This Christmas I’ve been converting some of the recipes that I traditionally make to sugar-free versions – as with this cranberry sauce, which is a complete cinch to make, and much nicer than shop-bought stuff. It’s low-carb/keto, gluten-free, free of added sugar and artificial sweeteners, and suitable for diabetics.
For those who may not know her, Nigella Lawson – fondly known throughout the UK just by her first name – is a TV chef who cooks great recipes, and has carved out a niche for herself as being sophisticatedly sexy and suggestive when presenting on TV. Her Christmas book is one of the seminal ones in the canon of recent UK festive recipe books, and inevitably I make at least one thing out of it each year.
I don’t think roast turkey on Christmas Day is complete without a dollop of cranberry sauce on the side. My go-to recipe in the past by Nigella is full of sugar, but I’m happy to report that it’s been easy to low-carbify!
For me, there are at least four reasons to make your own cranberry sauce, rather than buy it:
- It tastes better
- I always get more satisfaction out of something I’ve made myself
- It is super-simple to make
- You can make it low-carb. Why would you add something to your plate with 10 times as many carbs, and 8 times as many calories, when you don’t have to?
The carbs and calories are mostly saved through using one of my old favourites – zero-carb natural sugar substitute erythritol – instead of sugar. With my recipe, you’re also saving a bit on the alcohol. Nigella prefers to use cherry brandy in her recipe, although she says that Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Triple Sec or port will work too – as will orange juice, if you add even more sugar to counteract the tartness of the cranberries. I looked at the carb counts of all of these options and decided on port for my recipe. That’s partly because it’s the lowest carb of the options that Nigella suggests. But also because I prefer the flavour in this context, and don’t really want my cranberry sauce to have an orangey tang.
You can make this cranberry sauce in advance – either up to a week ahead and keep it covered in the fridge, or, up to a month ahead, you can freeze it, and just remember to get it out to defrost Christmas Eve. In both cases, give it a good stir before serving.
Nutrition: Regular Cranberry Sauce vs. Low-Carb Cranberry Sauce
It’s a no-brainer. Per serving, Nigella’s original recipe is an enormous 17g of carbs and 85 calories more than the low-carb version. So make mine!
|Per serving (1/10th of the recipe)||Nigella’s Original Recipe Redder Than Red Cranberry Sauce*||Low-Carb Cranberry Sauce*|
|Net Carbs (fibre counted separately)||19g||2g|
* Figures calculated using verified nutritional info on MyFitnessPal
Health Impact of the Main Ingredients
I’ve written about the health impacts of sugar-substitute erythritol before. The bottom line is that it’s an all-natural sugar alcohol/polyol from which the carbs cannot be absorbed by humans, meaning it has zero calories and net carbs. It does not have the bitter aftertaste associated with artificial sweeteners; it may be better tolerated by people with IBS than some other sugar alcohols like xylitol; it is not toxic to dogs, as xylitol is known to be; and it may confer some benefits for oral health beyond just the fact that you’re substituting it for tooth-decay-inducing sugar.
And what about cranberries? Two separate reviews of the latest science in 2015 and 2016 reported that cranberries have been demonstrated to have potential cardiovascular health benefits. Those include decreasing total, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL – bad), cholesterol, and increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL – good) cholesterol.
They can also improve immune function and decrease infections – obviously important at this time of year – by increasing certain white blood cells, and through antimicrobial and anti-adhesion action against some bacteria e.g. cranberries are famously effective at preventing and treating urinary tract infections.
Results have also been promising from studies into their potential to inhibit various forms of cancer. But more research needs to be done in this area.
Cranberries’ health benefits, and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions, are mostly down to their rich vitamin C and phytonutrient content, including three types of flavonoid polyphenol – flavonols, anthocyanins, and proanthocyanidins.
Recipe for Nigella’s Redder Than Red Cranberry Sauce Made Low-Carb/Sugar-Free
Preparation Time: 10 mins (plus cooling time to allow it to jellify)
- 340g/3 cups fresh cranberries
- 200g/1 cup granulated erythritol sugar-substitute e.g. Sukrin (UK) or Swerve (US)
- 45ml/3 tbsp port
- 75ml/⅓ cup water
- Put all the ingredients into a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, them simmer for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the berries start to burst. Remove from the heat.
The sauce will still look quite runny – but once the berries have started to pop, it is nevertheless cooked. Cranberries are full of pectin which acts as a jellying agent, and so the runniness will disappear as the cranberry sauce cools.
Stir very well to help crush the berries into the liquid, and taste for sweetness, adding more erythritol if it’s not sweet enough. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
- The sauce will continue to jellify a great deal as it gets cold, so give it a good stir through before serving. This goes great with roast turkey, duck or gammon – so enjoy a good dollop on the side of your Christmas lunch. Or have it on a cold meat sandwich, or as an accompaniment to a cold meat salad, on Boxing Day.