Thanksgiving dinner isn’t complete without this healthy, eye-popping Spiced Orange Cranberry Sauce! It’s vegan, gluten- and refined sugar-free! Naturally sweetened with blood oranges and maple syrup and infused with cozy warm spices. A simple and delicious side dish full of zesty, perfectly spiced flavor you’ll want on your holiday table!
This recipe takes just 15 minutes to cook the warm spice flavor of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and ground cloves into the cranberries. And it will last a week in the fridge! It’s always the first side dish I check off the list for holiday prep. You can always sip on this Cranberry Orange Prosecco Cocktail as it cooks!
And once you make homemade cranberry sauce you’ll walk right by the sugary canned stuff at grocery stores. Not only are these ruby red gems eye-catching, they also pack quite a nutritional punch. Full of antioxidants, vitamin c and dietary fiber to boost our immune systems and improve digestion.
Due to their sharp, tart taste, they're rarely eaten raw. It’s best to use them in muffins, breads and this delicious crostata, or turn them into a jammy sauce with natural sweeteners.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Cranberries – Many grocery stores run BOGO promotions around the holidays to buy one bag of fresh cranberries and get one free. So use one now to make an amazing recipe and freeze the other for later!
Blood Orange – Any orange will work but I love blood oranges' less acidic, raspberry-like taste and mesmerizing color for garnish. Fresh orange juice adds a sweet balance, but orange zest is the flavor bomb. You can also cut off the peel into wide strips and remove after cooking.
Maple Syrup – Agave and honey are easily available substitutes without reaching for refined sugar. But using honey will no longer keep the recipe vegan.
Cinnamon – I like to throw a cinnamon stick or two right into the mix but you can also use a ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon. Adjust the amount to your liking.
Nutmeg – I used freshly grated nutmeg but halve the amount in the recipe card when using ground.
Ginger – Same story as nutmeg, I used fresh ginger and use half with ground.
Cloves – Here I used ground rather than whole cloves. They are small and would be hard to find and remove after cooking. No one wants a whole clove in their teeth! You can substitute ground allspice or star anise which is easy to remove.
Pinch of salt and a little water – Simple but essential!
It takes just one medium pot to bring this simple cranberry sauce together!
Combine cranberries and all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, then partially cover with a lid and reduce to medium heat.
Simmer gently, stirring occasionally until the cranberries pop and sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. This is when you get to enjoy the wonderful fragrance of the spices!
Remove pan from heat and discard cinnamon sticks (and star anise if used).
Let cranberry sauce cool completely. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 7 days if making ahead.
How do you know when cranberry sauce is done?
The sauce is done when the pectin in the cranberries thickens the sauce to jammy consistency. And keep in mind, the sauce will thicken even more as it cools.
Can you overcook cranberry sauce?
Unfortunately, yes. The sugar will begin to caramelize and burn when the sauce is overcooked. You want to cook the sauce until almost all of the cranberries burst. Those remaining that are whole can be popped when you remove from heat and stir or gently press with a potato masher.
Do you serve cranberry sauce hot or cold?
It’s typically served chilled or at room temperature. You could also warm it in a saucepan over medium-low heat before serving. But don’t bring it to a boil. It could burn as noted above.
Conventional cranberry sauce recipes call for ½ - 1 cup white sugar or packed brown sugar rather than a natural sweetener. For those following a special diet, you can make the sauce paleo and whole30 by replacing the syrup with crushed pineapple, cubed apples or dates soaked in water.
Uses for Leftover Cranberry Sauce
This versatile sauce is meant to be enjoyed beyond Thanksgiving! It's fabulous on a leftover turkey sandwich or over chicken and pork. You can even spoon a dollop on ice cream, slather it on pancakes and combine with other leftover veggies for a tasty frittata! And it's a great side to balance hearty main dishes like chicken pot pie.
Yes, just make sure the sauce has cooled completely before placing in a freezer-safe container or resealable bag. To defrost, let it thaw in the fridge overnight or on the defrost setting of your microwave. When thawed, give it a good stir and rewarm in a small saucepan if desired.
If your sauce turns out too sweet, you can fix it by adding a splash of apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar along with a pinch of salt. Also, you can replace the maple syrup with agave which is a more neutral tasting sweetener.
Try reducing the sauce down further so more of the liquid evaporates. If it still seems thin, add a thickener like gelatin or equal parts cornstarch and water stirred until smooth.
More Winning Holiday Side Dishes!
Spiced Blood Orange Cranberry Sauce (Refined Sugar Free!)
- 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries , rinsed
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 blood orange , zest and juice plus more slices for garnish
- ¼ cup water
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- Pinch kosher salt
- In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine all ingredients.
- Bring to a boil, partially cover with a lid and reduce heat to low.
- Simmer gently, stirring occasionally until the cranberries have burst and the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.
- Remove pan from heat and discard cinnamon sticks.
- Let cranberry sauce cool completely. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.
- Can be made 7 days in advance. Let come to room temperature before serving or rewarm on the stove, if desired. Enjoy!
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