Say hello to cranberry season. What great way to celebrate fresh (or frozen) cranberries than with a low-sugar, refined-sugar-free, vegan, and homemade cranberry maple sauce recipe to call your own? 

The tart flavors of cranberries mixed in with mildly sweet maple syrup is a match made in heaven. Make it fast and flavorful, and serve it with plenty of Healthy Thanksgiving Sides like Rosemary Mashed Potatoes, Garlic Butter Green Beans, Sweet Potato Soufflé, and Maple Roasted Carrots

A sauce made from cranberries in a bowl with rosemary and orange slices.

It goes without saying – this healthier cranberry sauce is going to outperform store-bought canned cranberry sauce any day. While it is a great addition to your Thanksgiving table and Christmas dinner, you can enjoy it any time of year!

Ingredients You Will Need

The ingredient list for this maple syrup cranberry sauce recipe is simple and straightforward. Take a trip to the grocery store and gather together fresh cranberries, pure maple syrup, water, fresh orange juice, a cinnamon stick, and orange zest.

Ingredients to make a sauce with cranberries and maple syrup.

Ingredient Substitutions and Optional Add Ins

  • Frozen cranberries: Use frozen cranberries in place of fresh – no need to thaw – and simply add a few minutes to the simmering time.
  • Honey syrup: Replace the maple syrup with an equal amount of Honey Syrup. Note: Since high heat can have negative effects on the nutritional value of honey, if going the honey route, bring the mixture up to a bare simmer under medium-low heat and then reduce it to low heat for 15-20 minutes. Cranberry Sauce with Honey is a wonderful alternative if you are living in an area where you can’t get maple syrup.
  • Ground cinnamon: Omit the cinnamon stick and add ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon at the end of cooking.
  • Additional spices: Add ⅛ teaspoon of additional warming spices, like ground ginger, allspice, cloves, cardamom, or pumpkin pie spice.
  • Liquor: Add a splash of bourbon or Cointreau, brandy, port wine, or sherry at the end of cooking.
  • With more fruit: Turn it into cranberry chutney with the addition of diced apples, pears, other berries, and raisins. 
  • Without orange: Not a fan of cranberry orange sauce? Replace orange juice with cranberry juice, apple juice, or water. I would not recommend lemon juice as it would make it even tarter. However, you can use lemon zest as a substitute for orange zest.
  • Vanilla extract: If preferred, you can add a splash of vanilla extract (about ½ teaspoon) in the end.

How to Make This Recipe?

This Refined Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce couldn’t be any easier to make. All it takes is a quick simmer on the stove, and you have a homemade maple cranberry sauce right before your eyes. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Wash cranberries: Place cranberries in a colander and rinse with cold water. Pick the old, shriveled ones and discard them.
A person showing how to boil cranberries to make a sauce from the top view.
  1. Add ingredients to saucepan: In a medium-sized saucepan, combine cranberries, maple syrup, water, orange juice, and the cinnamon stick.
  2. Simmer: Set over medium-high heat and bring it up to a boil, give it a stir, turn the heat down to medium-low, and let it simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally until the cranberries pop and it reaches your desired consistency.
  3. Taste test: Taste for sweetness and add more maple syrup if you’d like it a little less tart.
  4. Finish and serve: Off the heat, carefully remove the cinnamon stick. Finish with the orange zest. Enjoy your cranberry maple sauce warm, at room temperature, or chill in the fridge.

How to Make Ahead, Store, and Freeze

This naturally sweetened cranberry sauce can be served warm, at room temperature, or cold. This makes it a wonderful make ahead recipe and gets you one step closer to holiday prep work.

  • Make ahead: Cook the cranberry maple syrup sauce as directed, cool it completely, and transfer it to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
  • Storage: Whether freshly made or looking to get ahead, the cranberry sauce will keep in the fridge for up to one week.
  • Freeze: Once cool, store the cranberry sauce made with maple syrup in a freezer-safe airtight container. Label, date, and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Thaw: Thaw the frozen cranberry sauce overnight in the fridge.

