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Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Apples — Spice up your holiday celebrations with this scrumptious FAST and EASY homemade cranberry sauce that’s made with cranberries, apples, apple cider, cinnamon sticks, and allspice for the PERFECT must-make side dish! A lovely balance of sweet-yet-tart with warmly spiced flavors so you’ll never want to think about using store bought sauce again!
Cinnamon Apple Cranberry Sauce
It’s hard to think of a side dish that’s better for the holiday season than this Cinnamon Apple Cranberry Sauce because it has everything you love about traditional homemade cranberry sauce but with the addition of cozy spiced apple flavor thanks to both apples and apple cider.
Thanksgiving and Christmas meals can be really stressful days for any home cook who’s trying to impress family and friends, but this cinnamon apple cranberry sauce is so easy to make and it’s ready in just 30 minutes.
If you’ve been using cranberry sauce from a can all this time, you’re going to have your mind blown at how the real deal is equal parts delicious and simple.
You’ll never buy a store-bought gelatinous can again. Okay maybe for my Cranberry Baked Brie or Layered Cranberry Jello Salad it’s fine!
As I mentioned, making cranberry apple sauce is incredibly easy – you’re just boiling together a handful of ingredients for a half hour!
You’ve gotta love a super low maintenance side dish recipe because your focus should be on the turkey, not on the cranberry sauce.
Plus you can make it in advance to alleviate even more of that big day-of stress.
Ingredients in Cinnamon Apple Cranberry Sauce
You only need 8 simple and inexpensive ingredients to make homemade cranberry sauce with apples, so gather the following items:
- Fresh cranberries
- Light brown sugar OR granulated sugar
- Apple cider (NOT apple cider vinegar!)
- Orange zest
- Orange juice
- Cinnamon sticks
Note: Scroll down to the recipe card section of the post for the ingredients with amounts included and for more complete directions.
How to Make Cranberry Sauce with Apples
Step 1: Place all of your ingredients in a tall, high-sided pot and simmer them over medium-low to low heat.
Step 2: After about 10 minutes of cooking, when the cranberries have softened, you can use the back of a wooden spoon to press down on the berries. Or not.
Tip: If you like cranberry sauce with a bit more texture, just leave it alone for 20 to 30 minutes or until the apples and cranberries have both softened and the cranberries burst naturally.
Step 3: Remove the cinnamon sticks and either serve warm and fresh or chill it before serving if desired.
How Do I Know When Cranberry Sauce Is Done Cooking?
Keep an eye on your cranberry sauce, checking in on it and giving it a stir every 5 minutes or so.
Once the sauce has cooked for about 15 minutes and all of the berries have been popped, take a look at the consistency.
Based on how thin or soupy it is, allow the apple cider cranberry sauce to simmer for about 10 minutes more, or until the liquid has simmered off and the sauce has thickened and tightened up.
- Cranberry sauce will tighter and thicken up considerably as it cools at room temperature.
- And then again after you chill it in the fridge.
- So don’t over-simmer or over-reduce it thinking it’s too soupy in the cooking pot because like any hot liquid, when you take it off the heat, it really thickens up. Apart from that, you don’t want to burn or scorch it!
What Kind Of Apples Should I Use?
Honeycrisp, Gala, Fuji, or Jonagold apples all work very well in this recipe if you like red apples. Red Delicious are too mushy so avoid those.
I’d avoid using tart Granny Smith or green apples because they could lend too much vibrant sour flavor to the apple cranberry sauce and since cranberries are already extremely sour, no sense in adding more.
Using Apple Juice Versus Apple Cider in This Recipe
It’s highly recommended that you make the cranberry sauce with apple cider, not apple juice. Apple cider is fresh, unfiltered, and usually doesn’t contain any added sugar.
However, apple juice can be used in a pinch if it’s all that you have.
They both lend sweet apple flavor to your cinnamon apple cranberry sauce and if you do want a sweeter cranberry sauce, apple juice may be better suited since it usually is bottled with lots of added sugar.
But do not make the mistake of using apple cider vinegar. That is a definite no!
Can I Use Frozen Cranberries?
Did you know that cranberries freeze super well and keep for a very long time?
