Fresh, homemade cranberry-orange relish is a sweet, tart side dish for any meal. And beats ornamental canned cranberry sauce any Thanksgiving or Christmas. Leftovers are a delicious topping for breakfast eats like toast, pancakes, and waffles. Toasted nuts add crunch, and floral honey balances out the sucker punch of the sour fruit. This versatile recipe takes mere minutes to make and barely an ounce of prep work.
Cranberry sauce is an obligatory side dish for many at Thanksgiving. But does anyone really want to eat the jelly from a can? Hard pass. It may give us that Thanksgiving feeling. But the flavorless, jiggly side dish doesn't quite meet any moment. Let alone the holidays.
Enter this versatile, homemade cranberry relish. With a whole orange, fresh cranberries, and a quick trip through the food processor, it's a quick and easy, absolutely beautiful side dish. Fresh, sweet, and wonderfully tart, it balances out any rich, holiday menu with plenty of antioxidants to boot.
The relish is delicious with only fresh cranberries, an orange, and honey or sugar. I prefer raw honey instead of refined granulated sugar, but either will temper the sourness of the fruit. Fresh ginger lends a subtle zing. But you can certainly reach for that lonely jar of ground ginger collecting dust on your spice rack.
- fresh or frozen cranberries (10 to 12 ounces)
- navel orange (or other large variety)
- honey, raw recommended (or sugar)
- fresh or ground ginger
- ground cinnamon and/or allspice, optional
- toasted pecans, walnuts, or pistachios, optional
- orange liqueur, optional
- fresh thyme, mint, or rosemary, for garnish
Buying cranberries. Fresh is best. Frozen works just fine but will result in a saucier relish. When buying fresh cranberries in the fall and winter, look for bright, plump berries with no signs of shriveling or mold.
The key to a balanced bite in every forkful is tiny pieces of orange and cranberry. And pulsing the ingredients with a food processor allows the tart fruit bits to get coated in the honey (or sugar, if you prefer). If you don't have a food processor, you can grind the relish in batches in a coffee or spice grinder. Or even a blender with a pulse setting.
- Grate the ginger and prep the orange. If you're using fresh ginger, peel off the thin skin by scraping it away with the edge of a small spoon. Then grate the peeled ginger with a microplane or the smallest holes of a box grater. Optional: Peel the orange with a vegetable peeler, then cut the white pith away from the flesh. Even if you don't peel the orange, cut off the stem and slice it in half to remove any seeds.
- Combine and process. Combine the cranberries, seeded orange, honey, ground spices, salt, and ginger in a food processor. Add any toasted nuts and orange liqueur (if using). Pulse the mixture until the pieces of cranberry and orange are around an eighth of an inch in size. You can also make the relish in batches in a spice grinder.
- Season. Taste the relish and add a little more salt or honey to balance out the flavors. Serve the relish chilled and garnish it with a thin strip of orange peel, chopped candied nuts, or fresh herbs such as mint, sage, rosemary, or thyme. Store it in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Peel the orange well. In a time crunch, you can certainly seed the orange and toss the entire fruit in the processor. But to temper the tartness, remove the white pith of the orange. It can be incredibly bitter, and I find the relish more balanced without it.
- Candied nuts. With a fresh, tart, and sour relish, candied nuts like walnuts and pecans offer a nice crunch and contrast of flavor. You can find candied walnuts and pecans at many national supermarkets. If you can't find any (often near the cheese counter), look for nuts labeled "glazed". You don't need a lot, and a quick rough chop makes them perfect for sprinkling on top. If you want pecans or walnuts throughout the entire relish, choose roasted and grind them up with the other ingredients.
- Taste the relish. This may seem obvious, but fruit varies in sweetness depending on the grower and time of year. Any recipe for cranberry relish should be taken as a guideline when it comes to the sugar or honey amount. Taste the relish, and if it puckers your cheeks, add more sugar or honey a little at a time until your taste buds are happy. The goal is a balance of sweet and sour, without one flavor overpowering the other.
- Choose honey over sugar. Honey gives the relish a pure, floral flavor. And adds sweetness while keeping the relish light and fresh. When you use sugar, the acidity of the fruit dissolves it. And the fruit ends up weeping more juice.
If you want to experiment with cranberry relish recipes of your own imagination, here's the basic formula for balancing out the snappy berries. This amount is a good starting point for cutting through the tartness of a typical bag of cranberries. Adjust it up or down according to your dietary needs and tastes. If you add additional sour ingredients such as raw citrus peel, you may find more sugar is necessary.
Cranberry Relish Basic Formula
12 ounces cranberries + 3.5 ounces (½ cup) sugar*
*A good starting point for honey is one-third cup for every 12 ounces of cranberries.
