This delicious fall berry doesn't have to come with a sugar rush! This Processed Sugar-Free Apple Cranberry Sauce recipe is naturally sweetened and ready in just three steps!
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Say "goodbye" to the canned cranberry jelly with loads of processed sugar! This processed sugar-free apple cranberry sauce is made with just natural sweeteners (i.e. no chemically processed sugar substitutes!) and is ready in a snap!
The best part is, this cranberry sauce tastes just like the original -- my taste testers had no idea it had only natural sweeteners in it!
This recipe can also easily be doubled or made a day or two ahead of your holiday dinner. Add this recipe to your menu today!
It's time for another round of "confession time: holiday edition," folks!
A confession that I feel borderline un-American to admit. But one that I need to come clean on. After all, I've never done too well carrying secrets.
But please, tell me you won't abandon me with news of my taboo tendencies.
Because -- wait for it -- up to this point I haven't liked cranberry sauce.
This truth goes deep enough that I decided to gather taste testers to sample my cranberry sauce recipe attempts. I would be too biased in my feedback. Heck, I might not like anything, regardless of how good it was.
After all, though I have made my share of cranberry sauces for Thanksgiving dinners (the things we do for those we love), all I can usually think of when I think of cranberry sauce is the gelatinous, borderline mealy, can-shaped cranberry sauce. 🤢
(Ok, have I really turned you against me now? Please, please hang in here with me for just a few paragraphs more 🙏).
So, I went ahead and developed a recipe based on cranberry sauce flavors that were hits with guests in years past. I tinkered with natural sweetener combinations and seasonings that were fresh, yet still reminiscent of classic cranberry sauce flavors.
Finally, I landed on the apple cranberry sauce shared here. It was a unanimous win with my taste testers. They liked the sweet and tart flavor, the texture, the reminder of the holidays, and -- most notably -- that it didn't come in a can shape.
Emboldened by the last review, I was inspired to finally give the sauce a try for myself... and .... gasp -- I liked it!
In fact, I enjoyed a bit with my newly developed brined turkey breast recipe and surprised myself when I went back for seconds.
See?? I told you to hang in there. I can take a while to come around. That's not the first time and it probably won't be the last.
Hopefully, though, you'll forgive me for my sacrilege. And, most importantly, I hope you'll join me in my surprise new-found delight in this apple cranberry sauce!
Happy holidays, friends!
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Here at Mae's Menu, we have a variety of readers: those who are more experienced in the kitchen and want to zip straight through to the recipe and those who want to learn more about the dish, potential substitutions, and more.
To skip straight to the recipe, just click "Jump to Recipe" at the top left of this post. To browse the post quickly, just click the headings in the table of contents below.
Table of contents
- This apple cranberry sauce recipe is...
- Recipe ingredients
- Ingredient substitutions
- How is cranberry sauce different from cranberry jelly?
- What type of apples are best for this recipe?
- Is this cramberry sauce paleo or keto? Gluten-free or vegan?
- How do you peel orange zest?
- How to make apple cranberry sauce:
- Can you make this recipe ahead of time?
- Can you double this recipe?
- How do you serve cranberry apple sauce?
- How long do cranberry sauce leftovers keep?
- How to use up leftover sauce:
- Can you freeze cranberry sauce?
- Tools needed to make this recipe:
- Other healthy Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes you might like:
This apple cranberry sauce recipe is...
- Naturally sweet
- Devoid of processed sugars or fake sweeteners
- Ready in 20 minutes
- Made in just 2 steps
- Naturally vegan & gluten-free
- Perfect to make ahead of time
- Easy to double
This sauce is so vibrant, fresh, and flavorful that you won't even miss the processed sugar!
- Fresh cranberries - the keystone ingredient of this favorite Thanksgiving or Christmas recipe!
- Apples - add flavor, natural sweetness, and great texture
- Orange juice - naturally sweetens the recipe and contributes to the citrus flavor notes in the recipe
- Orange zest - brings brights citrus notes and makes your kitchen smell like the holidays
- Maple syrup - the warm notes of this natural sweetener perfectly complement the tart berries
- Ground cinnamon & Ginger powder - a classic cranberry sauce flavor kick
- Salt - just a pinch does the trick!
I usually test out a list of ingredient substitutions for my recipes, but this recipe really does best with the listed ingredients. I hate being difficult but it's worth sticking with the list. Most of the ingredients are pretty easy to find this time of year and/or are household staples, too, thankfully!
If you don't have maple syrup, you can substitute liquid agave syrup in a pinch, but I do prefer maple syrup over it.
How is cranberry sauce different from cranberry jelly?
Oh boy-- the age-old American question. 😳 And clearly an important one in my book. 😉
Cranberry jelly is a strained, gelatin-like fruit spread that often comes in a can. It's thick and usually doesn't have any cranberry chunks in it, though some varieties do.
Cranberry sauce is a cranberry-based spread or garnish that is often fresher than cranberry jelly. It has a looser consistency and doesn't come in a can. 😉 It is often made from simmering whole or chopped up cranberries with a sweetener and liquid. It can be seasoned with other flavors, like orange, cinnamon, cloves, etc., however.
