Sugar-Free Holiday Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Ali Segersten Nov 08, 2009 24 comments
Sugar-Free Holiday Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Cranberries are one of my favorite fruits. Blame it on growing up in Wisconsin, or maybe their tart and tangy nature, or beautiful ruby color. Whatever the case may be, I love cranberries!

I created this sauce to go over my Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake, but it would also work as part of your Thanksgiving feast. Traditional cranberry sauce uses loads of cane sugar. This one doesn't. I use either coconut nectar or raw agave nectar to give it a little sweetness. Serve it warm or cold, either way it is sure to please. When it is cold I like to use it as a jam to spread over toasted Hemp Bread. Mmmm, so delicious!

Update: This is a cane sugar-free sauce. It still needs quite a bit of sweetener to make it palatable and not overly tart. The sauce is still not very sweet even with this amount. There are infinite ways to make cranberry sauce. Some suggestions include adding diced pears or apples, increasing the orange juice and decreasing the sweetener, or using coconut sugar. Please read the comments below for all of the suggestions. Be creative here and try what works for you. If you come up with something great then leave your recipe in the comments section below. Enjoy!


About the Author

Ali Segersten

Alissa Segersten holds a Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University and a Master’s of Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine from the University of Western States. She is a Functional Nutritionist, the mother of five children, a whole foods cooking instructor, professional recipe developer, and cookbook author. She is passionate about helping others find a diet that will truly nourish them. Alissa is the author of two very popular gluten-free, whole foods cookbooks and guidebooks: The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook and Nourishing Meals. She is also the co-author of The Elimination Diet book. Alissa is the founder and owner of Nourishing Meals®.

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Just finished making this! The best cranberry sauce I've ever made! I'm licking the pot!

Absolutely delicious! I made this to top your vegan pumpkin cheesecake and they were both fabulous! The fresh citrus aroma, tart cranberries and sweetners (I used 1 1/4 cup agave plus 1/4 cup maple syrup) had me "taste testing" by the spoonfuls while it was cooking :)

This is the best I've ever had. I'm in love with it!

I made this last night in preparation for the big meal today... and it is out of this world YUMMMY! Thank you so much for this recipe! I ended up running out of maple syrup and having to use half maple half agave.... soo delicious.

Thanks again for your amazing recipes!


Hi Ali,
I just made this using the apple cider/cinnamon combination instead of orange juice/citrus. Fantastic!

I did the following: substituted fresh pressed apple cider 1 for 1 for the orange juice, added somewhere between 1/4 - 1/2 tsp cinnamon instead of the organge zest, one peeled, diced sweet apple (I think mine was a honey crisp) and reduced the maple syrup to 1 cup.

It is truly lovely... tart, but not too tart.. sweet, but not too sweet. Perfect!

Thanks so much for the suggestion of an apple cider substitution!

Jennifer M.

I like to add fresh grated nutmeg and ginger and a splash of Port to homemade cranberry sauce. I like the idea of trying pears instead of citrus.

I love your cookbook. When I make cranberry sauce I like to add fresh grated ginger and nutmeg as well as a cinnamon stick and a splash of port (!) in addition to the oranges.
PS Kasia referred me to you.

Ali, I have always made raw cranberry sauce, so I scanned the recipe and loved the idea of agave instead of the sugar used to use. Thought I would try this before thanksgiving. So I placed it all in my Vita Mix (did not read the instructions!) then thought, hmmm this is too thin. Then I thought I better look again at the recipe and it said to cook it! So I dumped it out of the Vita Mix and into a sauce pan and it turned out perfect. We loved it, especially that it was not as sweet as the old variety. So it can be blended first and cooked second and has a great consistency.
Thanks for the getting rid of the sugar! I will be making this for Thanksgiving for sure!

Does pineapple work with cranberries? I read all the comments and no mention of it. Seems like it would work to add some sweetness. Gail

I was curious to see your recipe for a sugar free cranberry sauce, but was quite disappointed in realizing that it wasn't sugar free at all (with 1 1/2 cups of maple syrup or agave). These may have a bit more nutrients than white sugar, but they are still forms of sugar. The recipe should just be referred to as cranberry sauce.

Well, that 'splains it! :) Truly, I realize there are so many variables and you are using better alternatives (except for the latest findings about agave - but that's for another day:) I sometimes add chopped organic crystallized ginger to my cranberry sauce which has sprinkles of sugar on it, so I guess we just 'edit' where we can!
P.S. I started a batch of homemade vanilla - using rum. I'll look forward to your recipe for the next one.

That colour! Absolutely gorgeous. Not to mention the flavours - perfect combination!

