How to Make Cranberry Relish

This zesty, easy-to-make cranberry relish recipe belongs on your Thanksgiving table.

While we love hearty, traditional Thanksgiving dishes—juicy turkey, buttery mashed potatoes and fluffy rolls—it’s an open secret that they’re a bit, well, heavy. Luckily, this cranberry relish recipe can be your secret weapon side dish for some lighter fare. Its bright, tart flavor balances the rich starchiness of many turkey day treats, perking up your palette with every bite.

While cranberry sauce is a popular side, including the beloved straight-from-the-can jelly, cranberry relish is a fresher alternative. Unlike sauce, which is cooked and generously sweetened, relish is made from chopped fresh ingredients, making it a zesty option that’s quick and easy to make.

Simple Cranberry Relish Recipe


Cranberry Relish ingredients laid out in bowls on a dark wood backgroundTMB Studio

  • 2 medium navel oranges
  • 2 bags (12 ounces each) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 2 medium apples, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into chunks
  • 3 cups sugar


Step 1: Prep the oranges

Cranberry Relish oranges being preppedTMB Studio

Grate the oranges using a box grater. Then, remove and discard the white pith. Separate the oranges into sections. Set aside the grated orange peel for later.

Step 2: Load the blender

Cranberry Relish ingredient in the blenderTMB Studio

Load half of the orange sections into a food processor or blender along with half of the other prepared produce: cranberries, apples and celery. If using frozen cranberries, you may blend them up frozen or defrosted.

Pulse until the fruit is chopped. Don’t let the motor run too long, or you might end up with fruit puree instead of a coarse, chunky mix. You want the cranberry relish to retain some larger pieces for crunch.

Step 3: Blend the second half

second half of Cranberry Relish ingredients being blendedTMB Studio

Transfer the processed fruit into a large bowl.

Repeat Step 2 with the remaining orange slices, apples, cranberries and celery. Add to the bowl.

Step 4: Add sugar and orange peel

Cranberry Relish mixture in a glass bowl with orange zest and sugarTMB Studio

Toss the sugar and reserved grated orange peel into the fruit mixture.

Step 5: Let chill

Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight. A minimum of one night sitting is recommended to allow the sugar to macerate the fruit, softening it and releasing full flavor.

How to Serve Cranberry Relish

Cranberry Relish on a plate with turkey and stuffingTMB Studio

Just about anything you’d eat at Thanksgiving will be delicious with cranberry relish. It’s also wonderful with most fall comfort foods, from chicken dumplings to grilled cheese to macaroni. Its bright flavor is a perfect match with richer foods like potatoes, cheese, sweet potatoes and poultry soups and stews.

Tips for Making This Cranberry Relish Recipe

What else can you add to cranberry relish?

Cranberry relish welcomes improvisation! Because it’s not cooked, there’s (almost) no messing it up. Some easy add-ins include:

  • Chopped dried fruits: raisins, sultanas, apricots
  • Nuts: pecans or walnuts
  • Other fruits: Meyer lemon, tangerines, pineapple
  • Spices: cinnamon, a dash of cardamom, nutmeg, Chinese five spice

How should you store leftover cranberry relish?

Keep the relish tightly covered in the fridge for up to two weeks, or freeze it for up to three months. It will keep best if it stays cool and clean. Consider serving a small dish of relish at a time, reserving the larger portion in the fridge.

Can you make cranberry relish ahead of time?

Yes. Cranberry relish mellows and sweetens as it sits, making it ideal to make ahead. We suggest preparing it up to a week in advance and storing it in the fridge. If you’re on a mission to prep as much food as possible before the holiday, here are more make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes.

Kelsey Rae Dimberg
A former in-house editor at Taste of Home, Kelsey now writes, cooks and travels from her home base of Chicago. After going gluten-free over a decade ago, Kelsey turned to home cooking and baking as a way to recreate her favorite foods. Her specialties include gluten-free sourdough bread, pizza and pastry. When not wrangling her toddler, she enjoys reading, watching old movies and writing. Her debut novel, Girl in the Rearview Mirror, was published by William Morrow in 2019, and her second is forthcoming.