Healthy Cranberry Sauce Recipe

healthy cranberry sauce recipe

I’ve always thought that homemade versions of classic recipes taste much better than store bought versions, and cranberry sauce is a perfect example of this. Although I loved the canned jellied cranberry sauce that we always ate on Thanksgiving when I was young, after I tried making cranberry sauce from scratch one year, I was hooked.

Most homemade cranberry sauce recipes call for a lot of sugar… enough that I’d classify cranberry sauce as a dessert and not a side dish. For those who haven’t tried them, plain cranberries are very tart, so I wasn’t sure how much it would be possible to reduce the sugar and still have an enjoyable sauce, but unrefined natural sweeteners (honey) and delicious fruits filled in the gaps.

This recipe still has more natural sugars than we normally eat, but is a much healthier option to the ones that actually contain refined sugar and is a delicious treat for Thanksgiving dinner.

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, also check out my healthy versions of Green Bean Casserole, Sweet Potato Casserole, Butternut Squash Soup, and Root Vegetable Stuffing.

You can also download and print my entire Thanksgiving menu and shopping list here if you are cooking this year and want an easier solution.

5.0 from 5 reviews
Sugarless Cranberry Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A homemade alternative to store bought cranberry sauce with delicious hints of pineapple and orange to complement the flavor!
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: Thanksgiving
Serves: 8
  • 2 bags of fresh cranberries (they are usually 12 ounce bags, so about 24 ounces)
  • ¾ cup pineapple juice or orange juice (I recommend pineapple!)
  • ½ cup of applesauce (no sugar added)
  • ½ cup of water
  • juice and zest of one orange
  • 3-4 Tablespoons of honey or to taste (optional)
  1. Put cranberries, pineapple juice, applesauce and water in a sauce pan and and bring to a boil.
  2. Keep on medium heat, stirring constantly until the cranberries start to explode (about 10-15 minutes).
  3. Reduce to a simmer and pour the juice and zest over the cranberry mixture.
  4. Simmer 10-15 minutes and remove from heat.
  5. Cool completely and store in fridge at least 4 hours but preferably overnight before serving.
  6. NOTE: This is not as sweet as store versions! Taste at the end of cooking. It is naturally sweet from the fruit juice and applesauce but you can add more honey or stevia to taste if needed.

Do you eat cranberry sauce? What foods do you always have at Thanksgiving? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. Adding a pinch of cloves & pinch of ginger & some dry mustard to this gives it a lot more flavor with no more sugar.  I might try adding a bit of port next time too.  Yum!  Thanks for the great idea!

  2. Just finished making this for tomorrows Thanksgiving dinner.  I added some honey, but love that it doesn’t require the huge amounts of sugar my old recipe called for.  I also made your pumpkin cheesecake (double recipe) and am using your brussel sprout recipe too.
    Thank you for all the healthy ideas and Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. Just finished making this for tomorrows Thanksgiving dinner.  I added some honey, but love that it doesn’t require the huge amounts of sugar my old recipe called for.  I also made your pumpkin cheesecake (double recipe) and am using your brussel sprout recipe too.
    Thank you for all the healthy ideas and Happy Thanksgiving.

  4. this looks good. Have you ever tried adding quince to your cranberry sauce. i am just learning about making marmalade, and last year made experimented a little – this year I was thinking of putting these two items together…?

    • My homemade cranberry sauce is simmering on the stove right now…2 bags of cranberries, 2 cans of crushed pineapple with juice, and some agave to sweeten. If it doesn’t thicken I may add some cornstarch or arrowroot to it at the end…it tastes yummy!

  5. Do you think I could use lemon juice instead of orange? I can’t have orange or pineapple, but I really want cranberry sauce. I think I’m going to give it a try, although I love orange with cranberry.