In this recipe, we will be making fresh cranberry sauce with apples, maple syrup, orange juice and zest, and warm winter spices.
What type of apples are best for this recipe?
The best type of apples for this recipe are sweet and crisp apples, like Fuji, Jazz, Envy, and and Cripps apples. Honeycrisp and granny smith apples may also work well in this recipe. I haven't personally tried it yet, though, so please proceed with caution.
Is this cramberry sauce paleo or keto? Gluten-free or vegan?
This recipe is not paleo or keto, unfortunately. Orange juice is not paleo and there are too many carbs in this recipe (albeit from healthy and whole food sources) for it to be considered keto.
The sauce is, however, naturally gluten-free and vegan as it contains no wheat ingredients or animal products!
How do you peel orange zest?
To peel orange zest, run a veggie peeler over the skin of an orange, peeling only the orange layer off the fruit. Be careful to avoid the underlying white pithy layer of the orange, as it is bitter tasting.
How to make apple cranberry sauce:
- Add the cranberries, apples, and orange peel to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the fruit pieces are the size of small pebbles or green peas.
- Pour the fruit into a medium-size saucepan.
- Add the maple syrup, orange juice, cinnamon, ground ginger, and a pinch of salt to the saucepan.
- Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium heat and simmer for 16-18 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and is a dark red color.
- Let cool and serve!
Can you make this recipe ahead of time?
This recipe is perfect for making ahead of time! Just make the cranberry sauce up to 2 days ahead of time and store covered in an airtight container until serving.
Can you double this recipe?
Yes, you can definitely double this recipe. Just pulse the fruit in the food processor in two batches and simmer the fruit in a larger pan if needed. Then, continue with the recipe as directed, adding on a few minutes of simmering time if the sauce takes longer to thicken.
How do you serve cranberry apple sauce?
Just thinking about this makes my mouth water! The perfect way to serve cranberry sauce is with a Thanksgiving, Christmas, or another holiday spread.
You can serve this sauce with roast turkey but it's also delicious with sliced ham and roast pork. Have fun finding your favorite way to enjoy it!
How long do cranberry sauce leftovers keep?
Leftovers last covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
How to use up leftover sauce:
Use up the leftover apple cranberry sauce anywhere you would use cranberry jelly. I'm still new to this whole "enjoying cranberry sauce" game (see my story above) but I've had friends rave about cranberry sauce on turkey sandwiches and in cocktails.
For a complete list of ways to use up your leftovers, check out this list of 12 Ways to Use up Leftover Cranberry Sauce.
Can you freeze cranberry sauce?
Yes, you can freeze cranberry sauce in a freezer-safe container for up to 2 months.
Tools needed to make this recipe:
- Food processor
- Cutting board
- Measuring cups & spoons
- Vegetable peeler
- Medium-size saucepan
- Silicone spatula
Other healthy Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes you might like:
- Air Fryer Butternut Squash
- Savory Bread Pudding
- Healthy Mashed Potatoes (without Butter or Oil!)
- Sweet Potato Souffle
- No-Yeast & No-Knead Dinner Rolls
- Blistered Green Beans
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The recipe can also easily be made a day or two ahead of your holiday dinner. Just refrigerate in a covered container until serving.
- 2 cups fresh whole cranberries
- 2 cups apples (or ~1 ½ medium apples), peeled and cut into 1 ½-inch chunks*
- 3 large (3 x 2-inch) pieces of orange zest
- ½ cup orange juice
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ginger powder
- pinch salt
1. Place the cranberries, apple chunks, and orange peel in a food processor or blender and pulse 10-15 times, or until the fruit pieces are the size of small pebbles or green peas.
2. Pour the fruit mixture into a medium-size saucepan. Add the orange juice, maple syrup, ground cinnamon, ginger powder, and a pinch of salt. Stir until combined and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
3. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 16-18 minutes, stirring every few minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and turned a deep red color. Let cranberry sauce cool and serve!
* Sweet and crisp apples like Fuji, Jazz, Cripps, or Envy apples work best for this recipe.
1. This recipe is easily doubled. Just pulse the fruit in two batches and simmer the fruit in a larger pan if needed. and add on a few minutes of simmering time if the sauce takes longer to thicken.
2. You can also make this recipe up to 2 days ahead of time. Store the sauce covered in the refrigerator until serving.
3. Cranberry sauce leftovers last covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also freeze the sauce in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
4. To zest an orange, run a veggie peeler over the skin of an orange, peeling only the orange layer off the fruit and avoiding the white pithy layer.
Amount Per Serving Calories 71Total Fat 0gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 0mgSodium 19mgCarbohydrates 18gFiber 2gSugar 14gProtein 0g
This nutrition breakdown is just an estimate of the nutritional value of this recipe and cannot be taken as facts. The owners of Mae's Menu are not nutritionists or dietitians and therefore cannot be held accountable for this nutrition estimate. Please contact your nutritionist or medical professional for a nutritional breakdown of this food. Furthermore, this food is not intended to prevent, diagnose, cure, or treat any disease.