Cranberry Apple Sauce

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For a sweet and simple twist on the classic Thanksgiving side dish, try Cranberry Apple Sauce. It’s a tasty without getting too crazy on a menu that is rooted in tradition.

A bowl of cranberry sauce with apples.


In my family, Thanksgiving is all about traditions. The turkey goes in the oven, not in a barrel for deep-frying. We do not add gorgonzola, pears, and walnuts to our stuffing. Our potatoes are mashed, not roasted. And our dinner rolls are the ones Grandma used to make.

So when it comes to cranberry sauce, there isn’t a whole lot of wiggle room. It must still look and mostly taste like cranberry sauce. But I can get away with adding apples! Apples add an element of surprise without upsetting anyone, and apples mixed with cranberries somehow make a lot of sense.

Recipe ingredients

Cranberry Sauce ingredients labeled and in various bowls.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Cranberries: Fresh cranberries freeze really well, so stock up when you see them. If your cranberries are already frozen, no need to thaw. Just cook them straight from the freezer and add 2 minutes to the simmering time.
  • Apples: I like tart Granny Smith apples because they hold their shape in the Apple Cranberry Sauce. But you can use your favorites like Gala, Honeycrisp, or Fuji.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, add sugar, water, cinnamon, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat, and stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved. Stir in cranberries and apples.
Cranberries and apples cooking in a saucepan.
  1. Simmer over medium-low heat until slightly thickened and the berries begin to pop, about 10 minutes.
Cranberries and apples cooking in a saucepan.
  1. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature or chill.
A bowl of cranberry sauce with apples.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes 3 cups of sauce, enough for 12 (¼ cup) servings.
  • Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Make ahead: Cranberry sauce is a great recipe to make ahead of time. Cool the sauce completely, then keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.
  • Freezer: Cooled sauce can be frozen up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
  • More sweeteners: This recipe calls for white sugar, but you can substitute brown sugar, coconut sugar, pure maple syrup, or honey (the flavor will change, but not in a bad way).
  • Customize your flavors: Try vanilla extract, a splash of red wine, orange zest, lemon juice, a cinnamon stick, or warming spices such as ginger and cloves.
  • Super smooth: For the smoothest possible cranberry sauce, blend your cooked sauce with an immersion blender.
  • Classic Cranberry Sauce: Sweetened with orange juice and sugar, this classic Thanksgiving side dish is perfect for cutting through all the richness of the other holiday recipes.
  • Slow Cooker Cranberry Sauce: When stove-top and oven space are in high demand, Slow Cooker Cranberry Sauce is a no-brainer.
  • Cranberry Relish: This no-cook version is 3 ingredients and 5 minutes of prep (plus 8 hours of chilling time so the flavors can blend).
  • Small batch: My Cranberry Sauce for Two has been scaled down for a pair.
  • Homemade Cranberry Applesauce: Stir fresh cranberries into your next batch of Homemade Applesauce.
  • Leftovers: Extra cranberry sauce is delicious on Leftover Turkey Sandwiches or folded into my favorite Cranberry Cheesecake Galette. You can also drizzle it over ice cream for dessert (maybe add a handful of pecans?), pancakeswaffles, and crepes.
A plate of roasted trukey, stuffing, vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy, and cranberries.
A Classic Midwestern ThanksgivingPerfect Roast TurkeyMashed Potatoes with Turkey Gravy, Classic Bread StuffingVegetable CasseroleRoasted Asparagus, and Cranberry Sauce with Apples.

Frequently Asked Questions

When are cranberries in season?

You’ll start seeing cranberries at grocery stores in November, and they should be stocked all through December. I usually stock up and vacuum-seal a few bags for the freezer because once they’re gone, they’re gone!

Where are cranberries grown?

Just five states produce all the cranberries in the United States. More than half come from Wisconsin. Massachusetts grows the second largest amount, about 30%, and the rest come from New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington.

More recipes with apples

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A bowl of cranberry sauce with apples.