Most years I buy an extra bag or two of fresh cranberries and freeze them for about 9 months or so until I’m ready to start trialing and testing new cranberry recipes in August or September, which is long before most grocery stores have fresh cranberries for Thanksgiving in stock.
But my freezer stash saves me. Note – This is what I do and not what may be technically safe, but I do it anyway and I’m still here!
So if you’re like me and have frozen cranberries on hand, they are fine to use, but they may not be quite as juicy as fresh ones.
If you use frozen cranberries, you may need to supplement the lack of natural juices with a bit more orange juice or just don’t simmer the cranberry sauce quite as long.
Can the Apple Cranberry Sauce Be Canned?
While I have never personally canned cinnamon apple cranberry sauce before, you can most certainly try it yourself.
I am frequently asked this question for my Cabernet Cranberry Blueberry Sauce which is a fan favorite that people tell me their family begs them for every year. Readers have successfully reported canning it so I know it can be done, I just never have.
There are plenty of resources on the internet when it comes to canning cranberry sauce. Make sure to follow the steps correctly to ensure it’s truly canned properly.
What to Serve with Cranberry Sauce
This family favorite holiday side dish can be served warm and fresh or chill it before serving it on Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve meals to help add a vibrant pop of flavor and color to your dinner plate.
Keep things cozy and classic with casserole recipes like The BEST Stuffing Recipe, The BEST Green Bean Casserole, and Classic Marshmallow Sweet Potato Casserole,
In the corner of this photo, you can see my Slow Cooker Cheesy Green Bean Casserole peeking out.
If you’re inspired by this unique cranberry sauce with apples and want to add a little twist to even more of your favorite sides, consider recipes like Savory Sweet Potato Casserole with Candied Bacon, Roasted Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole, and Orange Glazed Brussels Sprouts.
And of course the holidays are never really over until you’ve had your fill of Pumpkin Pecan Pie, The BEST Apple Pie, or Christmas Cookies!
Properly stored airtight in the fridge, this holiday side dish will stay fresh for 5 to 7 days.
There’s no need to reheat it, either. You can let it adjust to room temperature prior to serving.
I’ve also frozen it for up to 3 months which is kind of unique when you can eat your holiday cranberry sauce for Valentine’s Day. Not for everyone, but it’s possible.
Tips For The BEST Apple Cranberry Sauce
While this recipe is pretty cut and dry, there are a few tips and tricks that’ll help you achieve the BEST holiday side dish every time!
Cranberries: Fresh are best, but previously frozen will work if that’s what you have. Keep in mind you may want to add a bit more orange juice if they aren’t releasing much natural juice.
Apples: When you dice the apples, make sure they’re peeled and diced into small pieces. Big chunks of apples take longer to cook and aren’t as desirable in the finished apple cinnamon cranberry sauce.
Sugar: You can use either light brown sugar or white granulated sugar for this homemade cranberry sauce recipe. Brown sugar will give you a slightly more caramel-noted sauce whereas white sugar will be more along the lines of a traditional cranberry sauce, but with apples and apple cider, too.
Apple Cider: Do NOT use apple cider vinegar! Apple cider is fresh, naturally sweet, and preferred although shelf-stable apple juice is fine if that’s what’s available.
Oranges: Zest the orange before juicing it making sure just to take off the top orange layer and not go down into the bitter white pith. Then halve the orange, and squeeze the juice from both halves into your pot. No need to buy a container of orange juice. Plus, fresh orange juice is the way to go here anyway.
Simmering: I mostly walk away from homemade cranberry sauce when it’s simmering and just let it do it’s thing, giving an occasional stir every 5 minutes or so. If you like less texture in your cranberry sauce, you could mush or mash the berries and apples with a rubber spatula but I don’t bother and the texture is always perfect for my friends and family on Thanksgiving when I serve this.
Splattering: Even at a medium to low simmering temperature, there’s a good chance that after the berries pop, they will splatter and the area around your stove and burner will need a bit of cleanup attention. That’s totally normal!
Just make sure you keep you eye on it – if there’s an excessive amount of popping and mess happening, lower the temperature.
