Cranberry applesauce recipe with no sugar

Cranberry applesauce is a wonderful and kid friendly alternative to canned or fresh cranberry sauce. This homemade cranberry applesauce recipe uses whole ingredients and is sweetened naturally with apples, and a bit of optional maple syrup. No processed sugar here!

Overhead photo of bowl of cranberry applesauce on dark blue wood with cinnamon sticks, cloves, apples, and oranges around it

Our ruby red apple cranberry sauce is also packed with the flavors of fall and winter thanks to cinnamon, cloves, and fresh orange zest. Everything comes together for a rustic, earthy, comfort food taste that is perfect this time of year.

This recipe was first posted in 2011 and is being updated in 2020 with new photos, a video, and even more tips and ideas for making the best cranberry applesauce! We also have added some affiliate links to the equipment used, which means we get a small commission off of anything you buy through one of those links.

Cranberry Applesauce Video

Cranberry Applesauce Recipe No Sugar | Cranberry Sauce with Apples

Buying fresh cranberries

I tend to always be on the lookout for fresh cranberries to hit the stores. Usually they wait until November, but sometimes I can score them in October. 

While I love making a homemade cranberry sauce, whenever I am on a tight budget for food it’s hard to justify the cost of fresh cranberries when the canned sauce is so cheap. That’s where the idea of cranberry applesauce came from.

I used to use cranapple juice to sweeten my cranberry sauce, so it just made sense to try using apples (with fewer cranberries) to make a kind of cranapple sauce.

This discovery allowed me to make much bigger batches of cranberry applesauce than I could of cranberry sauce, which meant I could can jars of it just like my homemade applesauce.

Spoonful of cranberry applesauce up close

Cranberry nutritional benefits

By the way, cranberry applesauce is not just a tasty twist on regular applesauce. Cranberries have a huge amount of antioxidants and plant compounds along with vitamins and minerals.

Some of these compounds are believed to help with preventing UTIs, and stomach infections that can lead to ulcers or even cancer. 

Eating actual food is always better for your body than trying a pill form or extract. While cranberry juice can contain some of these benefits, it has more sugar and no fiber, so cranberry applesauce is a much better whole food option.

What to do with cranberry applesauce

Our family usually eats cranberry applesauce as a snack, or a healthy dessert, but I also love bringing a big jar with me to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Whichever grandmother is hosting can decide if they want to serve it with dinner, or save it for themselves.

Cranberry applesauce is also wonderful in baked goods, and gives a sweet and tangy flavor to cranberry applesauce muffins.

toddler eating cranberry applesauce

Cranberry applesauce is also a wonderful toddler/baby food! Our almost two year old Arden has had a lot of medical struggles including aspirating on liquids. You can see his feeding tube draped over his arm in the photo. He’s had a feeding tube for over a year now.

Arden also gets to eat certain foods orally, and this cranberry applesauce is thick enough that there’s no hidden liquid to worry about him aspirating. I’ve canned several jars of it to be able to use for letting him feed himself.

If you want to preserve your cranberry applesauce, you can use a waterbath canning method, which I explain at the end of my homemade apple butter post.

Can you freeze applesauce?

Applesauce does great in the freezer! If you don’t want to can your cranberry applesauce, you may store it in the fridge for up to a week, or the freezer for several months. 

Just put your sauce into a food storage container, and leave at least ¼ inch of head space before sealing and freezing because applesauce expands as it freezes. You can also freeze it in a resealable plastic bag with the excess air squeezed out.

What to serve with cranberry applesauce

You can definitely serve cranberry applesauce by itself as a healthy dessert after dinner. This is my family’s favorite way to eat it. We have junk food desserts only on Sundays, and fuel food desserts (basically fruit) every other day of the week.

Cranberry applesauce makes a wonderful snack with some nuts or cheese slices for a little protein. You can even mix it into Greek yogurt!

For a side dish, cranberry applesauce goes well with lamb, ham, steak, turkey, chicken, really any meat you might be serving for the holidays. I also think it would also be amazing with this quinoa stuffed acorn squash for a vegan holiday dinner.

Bowl of cranberry applesauce with bottle of maple syrup behind it

How to make cranberry applesauce

Here I’ll walk you through making cranberry applesauce step by step, including ingredient options and variations. If you have any questions about the process, please ask in the comments at the end of the post!

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds apples
  • 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries (can go up to a pound if stronger cranberry flavor is desired)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/4 cup water
Bowl of apple cranberry sauce with zested orange

For the cranberries, I often get a 2 pound bag of fresh cranberries from Costco. I use half in the cranberry applesauce, and freeze the other half for later in the year when I want cranberries and can’t find them. Or I just make a double or triple batch with the 2 pound bag.

For the apples, you can weigh them in the grocery store if you want. I weigh them in a bowl with my kitchen scale. But you can just use about 10 medium sized apples. This is also a great recipe for using apples with bruises that people don’t want to eat fresh.

