Healthy Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Healthy Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Rock Springs Retreat Center / November 20, 2023 / rockspringsrc / 0

Cranberry sauce is a delicious, sweet, and tangy pop of color on your Thanksgiving plate! While cranberry sauce is full of antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, and manganese, it can also have lots of hidden sugar, depending on how it's been made. Most pre-made foods from the grocery store will be full of hidden fats, sugars, and other things we don't want to have in our bodies. 

Although it's convenient to opt for the pre-made stuff, we recommend making your food if possible! While it does take more time and effort, the reward is tenfold because you know exactly what is going into your body.

Cranberry Sauce Recipe - Cranberries and Cinnamon
We're taking just a few simple ingredients for this cranberry sauce and turning them into something beautiful and delicious. We're using fresh or frozen cranberries, freshly squeezed orange juice, sugar-free maple syrup, vanilla extract, nutmeg, and additional optional add-ins like orange zest, a cinnamon stick, and stevia to taste.

Healthy Cranberry Sauce with a Sweetened Twist

Most store-bought cranberry sauce can be sugary because cranberries are so tart, and many companies add lots of sugar to balance out that tartness. Instead of using refined sugar, we will use natural sugars from the oranges, or in our case, clementines, to bring out the sweetness of the cranberries.
Cranberry Sauce Recipe - Clementines

Clementines are a great option to juice if you don't have oranges available or if you have a bunch of clementines on hand as we do. 

We're also using sugar-free maple syrup to help give it some consistency. Using sugar-free syrup helps keep the calories and the overall sugar down, but you can certainly use regular maple syrup. However, using regular maple syrup will bring the simple carbs in the sauce up. Another alternative would be to use agave syrup - because this comes from a plant, it has a lower glycemic index. It is a better type of sugar because it doesn't promote the same insulin response as table sugar.

Cranberry Sauce Recipe - Sugar-free Maple Syrup
If the cranberry sauce is still too tart at the end, consider adding one to two tablespoons of Stevia to your liking. Stevia is a natural, zero-calorie sweetener that provides an extra punch without the calorie overload. It's perfect for folks with diabetes or those looking to cut back on calories. Even better, it's way sweeter than regular sugar, making it an excellent choice to cancel out the bitterness of the cranberries.
Cranberry Sauce Recipe - Vanilla Extract
In this recipe, we use vanilla extract. What's nice about using vanilla extract is that when you're not using a lot of sugar, vanilla can give you that nice appearance, smell, and taste of sweetness where it makes you think it's sugar, but it's actually vanilla extract.

Smart Cooking: Wholesome Cranberry Sauce

To make this recipe, grab a nonstick pan. First, add your orange juice and maple syrup and mix in a nonstick pot. Take a bit of vanilla extract, nutmeg, and a cinnamon stick and add it in as well. Combine everything until mixed. 
Cranberry Sauce Recipe - Ingredients
You can use ground cinnamon if you don't have a cinnamon stick. Still, our Fit Farm Dietitian, Laura Henry MS, RDN, recommends using a cinnamon stick. When you add ground cinnamon into a liquid, it can stay at the top and get clumpy. Adding a cinnamon stick instead helps add that cinnamon flavor throughout without anything getting clumpy or powdery.

Next, add your 12 oz of cranberries, creating about two cups of cranberry sauce.

Once everything is added to the pot, simmer on the stove! This is the fun part - the cranberries will start to pop and break down. If you don't like any whole cranberries in your sauce, you can take a potato masher to pop them all or otherwise leave them as is. 


While simmering, leave the pot uncovered to prevent the cranberry sauce from becoming watery. The cranberries will release their natural pectin and blend with the bit of liquid in the pot to create a delicious, gelled consistency. 

Pro tip: Add it to your turkey sandwiches for a delicious, sweet pop of flavor!

Healthy Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Yields: About 2 cups
Prep Time: 2 mins | Ready In: 10 mins
Serving Size: 2oz
Calories: 35kcal | Fat: 0g | Carbs: 5g | Protein: 0g


  • 12 oz Cranberries, fresh or frozen*
  • ½ cup Orange Juice, freshly-squeezed (about one large orange)*
  • ¼ cup Grade A Maple Syrup, sugar-free* OR 3-4 tsp of Stevia (liquid or powder)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • ¼ tsp Nutmeg
  • ½ tsp Orange Zest
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick

This cranberry sauce recipe will be on the tarter side than sweeter side.
Cranberries: Frozen cranberries work well here, but you will need to simmer them for an additional 1 to 2 minutes as they release more liquid in cooking.
Orange Juice: There isn't a huge final difference in flavor if you use fresh or pasteurized OJ, since the mixture is being cooked. Use whatever is easier for you!
Sweetener: Sugar-free maple syrup can be replaced with stevia to taste.


1. Add all ingredients to a medium pot and boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 6 minutes. Stir the mixture frequently to ensure nothing burns or sticks to the pan. The filling is "done" once it has thickened, and most cranberries have popped.

2. Use a fork or potato masher to pop the remainder of the cranberries, if desired. Let cool completely before serving.


  • Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to one week

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