Homemade cranberry sauce is such an easy recipe for holiday dinners. Super flexible and made in 30 minutes. Upgrade your holiday dinner from canned cranberry sauce to fresh, whole cranberries, spicy cinnamon, a little sugar, and a splash of (optional) bourbon!
Cranberry Sauce for Thanksgiving and Christmas
There are many different variations to cranberry sauce: some recipes include orange juice, zest, or nuts and other ingredients for a relish.
With this recipe, the one ingredient that really packs a punch is the bourbon! If you are opposed to the alcohol, it can be omitted but the alcohol content will cook off by serving time.
The Best Cranberry Sauce
Cooking down cranberries may seem like the last thing you’d want to do on Thanksgiving or Christmas, but this homemade recipe is 100% worth it.
Cranberry sauce vs. cranberry jelly
Cranberry sauce and cranberry jelly are essentially the same dish but with a different texture.
- Cranberry sauce can be in a jellied form (like the canned version) or in whole berry form.
- Whole berry cranberry sauce is also canned but with actual berries instead of just the plain jelly.
Both of these are different from cranberry jelly or jam that you would serve on toast.
How to Make Cranberry Sauce
The great thing about this recipe is that it can be made up to one week in advance. Simply store it in the fridge, and you’ve got one less thing to worry about when preparing Thanksgiving or Christmas Dinner.
Ingredients for fresh cranberry sauce:
- Whole Cranberries – These are usually found in the produce section of your grocery store.
- Sugar – The sugar creates a sticky sweetness to the tart berries.
- Bourbon – I prefer a Kentucky Bourbon, like Woodford Reserve, for this recipe. As mentioned above, this ingredient is completely optional and the alcohol content does cook off during the cooking process.
Here’s how to make it:
- Mix the cranberries, sugar, and cinnamon in a casserole dish.
- Cover with foil and bake.
- Mash the berries.
- Add the bourbon!
This recipe makes about 2 cups, which will serve about 8-10 people.
Cooking cranberries in the oven
Because this recipe is flexible, it’s easy to adapt it to different oven temperatures or different cooking times.
For many recipes, adding other dishes to the oven and opening the oven door will greatly affect the end result. But, hey! That’s the holidays, right?
This can be easily adapted to higher or lower temperatures or shorter or longer cooking times.
While it’s not advisable to go overboard with this idea, allowing the oven temperature to fluctuate 25-40 degrees higher or lower will not “break” this recipe.
For a typical cooking process, the cranberries will begin to burst and the sugar will dissolve after about 20 minutes. If you are changing the time and temperature, keep an eye out for over-caramelization and adjust accordingly. Also, trust your nose! If it smells like it may be cooking too much, adjust accordingly.
What to serve with cranberry sauce?
If you are making a full Thanksgiving Dinner, make sure you add these other holiday recipes to your menu.
- Crockpot Turkey Breast
- 3-Ingredient Bisquick Sausage Balls
- How to Cook a Spiral Ham (3 Ways!)
- Green Bean Casserole from Scratch
- Southern Cornbread Dressing
Can you freeze cranberry sauce?
Homemade cranberry sauce freezes well. Follow the recipe below. Then, allow the sauce to cool completely. Add to a freezer-safe container and store in the freezer for about one month.
Freezing in mason jars is a great option!
A good quality Bourbon is required! You don’t need much of it, but it does add some flavor, so quality is key. Woodford Reserve is an excellent choice.
What to do with leftover cranberry sauce
Thanksgiving leftovers are the bomb, right? If you have leftover cranberry sauce, freeze it for Christmas Dinner!
Or, use as a condiment on roasted turkey sandwiches, in muffins, on ice cream, etc.
Tips for Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- “Stretch” this recipe by adding in a can of whole or jellied cranberry sauce to the homemade version.
- Make the recipe up to one week ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. Serve chilled, at room temperature, or reheated.
- Leftover cranberry sauce can be stored in an air tight container or the casserole dish it was cooked in for up to one week. Also, freeze for up to one month.
- Reheating: Reheat at 375F degrees for about 10 minutes or until warm, or allow to rest on the counter to reach room temperature.
Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- 1 pound whole fresh cranberries
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup good-quality bourbon ((we use Woodford Reserve))
- Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Heavily grease a 9×13 inch casserole dish and set aside.
- To the casserole dish (or large mixing bowl), combine the cranberries, sugar, and cinnamon. Stir to combine.
- Cover the casserole dish and bake for 1 hour. Stirring after 30 minutes. Continue cooking until cranberries burst and release juices.
- Remove from oven, and gently “mash” cranberries with a potato masher or ricer. Stir in bourbon. Cover tightly with foil and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Serve warm or refrigerate.
Cranberry Sauce FAQ
If you have other dishes circulating in and out of the oven, this recipe will be just fine. Increase or decrease the cooking time accordingly.
Check the dish more frequently and watch the edges for browning.
It’s so easy to make cranberry sauce from scratch! Cooking down fresh, whole cranberries with sugar and bourbon make a syrupy, saucy holiday side dish.
100% worth making a homemade version vs. canned cranberry sauce.
Yes. With homemade cranberry sauce, you know exactly how much sugar and other ingredients have been added to the sauce.