Cranberry-orange relish is a beautiful holiday side dish. But it's delicious throughout the fruit's entire season (typically October through December in the US). Enjoy any leftovers on toast, spread it on artisan bread for a leftover turkey sandwich, or top off your favorite brunch indulgence.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cranberry sauce is traditionally cooked, whereas cranberry relish is a fresh, raw side dish. Adding orange in one form or another is a classic flavor in both, as is a sweetener like sugar or honey. However, cranberry sauce is often a much sweeter, smoother dish. While relish is a bit more sour and has texture. Cranberry sauce is simmered on the stove, while relish gets it fine texture from a food processor, blender, or a knife and a bit of elbow grease.
An apple is a delicious, crunchy addition to any cranberry relish! To maintain a nice balance of sweetness, choose apples such as Red Delicious, Honeycrisp, and Fuji. All are on the sweeter side. No need to peel the apple, but core it first to keep the seeds out of the relish. You don't need an apple coring tool, I simply cut large pieces away from the core with my chef's knife.
Absolutely! Cranberry relish of any kind keeps wonderfully in the refrigerator for a few days, so you can make it ahead. After a day or so, too, the prepared relish develops more complex flavors and mellows as the fruit absorbs the sugar or honey.
While I prefer to use wildflower honey in this recipe, sugar has its benefits, too. Since the relish will weep more liquid when made with sugar, you can use this to your advantage. The spiced, almost syrupy liquid makes for a killer cocktail mixer. So it all comes down to your motive. Unadulturated antioxidants. Or festive cocktails. No judgement here on which you choose.
Sweet, tart, quick to make, and bursting with flavor. Cranberry-orange relish is a beautiful side dish for a winter or holiday meal. And leftovers are delicious when spread on top of toast, pancakes, or waffles.
Toasted or candied nuts or orange liqueur are a festive addition for special occasions. For more texture in the relish, pulse the toasted nuts along with the other ingredients.
- 10 to 12 ounces (1 bag) of fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 large orange
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons of raw honey or ½ cup of granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger or ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon of kosher salt (¼ teaspoon of table salt)
- ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon of ground allspice
- ⅓ cup of roasted pecans, walnuts, pistachios, or almonds, optional
- 2 tablespoons of orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau, optional
- Fresh thyme, mint, sage, or rosemary leaves, for garnish, optional
- Candied walnuts or pecans, for garnish, optional
- Grate the ginger. If you're using fresh ginger, peel off the thin skin by scraping it away with the edge of a small spoon. Then grate the peeled ginger with a microplane or the smallest holes of a box grater until you have about two lightly-packed teaspoons.
- Seed and peel the orange. You can simply seed and add the entire orange. But to remove the bitter white pith use a vegetable or y-shaped peeler to remove just the orange part of the peel. Then trim the stem away to create a flat surface. With the flat-side down, slice away the remaining white pith. Try not to cut off too much of the orange flesh. Discard the white pith (it's bitter). Cut the orange in half and pluck out any seeds with the tip of your knife.
- Combine and process. Combine the cranberries, orange peel and halves, honey or sugar, cinnamon, allspice, salt, ginger, and any toasted nuts and orange liqueur in a food processor. Pulse the mixture until the pieces of cranberry and orange are around an eighth of an inch in size. You can also make the relish in batches in a spice grinder, or pulse them in a blender.
- Season and garnish. Taste the relish and stir in a little more salt or honey if necessary. Serve the relish chilled and garnish it with a thin slice of orange peel, chopped candied or roasted nuts, or fresh herb leaves such as mint, sage, or thyme. Store it sealed in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Remove the orange pith. To cut down on the bitterness of the relish, remove the white pith of the orange. Many recipes call for simply tossing the whole orange in the food processor. But even seedless oranges can contain a renegade seed here and there. So at a minimum, I recommend cutting it in half to check for seeds.
On the candied nuts. With a fresh, tart, and sour relish, candied nuts like walnuts and pecans offer a nice crunch as a garnish at the end. You can find candied walnuts and pecans at specialty stores and often near the specialty cheese counter at your local market. If you can't find candied nuts, look for nuts labeled "glazed" in the regular nut and seed section.
Taste the relish while you're making it. This may seem obvious, but fresh fruit varies in sweetness depending on the grower and time of year. Any recipe for cranberry relish should be taken as a guideline when it comes to the sugar or honey amount. Taste the relish, and if it puckers your cheeks, add more sugar or honey a little at a time until your taste buds are happy. The goal is a balance of sweet and sour, without one flavor overpowering the other.
On the Nutrition
The amounts below are based on the recipe as written with honey, including the third cup of pecan halves. It does not account for any added sugar or candied nuts.
Keywords: cranberry orange relish, cranberry relish recipe, easy cranberry relish
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