Cranberry Apple Sauce

For a sweet and simple twist on the classic Thanksgiving side dish, try Cranberry Apple Sauce. It's a tasty without getting too crazy on a menu that is rooted in tradition.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 12 servings (¼ cup each)
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Calories 125
4.98 from 170 votes


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries picked over (see note 1)
  • 1 cup tart apples peeled and diced (see note 2)


  • In a medium saucepan, bring sugar, water, cinnamon, and salt to boil. Stir occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
  • Stir in cranberries and apples. Simmer until slightly thickened and the berries begin to pop, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature or chill.

Recipe Video


  1. Cranberries: Fresh cranberries freeze really well, so stock up when you see them. If your cranberries are already frozen, no need to thaw. Just cook them straight from the freezer and add 2 minutes to the simmering time.
  2. Apples: I like tart Granny Smith apples because they hold their shape in the sauce.
  3. Yield: This recipe makes 3 cups of sauce, enough for 12 (¼ cup) servings.
  4. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.


Serving: 0.25 cupCalories: 125kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 75mgPotassium: 53mgFiber: 2gSugar: 28gVitamin A: 34IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 3mgIron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @culinaryhill on Instagram so we can admire your masterpiece! #culinaryhill
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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  1. Ok just made this for tomorrow and all is well with it except it’s not sweet which is odd bc i used the full amount of suga. The cranberries still have a tart taste. I keep adding more sugar but not making it sweet. What can I do to cut the tart and bitter cranberries?

    1. Hi Ashleigh, that sounds crazy. I made this last night too. Did you add the little bit of salt? That might help bring the sugar to life. You could add another tablespoon of sugar or you can try something like honey or maple will change the flavor, but not in a bad way. If you like those flavors. I hope it works out! Maybe today it will taste better after sitting overnight. Happy Thanksgiving! -Meggan

  2. This is an easy dish to prepare and a hit at Thanksgiving and Christmas! Everybody wants the recipe each time I serve it5 stars

    1. I’m so happy to hear that it’s a hit, George! I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving! – Meggan

  3. I have made different cranberry sauces during the past many years. This is the BEST I’ve ever made. My family raves about it!5 stars

  4. I am 88 now and I can remember my mother making this same recipe every Thanksgiving for our crowd of nine. It would not be Thanksgiving without this crowd pleaser. The aroma alone was enticing. I still follow her recipe – which, as a child, thought it was her own recipe! I am now disallusioned but ….stlll love it and make it.5 stars

    1. What a sweet memory, Kay! Thank you so much for sharing about your mom! It’s so lovely how even just the smell of something can bring back wonderful memories. Take care!

  5. Great recipe! I added 1 teaspoon of lemon juice (fresh lemon juice) to this recipe. Are used honey crisp apples about a cup and a half. After the cranberries were cooked I took a potato masher to pop the remaining cranberries. Very delicious! Thank you! :)5 stars

    1. Hi Judy! Yes, I’m sure you could, but you will need to reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe. I don’t know by how much. What I would do is, cook the cranberries in the water with the cinnamon and salt (not adjusting those amounts). Once the cranberries are softened, stir in the apple pie filling (I don’t know if you want to use all of it or just start with half a can?). Stir it in, taste it, and see if it needs more sugar. I would think it needs more sugar, but I’m not sure how much. You will need to make sure the sugar dissolves well in the cranberry sauce so it’s not grainy. If it seems grainy (like you are chewing sand), add a little more water and put it back on the stove and cook it until the sugar is dissolved. Good luck! Thanks. -Meggan

    2. Oh one more thing! You could also omit or reduce the cinnamon. The apple pie filling will probably have cinnamon in it, so you could leave that out and add more at the end if you think it needs more. Thank you!!! -Meggan

    1. Hi Jennifer, I’m sorry but this recipe hasn’t been tested for canning. I would suggest finding a pre-tested one if you are looking to try. However if you just want to store this recipe for a long time, cooled sauce can be frozen up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving. Hope this helps! – Meggan

  6. Years since I’ve made cranberry sauce. This was so simple! Next time I’ll dial down the amount of sugar(husband doesn’t do sugar so he wont eat this. That means more for me!) This is going to grandma’s house!5 stars

  7. I never really liked cranberry sauce until I tried this and I love it! I have made it the last year or two and look forward to many batches this winter. I make the recipe as-is and it’s great!5 stars

  8. What are the best cranberries for this? I have never been a fan of cranberry sauce but I like the cranberry apple sauce dessert in the hungry man tv dinner so I want to make something that tastes as good and this recipe looks like it may be the one and I am really excited to try it!

