Lower in added sugar, this easy, healthy Homemade Cranberry Sauce gets its sweetness from orange juice and applesauce, plus a touch of honey or maple syrup.
- About Healthy Cranberry Sauce
- How to Make Healthy Cranberry Sauce
- Tips for Making Low Sugar Cranberry Sauce
- Frequently Asked Questions
About Healthy Cranberry Sauce
Until a few years ago, I was never a fan of cranberry sauce. I did not see the appeal of it. It was way too sweet and usually shaped like a can.
However, I was preparing a Friendsgiving feast and multiple people requested cranberry sauce, so I made a basic cranberry, sugar, and water version to go along with my other favorite Thanksgiving sides. That was when I realized that homemade cranberry sauce is actually quite delicious.
The next year, I added some orange juice & zest and really liked that. I also tried it with a sugar substitute, but that was a hard no. You need a little bit of real sugar to make it taste good.
However, I really wanted to use less sugar. Not because I think sugar is poison, the devil, or the cause of the world's health problems but because I know that I have more energy and feel better when I don't eat a ton of sugar.
I decided to use fruit to help sweeten the cranberry sauce and add a little sugar as needed, and last Thanksgiving, I finally perfected my homemade cranberry sauce recipe made with orange juice, applesauce, and honey.
Cranberries: Use fresh whole cranberries in this cranberry sauce. Also, whole cranberries that are frozen will work in the cranberry sauce. Simply add them from the freezer; it'll take a few extra minutes to cook but they work exactly the same in the sauce.
Orange juice and zest: For the orange juice and orange zest, you just need one large orange. I don't buy a specific orange; you simply need a large-sized orange to get the right amount of zest and juice. If you forget to buy an orange, you can use store-bought orange juice in place of the fresh juice and skip the orange zest. However, I really love the flavor the orange zest gives. And if you really just want a cranberry sauce without orange, simply skip it altogether and use water in place of the orange juice. *Note: if your orange doesn't make a full cup, simply add enough water to make the liquid one cup.
Apple sauce: No sugar added apple sauce is my personal choice to keep this cranberry sauce from being too sweet. However, if you only have applesauce with added sugar then you can use it and start with less honey and add more as needed.
Honey: For the sweetener, I use honey for a lighter flavor. If you want to make this cranberry sauce vegan replace the honey with granulated sugar (regular sugar) or maple syrup. Note that maple syrup has a stronger flavor than honey, so you will taste the maple syrup. But I certainly don't think that's a bad thing.
- cranberries 12 ounces: $2.49
- orange juice & zest from 1 orange: $0.49
- apple sauce 1/2 cup: $0.42
- honey 2 tablespoons: $0.56
TOTAL COST: $3.46 (Based on San Diego Sprouts 2021) or $0.50/serving
How to Make Healthy Cranberry Sauce
Time needed: 30 minutes.
Making your own homemade cranberry sauce is simply throwing the ingredients into a saucepan and cooking until the cranberries turn into a sauce. Here's How to Make Healthy Cranberry Sauce:
- Zest and juice the orange.
Zest before juicing because it's harder to zest after cutting the orange.
- Add cranberries to a saucepan and pour in orange juice.
- Add the applesauce and honey to the saucepan.
Stir everything together.
- Bring to a boil and simmer.
Cook until the mixture turns into a sauce with your desired consistency.
- Add the orange zest and stir.
Let the sauce cool because the sauce will thicken a little more as it cools.
- Spoon the sauce into a serving bowl. Enjoy!
Tips for Making Low Sugar Cranberry Sauce
*Makes 2 cups sauce.
*Water or apple juice can easily be used as a substitute for orange juice in homemade cranberry sauce. Use 100% juice (no-added-sugar) apple juice.
*About 1 large orange give you 1 cup of orange juice. If you don't get a full cup after juicing, simply add enough water to make the liquid one cup.
Orange: In case you forget to buy an orange, you can always use store-bought orange juice in its place. Or omit the orange juice and replace it with water or no-sugar-added apple juice.
Orange zest: You can use lemon zest in place of the orange zest or skip it (though I think it makes the cranberry sauce go from good to great).
How to Make Allergy Friendly
This lower sugar, healthy cranberry sauce is already gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, and nut-free. It's also vegetarian, and if you want to make it vegan, you can substitute the honey with granulated sugar or maple syrup.
If you want to jazz this up a little bit, feel free to add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon or a cinnamon stick to the saucepan when you add the cranberries, etc.
For a cranberry sauce with no orange, omit the orange. Use 1 cup of water or no-sugar-added apple juice in place of the orange juice. Skip the orange zest or use 1 teaspoon of lemon zest if desired.
Make Ahead Ideas
Homemade cranberry sauce is one of the best sauces to make ahead of time to save yourself time and stress for your holiday meals because cranberry sauce is best made ahead
It keeps in the fridge for up to one week. You can even make this in advance and freeze it to defrost the day before using it.
Homemade cranberry sauce keeps well in the fridge for up to one week and in the freezer for up to six weeks. Use a glass or plastic container to store the healthy cranberry sauce.
Since it is served cold, there's no need to reheat. If you are using from frozen, put it in the fridge to defrost at least 6 hours before using. I typically like to start defrosting the night before so I don't forget.
Frequently Asked Questions
Water or apple juice can easily be used as a substitute for orange juice in homemade cranberry sauce.
Yes, you can use frozen whole cranberries to make cranberry sauce. Simply add them into the saucepan like you would fresh cranberries.
Nutrition benefits of this recipe
Cranberries and oranges are high in Vitamin C, and the fresh cranberries add fiber to the sauce. Additionally, cranberries contain substances that can prevent urinary tract infections.
Another great thing about this lower sugar, healthy cranberry sauce is that it has much less sugar than your typical cranberry sauce recipe. It also uses no sugar substitute.
What to serve with Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry sauce is a great sauce to serve with your turkey, dressing, sweet potato casserole, green beans, squash casserole, mashed potatoes, or whatever else you like to serve on Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's also a great sauce for sandwiches.
Cranberry sauce doesn't have to come from a can, and it doesn't need to have a huge amount of sugar to be enjoyable. This lower-sugar version using honey and applesauce will satisfy your cranberry sauce craving without giving you a sugar crash.
MORE CRANBERRY RECIPES YOU'LL LOVE:
- Cranberry Orange Kombucha
- Sparkling Cranberry Apple Orange Juice
- Cranberry Honey Mustard Sauce
- Make Your House Smell Like Christmas
- Cranberry Orange Vodka
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- 1 large orange for 1 cup orange juice and 1 teaspoon zest
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries or frozen
- 1/2 cup apple sauce no added sugar
- 3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
- Zest and juice the orange. (Or use 1 cup of store-bought orange juice, water, apple juice, or a combination of these liquids).
- Add the cranberries, orange juice, apple sauce, and honey to a medium saucepan, and heat over medium-high heat.
- Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer.
- Simmer for 20-25 minutes until the cranberries pop and it turns into a sauce.
- Add orange zest, and taste. Add any additional honey if desired. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly.
- Transfer to a bowl, and enjoy!
This post was originally published on November 12, 2017. Text, recipe, and photos have been updated.
Nutrition Facts for Healthy Cranberry Sauce
Doesn't this recipe look good?! You should probably share it: