Apple Cranberry Sauce

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Apple Cranberry Sauce is the perfect combination of sweet and tart from the combination of fresh apples, fresh cranberries, and orange. It's a great alternative to traditional cranberry sauce.

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If cranberry sauce isn't your thing, you've got to give this Cranberry Apple Sauce a try. It's less tart than traditional cranberry sauce and adding the apples means you don't need as much sugar. Serve it alongside your Thanksgiving turkey or add it to almost any protein for a delicious meal.

It also makes a delicious and healthy snack on its own and is delicious on oatmeal and yogurt. We even had it on a bowl of vanilla ice cream last week and it was seriously delicious. 

The other reason I love this recipe is that when I ask people why they don't' like cranberry sauce, the most common answer is that it is just too tart. This solves that issue and year after year is one of the most requested recipes on our holiday table. It always gets gobbled up, plus since it tastes good with so many dishes, the leftovers won't go to waste. 

Looking for more holiday side dish ideas? Check out this guide to the best holiday vegetable side dishes.

Cranberry apple sauce in a bowl with sliced apples and fresh cranberries with a blue napkin.

How to Make Apple Cranberry Sauce

Although making homemade cranberry apple sauce may seem intimidating, it actually couldn't be easier. Start by peeling and chopping the apples. Make sure to choose an apple that works well for baking like Granny Smith, Honey CRispy, Gala, or Fuji. Also, you can keep the skin on, but it will significantly change the texture and I would only recommend it if you plan on making a chunky sauce and leaving the apple chunks mostly whole. 

Next, wash and dry the cranberries, removing any cranberries that look brown, damaged, or wrinkled. Fresh cranberries should be bright in color and plump. If you are starting with frozen cranberries, make sure to defrost them first. If you don't have time to defrost them, use less water since they will release water as they defrost and you don't want a liquidy sauce. 

Add the apples and cranberries to the pot along with the fresh orange juice, zest if using, maple syrup, cinnamon, water, and salt. Over medium heat, bring the whole mixture to a simmer. Then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the apples and cranberries are tender.

Now it's time to make the sauce. Grab a potato masher or just use the back of a wooden spoon and mash down the mixture to your desired texture. Personally, I like a smoother sauce but you can also leave it chunkier. Taste it and season as needed. 

This dish can be served warm, room temperature, or chilled. Before storing it in the fridge, let it cool completely. 

Tips and Recipe Ideas

This recipe is a great base recipe for making apple cranberry sauce but there are so many variations that you will eventually create your own customized version.

  • Kick up the spices by adding ground ginger, cardamom, allspice, or nutmeg. Some people also like to bring out the savory quality of the sauce with black pepper.
  • If you prefer a chunky sauce, almost chutney like, add some chopped walnuts to the mix as well. Or just add some on top before serving to create some crunch. 
  • To create a more sophisticated version of this sauce, add some fresh or dried herbs like rosemary, thyme, or oregano. 
  • Swap in some pears for the apples or use a combination of both. 
  • If you want to create another layer of flavor in the sauce to serve alongside a protein, add some balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar. A little goes a long way. 
  • Instead of the orange, swap in fresh lemon juice. 

Storage and Freezing

  • Storage: This apple cranberry sauce will keep for about a week in the fridge. Always make sure to let it cool before placing it in the fridge and store in an airtight container. 
  • Freezing: This sauce can be frozen up to six months. If you plan on using individual servings, consider freezing in an ice cube tray and then pop the sauce cubes into a freezer safe bag. This is great to pull out for oatmeal, yogurt, leftover proteins, and snacks. 

Can I use dried cranberries? frozen cranberries? canned cranberries?

If you can't find fresh cranberries in the store, the next best option is frozen. Defrost them before adding them to the recipe or reduce the amount of water.

You can swap in dried cranberries in this recipe, but the end result will be a bit different since dried cranberries have a different texture and won't break down as much. It will be more similar to chutney and I recommend keeping the apples chunkier. 

In a pinch, you could add a can of cranberries to your homemade applesauce to create that delicious balance of tart and sweet. Look for canned cranberries with less added sugar or reduce the amount of maple syrup in the recipe. You can also add more if needed. 

How do make it sweeter?

If you find the sauce too tart, consider adding some additional sweetness. There are a few ways to do this. First, you can simply add in more maple syrup, honey, or brown sugar. For a lower sugar option, consider adding extra apples or some store-bought applesauce or apple butter. Date paste or syrup is another great option for adding natural sweetness. 

Apple and cranberry sauce served in a bowl with a spoon, fresh cranberries, apple slices, and rosemary,

Main Dishes to Serve with Cranberry Apple Sauce

If you are planning on serving this as a condiment to the main dish, I have some ideas to help you get started. It also goes without saying that this is amazing with a holiday turkey or roasted whole chicken. 

Looking for more Thanksgiving ideas? Don't miss our Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Thanksgiving.

The Recipe
Apple cranberry sauce with fresh cranberries, aplpes, and rosemary in a bowl with a spoon and blue napkin.

Apple Cranberry Sauce

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  • 3 lbs apples, peeled and chopped (Granny Smith, Honey Crisp, Gala, Fuji, etc)
  • 1.5 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 orange, juice (add zest for more orange flavor)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (or honey or brown sugar)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)

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Add all the ingredients to a large pot. Bring everything to a simmer and turn the heat down to low. Cover and let cook for 20-30 minutes until the apples and cranberries are soft. The cranberries will begin to burst.


Remove from heat. Use a masher, back of a wooden spoon, or blender/food processor (for a much smoother sauce) to mash the fruit to your desired consistency. Serve warm or cold.


Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. This can also be frozen for later use.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 107
Calories from Fat 2
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 0g
Saturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 53mg
Total Carbohydrate 28g
Dietary Fiber 4g
Sugars 22g
Protein 1g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.


This is a large serving when serving alongside a protein. Most likely you would just need 1/4 cup and that would make it 50 calories.
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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
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