You can use any variety of apples to make cranberry applesauce, but I recommend using apples on the sweeter side like jonagold, sweet sixteen, gala, or fuji. The cranberries are VERY tart so the sweeter apples balance that well.

Instructions

Hands cutting a peeled apple with an apple slicer
  1. Prep your apples. You have several options for how to cut up your apples. If you like a chunky sauce, you will likely want to peel the apples with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. If you plan to puree the sauce you can leave the peels on and use a push down or spiralizing apple slicer, or keep it simple and just cut them up with a knife.
sliced Apples and fresh cranberries in a red Dutch oven

2. Whatever method you choose, you’re going to dump the apple slices into a big heavy bottomed pot like a Dutch oven. Add your cranberries on top of the apples, then pour on the maple syrup.

A teaspoon of cloves held over a pot of cranberries and apples

3. Next comes your tablespoon of ground cinnamon, and a teaspoon of ground cloves. At this point I also like to add half a teaspoon of salt. This doesn’t make your cranberry applesauce salty but helps to mellow out the bitterness of the cranberries. 

zesting an orange with a microplane grater over a pot of cranberry applesauce ingredients

4. Finally, you’re ready to use a microplane grater to get the zest of a whole orange in there. Then pour in that little bit of water to help keep your ingredients from burning while waiting for the apples to start releasing their juices.

Dutch oven with cooked apples and cranberries covered in spices for making cranberry applesauce

5. Let your cranberry applesauce cook for about 10 minutes on medium high heat, then give everything a stir. Now turn the heat down to medium low, and put the lid on to trap that steam. Let it cook another 20 minutes, taking the lid off every 5 minutes or so to give it a stir and make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom.

Mashing cooked apples and cranberries with a wooden spoon

6. You’ll notice the apples are getting nice and soft, and there’s a lovely syrup bubbling away. At this point your apples are now soft enough that you can mash them with a spoon. If you’re making chunky applesauce and peeled your apples, you can use a spoon or potato masher to mash them to your preference, then you’re done.

Using an immersion blender to puree cranberry applesauce

7. If you left the peels on, it’s time to use an immersion blender to puree all of those chunks. This is my absolute FAVORITE immersion blender because it works great and separates for easy cleaning. If you need to, you can add a little bit more liquid to help you puree the applesauce, then simmer it again to cook off any excess liquid before canning.

cranberry applesauce in a canning jar

8. Now you can fill up a couple of quart sized mason jars, and either let them cool before storing in the fridge, or can them using a water bath canning method. 

How to make cranberry applesauce in the Instant Pot

Closeup of Cranberry applesauce topped with orange zest
  1. If you’d like to make this cranberry applesauce in the Instant Pot, increase your water to ¾ cup to make sure the Instant Pot can build up enough steam to come to pressure.
  2. Put all the ingredients in, set your lid to sealing, and cook it on manual pressure for 5 minutes. 
  3. Let your pressure naturally release, then mash with a spoon/potato masher, or puree smooth with an immersion blender.

Pin to save for later

Don’t lose this recipe! Save the picture below to Pinterest and then leave a photo in the comments of the pin once you’ve made it. We love seeing your creations!

Overhead and closeup photos of ruby red applesauce with text reading Cranberry Applesauce

More cranberry recipes

If you love cooking with cranberries like I do, make sure to try out our other favorite cranberry recipes!

Cranberry Applesauce Printable Recipe Card

Yield: 2 quarts

Cranberry Applesauce

cranberry applesauce in a green bowl surrounded by ingredients

Cranberry applesauce is packed with the flavors of fall thanks to cinnamon, cloves, fresh orange zest, and a hint of maple. Perfect for a healthy snack, dessert, or holiday side!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds apples
  • 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries (can go up to a pound if stronger cranberry flavor is desired)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions

  1. Peel and core apples then cut into large chunks. If using an immersion blender for a smooth applesauce, you may leave the peels on for added nutrition.
  2. Place apples, cranberries, maple syrup, cinnamon, cloves, orange zest, salt and water into a large heavy bottomed pot on medium high heat.
  3. Cook for 10 minutes then stir.
  4. Cook an additional 15-20 minutes with lid on, stirring regularly until sauce is preferred consistency.
  5. For chunky cranberry applesauce, just break things up with a wooden spoon or potato masher. For a totally smooth cranberry applesauce, use an immersion blender to puree.
  6. Preserve in jars using a water bath method.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

16

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 110Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 4mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 4gSugar: 22gProtein: 0g

Nutrition information is an estimate only.


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2 thoughts on “Cranberry applesauce recipe with no sugar”

    • They end up breaking up though some can stay whole. If you mash them or puree with an immersion blender then you can break them all up. I have not used dried cranberries. They have a LOT of added sugar and won’t release liquid like the fresh/frozen cranberries do.

      Reply

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