Crunchy Cranberry Sauce

$4.60 recipe / $0.58 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
3.67 from 3 votes
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Last week my sister was like, “Hey, are you coming here next week for Thanksgiving or what?” and I was all like, “Next week?! What do you mean, there’s at least another month before Thanksgiving…”

So, if you’re wondering why I haven’t posted any Thanksgiving goodies, that’s why. I’m off in la-la-land. But, while perusing the web recently I did come across this fantastic recipe for Healthy Cranberry Relish (not online anymore :( ) on and immediately wanted to make it. Cranberry sauce and relish are my favorite part of Thanksgiving, so since I’m a little late to the party this year, I’m at least going to squeeze this one in.

Top view of a bowl of Crunchy Cranberry Sauce with a blue napkin on the side

The two aspects of the Eating Paleo 4 Health relish recipe that caught my attention were the celery and the addition of some gelatin to make things a little thicker. The celery adds a super interesting flavor element (although you probably need to be a fan of celery to begin with), tons of crunch, and it also helps stretch the recipe without increasing the cost much. I realized just before beginning the recipe that apples would also be lovely in this, and wouldn’t you know, I just happened to have one! So, in it went. The result is a super crunchy sauce (oops, it really should be called a relish), with a unique flavor and tons of tangy cranberry. I love it. I just love it!

Now I just have to figure out if I’m going to keep this at home for myself or bring it to the feast on Thursday…

Three smalls bowls of crunchy cranberry sauce, one with spoon in it. Blue napkin on the side
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Crunchy Cranberry Sauce

3.67 from 3 votes
Celery, apples, and walnuts add bulk and a delightful texture and savory flavor to this crunchy cranberry sauce. 
Author: Adapted from
Servings 8 to 10 servings (1/2 cup each)
Prep 2 hours 20 minutes
Cook 10 minutes
Total 2 hours 30 minutes


  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar ($0.08)
  • 1 cup water ($0.00)
  • 1 12 oz bag fresh cranberries ($2.00)
  • 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice ($0.02)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon ($0.02)
  • 1 1/4 oz. envelope plain gelatin ($0.46)
  • 4 stalks celery ($0.40)
  • 1 medium apple ($0.44)
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces ($1.18)


  • In a medium sauce pot, bring 1/2 cup sugar and 1 cup of water to a boil. Stir briefly to dissolve the sugar, then add the cranberries. Allow the pot to come back up to a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low, place a lid on top, and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. (the cranberries will burst as the cook, so don’t forget the lid).
  • Meanwhile, stir one envelope of plain gelatin into 3 tablespoons of water. Let the mixture sit until the gelatin has absorbed the water and formed a thick jelly-like texture (about 5 minutes).
  • Once the cranberries have simmered for 10 minutes, stir in the softened gelatin, lemon juice, and cinnamon. Place the pot in the refrigerator to cool.
  • While the cranberry mixture is cooling, finely dice the celery and apple. Stir together the celery, apple, and walnuts in a large bowl. When the cranberry mixture has cooled a little (it’s okay if it’s warm, just not piping hot), pour it into the bowl with the celery, apple, and walnuts. Stir to combine, then return to the refrigerator to cool completely (about 2 hours). Serve chilled.

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Serving: 0.5CupsCalories: 145.86kcalCarbohydrates: 22.03gProtein: 5.39gFat: 5.08gSodium: 35.54mgFiber: 3.14g
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
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How to Make Crunchy Cranberry Sauce – Step by Step Photos

Sugar and Water in pot on stove top

Begin by bringing 1/2 cup sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium sauce pot (medium heat). As the mixture heats up, the sugar will dissolve. You may need to give it a quick stir to help it completely dissolve.

Cranberries added to boiling sugar water in pot on stove top, wooden spoon on the side

Once it reaches a boil, add one 12-oz. bag of fresh cranberries. Let the pot come back up to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low, place a lid on top (to catch the splatter from the popping cranberries) and let it simmer for 10 minutes.

Gelatine packet and bowl of gelatin softening

While the cranberries are simmering, stir one 1/4 oz. envelope of plain gelatin into 3 tablespoons of water. Let that sit for a few minutes, or until the gelatin absorbs the water and takes on a jelly-like texture.

Boiled Cranberries in pot with softened gelatin stirred in, wooden spoon sitting on top of pot

After simmering for 10 minutes, the cranberries will have all popped open and the mixture will be a tad bit thicker. Stir in the softened gelatin, 1/2 Tbsp of lemon juice, and 1/4 tsp cinnamon. Make sure to stir until the entire piece of gelatin has dissolved into the hot cranberry liquid. Place the pot in the refrigerator to help it cool faster.

