You'll choose to skip the old-fashioned canned cranberry sauce for your next holiday dinner, once you try this homemade cranberry sauce with apples. This fresh cranberry sauce recipe is a one pot recipe, with simple, easy to find ingredients. Full of warm, familiar spices and just the right amount of tang, this sauce is the perfect condiment to a whole roast turkey, cajun turkey breast or a small crowd, or even a classic glazed spiral ham.
👩🏽🍳Why This Recipe Works
Perfectly balanced flavors: This cranberry apple sauce is the perfect balance of sweet and tanginess. Unlike some canned varieties, this sauce has just the right amount of natural sweetness from brown sugar without being overwhelming. It is the perfect addition to your holiday table packed with fresh ingredients!
No orange juice needed: Orange cranberry sauce is popular flavor combination, but this sauce ditches the orange juice and uses apple juice instead. This sauce is not overly citrusy, which is a great option for anyone who doesn't love the overpowering notes of orange in their cranberry sauce.
No pectin or gelatin needed: Cranberries naturally have a high pectin content, which thickens the sauce as the cranberries boil. Because of this, you do not need to add in any pectin or gelatin to 'gel' the sauce.
- Fresh cranberries: Fresh cranberries are easily found in the produce section of your grocery store, prepackaged. They may be slightly harder to find outside of the holiday season.
- Brown sugar: Dark brown sugar is best for this sauce, as it adds an extra layer of deep, caramel flavor. The caramelization from dark brown sugar pairs hand in hand with the earthy, warm spices in this sauce.
- Apple juice: I recommend using a good quality pure pressed apple juice for this recipe, instead of the more widely found filtered versions. I like to use Simply Apple juice, which is found in the refrigerated juice section of your grocery store.
- Gala apples: Gala apples are not overly tart like other types of apples, such as granny smith apples. Because cranberries are naturally on the sour side, I do not recommend using an overly tart apple.
- Navel orange: You will only need to use the orange zest or orange peel for this recipe, which will add a light citrus perfume to the sauce without being as strong as orange juice would be.
A full list of ingredients with measurements is located on the recipe card, below.
- Fresh cranberries: In a pinch, you can use frozen cranberries for this sauce. They will release extra water while cooking, so keep in mind that the texture of the sauce will be slightly different than when using fresh cranberries.
- Apple juice: If you can't find unfiltered pressed apple juice, apple cider is a good substitute in this sauce.
- Gala apple: You can substitute a gala apple for any other well-rounded fresh apples, like a honeycrisp, red delicious or fuji.
- Dark brown sugar: Light brown sugar will work just fine in place of dark brown sugar. If you do not have brown sugar on hand, white sugar is fine.
- Ground spices: If you do not have individual spices like ground cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, you can use a pre-made spice mix like pumpkin or apple pie spice. You can also steep a whole cinnamon stick into the sauce if you prefer.
- Ginger-infused: Add a generous piece of ginger to the cranberry mixture while boiling. This will add a hint of spice to the sauce without being overpowering.
- Maple cranberry sauce: Substitute part of the brown sugar with maple syrup for a variation of sweetness in the sauce. Be sure to use pure maple syrup for the best flavor!
- Rosemary infused: Steep fresh rosemary in the cranberry sauce mixture for a slight herby background note.
⏲️ Step-by-Step Instructions
Prep Work Before Cooking
Collecting all your ingredients: This will make cooking so much easier. Gather all the spices you will need, and keep them nearby.
Prep the apple: Peel the apple and dice into chunks that are almost the same size as the cranberries.
Add the sauce ingredients to a medium saucepan. [photo 1]
Bring the sauce mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat, letting the cranberries pop and burst naturally. [photo 2]
Allow the sauce to simmer on medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, until the apples have softened and the sauce has slightly thickened naturally from the cranberries. [photo 3]
Combine the corn starch and water, and mix together into a slurry. Pour the slurry into the cranberry sauce mixture, and lightly stir as the sauce thickens. [photo 4]
Remove the sauce from the heat, and transfer to a bowl to allow the sauce to cool to room temperature.
Serve the sauce room temperature, cooled, or slightly warmed, according to your taste.
💭 Expert Tips
Adjust sweetness: Raw cranberries can vary in terms of their sweetness/tartness. Adjust the sugar level of the sauce as needed, based on how tart the cranberries are.
Keep some texture: You do not need to mash all of the cranberries down while cooking the sauce. Allow some of the cranberries to retain their shape, for some added texture to the sauce. If you do want to break down some of the cranberries, you can use a potato masher for ease.
Skip the corn starch: If you prefer a 'thinner' consistency to your cranberry sauce like a cranberry relish, you can leave the corn starch slurry out of the recipe.
🍽 Make Ahead & Storage
You can prepare this sauce 3-4 days in advance of when you plan to serve.
Store the prepared sauce in an airtight container in the fridge. This will allow the flavors to meld together even more.
Premade or leftover cranberry sauce can be frozen for 2-3 months. Store in an airtight, freezer-safe container to ensure the flavors stay fresh and to avoid freezer burn.
⭐ Recipe FAQs
If the sauce turns out too thick, add a bit of water or apple juice to thin out to your desired consistency.
For a chunkier sauce, leave the apples in larger pieces, and do not overly mash or break down the cranberries while stirring. For a smoother consistency, finely chop the apples, or puree the mixture after cooking.
Technically, dried cranberries can be used instead of fresh. The texture of the sauce will be different than fresh cranberries, and will also likely have a different level of sweetness.
📝More Sauce Recipes
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Cranberry Sauce with Apples (Without Orange Juice!)
- 12 oz Cranberries
- 1 Gala apple (peeled, diced)
- 1 tablespoon Orange zest
- ½ teaspoon Ground cinnamon
- ⅔ cup Apple juice
- ¼ teaspoon Ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon Ground allspice
- ½ cup Brown sugar
- ½ cup Water
- 1 tablespoon Corn starch
- 1 tablespoon Cold water
- Add the sauce ingredients to a medium sauce pan.12 oz Cranberries, 1 Gala apple, 1 tablespoon Orange zest, ½ teaspoon Ground cinnamon, ⅔ cup Apple juice, ¼ teaspoon Ground nutmeg, ⅛ teaspoon Ground allspice, ½ cup Brown sugar, ½ cup Water
- Bring the sauce mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat, letting the cranberries naturally pop and burst.
- Allow the sauce to simmer on medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, until the apples have softened and the sauce has slightly thickened naturally from the cranberries.
- Combine the corn starch and water, and mix together into a slurry. Pour the slurry into the cranberry sauce mixture, and lightly stir as the sauce thickens.1 tablespoon Corn starch, 1 tablespoon Cold water
- Remove the sauce from the heat, and transfer to a bowl to allow the sauce to cool to room temperature.
- Serve the sauce room temperature, cooled, or slightly warmed, according to your taste.
- Adjust sweetness: Cranberries can vary in terms of their sweetness/tartness. Adjust the sugar level of the sauce as needed, based on how tart the cranberries are.
- Keep some texture: You do not need to mash all of the cranberries down while cooking the sauce. Allow some of the cranberries to retain their shape, for some added texture to the sauce.
- Skip the corn starch: If you prefer a 'thinner' consistency to your cranberry sauce, you can leave the corn starch slurry out of the recipe.