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Cranberry Pecan Relish

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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
  • ½ 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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Comments

  • I make fresh cranberry sauce/relish every year because I love it, even if I’m the only one. This recipe is a winner. I was worried about the taste of the maple syrup with the berries (I’m used to sugar) but it was lovely, along with the orange zest and vinegar. The pecans add a nice crunch. Definitely a “make again” recipe. Thanks, Jennifer!

    • — Jennifer on November 30, 2022
    • Reply
  • Oh my! No one but me wanted cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving this year but I couldn’t go without. I decided it was a good chance to try something a bit different and this recipe was it. I made it Wednesday night and wasn’t too sure about it…it had a very decidedly balsamic aroma and taste. But after refrigerating overnight the flavors just melded together perfectly. Even my determined canned cranberry jelly aficionado liked it.

    • — Shannon P on November 25, 2022
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  • I made this for Thanksgiving today and it was a hit! The folks who didn’t think they liked cranberries and the folks who were used to the jelly in the can all liked it! I can’t wait to use the leftovers on turkey sandwiches. Thanks, Jenn!

    • — Jennifer on November 24, 2022
    • Reply
  • I think I cooked the cranberries too long as it is thicker than I imagine it should be. What can I do to thin it a tad. Grand Marnier, perhaps? Something else? and how much.
    Thanks.

    • — Deb on November 20, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Deb, Grand Marnier would be delicious; you could also use orange juice or water.

      • — Jenn on November 21, 2022
      • Reply
  • Too many ads; don’t send anymore–it’s 23 pages to print one out!!

    • — Marcia on November 8, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Marica, Based on what you experienced, I’m assuming that you must’ve used the drop-down “Print” function on your computer. Instead of doing that, when you’re viewing the full recipe (near the bottom of the page), look in the upper righthand corner of that box – you’ll see an icon there that looks like a printer. Select that and it (and it will open a dialog box that gives you printing options/will print only the recipe and not all the other materials.) Hope that helps!
      And if you’d like to unsubscribe, feel free to click the unsubscribe button on the bottom of your newsletter (or let me know and I can take care of it for you).

      • — Jenn on November 8, 2022
      • Reply
  • Jenn, may I use frozen cranberries? If yes, thaw first or use frozen? Thanks. Susan

    • — Susan on November 1, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Susan, yes, you can use frozen cranberries and it’s fine to cook them from frozen or to thaw them – either will work. Hope you enjoy the relish!

      • — Jenn on November 1, 2022
      • Reply
  • Um…wow! I thought the cranberry chutney (https://www.onceuponachef.com/sauces/cranberry-chutney.html) was the best cranberry condiment I had ever tasted but then I made this. Looks like I will now be making jars of this for everyone that came to Christmas dinner.

    • — Bob on December 26, 2021
    • Reply
  • Homemade cranberry sauce is always part of our Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve tried many recipes throughout the years and this is the BEST! Everyone loved it.

    • — Melissa Panaggio on December 7, 2021
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  • This relish is a winner. My husband lost his senses of taste and smell after treatment for leukemia. He smiled with his first bite of this relish as the tartness came through.

    • — Rita on November 24, 2021
    • Reply
  • Made this for tomorrow’s Family & Friends dinner. A slight variation, I am adding New Mexican Hatch green chile for a bit of a zing. I taste tested after about an hour in the fridge. YUMS! Very easy and fun to make.

    • — Nora T Steen on November 24, 2021
    • Reply
    • i’m in Santa Fe and adding Chimayo Red Chile powder!! Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

      • — MarieT on November 24, 2021
      • Reply
  • This recipe was a hit at the holidays (even though it was just my husband and me)! The sweet of the maple syrup balances the tartness of the berries. There was even enough for me to freeze some of it!

    • — Tracey L Burhoe on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • THis is a great tasting “relish”,made as suggested, to add to to any simple carrot soup or squash soup. I add a dollop on top of the soup and have gotten rave reviews. I always buy extra fresh cranberries in season and freeze because they usually wont be available after Christmas.

    • — Cin on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is a fantastic relish recipe – made it for Thanksgiving and it was the best Cranberry recipe I’ve tried. I wanted to eat it all myself! An excellent addition to a meal

    • — Julia Lopresti on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I love, love, love this Cranberry Relish! I eat cranberry sauce every day with my greek yogurt in the morning with other fruit. This is a very tangy and interesting combo and easy to prepare that I will include in my cranberry rotation. I also had it with Turkey leg Ballontine, and actually prefer it to a sweeter relish for meat.

    • — Ariane on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Made this for Thanksgiving and it has become our go-to recipe for a cranberry relish from now on. Quick, simple and tastes really great. The orange zest really brightens up the dish.

    • — Mike Kaz on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • I love making this one. We use it like a spread for rotis and rolls. I double the recipe generally.

