Cranberry Pecan Relish

Tested & Perfected Recipes

Flavored with maple syrup, orange zest, and balsamic vinegar, this nutty cranberry relish is a delicious alternative to cranberry sauce.

This cranberry pecan relish recipe comes from Karen Tannenbaum, one of my longtime readers and recipe pen pals (if you haven’t made Karen’s Kentucky butter cake, you’re missing out!). I made the relish for Thanksgiving last year and it was a huge hit, so I’ve been holding onto the recipe to share with you ever since. The addition of maple syrup, orange zest, balsamic vinegar, and toasted pecans makes it a delicious alternative to traditional cranberry sauce. I like the relish best warm, but it can also be served cold or room temperature.

What You’ll Need To Make Cranberry Pecan Relish

cranberry maple relish ingredients

Step-by-Step Instructions

Combine the cranberries and syrup in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil.bringing cranberries and maple syrup to a boil

Let them bubble gently, stirring often, until the skins on the cranberries have all split and the mixture has thickened, 4 to 5 minutes (cover the pan with a lid if the cranberries splatter).boiling cranberries and maple syrup

Eyeball them, and if some of the berries don’t burst, press them gently against the side of the pan with the back of your spoon to pop them, being careful to avoid hot splatters.burst cranberries in pot

While the berries are cooking, put the pecans in a small, dry skillet, and stir them over medium heat until they are fragrant and lightly toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.

toasting the pecans

When the cranberry mixture has thickened, take it off the heat and stir in the orange zest, vinegar, and pecans. Mix well.

adding pecans and orange zest to cranberry maple mixture

Serve warm or transfer to a covered container and chill. The relish will keep for 10 days in a covered container in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen for up to two months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.

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Cranberry Pecan Relish

Flavored with maple syrup, orange zest, and balsamic vinegar, this nutty cranberry relish is a delicious alternative to cranberry sauce.

Servings: About 2 cups
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 15 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 (12-oz) bag fresh cranberries (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Instructions

  1. Combine the cranberries and syrup in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Let them bubble gently, stirring often, until the skins on the cranberries have all split and the mixture has thickened, 4 to 5 minutes (cover the pan with a lid if the cranberries splatter). If some of the berries don't burst, press them gently against the side of the pan with the back of your spoon to pop them, being careful to avoid hot splatters.
  2. While the berries are cooking, put the pecans in a small, dry skillet, and stir them over medium heat until they are fragrant and lightly toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
  3. When the cranberry mixture has thickened, take it off the heat and stir in the orange zest, vinegar, and pecans. Mix well. Serve warm or transfer to a covered container and chill.
  4. Make-Ahead/Freezing Instructions: The relish will keep for 10 days in a covered container in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen for up to two months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.

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Reviews & Comments

  • Jenn:

    we have company coming for Christmas who have an allergy to cranberries. This sounds so good, so I’m making it to have for my family & me. But do you have suggestions for a substitute for cranberries that I can have instead?
    Thanks!
    Lisa

    • — Lisa on December 23, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Lisa, Unfortunately, the cranberries are essential here. I’m sorry!!

      • — Jenn on December 23, 2020
      • Reply
      • No problem.
        I didn’t know if there was a recipe that was somewhat traditional in relish form, but minus cranberries all together.
        I’m not sure if I’m explaining what I mean.

        A side dish/ relish of some kind that would compliment a Christmas dinner table?

        • — Lisa on December 23, 2020
        • Reply
        • Hi Lisa, I think a chutney (even store bought) would be nice.

          • — Jenn on December 24, 2020
          • Reply
  • This is so delicious! I made it for Thanksgiving and will make again for Christmas. Sauce thickens nicely, so tasty!

    • — Barb on December 22, 2020
    • Reply
  • My husband is not a cranberry sauce fan. This recipe made him a convert. Divine.

    • — DblsGma on December 3, 2020
    • Reply
  • I had to come back to share that I have to keep making this because I have eaten this on a toasted sandwich for lunch EVERY DAY since Thanksgiving: generously smear this on the unbuttered side of one slice of bread, then smoked turkey, a slice of havarti cheese, and 1 tsp of light Hellman’s mayonnaise and 1 tsp of Dijon mustard smeared together on the unbuttered side of the other slice of bread, then toast the sandwich. So good. 😊

    • — M on December 3, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I’m embarrassed to say my family usually prefers the cranberry “jelly”over the whole cranberries. I decided to try your recipe because it just sounded so good. It was amazing and so incredibly easy! Not overly sweet and the vinegar was the perfect compliment to the maple syrup. Thanks again for another great recipe

    • — Lori Crawford on November 29, 2020
    • Reply
  • Can you use agave in place of maple syrup?

