Kickin’ Cranberry Sauce

It’s well known amongst my family and friends that at the Thanksgiving table, I am the champion of constructing the Perfect Bite. You know what I mean, right?!

That’s when you spear a piece of bird, add a hunk of (paleo) bread stuffing, dunk it in the little gravy puddle on your plate, and top it off with a dollop of tart cranberry sauce.

Perfect bite!

The recipe below is the cranberry sauce that I will be making this year and forever more. The challenge with creating a paleo-friendly cranberry sauce is that those jewel-like berries hang onto their tartness like my grip on the perfect party dress at Betsey Johnson on Black Friday. This recipe, rather than fighting the bite of cranberries, lulls them into submission with dried dates and orange, then jumps into the fray with aromatic spices and a kick of jalapeño. This sauce isn’t hot, but it’s got personality.

You can make this several days in advance – the flavors mix, mingle, and mellow, ready for your perfect bite. (I think it actually tastes better as it sits, so make it at least one day in advance.)

Kickin' Cranberry Sauce |

Kickin’ Cranberry Sauce

Makes about 2 cups | Prep 20 minutes | Cook 15 minutes

  • 4 dried dates

  • 1 large orange

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 4 whole cloves

  • 2 sticks cinnamon

  • 1 small jalapeño, stemmed and thinly sliced


Preheat oven to 450F. Cover a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil; set aside.


Remove the pits from the dates and place in small bowl. Cover with boiling water and allow them to soak until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain off the water and place the dates in a food processor; purée until smooth.


Using a peeler, remove the peel from the orange, taking off as little of the white pith as possible. Cut the peel into very thin strips about 1 1/2 inches long. Squeeze the juice from the orange and set aside.


In a bowl, combine the peel, date purée, cranberries, coconut oil, salt, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and jalapeño. Toss well and transfer to the baking sheet. Roast until the cranberries begin to burst and release their juices, about 10-15 minutes.


Transfer the cranberries to a bowl and stir in 2-3 tablespoons of the reserved orange juice. Let the flavors meld for at least an hour, then taste and add more salt, if necessary. You can store in the refrigerator for a week or so. Remove and toss out the cinnamon sticks before serving.

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  • pamela says:

    Anxious to hear more about your stuffing experiment. I love the sound (and look) of that cranberry sauce, as well.

    • Elizabeth Hansen says:

      Do you think I could substitute dates for the dried apricots in the Cranberry Waldorf salad? (allergic to dates)

      • Mel says:

        Yes, that should work fine, but you won’t need as many. Start with 5 dates and see how it tastes, then add additional dates 1 at a time.

  • Katherine says:

    Sorry, when you say, “bag of cranberries” about what size? I just bought a bag at Costco and it’s closer to a family size bag of frozen french fries (if you can remember that size bag) rather than the small bag at Kroger which is more the size of a bag of baby carrots. Sorry, don’t mean to be so anal about precision :0) Eager to try this recipe, sounds YUM!

  • Tracy says:

    Cranberries and jalepenos – super yum! Making this!

    • Mel says:

      Super YUM! I made this last year and forgot all about it until a few days ago. I’m really excited to eat it with roast duck on Thursday.

  • Michelle F. says:

    I am so glad you posted a cranberry sauce recipe! I am behind in my Thanksgiving ideas and prep and didn’t have a plan. Now I do! Can’t wait to try this!

  • Grover says:

    This sounds like paleo nirvana to my palate! Thank you for such an inventive, sophisticated (AND SPICY!)take on what I used to consider a tired side dish at Thanksgiving!

  • GWIZ says:

    Besides the turkey, we’re having Cumin-Roasted Carrots, Mustard-Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Coconut-Almond Green Beans, Velvety Butternut Squash & Mashed Cauliflower. Oh, and for dessert, replace the peaches with apples for Apple Almond Crisp! It’s going to be the best Thanksgiving ever! First time I won’t mind a refrigerator full of leftovers!

    • Mel says:

      Wheee! That’s so fun! It’s almost like we’re having Thanksgiving together. That menu looks fantastic 😉 and I’m so thrilled that we’ll be part of your celebration.

      Happy happy to you!

    • MOE' says:

      would love your tried and true recipes or a link on where to find them

  • Michelle says:

    I just made a loaf of grain-free bread from Gluten-Free Girl’s Thanksgiving app, and it’s scary delicious. I’ve been sneaking bites of it all day. It’s not something I’d trust myself to have around on a regular basis, but I’m thrilled to have some good bread to use for stuffing. This year I’m trying the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated where you cover the top of the stuffing in turkey wings so that the fats drip down into the stuffing and make it taste like it’s been inside the bird. Fingers crossed it turns out!

    Just FYI, I used Redmond Real Salt in kosher grind, and I found the bread to be a little on the salty side, especially considering it’s going into stuffing. I’m going to scale back to 1.5 tsp when I bake more tomorrow.

    • Mel says:

      That’s been my experience, too. I didn’t think I cared about bread anymore until I smlled it baking in my kitchen. Definitely once-a-year kind of thing for me ’cause there are NO BRAKES with me and bread.

      Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Kate says:

    I’m pretty pumped about making this, no lie. I’m Whole30-ing through thanksgiving, but I’ve gone no fruit up to now (3 weeks so far), so I deserve something special and compliant tomorrow!
    How do you think it would work out if I skipped the jalapenos as I don’t have any and am NOT braving the grocery store tonight. Could I perhaps toss in a dash of cayenne or chili pepper for some kick or is that the wrong flavor, do you think?

    • Mel says:

      Do NOT go the grocery store just for a jalapeño! 🙂

      I’d either skip it, or add a dash of cayenne. The heat is nice with the cranberry and orange.

      Happy Whole30-ing and Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Sharonkc says:

    Just made this for thanksgiving this year. Yum. Yum. Yum. I’ve been looking for a recipe that’s not filled with junk, and the addition of the jalapeño is perfect for my family’s feisty tastes! Thank you!

  • Kathryn says:

    This is really yummy mashed up in a sweet potato!!!

  • Teresa C says:

    Feel free to just say no to this, because it might take more thinking time than you have.

    My family prefers jellied cranberry sauce, is there anyway to get it to that consistency, where I can mold it? Or is there not enough sugar to make it jell? My mom usually makes it, but she’s unable to this year and I”m looking to sneak in Whole30 compliant foods without my family catching on….. (wish me luck).

  • Teresa C says:

    Thanks! I might try it and I’ll let you know how it goes.