Cranberries: I usually use fresh cranberries but frozen cranberries will work too. There is no need to thaw the berries.
  • Natural sweetener: I absolutely adore the taste of pure maple syrup versus the white sugar. Honey or coconut sugar will work as well, so will the sugar substitutes.
  • Orange juice: Fresh orange juice from a carton or freshly squeezed orange juice. It adds nice depth of flavor to tart cranberries and helps to use less sugar.

Recipe Tip

You can always add a little bit of pure vanilla extract, orange zest, lemon zest, orange peels or cinnamon to suit your taste buds. I added 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract.

How to Make Healthy Cranberry Sauce

This healthy cranberry sauce is incredibly simple recipe and easy to make in 10 minutes. It’s not even real cooking!

Here is a quick step-by-step overview but for full recipe card, scroll down to the bottom.

  • Prep cranberries: Rinse, drain and discard any squishy cranberries. Add whole cranberries to a medium pot along with maple syrup and orange juice.
  • Boil and then simmer: Bring to a boil covered and cook on low-medium heat for 6 minutes. Remove the lid, stir and cook for 3 more minutes or until cranberry sauce has thickened. No need to add cornstarch or gelatin as cranberry sauce with maple syrup will thicken on its own.
  • Stir the sauce or don’t: No need to blend the sauce because when you stir, cranberries will break down. If you like whole berry cranberry sauce, skip this step.
  • Let it cool: Cool it down to your preferred temperature. Some serve it cold, some prefer it warm. November is a cool month, stick the sauce pan outside for 30 minutes. Ukrainian hack!

Recipe Tip

Cranberries are cooked when you hear them pop.

Tips and Variations

This is basic healthy cranberry sauce recipe not to overburden you on a busy Thanksgiving cooking day, especially if you have to juggle between kids and kitchen.

However, if you have time here are a few different flavor ideas: 

  • Extra spices: Add warm spices like nutmeg, cloves or allspice. Have fun with it!
  • Reduce amount of sugar: This is low sugar cranberry sauce recipe with only 15 grams of natural sugar per serving. If you would like to make it less sweet, add only 3-4 tablespoons of maple syrup.
  • If you like stronger orange flavor: Add little orange zest or orange peels, especially if you are juicing fresh oranges. Just remember to zest the fruit first before cutting it in half for squeezing. To remove orange zest, I like to use a Microplane zester.
  • Smooth sauce: If you like smooth consistency cranberry sauce, then you can either mash the mixture with a potato masher or blend in a blender. Add water to thin it out, if necessary.
  • Too thick or too thin? Cranberry sauce will thicken with time, especially the next day and in the refrigerator as it cools down. You can always add water.
  • Make it year round: I think homemade cranberry sauce is basically a jam! This time of year, grocery stores are packed with bags of fresh cranberries. Grab a few and freeze, they last for up to 18 months in the freezer. Then cook sauce with frozen berries any time of the year. No need to thaw!

Making It in Advance

You can actually serve cranberry sauce warm or cold, so making it in advance is a great idea!

Make it up to 3 days in advance. I always make it the day before serving to save time. Refrigerate in an airtight container and then just immer in a small sauce pan to warm up. Be sure to cover with a lid and stir as it tends to splatter.

Can You Freeze Cranberry Sauce?

Yes. I recommend to portion out cranberry sauce in smaller airtight containers because it is a condiment. Make sure to leave some room for expansion, then freeze for up to 6 months.

When ready to eat, thaw on the counter for a few hours or in the fridge overnight. If you like sauce warm, simmer in a small to medium saucepan on low heat.

This healthy cranberry sauce recipe is so forgiving, your guests won’t know if it was frozen before. So good!

What to Do with Leftover Cranberry Sauce?

Besides serving cranberry sauce alongside Thanksgiving turkey, Instant Pot turkey breast or roasted turkey legs, here are creative ways for leftover cranberry sauce next time you stare at the jar of it in the fridge.

  • Make leftover turkey sandwiches or leftover turkey quesadillas with cheese and pesto. To die for!
  • Mix with plain yogurt or stir into an oatmeal for breakfast.
  • Simply treat it like a condiment and use as a jam. Spread a few tablespoons on a toast, serve with fresh sliced brie cheese or baked it on top….mmmmm.
  • Make a drink! Add sparkling water or Bubly, stir, let berries settle on the bottom and enjoy a healthy pop. “Ukrainian pop”, we always did it with jam as kids!