      • — Sushmita Jena on January 28, 2021
      • Reply
  • I make this all the time and usually pair it with some sort of jerked meat. I’ve even made it with monk fruit instead of sugar and it’s always delicious. Feel free to add some nutmeg, cinnamon, and/or clove for a mix-up of flavour. Delicious!

    • — Gloria on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • We are both in our 80s and rather set in our ways. A new recipe is looked at suspiciously. However, the pecan cranberry relish had to be good with those ingredients. For me, I loved the crunchiness and maple flavor. We ate half of it for a week and froze the rest. The lesson to learn is you are never too old to try something new. This will be a keeper. Thank you.

    • — Mary Dawson on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • i see that i have written two reviews for same recipe. i guess i must have liked it.

      • — Mary Dawson on January 28, 2021
      • Reply
      • LOL

        • — Jenn on January 28, 2021
        • Reply
  • I made this sauce at Christmas to go with the turkey, we had lots left over so used it like jam on toast or with various cheeses. So simple to make but delicious. I enjoy making your recipes so I bought your cookbook!

    • — Sandra Mitchell on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this for Thanksgiving and Christmas. So good! I had a little left after the holiday, and put it on toast.

    • — Joanne Peyton on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I have been looking for a good cranberry relish for years and tried many, but never was satisfied. I made your recipe at thanksgiving, and it was so amazing! Just the right amount of sweetness mixed with the tart cranberries, but not too sweet and the perfect flavor to go with a bit of turkey or dressing! I also loved the leftovers on our after thanksgiving turkey sandwiches. Thank you!!!

    • — Connie Abernathy on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This dish will be welcome on our table anytime! All enjoyed it, even the skeptical ones!

    We like to create your recipes. Always wonderful directions and easily accomplished.

    • — Patti on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This was a game changer!!! We redid a Thanksgiving round 2 because…well, just because! This relish was so great we made it the second time as well. It will follow us into future Thanksgivings as well. Thanks for the recipe!!

    • — Pauline on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I have made this “classic” cranberry sauce several times. It is the best! Rave comments from friends and family. Truly delicious.

    • — Tammy Kline on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this to add as a jelly to my ham and Swiss sandwiches I construct them on large flaky buttery crescents. This adds welcome texture to a very rich sandwich.
    I have also used this as a salad dressing after thinning it out a bit with a little water and vinegar. Works amazingly!

    Thanks,
    John

    • — John A Casale III on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This recipe caused a family feud….who ate the last bite?!?!? It takes your roasted Turkey recipe up a notch. So simple and so tasty!

    • — Christy Singhania on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • LOL – Glad it was a hit!

      • — Jenn on January 28, 2021
      • Reply
  • we are two seniors in their 80s but still enjoy good food. we prepare many of your recipes and love them. This relish was delicious. I froze half of it and we ate the rest for the following week.
    i will pass this recipe onto the rest of the family whom we have not seen now for almost a year. It is a nice way to stay in touch. will keep this easy to make delicious relish for all of our special occasions. thank you.

    • — Mary Dawson on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Turkey (any time of the year) is not turkey, without cranberry sauce. For years I have searched real cranberry sauce recipes and often have mixed several together. This time you have perfected what I think is “the best”. It’s not too sweet and just the right consistency. The maple syrup is the key. I actually made one recipe with pecans for the table and one recipe without nuts for no nut people and found that works really well on sandwiches. This is one of my favorites from Once Upon a Chef. thank you

    • — Linda Luce on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • LOVE this as an alternative to classic cranberry sauce! It’s a wonderful accent to traditional holiday meals and (perhaps more importantly) is absolutely delicious with leftovers! Pro-tip: add a little to your leftover turkey sandwich – YUM!!!

    • — Stephanie B on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Maple syrup never disappoints in a recipe but the balsamic vinegar is genius addition! I love serving this recipe – but just for Thanksgiving or Christmas. It’s always a bit with our guests. A favorite idea is to serve it alongside a smoked turkey breast on a grazing board.

    • — Lynn in the Desert on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • this was a delicious alternative to regular old cranberry sauce ! and so easy to make.
    Thanks Jenn! Love your recipes!

    • — Sue Morgan on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This was delicious.
    Made some for family at Christmas.
    Used this recipe to make a Turkey breast in crock pot … absolutely delicious.

    • — Colleen on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • 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.

  • 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. 😊

  • 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

  • Can you use agave in place of maple syrup?

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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

    • 💗
      Glad you enjoyed!

  • 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.

  • 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

    • Unfortunately, dried cranberries won’t work in this — sorry!

  • Could I substitute walnuts for the pecans?

    • Sure, Kathy – I think walnuts would be delicious.

  • 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!

  • 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.

    • Ha! So glad she enjoyed it, Ben. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Absolutely delicious. Subtle flavor. Cranberries shine through

  • Does Karen Tannenbaum have a blog spot?

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • Hi Mary, You could reheat it either way — whatever is easier for you. Hope you enjoy it!

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