My Family’s Cranberry Relish Recipe

by on November 21, 2006
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The Brown Family's Cranberry Relish with Apples, Oranges, and Pecans
I emailed my mother to get her cranberry relish recipe, the one my husband and I descend on like a pair of hungry fruit bats each year. She emailed me the recipe, but what she sent didn’t quite match my memory of the dish because I thought it had apples in it. By the time I got the recipe, she and my dad were on the road to Texas, to visit my sister. And though my parents finally broke down and bought a pre-paid cell phone, they rarely turn it on, so I was stuck.

I decided to make it with the apples, just because I couldn’t see what it would hurt. My mom said to prepare this a couple of days ahead of time because it gets better over time, so I made it this afternoon. Wow! I don’t know if we’ll be able to keep our hands off of it until Thursday. I suppose that relish was traditionally meant to complement the turkey (or add flavor to it if you ask me, not a turkey lover even in my omnivore days). But to me it makes a great side dish. Or even a dessert. I can just imagine it over some vanilla soy ice cream. Mmmm. Stop me before I descend on the fridge!
The Brown Family's Cranberry Relish with Apples, Oranges, and Pecans
UPDATE: I took my version of this dish to my parents’ house for Christmas, and my father told me he had never added apples because he likes to make a lot and freeze it. But he admitted that my relish with apples was delicious. Success!

The Brown Family's Cranberry Relish Recipe
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 8
  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 1 organic navel orange, scrubbed and cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 apples, peeled and cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/4 to 1 cup natural sugar
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  1. Wash the cranberries and remove any stems, bad cranberries, or inedible stuff you find. Put half of the cranberries, orange (unpeeled), and apple into the food processor and pulse to chop coarsely. Some larger pieces are okay, but nothing big enough to choke on. Pour into a bowl and process the other half of the fruit. Put it into a bowl, add the sugar to taste, and mix in the pecans. Refrigerate it for a day or two to allow the flavors to develop. Quick! If you start now, it’ll be ready by Thanksgiving.
After I posted this, my father let me know that they never put apples in it because they like to freeze the leftovers and were not sure that the apples would freeze well. So feel free to leave out the apples, though I think they add sweetness and allow me to cut down on the amount of sugar I use.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1/8th of recipe (with 1/4 cup sugar) Calories: 89 Fat: 3.4g Carbohydrates: 15.7g Sugar: 12g Sodium: 1mg Fiber: 2.2g Protein: less than 1g

Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes

Speaking of Thanksgiving–if you’re looking for more vegan Thanksgiving recipes, check out my master list of Thanksgiving recipes! There’s everything from main dishes (like Thanksgiving Loaf) to side dishes (like Green Bean Casserole) to desserts (like Double-Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake).

Take a break from your regular, sugary cranberry sauce with this zesty blend of cranberries, oranges, apples, and walnuts.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kristine November 24, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Just wanted to chime in and say this will be the third Thanksgiving that your family's relish will be on our table. We just love it. The first two years I served it alongside with the usual cooked relish, as I knew some members might not like raw and some wouldn't like orange. This year, we don't care who doesn't like it and this is the only one on the table. My batches make a generous two pints, and I just ate the amount that didn't fit it the jars on top of Greek yogurt. Truly amazing flavors, even when freshly made. Thanks so much for contributing to our family traditions!


2 Anonymous December 15, 2009 at 10:19 am

I made this for Thanksgiving. It was a perfect cranberry relish. It was so good that I ate it by itself as a salad. Yummy!


3 KnittinNurse December 17, 2009 at 11:07 am

Been making a relish that is virtually the same for years. We use a can of frozen apple juice as sweetener, tangerines and whatever apples are on hand. I tend to try to forage for fruits for the holiday meals and happen to have a tangerine tree. This year I will add persimmons to the mix too!. In any case, I also use agar agar to make it thicker- we get long strings of it from an oriental food market- cut up and melted in the warm “stew”, it thickens up very nicely. EXPERIMENT and make your’s one of a kind!


4 Kristen November 26, 2010 at 2:29 pm

I made this on Monday for our Thanksgiving dinner yesterday….it was great! So much better than boiled cranberry sauce. I would probably use a small orange next time, but otherwise it was perfect. I used 1/2 cup of turbinado sugar and after a few days in the fridge, it was plenty sweet. Thanks for a great recipe!


5 Laura January 10, 2011 at 6:02 pm

I just wanted to say I made this recipe for Christmas and it was absolutely delicious. I never thought I liked cranberry relish before I made this. I used 1/2 cup sugar. What a great way to use the bounty of Cranberries we have in Oregon! I will be using this recipe every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thanks for the recipe!


6 Laura November 21, 2011 at 10:51 pm

This looks so good! Do you think date paste would be an okay substitute for the sugar?


