[Updated 19 November 2018]
It’s super easy to convert some traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes to low-carb versions – as with this Low-Carb Cranberry Sauce. It’s not only a complete cinch to make, but also much nicer than the shop-bought stuff. It’s keto-friendly, 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 with fantastic, simple but indulgent, family recipes. Her presentation shtick is to be sophisticatedly sexy and suggestive when presenting her cookery programmes on TV. She is also the author of many great cook books. Her Christmas book is one of the seminal ones in the canon of UK festive recipe books, and inevitably I make at least one thing out of it each year.
So Nigella’s has been my go-to recipe for cranberry sauce to go with roast turkey for some years. It’s full of sugar – but I’m happy to report that it’s been easy to low-carbify!
Why make cranberry sauce when I can buy it?
For me, there’s five reasons to make your own cranberry sauce!:
- It’s made out of fresh ingredients
- It tastes better
- I always get more satisfaction out of something I’ve made myself
- It’s 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.
And with my recipe, you’re also saving a few carbs 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 Low-Carb Cranberry Sauce in advance. Up to a week ahead you can keep it covered in the refridgerator. And up to a month ahead, you can freeze it, and just remember to get it out to defrost in the refrigerator. In both cases, just give it a good stir before serving, and you’re good to go.
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 this Low-Carb Cranberry Sauce. 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 researched a full article about natural sugar substitute erythritol. It covers what it is, its health benefits, how to cook with it, and where to buy it. In the US, the popular brand of keto sweetener that is predominantly erythritol is Swerve.
The bottom line is that erythritol is a natural sugar alcohol/polyol from which humans cannot absorb carbs. That means it has zero calories and zero net carbs.
Erythritol does not have the bitter aftertaste associated with artificial sweeteners. It may also be better tolerated by people with IBS than some other sugar alcohols like xylitol. And it is not toxic to dogs, as xylitol is known to be. Erythritol may also confer some oral health benefits, even beyond 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.
Cranberries can also improve immune function and decrease infections. They do this by increasing certain white blood cells, and through antimicrobial and anti-adhesion action against some bacteria. For instance, cranberries are famously effective at preventing and treating urinary tract infections.
Results have also been promising from studies into the potential for cranberries 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. Their phytonutrients include three types of flavonoid polyphenol – flavonols, anthocyanins, and proanthocyanidins.
The 2015 scientific review found – as you might expect – that there is more vitamin C and phytonutrients in fresh cranberries and juice, than in cranberries dried with heat, because the drying process reduces the bioactive compounds. And frozen cranberries should also have retained more phytonutrients than dried ones.
Recipe for Low-Carb Cranberry Sauce (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) (or use xylitol)
- 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 just trust that once the berries have started to pop, the sauce is cooked! Cranberries are full of pectin, which acts as a jellying agent, and so the runniness will disappear as the cranberry sauce cools.
- Stir the sauce very well to help crush the berries into the liquid. Taste for sweetness. Add more erythritol if it’s not sweet enough, and stir well to dissolve while the sauce is still warm. 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.
- Low-Carb Cranberry Sauce goes great with roast meats including turkey, duck or gammon – so enjoy a good dollop on the side of your Thanksgiving or Christmas meal. Or have it with leftovers on a cold meat sandwich, or as an accompaniment to a cold meat salad.