  9. Hands down the best cranberry sauce I’ve ever had. I didn’t have green apples on hand so I subbed a Gala. Also, my father is trying to cut down on sugar so I calculated the proportional equivalent of a Whole Earth & pure cane combo. We used it as a side for our lean pork tenderloin roast and the leftover sauce was perfect on whole grain bagels, Dave’s Killer bread, and alongside a serving of cottage cheese because the apples provide texture. For Thanksgiving I’m thinking of making a double batch and adding warm spices to one half while keeping the other as-is. Can’t wait! This is going to be staple in our house. Thank you!5 stars

    1. Hi Lindsay, that variation is great, I’m glad it came out well! Cranberry sauce on a whole grain bagel sounds delicious! – Meggan

  10. I’ve made this recipe for the last few years and LOVE it. It’s always a hit and so easy to make. I love cranberry with orange, so I had found another commenter who made hers with 1/3 orange juice instead of water and adds orange zest. It’s amazing! I look forward to this dish every year.5 stars

  11. This sauce in so delicious, in our house it started out as a relish for the thanksgiving turkey but it soon became such a hit, try eating it hot with vanilla ice cream.
    Yumm5 stars

  12. There is way too much sugar in this for my taste; I think half is plenty. I like cardamom addition to the cinnamon and ginger is great too.4 stars

  13. Made it for Thanksgiving, everyone loved it! I only made 1 mistake, I tried to make a double batch and it wasn’t as thick as I would have liked but it tasted so good I could have eaten it all myself.5 stars

  14. Easy and delicious! I actually added a lot of things I like to put in when I didn’t use apples- a sprinkle of nutmeg and ground cloves, orange zest and juice of an orange (but used less sugar) with water if needed to make 3/4 cup liquid, honey crisp apple, splash of balsamic vinegar for depth of flavor.5 stars

    1. Hi Darlene, this sounds amazing. Your version is definitely better than mine! I’m stealing all your ideas for my next batch! Thanks. -Meggan

  15. I made this Cranberry Sauce today.I probably should have made less considering that my brother really doesn’t care for it and my mother is in the Hospital. It was very easy to make.Next time I think I will use a half cup of sugar because its rather sweet but it is still good.I can’t wait to make it again.

  16. I LOVE this recipe! I make it all winter long and eat it in the morning on top of oatmeal. Sometimes I add walnuts when I make the cranberry sauce, and they are a great crunchy addition.5 stars

  17. I’m thinking this recipe might pair well with pears (pun intended!) in place of the apples. You would have to add the pears later, obviously, perhaps after the cranberries have popped. Since our Thanksgiving guests are many, I may make two versions this year, one with apples and one with pears.

    1. Hi Kate! Pears sound so divine. And I agree, adding them later will prevent them from completely disintegrating into pear mush. I love a good pun! -Meggan

  18. I just wanted you to know, I made this last year and it was a HUGE hit! I’ve never cared for cranberry sauce and was determined to find one I like. As I’m prepping again for Thanksgiving, I’ve added this recipe to my 100 year old family cookbook for future generations to enjoy! Itll always be on my Thanksgiving table! Thank you so much :)5 stars

    1. Thank you so much Ashley!!! Makes my day. I agree, the apples make such a difference in cranberry sauce. And it’s so easy, so obvious! Thank you again, and Happy Thanksgiving. :D -Meggan

  19. Beautiful thick red cranberry sauce. So easy to prepare. The diced apple adds to the flavor of the sauce. I added some nutmeg but aside from that this is a go to recipe as it is. This sauce is so good it can be used as a dessert sauce or as a filling in tarts and turnovers. I made this sauce for a family gathering this weekend. Thank you for sharing this recipe.5 stars

  20. I found your recipe and made it Thanksgiving. IT came out fabulous!! I could never stand the canned stuff. The apples make a huge difference. Thank you so much!! I’ll continue you make this all the rest of the year!!5 stars

  21. I just made this for tomorrow and it tastes AWESOME! My first time making them, we have always had the canned but never again, these were so simple and tasty!5 stars

  22. Meggan, did you ever experiment with oranges? i eat one or two oranges every day 7 days a week 365. i just found this recipe and am going to try it out tomorrow as written but I’m curious what you think about a chopped up navel orange in the last few minutes of cooking..?.. Sounds promising but things that sound good dont always taste as good.. I’m planning on using one honeycrisp and one granny smith with plain whole cranberries.. But I would really like to know your thoughts on the orange..