    • Try pear sauce instead – I often substitute pear sauce if I don’t have any applesauce ready. Don’t have any… dice up some pears (peel if you prefer it smoother) and place in a saucepan. Add a tablespoon or two of water and heat on top of the stove for about 30-45 minutes (all you are doing is letting the water content cook off until it is thicker). Keep your heat around med low (just so the sauce stays at a slow boil so the water can cook off). When the fruit and water has cooked down, turn it off and let it cool if you like fruit sauces with soft chunks. If you prefer it smooth, use a food processor, blender etc. and whirl it up until you lose all the chunks. You can make fruit sauce with almost any kind of fruit like this. It’s a great replacement too for store bought jams, jellies etc. As long as you are in the kitchen, place some on the stove and let it cook. I usually stir a couple of times just to make sure it doesn’t scorch on the bottom. If it’s sticking too much, your heat is too high.

  6. I always make my own cranberry sauce,usually with a hint of orange, but pear is good too:) I like roasted root veggies,, and my children love mashed potatoes, and apple sausage stuffing. I love the idea of butternut squash soup as a starter, and your cranberry sauce is much healthier than the one I usually make, so thanks a bunch for sharing!

  7. I eat turkey all year ’round and enjoy cranberry sauce with it. Recently I’ve begged the supermarket to get organic or other cranberry sauce without high fructose corn syrup which is so unhealthy and seems to be in all prepared brands. I read all labels and refuse to ingest that dangerous sugar substitute.
    Dole made some in a box (!) with just sugar…now I can’t even get that. Guess I’ll have to make my own from some of your great recipes. Thank you!

  8. This cranberry recipe sounds delicious. I usually buy extra fresh cranberries at Thanksgiving and freeze them . Then I can make this recipe anytime of year. My question is, can I use Stevia instead of honey?

  9. I just made this recipe and tweaked it here and there. I used a cup of 100% pineapple juice not from concentrate, 1/4 cup water, half cup of unsweetened apple sauce and juice and zest of one orange as in the original recipe. From there I added 4 tablespoons of coconut sugar, unrefined, a pinch of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of salt. I do mean just a pinch. This cooked up really fast and thickened up beautifully. After my taste testers tried it, we decided to add just a touch more of orange flavor and sweetness with only 2 drops of orange flavored stevia. Its PERFECT for us. Being diabetic I am sensitive to any processed sugar. My blood sugar does spike with natural sugars like fruit but that only lasts hours instead of wreaking havoc on my system for days or even a week after eating processed refined sugar, which I call fake. I’d rather have a drop or two of stevia in the mix, and the coconut sugar is good for diabetics as well with no problems. Enjoy!

    • Agave nectar isn’t actually better for you, it has recently been called one of the bad sweeteners, something because it’s like all fructose, I can’t remember exactly but we have stopped using it here… Google it

  10. This recipe turned out well but I agree with other reviewers to add some cinnamon and nutmeg. Also it says this makes 8 servings but I’d say more like 16 at least. I had thanksgiving with 11 people and I didn’t even use half the quantity made.

  11. I just made my fires homemade cranberry sauce this week – the kind with sugar. I am thrilled to find this recipe because I am hooked and it is fabulous with a little bit stirred into homemade yogurt!

  12. Katie,

    You can add a little baking soda to cut the tartness in fruit and therefore use less sugar. When I make homemade cranberries, I use one bag of cranberries, 1 c. water, 1/4 tsp. baking soda, and approximately 1/4 c. honey. You can adjust the ingredients until you find the blend of sweet-tart that your family likes. :)

  13. Hi.
    I understand that the pineapple juice is being used to replace the sugar/balance the tart, but we can’t do pineapple. Can coconut sugar be used? Or would you recommend orange juice in place f the pineapple juice?

  14. Ok, maybe this is a silly question, but should I add the honey while its cooking? Or wait until I remove it from the heat? First time making cranberry sauce.

  15. I made this today (Thanksgiving morning) and changed it up a bit: I increased the juice so that I didn’t need any water (so juice was 1 1/4 cup) and used orange mango juice instead of plain orange. I also added in about 1-2 tsp agar agar flakes to thicken it up some more, and 1/3 cup maple syrup (I thought it was 1/4 cup, lol), and it turned out PERFECT. This was one of the easiest recipes! Thank you :-)

  16. Made this and my family loved it! I did have to add a bit of honey for their taste but they all gave it a thumbs up! Thanks again, Katie!

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