    • — Tiffany on November 29, 2020
    • Reply
  • This was absolutely DELICIOUS!!! It is so easy to make. As another reviewer noted, I was a bit skeptical about the tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, because even though I like balsamic vinegar, I thought it may ruin it for me but had to trust the source since Jenn’s recipes are always so good and it worked perfectly. It comes together quickly and easily too. This one is a keeper!!! Jenn, I am grateful for your generosity in sharing your recipes. I hope you had a beautiful thanksgiving.

    • — Nancy A on November 27, 2020
    • Reply
  • I made this cranberry pecan relish for Thanksgiving. It was really fabulous. Layers of different flavors due to the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. We loved it. Thank you for this wonderful recipe!

    • — Laurie on November 27, 2020
    • Reply
  • My friend said, “be sure to make that wonderful cranberry salad” ??? I had no idea what she was remembering and I am not smart enough to keep a diary of what I serve, year-to-year (but actually started one for this Thanksgiving). I liked the concept of this cranberry relish and made it a day in advance…it was well received and is a keeper. Thanks for your recipes…I have been a fan since I first tried the brussels sprouts/kale salad and read every email. Please keep them coming! and P.S. I did by the cookbook. Sigrid Price, Napa, CA 11/27/2020

    • — Sigrid Price on November 27, 2020
    • Reply
    • 💗
      Glad you enjoyed!

      • — Jenn on November 27, 2020
      • Reply
  • LOVED your Cranberry Pecan Relish!!! Husband and I both loved this, gobbled it up in 2 days! I really like balsamic vinegar but was a tad “iffy” about it with cranberries, as it is a strong flavor. But boy does it work! The maple syrup gives that perfect sweet/tart combo without being too much either way, or just tasting like maple syrup, I really didn’t even notice the maple. Can not think of anything that would make this cranberry dish tastier…you nailed it! Makes an excellent “jam” on fresh sourdough bread!! Unreal.

    • — Hope on November 27, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jen,

    Is it possible to substitute the fresh cranberries for dried? It’s difficult to find fresh or frozen whole cranberries in the country I live in unfortunately!

    How would you change the recipe if you could substitute dried cranberries?

    Thanks very much,

    Henry

    • — Henry on November 27, 2020
    • Reply
    • Unfortunately, dried cranberries won’t work in this — sorry!

      • — Jenn on November 27, 2020
      • Reply
  • Could I substitute walnuts for the pecans?

    • — Kathy on November 26, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure, Kathy – I think walnuts would be delicious.

      • — Jenn on November 26, 2020
      • Reply
  • This is delicious as written and so quick and easy, previewed last night when I made it (along with your rolled stuffed turkey breast and Kentucky Butter Cake) for today. We are thankful for YOU and all of your wonderful recipes – Happy Thanksgiving!

    • — M on November 26, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    I have been a fan for a year or so, having found several of your recipes to be extraordinarily delicious (quiches, lemon desserts & key lime pie to name a few). After having made the cranberry dish tonight, I am laughing happily. My wife is a so-so cranberry fan, but she loved this version and had some for dessert tonight with plans to add to her oatmeal tomorrow am. It may not make it to Thanksgiving dinner – and that is OK!

    Thank you for another delicious recipe! Happy Thanksgiving to you & your family.

    • — Ben Hendrix on November 25, 2020
    • Reply
    • Ha! So glad she enjoyed it, Ben. Happy Thanksgiving!

      • — Jenn on November 26, 2020
      • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious. Subtle flavor. Cranberries shine through

    • — Susan Riser on November 25, 2020
    • Reply
  • Does Karen Tannenbaum have a blog spot?

    • — Keira on November 24, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Keira, No I don’t believe so. She just sends me her favorite recipes every so often, which I appreciate!

      • — Jenn on November 25, 2020
      • Reply
  • So good and so easy to make. I just made it and it’s so good. The pecans are such a nice addition. Gave my 8 and 6 year old boys a taste and they are licking the spoon.

    • — Tina S on November 24, 2020
    • Reply
  • So delicious! You’ve done it again Jenn! I did use 1/2 c.maple syrup and 1/2 c. Ruby Port, as an homage to my earlier fave cranberry sauce. Simple to make and so very tasty!
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family and all your fans.

    • — GailH on November 24, 2020
    • Reply
  • I’d love to make this for Thanksgiving dinner! I’d prefer to serve this warm so is it possible to make 1-2 days in advance, keep in the refrigerator and reheat? If so, would you recommend reheating in the microwave or on the stove? Thank you! I love your website.

    • — Mary York on November 24, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Mary, You could reheat it either way — whatever is easier for you. Hope you enjoy it!

      • — Jenn on November 25, 2020
      • Reply

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