How to Store Leftovers

Store cooked sauce in a refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. I love to use glass mason jar with a lid as it preserves authentic fresh taste.

FAQs

How to thicken cranberry sauce?

Cranberry sauce will thicken in the fridge overnight, so you can make it ahead and serve cold. Or thicken at the end of cooking by adding a slurry made with 2 tablespoons of cold water and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Make sure to simmer until thickened.

How to sweeten it without sugar?

You can use equal amount of your favorite sugar-free sweetener. I would stick to your tried and true brand, so there are no surprises.

How do I make cranberry sauce less tart?

Add more sugar. Unfortunately cranberries are naturally tart and to get rid of tartness and bitterness to add more maple syrup is the only way.

More Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes to Try

Here are a few of our favorite holiday side dishes besides the classic cranberry sauce! Please let me know in comments below if you try any!

Cranberry sauce in a saucepan with ladle.
healthy cranberry sauce

Healthy Cranberry Sauce

Healthy Cranberry Sauce with 3 ingredients and a perfect balance of sweet and tangy. Naturally sweetened and ready only in 10 minutes!
4.86 from 7 votes
Servings 8
Calories 70
Diet Gluten Free
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 9 minutes
Total Time 11 minutes

Ingredients 
 

Instructions 

  • Go through cranberries and discard any squishy ones.
  • Add cranberries, maple syrup and orange juice to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil covered, reduce heat to medium and cook for 6 minutes. Cranberries are cooked when you hear them pop.
  • Remove lid, add cinnamon and vanilla if you wish, stir and cook for 3 more minutes or until cranberry sauce has thickened. No need to add cornstarch or gelatin as cranberries and honey will thicken on their own.
  • Serve hot or cold with turkey and mashed potatoes.

Notes

  • Store: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 2 weeks in glass mason jar with lid.
  • Freeze: Leave room for sauce to expand and freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw on a counter for a few hours or in the fridge overnight. If you like sauce warm, simmer in a small pot on low heat.
  • Add less sweetener: Use only 3-4 tablespoons of maple syrup for lower sugar content.
  • Add orange zest: Zest the fruit first before cutting it in half and juicing. To remove orange zest, I like to use a Microplane zester.
  • Smooth sauce: Mash the mixture with a masher or blend in a blender.
  • Too thick or too thin? Cranberry sauce will thicken with time, especially the next day and in the refrigerator as it cools down. You can always add water.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.25cup | Calories: 70kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 2mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 15g
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: North American
Author: Olena Osipov
Did you make this recipe?Mention @ifoodreal or tag #ifoodreal!

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About Olena

Welcome! I grew up in Ukraine watching my grandma cook with simple ingredients. I have spent the last 11 years making it my mission to help you cook quick and easy meals for your family!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Love this!!! I was looking for a healthier version than what I usually make and this was perfect. I love the balance of flavors, delicious warm and cold. Thank you!

  2. 5 stars
    Wonderful recipe Olena, so much better than canned. Approved by my family, doubled the recipe for everyone’s enjoyment!

    1. Compared to conventional store-bought and traditional recipes with 40 grams and up 14 grams of sugar is low sugar. It is all in comparison, right?! Plus maple syrup is a healthy sugar, not refined sugar. You can also use natural sugar free sweeteners like erythritol and monk fruit extract to make it very low sugar. Low sugar to you might be 2 grams and low sugar to me might be 14 grams. Health is not about eliminating sugar, sodium, fat etc. completely from one’s diet and there is so much more to it, and it truly means different things to each and every one of us. Glad to hear you are enjoying my recipes! Happy Holidays!

  3. I will be making this and as I live on my own i freeze a lot so I freeze it in large ice cubs and take out what I need and it works for me

  4. 4 stars
    I love your version of this,I usually do mine who Brown sugar,& Orange juice,I am waiting patiently to try your version with the maple syrup sounds devine??

  5. I did a recipe similar to this but added a packet of geletan to make it more like the jellied cans without the junk! I didn’t add the OJ and I like that idea!

    1. Sounds good! I found this sauce thickened quite a lot. I use it as a jam now. But if you like gelatin – totally works. I guess need more water.

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