This Ocean Spray cranberry sauce recipe is such an easy side for holiday get-togethers! It’s super flexible and ready 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 in white bowl with turkey in background

Why I Love This Recipe

  • Easy to make: There’s absolutely no need to settle for canned cranberry sauce when you have a simple, no-fuss recipe like this on your hands!
  • Gourmet feel: You can’t beat the flavor of homemade cranberry sauce! And with a dash of bourbon and cinnamon, it might just be the highlight of your meal.
  • Make ahead option: Take the stress out of your holiday dinner prep by making this recipe ahead of time and storing it in the fridge for up to a week!
  • Customizable: Ocean Spray cranberry sauce is made up of 3 primary ingredients. From there, you can fully customize this recipe to suit your preferences.

What Is Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce?

Cranberry sauce is a classic side dish that you can find on just about every holiday dinner table during the festive season. This Ocean Spray cranberry sauce recipe is easy to prepare, virtually all hands-off, and can be made with just three ingredients (two of which you’ll definitely have on hand).

There are many different variations of cranberry sauce — some with orange juice and zest and others with nuts or spices. However, the most important factor in crafting the perfect sauce is using fresh cranberries! The result is juicy, slightly chunky, and just the right amount of tart.

With this recipe, the one ingredient that really packs a punch is the bourbon! If you are opposed to the alcohol, it can easily be omitted but the alcohol content will cook off by serving time.

cranberry sauce with turkey, green beans, and mashed potatoes

Cranberry Sauce vs. Cranberry Jelly

Cranberry sauce and cranberry jelly are essentially the same dish but with a different texture. Here is a quick breakdown of what separates the two:

  • 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 plain jelly.

Both of these are different from cranberry jelly or jam that you would serve on toast.

Ingredients for Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce

See the full list of ingredients in the recipe card below.

  • Whole cranberries: You can usually find fresh Ocean Spray cranberries in the produce section of your local grocery store, especially during the winter months. If you can’t find fresh cranberries, use frozen ones.
  • Sugar: The sugar creates a sticky sweetness to the tart berries. I like to use a mixture of granulated and brown sugar for more depth of flavor, but you can use one or the other.
  • Cinnamon: Just a pinch of cinnamon adds a sweet, warming, and festive flavor. Feel free to omit it, or replace it with ginger, nutmeg, or allspice.
  • 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. You can also try orange juice for a citrusy element.

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.

ingredients for cranberry sauce

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!

Step 1: Combine All Ingredients

In a glass casserole dish, add the whole cranberries, sugar, and cinnamon. Stir well to combine. Cover the dish with foil before adding to the oven.

Step 2: Bake The Cranberries

Place the cranberries in the oven for about an hour, stirring every so often. Cook until the cranberries have burst and are juicy. The cranberries will begin to burst and the sugar will dissolve after about 20 minutes.

cranberry sauce in casserole dish

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.

Remove the dish from the oven, and gently “mash” the cranberries with a potato masher or ricer. Stir in the bourbon if you are using it. Cover the dish tightly with foil and let it rest for another 10 minutes. Serve your cranberry sauce warm or refrigerate it for later.

This recipe makes about 2 cups, which will serve approximately 8-10 people.

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:

Recipe Variations

  • Orange: Substitute bourbon with freshly squeezed orange juice and add a tablespoon of orange zest for a bright, zesty Ocean Spray cranberry sauce.
  • Maple pecan: Replace a half cup of brown sugar with an equivalent amount of maple syrup and stir in a handful of chopped pecans.
  • Apple: Finely chop a Granny Smith apple and bake the pieces with the cranberries. Also, use apple brandy or bourbon instead of regular bourbon.
  • Classic: For a classic Ocean Spray cranberry sauce recipe, use all granulated sugar and omit the other flavorings. Also, just use water for your liquid.

Tips For Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce

  • Jellied: You can “stretch” this recipe by adding in a can of whole or jellied cranberry sauce to the homemade version.
  • Texture: For a smoother sauce, use a blender or food processor after baking and before adding the bourbon.
  • Sugar: Always do a taste test before serving your cranberry sauce. Depending on the tartness of the cranberries, you might need to adjust the sugar.
  • Bourbon substitute: If you’re out of bourbon, try using brandy or rum, or even apple cider for an alcohol-free version.
  • Avoid overbaking: Keep a close eye on your oven to prevent burning the cranberries, especially if you’re circulating other dishes in and out.
  • Aluminum foil: Keep the dish tightly covered as it rests to retain moisture and heat.
  • Consistency check: If your sauce seems too runny after baking, just remember it will thicken as it cools. If it’s too thick, add a splash of water or orange juice to loosen it.

What To Do With Leftovers

If you have leftover Ocean Spray cranberry sauce, keep these storage tips in mind:

  • Fridge: Leftover cranberry sauce can be stored in an airtight container or the casserole dish it was cooked in for up to one week.
  • Freezer: Cranberry sauce also freezes well! Let it come to room temperature, then place it in a freezer-safe bag or container. It should keep for up to a month this way.
  • Reheating: Reheat at 375F degrees for about 10 minutes or until warm, or allow to rest on the counter to reach room temperature.
  • Prep ahead: Make the recipe up to one week ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator. Serve chilled, at room temperature, or reheated.

More Holiday Side Dishes 

If you want to round out your main dishes with more holiday sides, check out some of my favorites:

Cranberry Sauce Frequently Asked Questions

Can you freeze cranberry sauce?

Yes, homemade cranberry sauce freezes well. Follow the recipe below. Then, allow the sauce to cool completely. Add it to a freezer-safe container and store it in the freezer for up to 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.

How long does fresh cranberry sauce last?

Leftover cranberry sauce can be stored in an airtight container or the casserole dish it was cooked in for up to one week.

Can you overcook cranberry sauce?

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.

Is homemade cranberry sauce worth it?

It’s 100% worth making a homemade version vs. canned cranberry sauce.

How do you make cranberry sauce from scratch?

It’s so easy to make cranberry sauce from scratch! Cooking down fresh, whole cranberries with sugar and bourbon makes a syrupy, saucy holiday side dish.

Is homemade cranberry sauce better than canned?

Yes. With homemade cranberry sauce, you know exactly how much sugar and other ingredients have been added to the sauce.

bowl of homemade cranberry sauce

Festive Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce

This Ocean Spray cranberry sauce recipe is such an easy side for holiday get-togethers! It’s super flexible and ready 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!
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Rest Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 8


  • 1 pound fresh cranberries whole
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup bourbon optional


  • Preheat oven to 350°F 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 if using. Cover tightly with foil and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Serve warm or refrigerate.


Nutrition Facts
Festive Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce
Serving Size
1 cup
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
Polyunsaturated Fat
Monounsaturated Fat
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutritional values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.
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