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Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Sauce

November 25, 2015 by Ginger Hultin MS RDN

This may be controversial, but I do not like canned cranberry sauce. I know it’s traditional and holds a special place in a lot of hearts, but that jelly-like, sugar-laden blob is just not for me. Luckily, I’ve created a delicious alternative to the canned stuff that will surely make you a fresh cranberry convert. No holiday table is complete without cranberry sauce so try making my Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Sauce this year for your holiday feast. Your friends and family will thank you, too, because it’s totally delicious and much, much healthier, too. 

Cut the sugar and celebrate the nutrition in fresh cranberries by making your own. It is one of the most simple recipes you’ll make for a big dinner like Thanksgiving and it’s perfect for making ahead of time and keeping in the fridge for ease. The traditional mulled spices used in this recipe will remind you of mulled cider or mulled wine. Be sure to invite people over when you’re making this cranberry sauce because the cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger make your house smell amazing! This recipe is a win-win and you want to know the best part? You’ll never have to eat cranberry sauce shaped like a can again!

Personally, I kick off the ‘mulled’ foods and beverages early in the fall/winter holiday season right around October and generally at a pumpkin carving party with friends and family. I’ll often make my Spiced Cider Bourbon punch. This one is easy to make non-alcoholic, however and you can simply leave out the bourbon for those who don’t want to drink it at your party.

Making the Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Sauce 

This cranberry sauce really couldn’t be any easier to make, while at the same time delivering a show-stopping side at your holiday feast. Sweetening this dish naturally with maple syrup allows the tartness of the fresh cranberries to shine through. Adding the spices after cooking down the cranberry mixture delivers a nice, mulled spiced note and the fresh grated ginger gives this sauce a little unexpected heat. Fill your home with the smells of fall when by my Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Sauce. 

I’m guessing that when you’re making this recipe, you’ll be making a big dinner to entertain a lot of people and if you’re like me, that can be a bit stressful. If I’m hosting Thanksgiving for example, I start cooking at least 1-2 days beforehand. The shopping happens 3-4 days before and the prep happens…weeks before. I have a post about how to handle holiday stress that has helped a lot of people. Make sure to keep these tips in mind next time you’re preparing for a big celebration or dinner.

The Cranberries 

Cranberries are supportive of many systems in the body including the cardiovascular system, the liver, as well as the urinary tract. Keep in mind that sugar is NOT good for the bladder and cranberries are often accompanied by sugar to help balance the tart flavor. Just like in cranberry juice cocktail, the presence of sugar can be a bladder irritant. If you’re seeking bladder support, be sure to get 100% cranberry juice and though it’s tart and may be an acquired taste, it’s also delicious once you get used to it. This is a question that I get asked all the time so please remember: if you’ve got bladder irritation, you may need medical treatment, first of all, and secondly, once you’ve done that, sugar is not your friend but water generally is. 

Packed with vitamin C and manganese, cranberries are rich in antioxidants – just look at that brilliant color. This recipe eliminates all the white sugar usually found in cranberry sauce but is lightly sweetened with maple syrup. Offering more traditional holiday flavor with greater depth than pure white sugar, using maple syrup offers a unique flavor to this cranberry sauce recipe. Honey would be a delicious alternative to maple syrup. Agave is another vegan option if you’re not a fan of maple syrup or honey. 

The Spices 

Nothing beats the classic spices associated with fall. Add mulled seasonings like allspice, ground cloves, nutmeg, and ginger to create a warm and fragrant dish. Boiling the berries with a stick of cinnamon infuses the cranberries with cinnamon flavor creating a wonderful depth of flavor. Just remember to remove the cinnamon stick before serving or leave it in as a beautiful garnish but ensure that you don’t serve it to anyone in their glass. Cinnamon is tough and woody – you cannot eat it whole and that’s why, like so many other spices, we grind it. 

If you’re enjoying several holiday dishes this year and seem to be running through all of the fall spices, try blending together your own pumpkin spice mix. This spice blend could be used in this cranberry recipe if you didn’t have a whole cinnamon stick and fresh ginger on hand. Just stir in 2 teaspoons of the mix after cooking the cranberry mixture in lieu of the other spices. 

Enjoy this traditional dish all fall and winter holiday season – cranberry sauce isn’t just for Thanksgiving! I hope you have fun making my Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Sauce. 

Love cranberries? So do I. At ChampagneNutrition, you can search through a ton of my cranberry recipes, as well as other seasonal favorites (like pumpkin):


Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Sauce

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Course: Side Dish, thanksgiving
Cuisine: Americana
Keyword: cranberry punch, cranberrysauce, Thanksgiving recipe, veganthanksgiving
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 6
Author: Ginger Hultin


  • 12 ounce bag of fresh organic cranberries rinsed
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 medium cinnamon stick
  • teaspoon ¼Kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger


  • Place the cranberries syrup, vanilla, water, cinnamon stick and salt in a medium sauce pan.
  • Bring it to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low until most of the berries burst; about 10 minutes. Note, when berries start to pop, they can spray juice around your kitchen.
  • When most of the liquid is cooked out, turn the heat down to a soft simmer.
  • Allow the cranberry sauce to cool, remove the cinnamon stick and add allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger.
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Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO

An award-winning, nationally recognized nutrition expert and media spokesperson.

Thanks for visiting! If you’re like me: obsessed with eating, wine, going out and traveling, you’re in the right place. Champagne Nutrition® LLC is a Registered Dietitian-run concierge virtual practice helping clients look and feel better. On this blog, you’ll find cocktails, mocktails, and plant-based recipes that are easy to make quickly at home and pack for leftovers on your adventures.

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