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Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Sauce

Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Sauce

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Let’s talk about cranberry sauce! It’s the neglected, afterthought condiment of Thanksgiving, but no holiday table is complete without it. Cranberry sauce adds a very necessary burst of sweet-tart flavor and ruby red color to an otherwise beige meal.

This naturally sweetened cranberry sauce recipe is much prettier than store-bought, not to mention extra delicious thanks to the honey or maple syrup.

Plus, this homemade cranberry sauce couldn’t be easier to make. It’s ready in about 10 minutes. If you need a quick and easy Friendsgiving option, sign up for the cranberry sauce!

Here’s what you’ll need to make this cranberry sauce recipe:

  • 1 bag of fresh cranberries
  • honey or maple syrup
  • water
  • the zest from one orange, or orange juice

And a pot to cook it in. That’s it.

Naturally Sweetened vs. Conventional Cranberry Sauce

There is something fantastically retro about a gelatinous, shimmering cylinder of canned cranberry sauce on a plate. I’ve always wondered when we started buying cans of cranberry sauce instead of making it themselves. Did we experience a fresh cranberry shortage in the 50s? Maybe fresh cranberries weren’t readily available back then?

Fortunately for us modern Americans, grocery stores are overflowing with cranberries this season. I picked up a can of cranberry sauce at the grocery store recently and glanced at the list—cranberries, followed by high fructose corn syrup, and that’s about it. High fructose corn syrup is heavily processed, flavorless sweet stuff that I try to avoid, and I know you all do, too.

Most homemade versions call for about a cup of white sugar. Today, I thought I would offer you a more nutritionally redeeming, naturally sweetened option that calls for 1/2 cup of honey or maple syrup.

Uses for Leftover Cranberry Sauce

  • Swirl leftover sauce into yogurt with granola.
  • Dollop it into your oatmeal (like this).
  • Spread it onto toast topped with almond butter or goat cheese (like this).
  • Basically, treat it like jam!

Please let me know how this cranberry sauce turns out for you in the comments! If you have any other fun ways to use up your leftover sauce, I’ll add them to the list.

Looking for more Thanksgiving recipes? Check out my roundup here.

Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Sauce

  • Author:
  • Prep Time: 2 min
  • Cook Time: 8 mins
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 2 cups 1x
  • Category: Condiment
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

This naturally sweetened cranberry sauce recipe is made simply with fresh cranberries, honey or maple syrup and orange zest! It’s easy to make and tastes amazing, too. Feel free to make it the day ahead, chill it overnight and let it warm to room temperature before serving. Recipe yields about 2 cups cranberry sauce.



  • 12 ounces (1 bag) fresh cranberries
  • ½ cup honey or maple syrup
  • ½ cup water
  • Zest of 1 medium orange*, preferably organic (about 1 teaspoon)
  • Optional add-ins: ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and/or ¼ cup fresh orange juice


  1. First, rinse the cranberries well and drain off excess water. Pick through the cranberries and discard any squishy ones.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the cranberries, honey and water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have popped and the mixture has thickened to your liking, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the pot from heat and stir in the orange zest. If you’d like to add cinnamon or orange juice, add it now. Taste and, if the mixture is too tart (keeping in mind that cranberry sauce is supposed to be a little tart!), add more orange juice, honey or maple syrup to taste.
  4. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. It will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 2 weeks.


Recipe adapted from my cranberry crostini.

Make it vegan: Use maple syrup instead of honey.

*How to remove zest: I use a Microplane grater (affiliate link) which easily removes the zest. You could also use the fine holes of your box grater. If you want to simplify, skip the zest and stir in ¼ cup orange juice instead.

▸ Nutrition Information

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Watch the video: Cranberry Sauce Muffins. Leftover Series! (May 2022).