Also, a taller high-sided pot will help keep this under control, too. They do sell splatter guards for pots but I find them to be a luxury that I use once a year that I don’t have storage space for the rest of the year.
Cinnamon: Remember to remove the cinnamon sticks from the sauce before you serve it. If you’d like to add an extra pinch of ground cinnamon to the mix to enhance that warm fall flavor even more, go for it! Keep in mind that it’s already spiced from the allspice which contains cinnamon, so you may want to do a taste test before adding any more ground cinnamon.
- 12 ounce bag fresh cranberries (frozen and thawed may be used)
- 2 red apples, peeled, cored, and diced small (Gala, Fui, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, etc.)
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed OR 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup apple cider* (NOT apple cider vinegar)
- Zest from one medium to large orange
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice (about the yield from one medium to large orange)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice, or to taste
- Ground cinnamon, optional and to taste
- To a large or high-sided pot, add all ingredients, making sure to zest the orange (only taking off the outermost layer of orange and not going down into the bitter white pith), and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low or low, depending on if you’re seeing an excessive amount of bubbling up and splattering. Allow the sauce to simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Tips – Some people like to mash or mush the cranberries while they simmer however this reduces the nice texture of homemade cranberry sauce and makes it smoother. Plus, cranberries are going to burst with or without mashing them when they’re boiling so I just leave it alone to simmer and do it’s thing naturally.
- Simmer as long as necessary so it’s not too thin or soupy noting that it will tighten and thicken up considerably once you take it off the heat and it cools to room temperature, and then again once it’s chilled in the fridge it will thicken even more.
- Remove the cinnamon sticks, and optionally if desired, add ground cinnamon to taste (1/2 to 1 teaspoon approximately) and stir to combine.
- Cranberry sauce can be served warm and fresh, or chill it in the fridge before serving. Cranberry sauce will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months. To make ahead, feel free to make a batch and store it in the fridge for up to 2-3 days before serving it at a holiday meal.
*It’s highly recommended that you use apple cider, not apple juice. Apple cider is fresh, unfiltered, and usually doesn’t contain any added sugar.
However, apple juice can be used in a pinch if it’s all that you have. They both lend sweet apple flavor to your cinnamon apple cranberry sauce and if you do want a sweeter cranberry sauce, apple juice may be better suited since it usually is bottled with lots of added sugar.
Do not make the mistake of using apple cider vinegar. That is a definite no!
Amount Per Serving:
Calories: 254Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 10mgCarbohydrates: 66gFiber: 3gSugar: 59gProtein: 1g
More Easy Cranberry Recipes:
Cabernet Cranberry and Blueberry Sauce – Move over, boring cranberry sauce! Cranberries are so much better with blueberries and wine! Make your own fresh cranberry and blueberry sauce in 30 minutes. It’s so EASY, and everyone LOVES it!!
Cabernet Cranberry and Currant Sauce – Make your own EASY homemade cranberry sauce in 30 minutes!! This unique cranberry sauce recipe will be the star side dish of your holiday meal! Cranberries are so much BETTER with wine!!
Cranberry Pineapple Mango Preservatives – Much more flavorful than traditional cranberry sauce from the addition of pineapple, mango, cinnamon, and ginger, which sweetly spice and enhance fresh cranberries and made in just half an hour.
Layered Cranberry Jello Salad – A festive holiday layered Jello recipe with cranberries, pineapple, cream cheese, pecans, and pretzels! A little bit creamy, crunchy, sweet, and a little salty. A nostalgic family favorite with an impressive presentation to wow your holiday guests!
Cranberry Baked Brie – An EASY 15-minute appetizer that’s filled AND topped with richly spiced orange-scented cranberry sauce. Perfect for holiday entertaining! This cranberry brie is salty, tart-yet-sweet, and IRRESISTIBLE!!
Crustless Cranberry Pie – A FAST, super EASY, no-mixer dessert that’s perfect for holiday entertaining!! Somewhere in between pie, cake, and blondies is what you get with this FESTIVE recipe! Take advantage of those fresh cranberries!!
Glazed Cranberry Orange Quick Bread – The fresh cranberries in this cranberry orange bread contrast nicely with the sweet orange glaze, making it the perfect blend of sweet and tart!
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