How to Serve

In addition to serving it with a plethora of Thanksgiving recipes like Thanksgiving turkey (or Roasted Turkey Drumsticks or Baked Turkey Tenderloins), leftover cranberry sauce can be used to jazz up leftovers or provide a new twist on a recipe. Some of my favorite ways to serve include:

Expert Tips

  • Make a double batch. Double the recipe if serving a big crowd – or freeze the rest for later use.
  • Popping is completely normal. The cranberries will pop and sputter as they cook, and this is completely normal. This means they are breaking down and releasing their natural sweetness.
  • Remove the cinnamon stick before storing. The cinnamon will become too overpowering if left to sit in the cranberry sauce. Remove just after cooking.
  • The cranberry sauce will thicken significantly as it cools. Don’t fret if the texture is a little looser than expected. The cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools – and thicken even further once chilled.

FAQs

How to sweeten cranberry sauce without sugar?

It’s easy to sweeten cranberry sauce without sugar by replacing it with a natural sugar, like maple syrup or honey.

How to make cranberry sauce less tart?

Use maple syrup to make cranberry sauce less tart, while also keeping it healthier and refined sugar free. Taste test near the end of cooking. If it is still too tart for your liking, add more maple syrup, 1 tablespoon at a time.

How do you spice up cranberry sauce?

It’s easy to spice up cranberry sauce with the addition of warm winter spices like ground cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, cardamom, or pumpkin pie spice. The ground spices will intensify as they sit in the sauce, so a mere ⅛ – ¼ teaspoon goes a long way.

What can you add to cranberry sauce to thicken it?

Cranberries contain a lot of pectin (a natural thickener), so there is really no need to add a thickening agent such as cornstarch or tapioca starch. Simply simmer the cranberry sauce until most of them have split, and allow to cool. The longer it cools, the thicker it will become.

How do you get the bitter taste out of cranberry sauce?

If, at the end of cooking, you taste a spoonful and it’s bitter, you can add more maple syrup for a touch of sweetness. If you prefer not to add more sugar, try something tangy, like a splash of orange juice, apple juice, or even white wine.

Other Creative Cranberry Recipes You’ll Enjoy:

If you try this refined-sugar free easy homemade Cranberry Sauce recipe, please take a minute to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It helps others who are thinking of making the recipe. And if you took some pictures, be sure to share them on Instagram using #foolproofeats so I can share them on my stories.

Cranberry Sauce with Maple Syrup Recipe

5 from 2 votes
Yields6 servings
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time12 minutes
Total Time17 minutes
This Cranberry Sauce with Maple Syrup is the perfect, satisfying balance of sweet and tart, yet it's also refined-sugar-free, vegan, and low-sugar. Serve this make-ahead friendly sauce as a light side dish for your holiday dinner, or enjoy it year-round with sandwiches, desserts, breakfast, and more!

Ingredients 

  • 1 12-ounce bag of fresh or frozen cranberries
  • cup maple syrup, more as needed
  • cup water
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick, or ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon – optional
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest

Instructions 

  • Rinse cranberries: Place cranberries in a colander and rinse with cold water. Pick the old, shriveled ones and discard them.
  • Add ingredients: Transfer the rest of the cranberries to a medium-sized pan and add the maple syrup, water, orange juice, and a cinnamon stick.
  • Cook: Heat over medium heat, bring it to a boil, give it a stir, turn the heat down to medium-low*, and let it simmer for 10-12 minutes or until it reaches your desired consistency. Be sure to stir it a few times.
  • Taste and adjust: As it simmers, cranberries will soften and pop, so don’t be alarmed. Taste for sweetness and add more maple syrup (in 1-tablespoon increments), if needed.
  • Remove from heat and serve: Off the heat, carefully remove the cinnamon stick, and stir in the orange zest. Serve it warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Notes

  • Servings: This recipe yields 1 1/2 cups of cranberry sauce. 
  • *Popping is completely normal. The cranberries will pop and sputter as they cook, which is completely normal. This means they are breaking down and releasing their natural sweetness.
  • Make ahead: Cook the cranberry sauce as directed, cool it completely, and transfer it to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
  • Storage: Store the cooled sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
  • Freeze: Once cool, store the cranberry sauce in a freezer-safe airtight container. Label, date, and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Thaw: Thaw the frozen cranberry sauce overnight in the fridge.

Nutrition

Calories: 489kcal | Carbohydrates: 124g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 22mg | Potassium: 665mg | Fiber: 15g | Sugar: 84g | Vitamin A: 364IU | Vitamin C: 87mg | Calcium: 198mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Condiment/Sauce
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @foolproofliving or tag #foolproofeats!

About Aysegul Sanford

Hello Friend! I'm Aysegul but you can call me “Ice." I’m the cook/recipe-tester/photographer behind this site.

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5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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