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Cranberry-Orange Sauce Recipe for Thanksgiving

Like most Americans, you’ve probably had cranberry sauce out of a can for Thanksgiving at some point in your life. Did you know that the popular brand of canned, jellied cranberry sauce has 21 grams of sugar per serving? Ingredients include cranberries, high fructose corn syrup, water and corn syrup. There’s no sign of actual cranberries in the stuff, other than the color.


Let’s get rid of the can and instead put a tiny bit of effort into making a simple and tasty cranberry sauce from scratch. The following recipe calls for orange juice. However, if you’re really serious about reducing the amount of sugar in your sauce, you can dilute the juice with water.

This recipe also substitutes agave nectar for sugar. Agave nectar is a low-glycemic option, which means that although it has about the same calories as sugar, it’s got a lower insulin demand on your body when consumed. It’s also 25 percent sweeter than sugar, so you don’t have to use as much.

Compared to the canned stuff, this cranberry recipe saves you about 100 calories per quarter cup of sauce. That’s assuming you don’t go overboard with the agave either. Remember: They’re cranberries, meaning they’re supposed to be a little tart. The nice thing about this recipe is you don’t have to add sugar at the beginning, so you can sweeten to taste towards the end. That, and you get this magical, mildly tart sauce with real texture — you can see that it actually came from cranberries.

Cranberry-Orange Sauce


  • 1 package cranberries, about 12 oz
  • 1/2 cup 100% orange juice
  • zest and juice of one large, juicy navel orange
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • About 5 tbsp agave

1. Wash cranberries and pour into a saucepan. Add orange juice, zest and spices.

2. Heat to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer, for 10 minutes, or until most of the cranberries have popped and sauce has thickened.

3. Remove from heat. Add the agave, 1 tablespoon at a time, and taste as you go. You may use more or less than 4 tablespoons, based on your personal taste.

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7 thoughts on “Cranberry-Orange Sauce Recipe for Thanksgiving

  1. excited to try this.i’m going to make it sunday for my friend’s thanksgiving dinner dry-run.
    the spice combo is interesting, looks like pumpkin pie spice.

    question about the orange: are we using ALL of the zest and juice?

    1. Hey Omes!
      Yes. Definitely use all of the juice. Navel oranges aren’t typically that large, so for the zest, go ahead and use as much of the orange part of the peel as you can, without getting a lot of the pithy white stuff in there. If you don’t want to use ALL of the zest, you don’t have to. Just get a good amount of it in there. It’s not an exact science.

      Let me know how it goes!

      Carolyn Murphy

  2. made this for two thanksgiving dinners :)in terms of appearance, the super bright red color really surprised and delighted me. i think perhaps i didn’t heat it for the proper amount of time or didn’t have a good pectin:sugars ratio because it didn’t seem to congeal the way i expected [or is that normal when it’s not from a can?]
    in terms of taste, it was definitely more tart than canned but also more flavorful. the tartness was overpowering at first, but then i found myself spooning it like mad over every bit of turkey i consumed. it complemented the meat so well!
    i think the next time i make this, i will try dark agave nectar and a bit less [or sweeter] orange.

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