Thanksgiving is getting super fresh, courtesy of this Cranberry Orange Relish. Lighter and brighter than standard cranberry sauce, this easy, old fashioned recipe comes together in seconds in your food processor and tastes unexpected and lively. It’s made with only a few ingredients, and your guests will absolutely fawn over it.
I’m a longtime believer in homemade cranberry sauce. It is THE EASIEST Thanksgiving side to make from scratch. Please do us both a favor and do not under any circumstances buy canned cranberry sauce or, worse yet, canned cranberry jelly. (The plop when you empty it onto a plate! THE LINES.) We can do better.
I thought I was all set with my favorite easy homemade cranberry sauce recipe, until my friend Keri introduced me to her family’s fresh cranberry relish at Friendsgiving a few years ago. After my first forkful, I switched allegiances.
No, no not to the can (again, the lines), but to cranberry orange relish.
An invigorating alternative to cranberry sauce, cranberry orange relish positively pops with flavor. It provides a necessary fresh counterpoint to the richer sides on the table, and as these Cranberry Turkey Meatballs can attest, cranberry is made to be paired with Thanksgiving turkey.
Today’s cranberry orange relish recipe is my take on Keri’s. It’s made with fresh cranberries, a whole orange, apple, and walnuts, then naturally sweetened with honey. You can prep it in advance, and the leftovers taste phenomenal too.
How to Make Cranberry Orange Relish
You don’t need to look for where to buy cranberry orange relish. I can’t overstate how quick and easy this recipe is to make from scratch. If you are hosting, you’ll love the fast prep. If you’ve been assigned a side and aren’t super confident in the kitchen, go ahead and volunteer for the cranberry relish now.
- Walnuts. I used walnuts in my version; Keri uses pecans. Either will be great! I also added a step to toast the nuts first, as it brings out their flavor.
- Fresh Cranberries. Juicy, flavorful, and perfectly suited for a holiday meal.
- Navel Orange.It adds the most delicious sweetness and citrusy flavor. You don’t even need to fuss with peeling. Plop the whole orange into the food processor, including the rind.
- Apple. My addition to Keri’s recipe. A sweet and crisp variety like Honeycrisp, Fuji, or gala work best here.
- Honey. Most old fashioned cranberry recipes use sugar, but I love that honey is more natural, and it tastes wonderful paired with orange. Keri’s recipe calls for Stevia, if you’d like to experiment with it here instead.
- Orange Liqueur. An optional ingredient…but it’s the holidays, so we should go for it.
- Toast the walnuts on a baking sheet for 8 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees F. Watch carefully so they don’t burn. Transfer to a plate to cool.
- Blend the fruit in a food processor until you have a finely chopped mixture. (Yes, you can grind cranberries in a food processor!) Add the walnuts, pulsing until roughly chopped.
- Transfer mixture to a serving bowl, and stir in the honey and liqueur. Chill for at least 2 hours. Serve at desired temperature, and ENJOY!
The Difference Between Cranberry Relish and Cranberry Sauce
- Cranberry orange relish is traditionally raw; a cooked cranberry orange relish is more akin to cranberry sauce.
- Cranberry relish is typically more tart than cranberry sauce, which usually has a sweeter flavor.
- For cranberry sauce, the berries are left whole, then cooked down. In cranberry relish, the cranberries are chopped. A food processor makes the task quick and easy.
Uses for Cranberry Orange Relish
There is so much you can do with cranberry relish! Here are a few suggestions.
- Spoon some over the top of a block of softened cream cheese, and serve it with crackers as an appetizer.
- Serve it over the top of vanilla yogurt or Blender Whole Wheat Waffles with a light pour of maple syrup for breakfast. YUM!
- Use it to make a Leftover Cranberry Sauce Parfait.
- Pile it onto your leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwich (try mixing it with mayo or Greek yogurt first to create a spread).
- Spread the relish over a slice of Greek Yogurt Cheesecake.
- Enjoy a simple dessert of vanilla ice cream with a scoop of cranberry orange relish and drizzle of honey.
Make-Ahead and Storage Tips for Cranberry Orange Relish
- To Store. Place leftover cranberry orange relish in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- To Freeze. Store cranberry orange relish in an airtight freezer-container or ziptop bag in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- To Make Ahead. Up to 1 week in advance, toast walnuts and store in an airtight storage container at room temperature. Up to 2 days in advance, blend the fruit and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Up to 1 day in advance, stir the completed dish together and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Recommended Tools to Make Cranberry Orange Relish
- Food Processor. I’ve had a version of this model for years, and I adore it.
- All-purpose baking sheet. One of my most-used kitchen items.
This year, surprise and delight your family with this cranberry orange relish recipe. I bet you’ll become a convert too!
Cranberry Orange Relish
- ½ cup shelled walnuts or pecans
- 1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
- 1 whole medium navel orange skin included, scrubbed, and cut into chunks
- 1 medium sweet crisp apple such as Honeycrisp, Fuji, or gala, washed with peel on, cut into chunks
- 1/3 cup honey choose a mild honey such as clover
- 1 tablespoon orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier (optional, but delicious)
- Toast the walnuts: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the walnuts into an even layer on an ungreased rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, until lightly toasted and fragrant. Watch carefully towards the end of the baking time to make sure the nuts do not burn. Transfer to a plate and let cool completely (place in the refrigerator if you’d like to speed up this process).
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, place the cranberries, orange, and apple. Blend until you have a uniform, very finely chopped mixture with a crunchy texture. I like to alternate between long and short pulses to ensure that the mixture processes evenly. Add the walnuts and pulse until roughly chopped.
- Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and stir in the honey and orange liqueur. Chill at least 2 hours or overnight. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
- Adapted from my friend Keri's recipe.
- TO SERVE: You can serve this relish chilled or at room temperature.
- TO STORE: Place leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- TO FREEZE: Store cranberry orange relish in an airtight freezer-container or ziptop bag in the freezer for up to 3 months.
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