Thanks Linda, looks like your comment came through while I was typing up my other response. Enjoy! :)

Linda - Thanks, you must be a mind reader or something! I do have a pizza crust which I created last year that I was thinking of posting...but over the weekend I came up with another one. A super thin crispy crust, yeast-free, vegan, and only a few ingredients (and no xanthan gum). I will probably post it this week sometime. :)

Karen - Well, I was actually waiting for someone to say something about this! :) I never use that much sweetener either. When I created this recipe I started with 1 cup of cranberries and 4 tablespoons of sweetener. Then I added 2 more tablespoons because it was so tart! 6 tablespoons doesn't sound like much does it? When I made the recipe again and multiplied it by 4 to get a normal amount one would serve at a large gathering (and to take the photos here) the total amount was 1.5 cups which sounded then like way too much! But adding less resulted in a very tart sauce. I am going to update the post with everyone's suggestions here as soon as I have time. I know most people don't read the comments section. You could up the o.j. and lessen the sweetener if you like or add diced pears or apples and apple juice concentrate. There are so many ways to go. I hope folks experiment to create something that works for them. Thanks for mentioning this! If you come up with another cranberry sauce recipe and post to your blog, I'll link it up here. :)

That looks great Ali! I think I'll give it a try.

Hmmm, I have to take issue with you on this one. First, the recipe sounds delicious. And while technically it is 'sugar'-free as we know it, that is quite a bit of sweetener (a.k.a. a better form of sugar.) I love pure maple syrup and use it as my liquid sweetener when I don't use date sugar. I know cranberries require a bit more added sweetness than most fruits...I was just surprised when I saw the amount, when I was expecting the orange juice to take that role.

Looks delicious! I love cranberries! Do you have a pizza crust recipe? I just love all your baked goods and I was thinking if you have one I am sure lots would love to see it!!

My Year Without - Thanks, Enjoy!

Jennifer M. - Thanks, so glad to hear you are having fun with the recipes! :) To make the cranberry sauce citrus-free, try replacing the orange juice with apple cider and add about 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to replace the orange zest. You could also add diced apples to the sauce. Your Thanksgiving fig stuffing sounds lovely! :)

Theresa Cain - You can try replacing the hemp flour with almond meal. To create my hemp bread I used a recipe of mine that uses almond meal and different gluten-free flours. You may need to reduce the water. Enjoy! As far as the recipes on this blog, I only have a few, maybe 3, posted that are in the book, the rest of them are new.

Shirley - Thanks, I wonder if this recipe would be good with your bee's honey? :)

Anon - I appreciate the suggestions you offered here for another version of a citrus-free sauce. I am going to try pears next time, that sounds wonderful! Thanks! :)

Jenn - Yes, the maple flavor does come through. I use grade B maple syrup which has a strong flavor. You could try Grade A instead. If you don't want the maple flavor at all then using agave nectar would be a better choice. Also, if you use agave, the cranberry and orange flavors shine through more clearly.

Kelly - Hmm, I bet coconut sugar and water would be yummy! Can't wait to see your recipe and post! I bet it will be great! :)

I was thinking of doing something similar using a simple syrup of coconut sugar and water. I wonder...

I love following your blog. You're awesome :-)

Wow, love cranberries but don't like all the sugar that often goes along with them. I am excited about trying this with maple! Does the maple flavor come through much?

The cranberry sauce can also be made with chopped pears or apples in place of citrus and sugar. They lend the sweetness it needs (and your substitution recommendatio of apple juice supports the "complementary flavor" and the extra flavor dimension that cranberries take on when combined with other fruits to tone them down a bit. Just stew them all together - I used equal amounts of pears, apples or a combination

More folks would probably like cranberry sauce if they had it your way. I always love your healthy take on things. I'm nowhere near sugar free, but you always inspire me, Ali.


I am so interested in making the Hemp Bread you posted a week or so ago. I live in Mechanicsburg PA and cannot find the Hemp Flour anywhere. Would you suggest using another flour in its place or let me know where I could possibly find some? I am not gluten intolerant. It does not have to be a gluten free product. And are all the recipes you post,in the cookbook you advertise on your blog? Thanks so much. I love the recipes you post. I'm on my way to a healthier way of living and eating.

This looks yummy. I'm having such a problem with citrus, though and am trying to figure out how to do cranberry sauce without adding any. I wondered if you would have any suggestions? Do you think I could just leave it out and adjust the sweetener?

I made your hemp bread (heavily modified with almond meal/sorghum in place of the hemp and sweet rice flour because I can't find hemp flour locally). It was lovely! And I used it in a recipe I am modifying from barefoot contessa for thanksgiving fig stuffing. It was a beautiful addition to the recipe! Thank you!

One final thing: my friend and I used your instructions for canning last night, and made 7 pints of apple/pear sauce. Lovely! Thanks for the step by steps!

I so adore your blog. Thank you so very much for everything you post!!

Jennifer M.

This sauce looks easy and delicious! Can't wait to try it.

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