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.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce is a healthy recipe that has hints of pineapple and citrus. It has no sugar and is optionally sweetened with honey.

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Sugarless Cranberry Sauce




Yield 8

A homemade alternative to store bought cranberry sauce with delicious hints of pineapple and orange to complement the flavor!


  • 2 bags of fresh cranberries (they are usually 12 ounce bags, so about 24 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup pineapple juice or orange juice (I recommend pineapple!)
  • 1/2 cup of applesauce (no sugar added)
  • 1/2 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.

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Do you eat cranberry sauce? What foods do you always have at Thanksgiving? Share below!
Homemade Cranberry Sauce is a healthy recipe that has hints of pineapple and citrus. It has no sugar and is optionally sweetened with honey.

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Reader Comments

  1. I love homemade cranberry sauce! I especially love it with orange flavors, so I’m looking forward to trying this one!

  2. Please, can creamed onions and creamed spinach be on the menu???

    • Like Mom made:) YUM

  3. How would you make cranberry sauce from dried cranberries?

    • I haven’t actually tried it, but I’d think just rehydrate them by soaking in water overnight and then boiling like normal to get them to thicken..

      • Thanks, I’m going to try it.  I’ve been looking for a recipe for a while.  I can’t find fresh cranberries here in South Africa.

      • I have a recipe that uses whole cranberries, dried cranberries and pears, brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, ginger. It’s yummy. I make it for Thanksgiving. Years ago we had a cranberry bog in a town I lived in, in Maine. I would dawn the orange clothing of hunting season, put tall gum rubber boots on and trudge through the woods into the bog, about a half mile and pick all I could get. I made the cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving and froze the rest for muffins, breads etc.
        Now I live in Las Vegas, no bogs here, I just buy fresh from the market.
        I like squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, turnip, green beans for veggies on Thanksgiving.

        • Oh Cheryl, if it is not too much bother, would you share the recipe? It sounds amazing? The sugarless cranberry sauce sounds great, too!

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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…?

  8. I’ve been looking for a sugarless cranberry sauce and was excited to find this one! Can’t wait to try it! Thank you! Love your site.

  9. I’m thinking it might be great with crushed pineapple too. Has anyone tried it? Thoughts?

    • I know I’m late, but that sounds great to me!

    • 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!

  10. 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.

    • You can, but you might need to add some honey or something to balance out the sourness…

    • Pomegranite, raspberries, just about any berry would be good in it!

    • My husband and I can’t do sugars, including honey , pineapple
      Or orange!
      I have made up this recipe that is great for those who can’t
      Do even the sweeter things like pineapple.

      3 bags of frozen or fresh cranberries( 30oz)
      12oz blueberries
      12oz strawberries
      12oz raspberries
      3 cinnamon sticks
      1/2 tsp ginger
      1/2 tsp allspice
      1 tsp Himalayan salt
      1/4 cup vegetable glycerin

      All above put in large pot and bring to a slow boil, immediately turn to
      Low and
      5 min or so and Mix in :

      3 tbsp beef gelatin, mixed in while hot stirring well
      3-4 drops of lemon essential oil
      Put in refrig after cooling on counter top for about an hour!

      All berries used can be of the frozen organic
      So u can
      This all year round! We also use it as a pie filling! Firms up nicely with the gelatin

    • true story. So does the honey!

    • You can get pineapple juice canned in its own juice, no sugar.

  11. What can be used instead of applesauce? I’m allergic.

    • 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.

  12. Can this recipe be canned in a hot water bath? I am thinking of doubling the recipe and gifting it.

  13. Looks great! I will use maple syrup to keep it vegan! Yay! Thanks!

  14. 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!

  15. this is an awesome alternative to homemade cranberry sauce.. I’m a cranberry addict 🙂

  16. An interesting recipe!

  17. Turned out great! Yum!

  18. 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!

  19. 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?

  20. Thanks! Just what I was looking for!

  21. 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!

  22. Would it be possible to make this in a crock pot?

  23. I would try this with maple flavored agave nectar.

    • 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

  24. Thanks for this recipe! I love that isn’t sweet.

  25. 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.

  26. How long would this keep for?
    Also, how could you go about preserving it, if I made a bigger batch? 🙂

  27. Do you serve this cold like in a glass bowl?

  28. Is using organic a necessary concern or are cranberries generally considered safe?

  29. 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!

  30. Hi Mama,
    Do you think this would freeze well?
    Thanks for all you do.

  31. 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. 🙂

  32. Could you also add dried crasins and nuts?

  33. 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?

    • Experiment and see what works for you 😉

  34. When are you supposed to add in the honey? 🙂

  35. 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.

    • don’t know if you ever received an answer to your question. I’m going to try this recipe and that would be something I would wonder about also.

  36. 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 🙂

  37. 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!

    • is any stainless steel pan ok? does stainless make cranberries taste metallic?

  38. Great recipe. I made this for Thanksgiving, and it’s delicious. The orange really brightens the flavor. It really was quite tart, so I added a small amount of sugar. I used orange juice, next time I’m excited to try it with the pineapple juice.

  39. This year I made mine with coconut sugar and just a little splash of kombucha. It was delicious!

  40. My dad, has been making this for the past thirty years. He reduced the sugar every year and now there is only orange juice and a couple of slices of lemons in it. No need for that much sugar. The canned stuff is disgusting.

  41. …Really? This isn’t sugarless, for the simple fact that you’ve already added sugar in the form of fructose with the apple sauce and pineapple/orange juice. Even the cranberries have sugar in them, albeit a very small amount. This is free from refined sugars, but not sugar in general. True enough this is healthier than your standard cranberry sauce, but you’re looking for a nice low-carb cranberry sauce, you’d be better off just substituting the refined sugar a with a sugar substitute such as stevia. Then it’s much lower in carbs and calories and much healthier for you.

  42. I am hosting a Family Gathering (about 19 people this year) and am serving ham and smoked turkey. I am always looking for something to serve with a smoked turkey. Would this work well? Any other ideas?