Healthy Jellied Cranberry Sauce and more!

I am so excited to share my new healthy jellied cranberry sauce recipe- it has just 3 ingredients! Jellied cranberry sauce may be my favorite Thanksgiving table addition. Maybe it’s the tart contrast to creamy mashed potatoes and savory (dark meat) turkey, or maybe it’s the fact that it’s so special because we only got it this one time of year.

As I have learned more about healthy eating over the years and adapted many recipes (including gluten-free gravy), this staple seemed inimitable. I didn’t love that it’s full of high fructose corn syrup, but some things you just can’t copy, right?

Well, I tried, and I think this recipe is legit. And I learned in the process that you can use the end result for far more than just slices alongside your turkey! Stir it up, and you get seedless cranberry jelly. Whisk it in with balsamic, you get salad dressing. Combine it with homemade chili sauce and you get the sauce for New Year’s Eve meatballs. Whisk it into vodka, you get a cocktail! This is far more versatile than I once believed.

Here we go. The recipe below has no added sugar, if you can believe it! There are about 60 grams of natural sugars from the apple cider, and one can’s worth comes to about 45 grams of natural sugars. The end result is tart, so if you think you will want it a bit sweeter, don’t hesitate to add 1 tsp- 1 tbsp of honey or 100% pure maple syrup to the hot mixture. When I make this for Thanksgiving this year, I plan to add a tablespoon of one or the other!

Jellied Cranberry Sauce

  • 12 oz bag fresh cranberries, rinsed
  • 2 cups apple cider (I used Trader Joe’s Honeycrisp Apple Cider)
  • 3 tablespoons water (or more cider)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • Added sweetener of choice (if using)

Place cranberries and cider in a large saucepan and turn the stove to medium heat. Cover the saucepan and set a timer for 10 minutes. When the timer goes off or when the cider bubbles to the top of the lid, remove the lid and cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Puree mixture using an immersion blender right in the pot. If you transfer to a blender, take caution of the hot liquid and remove the air vent part of the blender lid and cover with paper towel as you blend.

Next, remove the seeds and other solids with a fine mesh colander (like these). Place the colander over a bowl and pour the hot cranberry mixture in. use the back of a spoon to make sure all the liquid gets through, and discard the solids from the colander.

In a small ramekin, use a fork or mini whisk to combine the gelatin with 3 tbsp of cider or water. Whisk rapidly, pour it into the hot cranberry mixture and continue whisking until incorporated. Do not dump in and let it sit, or it could glob. Add sweetener now, if using (I recommend 1 tsp- 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup).

Now it’s ready to set! Pour it into vessels of choice and place in the fridge for about 5 hours or until set. I used a rinsed out can, and poured the rest into a small jar to use for other recipes. I used spray olive oil in the can to ensure it could be removed without too much damage to the cranberry. Once set, I used a mini rubber spatula to loosen the edges before dumping out.

If using sweetener, I recommend honey or 100% maple syrup. Artificial sweeteners are NOT healthy and I do not recommend them ever. It is much healthier to add 14-17g of these natural sugars  (the amount in 1 tbsp) than it is to have the original canned cranberry sauce, which is full of high fructose corn syrup! The end result will have max 60 grams of sugar in the 15 oz can, whereas regular jellied cranberry sauce has 150 grams per can.

Cranberry Pie Martini (1 serving)

  • Vanilla Vodka (50 ml, or 1/4 cup, or 1 airplane bottle)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider (I used Trader Joe’s Honeycrisp Apple Cider)
  • 3 tbsp cranberry jelly

Whisk cranberry with vodka to incorporate it. This works best if the cranberry is warmed first- 8 seconds in the microwave should do it. Pour vodka/cranberry mixture and cider in a shaker with ice!

Serve in a martini or other fun glass!


Cranberry Balsamic Salad Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons jellied cranberry sauce
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Whisk all ingredients together and pour over salad! I didn’t even think it needed seasonings, but you can’t go wrong with S&P.


New Year’s Eve Meatballs

These are appetizer/cocktail meatballs that I have made for probably a dozen years now on NYE. The sauce I have always made used a simple recipe of jellied cranberry sauce and a bottle of chili sauce. Knowing the ingredients in both of these products inspired me to make healthy versions of both, so this year my meatballs will get an upgrade!

  •  Frozen or fresh meatballs (cooked)- halved or quartered if large, whole if small                                                                         
  • 1 can’s worth or 15 oz of my jellied cranberry sauce (above)     
  • 1 batch Homemade chili sauce

For the chili sauce:

  • 1  15 oz can tomato purée                                                               
  • 2 teaspoon red wine vinegar                                                         
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder                                                             
  • ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder                                                             
  • ¼ teaspoon salt                                                                                 
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder

Melt cranberry sauce in small saucepan over medium heat, chopping up jelly as it melts. Add all chili sauce ingredients and reduce heat to simmer. If still chunky, use immersion blender to puree. Pour over meatballs. Bake for 15-20 minutes to heat through. 


In Summary!

Uses for jellied cranberry sauce:

  • As a side for turkey, chicken or duck
  • Simply stir it up and it’s cranberry jelly for a PBJ
  • Cranberry-balsamic salad dressing
  • Cocktails (especially my Cranberry Pie Martini!)
  • Stir it into plain or vanilla yogurt
  • Use in New Year’s Eve meatball sauce!




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