    1. Hi Ryan! Yes, I have a version of cranberry sauce that I just posted which is made with orange juice and orange zest. I LOVE it! I haven’t tried it with the apples, but honestly, it could only make it better. Honeycrisp are my FAVORITE, good call on that. So yes, I would say add some orange (maybe zest the peel and add that too?) and I’m sure it will be wonderful! Thanks Ryan!

    1. Hi Tonya! It would definitely work. It would add honey flavor, but obviously that isn’t a bad thing! I don’t know if it would be a 1 to 1 sub. I would start with 1/2 cup, stir it in, taste it, and add more if you think it needs it. I’d love to know how this goes for you! Thanks Tonya.

    2. This worked fantastically!  I used 3/4 cup honey and the rest of the recipe as is.  PERFECT! Thank you!!!!5 stars

  23. Yum, yum, yum! I didn’t measure the cinnamon, and I used two apples, but other than that, I followed the recipe, and my family loved it. Thanks for posting!5 stars

  24. My daughter made a similar recipe last year with cranberries and red seedless grapes. I didn’t think that recipe could be beat but I believe you have topped it!  I added some fresh orange zest and actually sliced the orange in big pieces to let it simmer with the other fruit. Added some purple seedless grapes as well. Love the Granny Smith apples in it so much I added another one at the end of cooking time so it could be crisper! I like the different textures together. Thank you for a great recipe! This one is a keeper!5 stars

    1. Thanks so much for the great comment and your ideas! I am absolutely going to try a version with oranges and grapes in it. Sounds amazing. Thanks again, wishing you a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving!

  25. My husband has to work on Thanksgiving so we celebrated early. I’m the only one that’s a fan of cranberry sauce so I was looking for a new way to make it. I decided on your recipe because my children love applesauce and I thought my kids might like this better than the traditional way. It was a hit! My husband said it was the best cranberry sauce he’s tasted. Thanks for the recipe!5 stars

    1. Jennifer, that’s so wonderful to hear! I’m glad you loved it. :) I am making it today too. I cannot remember if my small children like cranberry sauce or not, so it might be only me eating it. But I’m obsessed. Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you so much for your comment!

  26. I just made this and it turned out great. Very flavorful. I plan on making it again and adding oranges and put it in nice jars for gifts. Thanks for sharing! Happy Thanksgiving ? 5 stars

    1. Hi Michele, do you actually add pieces of oranges to the sauce? Would you leave it out the apples then? I’m sure you’re busy and don’t have time to reply, I’m just curious. Glad you liked the recipe. :) Happy Thanksgiving!

  27. I just made this and it is very good! I simmered it a little longer for a thicker texture and also added some slivered almonds for fun. Thank you!5 stars

    1. Slivered almonds, great idea! And yes, you can simmer longer to make it thicker. It also thickens a lot as it cools. I hope you love it! Thanks for you great idea.

    1. Hi Kat, I’m sure you can. It might take 4 hours or so on HIGH for the cranberries to get done since you need them to boil. I haven’t tested it yet, but I’m sure it would work! And yes to the fresh cranberries.

  28. Is this ok to make the night before? I don’t see why not but just wanted some input ? Thanks for the great recipe! 5 stars

    1. Yes! Absolutely. You should go make it right now. :) You could make it 4 days in advance, even. Or make it WAY in advance and freeze it. You’re good to go! It’s a very forgiving recipe. :)

  29. I stumbled on this recipe while trying to prep for Thanksgiving in a few days – looks awesome and easy! And, since you are a Meggan with 2 G’s just like me, I’ll have to try it! :)

    1. HOORAY for Meggans with two g’s! Double g’s are double great! ;) Or that’s what I used to say in high school…. hope you love the cranberry sauce. :) Take care my dear!

