Easy Cranberry Sauce

This cranberry sauce is a delicious side dish that is perfect for your holiday celebrations. It is flavored with vanilla and orange with just a hint of bourbon. Made in only 15 minutes, it is an easy addition to your celebratory meal.

Cranberry sauce has been a staple for my family’s Thanksgiving Day meal. I have always loved the sweet and tart combination in the sauce. I have had so many variations however that some I have found with too much alcohol, too much orange, or the sweetness was a little off. This recipe has been my go-to once I finally got the balance right. A great cranberry sauce is sure to make your holiday feast that much better.

In this recipe

This recipe has 6 ingredients and 5 if you don’t like to cook with alcohol. This makes for an easy recipe to throw together.

Cranberries: these are a basis for the sauce. You will need fresh or frozen cranberries. Dried cranberries will not work for this recipe.

Brown sugar: this will add sweetness as well as a subtle caramel flavor.

Vanilla: compliments the brown sugar and bourbon

Orange juice: balances out the flavor of the cranberries.

A wood cutting board with cranberry sauce ingredients
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What is that sound?

One of the things that you will notice when the sauce starts cooking is that you will hear sounds coming from the saucepan. This is completely normal as this is the sound of the cranberries popping. You don’t need to worry about mashing the cranberries once they start popping and releasing their juices stirring will facilitate this nicely. It is ok if all of the cranberries do not break open some will just deflate, and others might remain as is. This makes for a great texture to the sauce.

Ingredients for cranberry sauce in a saucepan
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Cranberries cooking in a sauce pan
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How thick should I make cranberry sauce?

One of the things about this sauce is you can make it as thick as you would like it. There are some in my family that love their cranberry sauce almost as jelly-like as the canned version. Then there are others that like a thinner sauce that is almost pourable. The longer you cook it the more water will evaporate. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. If you make it ahead of time, then by refrigerating it before serving you will have given it a chance to thicken as much as possible.

A white bowl with cranberry sauce
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Looking for other holiday recipes?

Cranberry sauce in a white square bowl
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Cranberry Sauce

An easy to make side dish that will make a perfect addition to your Thanksgiving Day table.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings
Calories 107 kcal


  • Saucepan
  • Wooden spoon or spatula


  • 12 ounces cranberries fresh or frozen but not dried
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¾ cup brown sugar packed
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon optional


  • In a saucepan over medium high heat add all of the ingredients and stir until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid starts to boil.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and stir occasionally. This will help prevent burning.
  • Cook for 10-15 minutes or until the sauce has thickened to your desired consistency then removed from the heat. It will continue to thicken when it cools.


Can be made several days in advance.


Serving: 1servingCalories: 107kcalCarbohydrates: 26gProtein: 0.3gFat: 0.1gSaturated Fat: 0.01gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.03gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.01gSodium: 8mgPotassium: 78mgFiber: 2gSugar: 23gVitamin A: 41IUVitamin C: 10mgCalcium: 22mgIron: 0.3mg
Nutrition Disclaimer*
Keyword Bourbon, Cranberry, Thanksgiving
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Cranberry sauce Pinterest pin
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