7 Susan Voisin November 21, 2011 at 11:39 pm

Yes, I think it’s worth a try. :-)


8 katiekay7 November 20, 2012 at 1:50 pm

i am nervous about uncooked… won’t the cranberries be too sour? is there a way to find sweeter cranberries? the one time i made a cranberry sauce it was cooked in sugar but so incredibly sour.


9 katiekay7 November 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm

also will the apples go brown / look yucky if i make this two days early?


10 Susan Voisin November 20, 2012 at 1:53 pm

The orange helps keep the apples from going bad. I’ve kept it for several days and haven’t noticed any change. And the cranberries are tart, but the added sugar can be adjusted to taste so that it can be quite sweet if you want it to be.


11 Steph November 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Thanks so much for this recipe! I just made it and put it in the fridge. Although I peeled off the orange skin because I was afraid to leave it on :)


12 shelley October 11, 2013 at 6:42 am

I don’t use apples, I use mandarin oranges and crushed pineapple in addition to the cranberries!


13 LadyLoveshercats November 15, 2013 at 12:04 pm

I am surprised that the peels are left on the orange. How does this taste. I have always heard that orange peels are bitter. I want to make this for my families Thanksgiving, but I need assurance that the unpeeled orange is a good idea. Thanks for this website, it is wonderful.


14 Susan Voisin November 15, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Somehow the orange peel works. My family has been making it this way for years, and everybody loves it. I would only use oranges that have a regular to thin rind, though, like a naval orange.


15 Jennifer November 19, 2013 at 7:32 pm

I am curious as to what you have the relish with? I see that some added it to salad (or just had the relish as a salad) but is this to be used instead of cranberry sauce? Thanks for the recipe :)



16 Susan Voisin November 20, 2013 at 8:29 am

I just serve it like cranberry sauce as a side dish alongside the typical Thanksgiving dinner: mashed potatoes, cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, and something “protein,” like tofu, seitan, or lentil loaf.


17 jackie November 21, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Not sure about this, but could you use agave instead of sugar?


18 Susan Voisin November 21, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Yes, just add it to taste.


19 Karen November 28, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I made this relish for Thanksgiving and it was perfect! My apples and orange were very sweet so I only needed 3 tablespoons of sugar. Everyone love it and it was healthier than my usual cooked cranberry recipe that uses at least 1 cup of sugar. Thanks!!!!!


20 Cheryl November 16, 2014 at 2:51 pm

I am so very thankful to have found this recipe!! My mother used to make this, and now has Alzheimer’s, so I thought the recipe was gone for good. Thank you for posting!! This is my very favorite!! Happy Turkey Day to you and yours!!


21 Susan November 24, 2014 at 7:11 pm

hi susan,

is there a certain kind of apple you use? one that is sweeter?

thanks,,,,,i look forward to making this :)


22 Susan Voisin November 24, 2014 at 7:34 pm

I like Fugis and Honeycrisps, but really, you could use whatever apple is good in your area. Hope you enjoy it!


23 Susan December 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm

OMGOSH!! :) this is so amazing! the whole family loved it for Thanksgiving. I’m making another batch now ! Thank you for such amazing recipes!


24 Connie Fletcher November 26, 2014 at 11:54 am

This is the first time I’m making this….oh, boy! It’s really delish…and it hasn’t even marinated in it’s own juices yet…..TRULY INSPIRING!!!
And, Susan, you are in my prayers….I will keep you there until the words “ALL CLEAR” come across the miles!!!!

Thanks for all you do, and your courage to share your story!


25 Kathy G November 30, 2014 at 7:49 pm

ok, I made this for Thanksgiving and loved it so much I made more today! I just stand there eating it out of the bowl! 2 questions: 1 do you think you could freeze this? And second, I wonder about adding some fresh ginger for a kick.

Thanks for sharing your recipes with us!


26 Susan Voisin November 30, 2014 at 11:37 pm

It freezes well without the apple, but I’ve never frozen it with the apple because I was afraid it would become mushy. You could always add apple after defrosting. And I think ginger is a great idea. Glad you loved it!


27 Susan December 8, 2014 at 12:42 pm

hi susan…..just curious, is there anything to use instead of sugar that would blend in the food processor? have you tried anything? thinking without something, it may be too bitter/tart???

i love the recipe….it’s amazing! just trying to avoid sugar!



28 Robyn December 13, 2014 at 6:06 pm

This is very close to the cranberry relish I got addicted to about 20 years ago and have made every year since. My recipe omits the nuts and adds in frozen unsweetened raspberries. I only use one granny smith apple.
I never worried about freezing leftovers – what leftovers?


29 Laura January 18, 2015 at 10:04 pm

Did I miss something – it says cooking time 1 minute but I don’t see any cooking in instructions.


30 Susan Voisin January 18, 2015 at 10:29 pm

There’s no actual cooking; the 1 minute represents the amount of time it takes to process in the food processor,


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