    2. Omg! I am Meggan with 2 g’s, too!! I was trying to decide between 2 recipes and the 2 g’s made me choose this one!5 stars

    3. You know what I always say – DOUBLE G’S ARE DOUBLE GREAT! But seriously Meggan we are the best and thank you for picking my recipe, I hope it turned out for you and that you continue favoring Meggans with 2 g’s everywhere! I would do the same! Hope you have a great holiday and thanks for stopping by… and sharing my name! :D

  30. I added lemon and orange zest. I agree it needed acidity. I don’t know why anyone would want their apples to Fall Apart. That is the beauty of this chunky recipe.5 stars

  31. Thanks for sharing the recipe! I added some orange zest and substitute 1/3 of the water with OJ. I also cooked the apples a little longer on a separate pan first to make them fall apart.5 stars

    1. Sounds perfect! My grandma always used OJ in her cranberry sauce. I need to try it myself. :) Glad you liked the recipe! Thank you so much for the comment.

    1. Hi Corinne, YES! I think that would work splendidly. There is nothing in this recipe that would suffer as far as quality. You should be good to go. I’ll update the recipe with this info. Thanks for your question.

  32. Just finished, looks and tastes amazing! I added about a 1/2 tsp lemon juice for a little bit of acidity! Thanks for sharing your recipe! 5 stars

    1. Thank you so much, Sarah! I will definitely test this next with lemon juice and will update the recipe. Thanks a lot for the idea. I’m doing a million recipes with cranberries right now, I can’t wait to share them all! Cranberry Cream Cheese danishes, Cranberry Cream Cheese Galettes, and Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash, and Cranberries with Bacon and Walnuts. I’m obsessed with cranberries! Take care, thanks again, and have a great weekend!

  33. i found 3 year old frozen cranberries in the freezer and just turned them into this- i used apples i had on hand, unfortunately the didn’t fall apart- next time ( in 4 years, i guess ) i will cook the apples a bit before adding the cranberries. nevertheless delicious! thank you for this no-fuss recipe! :)

    1. Hi Daniela! I am sorry to hear it didn’t turn out as you had hoped. I don’t think my apples fell apart either, I was hoping for chunks in my cranberry sauce. I will research some different options for apples and include notes for some that fall apart and some that don’t so people can decide what they want. Thank you so much for your feedback! Have a great weekend.

    1. Hi Christina, that’s a really great question. I like to use apples that hold their shape and don’t turn to mush such as Braeburn, Jonathan, Winesap, and Empire. Honeycrisp, Mutsu, and Pink Lady are also great. If you want something “basic” you can’t go wrong with Granny Smith. I hope this helps! I’ll definitely update the post to include this info. Thanks for asking.

    1. Yay, Jamie! Kudos to you for planning ahead and testing out recipes in advance. :) I’m so glad you liked the recipe! I am really excited to make this one myself. Take care!

  34. I love apples and cinnamon for fall flavors! They warm me right up. We didn’t even get to eat cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving, so I’m definitely making this one on my own, Meggan!

  35. This dish is SO beautiful! I’ve never paired cranberries with apples before! The combination with cinnamon sounds incredible!

  36. You know, I’ve never made my own cranberry sauce! I think I need to go on a hunt to find some fresh cranberries (not sure how easy to find they are over here … I reckon frozen might be my best bet). This looks so easy to make, Meggan, and I love that you’ve made a sort of cross between apple and cranberry sauce! Hope you’ve had a wonderful thanksgiving!5 stars

  37. Love this simple classic recipe. One question – what is “picked over”? i.e. in the ingredients, Cranberries line5 stars

    1. Hi Nagi! :) I always love your questions. Makes me feel useful. When I say “picked over” it means you sort of sift through the cranberries with your hands and discard any that look damaged or sad. I would use the same terminology for looking at lentils while washing them. You pick out the rocks that are mixed in with lentils, if there are any. Ditto on beans. Thanks for reading the post. :)

  38. I never had cranberry sauce but I love cranberries! I only can find frozen cranberries here and glad I can use them too! The sauce looks so shiny and beautiful! Can’t wait to try this with some butter and freshly baked bread :)

  39. I had never had cranberry sauce until I moved to the U.S. Can’t believe what I was missing. I love the addition of the apples, a perfectly sweet and tart treat.5 stars