If you're ready to ditch the can and make the real deal, I've got the recipe for you! Made with fresh cranberries and sweetened naturally, this Easy Paleo Cranberry Sauce pairs perfectly with all of your holiday dishes. You'll wonder why cranberry sauce is saved for Thanksgiving when it's good enough to eat year round!
I kept this recipe super simple. It's not traditional in the sense that I didn't cook the cranberries in orange juice. I felt like the orange flavor overpowered the cranberries...and I like cranberries! If you love a good, thick cranberry sauce that's bursting with fresh holiday flavor, though, this Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce will absolutely deliver. I've got a couple secret ingredients up my sleeve that make it feel really special. To keep this recipe free of refined sugar I sweetened it with maple sugar. You could use coconut sugar as well, but I really like the flavor of the maple sugar best in this one! This is a naturally sweet recipe, especially if the cranberries are cooked all the way down. The sweetness made it a huge hit with my kids!
How to Make Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce from Scratch
It is SO MUCH easier than you may be thinking to make homemade cranberry sauce! There isn't even a comparison between homemade and canned...it's just so much better made at home with whole berries. Use fresh cranberries, washed and drained, a cup of water along with maple sugar and a bit of salt. Stir them as they come to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook for 10 more minutes. Keep an eye on the cranberries and continue stirring to prevent burning. You'll see some of the berries begin to pop, which is totally normal. After that you'll just remove it from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Easy as can be!
Making Homemade Cranberry Sauce in Advance
You can make this dish in advance and store in your refrigerator for two weeks or in your freezer for up to three months. I always make homemade cranberry sauce a couple days ahead of the big meal since it is just as good when made in advance! Making cranberry sauce weeks ahead of time is an awesome way to save stress the day or even week of Thanksgiving. Just remember to pop it in the fridge a day or two before the big meal!
You can store fresh cranberries in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to two months or freeze them for future use. Once cooked, they can actually last 2-4 weeks in an airtight container in your refrigerator. They're such a yummy snack or even dessert!
How to Select the Best Cranberries
For the best cranberry sauce, be sure to select cranberries that are shiny, firm, plump and range in color from bright light red to dark red. You want to avoid cranberries that are shriveled or looking decayed. Fresh, ripe cranberries will always bounce so you can actually do a bounce test to see if they are good to go!
Health Benefits of Cranberries
Cranberries are an absolute superstar fruit when it comes to health benefits. Seriously...you want these in your diet! Most people know that cranberries help promote a healthy urinary tract and digestive health due to their naturally occurring compounds called PACS (proanthocyanins). They're also great for your cardiovascular health. Their deep red pigment contains important nutrients that play a role in preventing heart disease, cancer, and age-related mental decline. When included as part of a low-sodium diet, cranberries may even reduce the risk of high blood pressure.
Cranberry Sauce with Secret Ingredients
Don't you love having a secret ingredient up your sleeve when you do some holiday cooking? In this Easy Cranberry Sauce my secret ingredients are allspice and a touch of almond extract. These give it such an amazing flavor while balancing out the tartness of the cranberries! Allspice and almond really blend well with the sweetness of the maple sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. I also used my mom's secret ingredient: an apple! I know the addition of apples might surprise you, but I really encourage you to give it a try! This is my mom's secret ingredient that she swears by, and when I tried it, I really did love the balance it gave to the finished sauce. You can leave the apple out if you prefer and the sauce will still turn out great! Leave the skin on your apple to retain all of the amazing nutritional benefits of the apple.
Easy Cranberry Sauce Texture
You can really tailor the texture of this sauce to your liking! Cooking the berries longer will make a smoother, softer sauce, while a little less time will allow some berries to stay intact. If you want bigger pieces of cranberry throughout, you can pull some out before mashing, then stir them back in at the end. Adding a bit of orange zest at the end brings this cranberry sauce back to a more traditional feel. Honestly, I like it better without. Again, I just love the flavor of the cranberries! But if you like a hint of orange, this will add some of that citrusy brightness.
This Easy Cranberry Sauce is paleo, vegan, grain-free, nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar free. Everyone at your holiday table can enjoy this dish!
More Thanksgiving Side Recipes
All of these recipes are vegan, gluten-free and refined sugar-free:
Maple Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Quinoa Salad
Vegan Apple Arugula Salad with Candied Walnuts, Dates and Feta
Maple Roasted Butternut Squash
Crispy Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Crispy Oven Roasted Cauliflower
Easy Maple Glazed Sautéed Carrots
Restaurant Style Sautéed Mushrooms
@eatingbyelaine Homemade cranberry sauce ❤️ #thanskgiving #thanksgivingdinner #cranberries #cranberrysauce #thanksgivingrecipes #cranberries ♬ original sound - eatingbyelaine
Easy Cranberry Sauce (refined sugar-free)
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 6-8 1x
- Diet: Vegan
Made with fresh cranberries and sweetened naturally, this Easy Cranberry Sauce pairs perfectly with all of your holiday dishes. I added sweet red apples for a special twist on this traditional holiday side dish.
This dish is best when made one day in advance of serving.
- 1 dry quart fresh cranberries, washed and drained
- 1 cup filtered water
- 1 sweet red apple, cored, diced (skin on) [optional but recommended - see notes]
- ¾ cup maple sugar (or coconut sugar)
- pinch of fine salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
- Place cranberries, water, apples, maple sugar and salt in a 5.5 quart dutch oven over high heat. Stir well as it comes to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes. Stir frequently throughout to prevent burning. The cranberries will pop throughout this part of the cooking process.
- Remove from heat and add vanilla, cinnamon, almond extract and allspice. Stir well and mash with a potato masher if desired.
- Taste and adjust flavors as needed. The flavors will develop more as the sauce cools. The sauce will also thicken more as it cools. I typically make the sauce in advance and taste after it has chilled overnight in the refrigerator. Then I typically add any additional spices as I reheat it before serving.
- When serving you can add orange zest as garnish if desired. Please see notes below.
For chunkier cranberry sauce reserve a handful or two of fresh cranberries and add them toward the end of cooking.
You can make this sauce up to one week in advance. Store once fully cooled to room temperature in an airtight container in your refrigerator.
My mom (who has always been an incredible cook) swears by adding 1 chopped sweet red apple with the skin on during the cranberry cooking process. When I tested it out myself, I really did like the balance of flavors. This is not as traditional but it is a fun twist if you are looking to make a chunky cranberry sauce. I do recommend! You can easily leave the apples out and the sauce will still turn out delicious.
Optional Garnish: fresh orange zest (~ 1 teaspoon) - personally I do not like adding this and feel it overpowers the sauce. However, I know it is traditional so I'm just mentioning it here for those that love the cranberry-orange flavor combination.
- Prep Time: 5
- Cook Time: 20
- Category: Side Dish
- Method: Stovetop
Keywords: paleo cranberry sauce
Is there something that can be substituted for the almond extract?
Elaine Gordon says
Great question - you can just leave it out if you don't have it. It just adds a unique flavor. 🙂