This easy, lightened up holiday favorite Cranberry Sauce will please everyone at the table – whether they’re cutting back on sugar, or ready to indulge in a turkey-topping worthy cranberry sauce!
If your idea of cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving involves 1) a can and 2) a can opener, then we need to have a good, old-fashioned sit-down. Sure, sure, a lot of us grew up being served this cranberry gel on our Thanksgiving tables, but there’s no reason you can’t figure out how to make it better. Healthier. Less round.
Lucky, for you, I’m here to help. I know that nothing’s going to be as easy as opening that can, shaking the “sauce” out and cutting it into little rounds (or better yet, adding it to a Jello mold). But if you’re going to go through all the trouble of making amazing main dishes, side dishes, and desserts (check out my Thanksgiving Recipes for same main dishes. For a great side dish, try my Traditional Homemade Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe and for a dessert idea try my Peach Crisp Stuffed Baked Peaches), why skimp on the cranberries? That’s like putting up your Christmas tree, all the lights, ornaments, and garland, and then spraying it with that fake snow stuff. Why? Why would you do that?
I might be getting a little over-zealous about my cranberry dish, I realize. But I’m not going to take any of it back. You’re going to have to come to my side on this one. If the photo of this delectable sauce doesn’t do it for you, how about the fact that it’s also good for you and you CAN MAKE IT AHEAD OF TIME? Ah, that got your attention didn’t it? I know there are sooo, so, so many things to get ready for the big day that anything you can make ahead is a real blessing.
I’ll leave you with this one warning though: Once you’ve made homemade cranberry sauce, there’s no going back. You’ll wonder why you didn’t make it sooner and hide your face in embarrassment every time someone asks where the canned stuff is.
What Makes this Cranberry Sauce Healthy?
First of all, the act of simply making your cranberry sauce from scratch pretty much automatically makes it healthier. You aren’t putting in any of the preservatives and extra sugars that are packed into the canned stuff. From there, you have your cranberries, which are an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants. Plus, cranberries are naturally low fat and low calorie.
Pineapple juice and applesauce are two more ingredients that sweeten your sauce naturally (be sure to read the labels to make sure you’re getting pure juice and applesauce — nothing with added sugars there, either). Pineapple contains anti-inflammatory properties and anti-cancer agents, and is good for your heart and eyes. Apples, other than keeping the doctor away, are another great source of fiber, vitamins A, C, K, E, B1, B2 and B6.
Water — well, that not only keeps you hydrated, but keeps the cranberries, well, saucy. Honey and brown sugar provide more natural sweetness to offset the bitter berries. Honey is also known for its antiseptic and antibacterial properties.
Finally, while orange zest does contain calcium, magnesium, copper, vitamins A and B, fiber, and folate, I like it most of all for the little zip of citrus flavor it gives the dish.
How do I Make Cranberry Sauce Ahead of Time?
For this dish, follow the directions as listed below. Then, let it cool before transferring to a dish, covering, and putting in the fridge for up to five days. I recommend reheating it before serving, but it’s good cold, too.
Want to save even more time? Put your cranberries in a microwave-safe dish for both storage and reheating. Or find a nice dish that’s both microwave safe and looks nice on your dinner table. Take it from fridge to microwave to table, and then hopefully even right into the dishwasher.
Can I Use Dried Cranberries?
Full disclosure: I have never tried to rehydrate a cranberry. I think fresh cranberries work well in this sauce, but I can see where you might need to punt on Thanksgiving day. I know I’ve been there, when you’re missing one ingredient and there’s NO WAY you’re going back to the store. If you find yourself in such a pickle, you can try to make this with dried cranberries, or Craisins, if you have those in your pantry. Here’s how:
Cover a half ounce with water in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover, and cook in the microwave for about 30 to 60 seconds on high. Let them stand for about five minutes before handling. Or, you can pour hot (nearly boiling) water over the cranberries and let them soak for about 20 minutes. Make sure you use a glass or ceramic (no plastic) dish for the soaking.
- 12 ounces fresh whole cranberries
- ½ cup pineapple juice
- 4 ounces applesauce - (⅓ cup)
- ½ cup water
- 2-4 tablespoons honey
- 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
- juice and zest of 1 orange
- Add cranberries to a large saucepan over medium heat along with pineapple juice, applesauce, and water and bring to a boil. Stir about 10 minutes until cranberries start to burst.
- Stir in orange juice, orange zest, honey, and brown sugar if including. Simmer for 10-15 minutes longer, remove from heat, and cool completely before serving. Can be made in advance and stored covered in the refrigerator 3-5 days.