Apple and Celery on cutting board

While the cranberry sauce is cooling, finely dice four stalks of celery and one apple.

Chopped apple, celery and walnuts in mixing bowl

Place the chopped celery, apple, and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts in a large bowl. Stir them to combine.

Pouring cooled and cooked cranberries into mixing bowl with apples, celery and walnuts

Pour the partially cooled cranberry mixture over top, then stir to combine again. The cranberry sauce doesn’t have to be completely cooled before adding to the celery and apple, but you don’t want it piping hot because you don’t want it to “cook” the celery and apple. As long as it’s only slightly warm, the apple and celery will stay crunchy.

Side view of a bowl of Crunchy Cranberry Sauce, blue napkin on the side

After stirring everything together, place it back in the refrigerator to cool completely. The mixture will thicken even more upon cooling. Serve chilled!

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  1. My family makes a raw relish.

    1 bag cranberries
    1 apple (with skin on)
    1 orange
    1 tsp orange zest
    1/2 cup sugar
    1 pkg raspberry jello

    Run the cranberries, apples, and orange through the food processor. Place in a bowl. Top with sugar. Make jello according to directions and pour over the fruit. Cover and allow to set in the refrigerator. Yummy stuff!!!! It’s great with turkey, chicken, and ham!

  2. This sounds really good. I’ve made a variation that sounds like the one Shelli mentioned–cherry-flavored gelatin in place of the unflavored gelatin, and adds a can of well-drained sweet (Bing) cherries, too. It’s sweeter than this one would be, and probably gets a little firmer, but the flavor combination is delicious.

  3. Probably a dumb question, but how are you supposed to eat this? By itself? With chips? On top of turkey? We never had cranberries or cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving when I was growing up, so it’s always kind of been mysterious to me. I also have a really big urge to throw a jalapeno in there (make it more like a cran-peno sauce that I’ve seen around). Bad idea?

    1. Cranberry sauce is usually with turkey – my mom makes fantastic cranberry sauce from scratch every year, and I couldn’t imagine turkey dinners without it! Sweet, tangy cranberry sauce and salty gravy are the perfect turkey toppers, if you ask me :)

    2. I’ve had cranberry sauce/relish with jalapeno before and it’s AWESOME. As far as eating it, you can just eat it like any side dish. I usually spoon a bunch of it onto my plate and either eat a forkful on its own, or dip the turkey, stuffing, ham, or anything else in it. :) So basically, eat it however it tastes best. It’s so good, even on its own!

      1. I made it and it was good (my family refused to try it). I added a jalapeño when i cooked the cranberries. The jalapeno flavor didn’t come through, so maybe I needed to add more or add it in later. I’m looking forward to making turkey cranberry salad sandwiches with it. :)

  4. Merci de partager cette recette de Crunchy Cranberry Sauce, le mélange de fruits cuits et céleris, pommes, me plait beaucoup.
    J’aime beaucoup votre blog.
    Hello, de la Provence en France

  5. I want to thank you for not leaping into the holidays with a series of sugar-laden desserts. Let’s stick with real food, shall we? best, dave

  6. Thanks for posting this! I live in Australia now and the only cranberries I can find are absurdly small jars – BUT a local store now carries frozen crans! (I shouldn’t be so happy, I know.) So I can make it for Christmas. This recipe actually looks a lot like a cranberry jello salad our friends used to bring on the day, with the red jello swapped out for plain gelatin. Yum. Can’t wait to try it!

  7. I like apple and celery together in salads, and I like apple-cranberry sauce, so I think mixing them all together sounds great!
    Not sure why the gelatin though? Doesn’t corn starch thicken just the same?

    1. It’s a slightly different texture, but you can definitely use cornstarch. You’ll need to add the cornstarch slurry to the cranberries when they’re simmering, though.

      1. I would think the pectin naturally occurring in the cranberries would be enough to thicken the sauce. I never have to add any gelatin (or cornstarch) and I’ve been making cranberries for more than a decade.

        1. This is what I was thinking when reading the recipe. My cranberries always set to a jelly consistency just from the pectin. I’m sure the gelatin could be omitted, but I think the addition kinda makes it fool proof. (Pectin does have a certain margin of error)

          However, cutting the gelatin would make the recipe vegan as well :)