Low Sugar Orange-Ginger Cranberry Sauce

November 12, 2020

Add some zest and spice to a Thanksgiving classic with this lower-sugar, vegan, and gluten-free Orange-Ginger Cranberry Sauce.

Overhead low sugar Orange-Ginger Cranberry Sauce

*Updated November 2020. Originally published November 2012*

Cranberry sauce is a staple on most Thanksgiving tables, and it certainly was in my house growing up – who else has memories of jellied canned cranberry sauce jiggling around on a plate in a perfectly uniform shape? As I got older, my mother started making her own cranberry sauce with canned mandarin oranges and I presume a lot of sugar (everything had a lot of sugar in it when I was growing up!). I’m not at all opposed to canned foods, but a homemade version like this Low Sugar Orange-Ginger Cranberry Sauce is surely a step up!

An Update to the Traditional 

I have always loved all the traditional Thanksgiving foods and look forward to all my mother’s usual dishes, including her cranberry sauce. But when we moved into our house it was my turn to host Turkey Day and I decided it was about time I make my own version of cranberry sauce.

Friends of mine who have never made cranberry sauce thought I was crazy for adding one more dish to make myself, but they don’t realize how easy it actually is. If you Google cranberry sauce you’ll get millions of results and every bag of fresh cranberries I’ve ever bought has a cranberry sauce recipe on the back. The simplest recipe is to simmer cranberries, sugar, and water until the cranberries have popped and you have a thickened sauce. That’s it! See, I told you it was easy.

But wait – if you’re like me, you probably want to add a little more depth of flavor and you probably don’t want to use as much sugar as most of the recipes call for. When I decided to make my own cranberry sauce, I knew I wanted to incorporate oranges in some way so I could have a connection to my mother’s recipe. But as usual (like with my version of my mom’s noodle kugel recipe), I had to take it a step further. That’s how this Orange-Ginger Cranberry Sauce was born.

Thanksgiving Orange-Ginger Cranberry Sauce

How to Make Orange Ginger Cranberry Sauce

To get this Low Sugar Orange-Ginger Cranberry Sauce started, I sauté diced shallots, because what awesome sauce doesn’t start with fragrant and delicious sautéed aromatics?! Next, rather than incorporating actual orange pieces like my mother did, I add the zest and juice of fresh oranges, with the latter adding additional natural sweetness that allowed me to reduce the added sugar even more. I then took it another step and added freshly grated ginger for a little spice and a lot of flavor.

As for the sugar, I use 1/2 cup in the whole recipe – that’s 1/4 cup per 12-ounce bag of cranberries. Compare that to the one cup of sugar per 12 ounces of cranberries that most recipes call for. Amazing, isn’t it?! To finish off the sauce, I whisk in red wine vinegar and freshly squeezed orange juice, which adds a little more natural sweetness and enhances the orange flavor.

Note that the typical serving size of cranberry sauce is 2 tablespoons, but for the same calories and even less sugar you can double your portion and have 1/4 cup of my low sugar cranberry sauce next to your turkey! You’re welcome 😉 

Ways to Use Cranberry Sauce

The recipe calls for 24 ounces of fresh cranberries, which means you end up with quite a lot of sauce – more than you may eat on Thanksgiving day unless you’re hosting an army! But don’t worry – in addition to enjoying the sauce with your leftover turkey, here are some additional delicious ides:

  • Spread it on my Spiced Pumpkin Bread
  • Add a dollop on top of ricotta crostini
  • Mix it into oatmeal, yogurt, or cottage cheese
  • Use it in place of mustard, hummus, or mayonnaise on a sandwich
  • Add it to a grilled cheese sandwich
  • Use it as the “jelly” in your next PB&J
  • Make some cranberry avocado toast for lunch

I am sure you can come up with many more ways to enjoy this delicious cranberry sauce, and I would love for you to share your ideas with me in the comments below or on social media – tag me @JLevinsonRD!

Storing Cranberry Sauce

Homemade cranberry sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week, but if you do run out of ideas or if you know you won’t be able to eat it all before it would go bad, freeze it! I actually did some research on freezing cranberry sauce and the consensus was it works. If you do freeze it and it’s a little watery upon defrosting, I recommend bringing it to a boil to recongeal it.

Spoonful of reduced sugar Orange-Ginger Cranberry Sauce

I hope you enjoy my take on classic cranberry sauce. If you’re looking for some other healthier versions of Thanksgiving classics, be sure to check out my Sweet Potato Carrot Casserole with Maple Pecans and my Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup.

Low Sugar Orange-Ginger Cranberry Sauce

Low Sugar Orange-Ginger Cranberry Sauce

Yield: ~4 1/2 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Add some zest and spice to a Thanksgiving classic with this lower-sugar, vegan, and gluten-free Orange-Ginger Cranberry Sauce.

Vegan, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Kosher


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced shallot
  • Two 12-ounce bags fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste


  1. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots and stir frequently until translucent and softened, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the cranberries, sugar, ginger, orange zest, and water to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the cranberries have popped and the sauce has thickened.
  3. Stir in red wine vinegar, orange juice, salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer 5 more minutes, then remove cranberry sauce from heat and cool completely at room temperature.


To help expedite the popping of the cranberries, you can use the back of a spoon to press the cranberries against the side of the pot.
If making ahead, transfer cooled cranberry sauce to a container and refrigerate for up to one week. Cranberry sauce can also be frozen. When defrosted, bring to a boil to recongeal.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 18 Serving Size: 1/4 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 53Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 61mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 2gSugar: 8gProtein: 0g

Nutrition information was calculated by Nutritionix. It may not be 100% accurate.

Do you have a favorite cranberry sauce recipe?

Share it with me in the comments below!
Worried about overdoing it this Thanksgiving? Before you gobble, gobble, check out my Thanksgiving Survival Guide for some holiday nutrition tips!

low sugar orange ginger cranberry sauce pin

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  1. Yum! I had no idea there were so many cranberry sauce recipes out there, but this sounds amazing! I love that there’s ginger in here! :]

    1. I totally do! Making it with fish this week and I’ve had it with steak. It’s also great as a spread on a grilled cheese sandwich. The possibilities are endless!

    1. Thanks Kalee! I hope you’ll give it a try. The can can be a great starting point for your own cranberry sauce – you can add spices and the orange to it if you don’t want to start from scratch.

  2. It amazes me how many people buy the yucky canned stuff when it’s truly so easy to make your own! I add orange juice and zest to mine as well – such a great combo! Love the addition of ginger and shallots! Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. It really is so easy, but I think so many people assume it’s not. The can can be a good jumping off point and then add the orange juice, zest, and ginger to it to make it more your own. However you choose to have it, I hope you enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

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