Orange Bourbon Cranberry Sauce

Complete your Thanksgiving menu with Orange Bourbon Cranberry Sauce. It pairs perfectly with turkey and side dishes, or you can use it in a cocktail!

orange bourbon cranberry sauce in a glass dish with a gold spoon on a white background

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What are your Thanksgiving must-haves? I know you have them — everyone does.

For me, it’s turkey (no ham, thank you), cranberry apple casserole, mashed potatoes, cheesy cat head biscuits and chocolate pecan pie.

And apple cider mimosas.

Oh! And orange bourbon cranberry sauce. It isn’t Thanksgiving dinner without it.

Orange Bourbon Cranberry Sauce recipe

This cranberry sauce is a recipe I’ve been making for 10 years, and it’s been a wonderful addition to our Thanksgiving table.

Orange bourbon cranberry sauce is a from-scratch cranberry sauce using fresh cranberries, orange zest, orange juice and your favorite bourbon.

It also has a hint of fall spices which round out the flavors.

I love these flavors together in my cranberry bourbon granita, and they are just perfect in sauce form to go with your turkey.

a container of orange bourbon cranberry sauce with a gold spoon next to it

Why make your own cranberry sauce?

Homemade cranberry sauce is so much better than the stuff from a can.

And trust me: I grew up on canned cranberry sauce. I will still eat a little bit if it’s served at a Thanksgiving meal I attend. I still think it’s delicious.

But, like so many things on my site, there’s nothing like homemade. (See also: sprinkles and spiced rum.)

The canned stuff is fine, but I prefer to make it myself so I can control how sweet it is. The canned sauce often contains high fructose corn syrup.

This orange bourbon cranberry sauce was an easy step up for me — it doesn’t take too long to prepare, and it’s so good.

Honestly, it’s one of the easiest dishes I make each year — it is one of my Thanksgiving favorites.

fresh cranberries on a white background


The ingredient list for this orange bourbon cranberry sauce isn’t too expansive, so it won’t add too much to your budget or deplete your pantry. Here’s what you’ll need to pick up at the grocery store:


Fresh cranberries are best — they will offer the best sweet-tart flavor. If you can use local cranberries, even better!

Frozen cranberries will work too. If you use frozen ones, I suggest cooking them until thawed (2-3 minutes) before adding the sugar.

Fresh orange

Buy one medium navel orange and you’ll use the whole thing to get our citrus flavor.

First you’ll zest the orange with a Microplane or citrus zester — this is what gives the sauce its bitter hint of orange. If you don’t have a zester, you can use a vegetable peeler to get a thin layer of orange zest — try not to get any of the white pith. Then finely dice it to create zest.

Once zested, we’ll use half of the orange for fresh juice. You can use the other half for a pretty garnish. You can skip this step and just use store-bought juice, but I don’t recommend it.

The fresh orange zest and juice will provide both sweet and bitter orange flavors that help to balance the tart cranberries.


You’ll need 1 cup each of light brown sugar and cane sugar for this recipe, but you can use less if you are sensitive to sugar. Granulated white sugar will work just fine if you don’t have cane sugar. This combination gives it a sweet, caramel flavor. If you’d like to add some maple syrup flavor, you can stir in 1 tablespoon at the end.


Bourbon is the star of the show here. The bourbon flavor helps to mellow out the pucker quality of the cranberries. Use your favorite or use up the one you’ve been avoiding in the back of your bar cabinet. No rules here! You can also use other types of whiskey like Irish whiskey or rye, but it will change the flavor slightly.


Use fresh spices if you can. You’ll need ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. For extra flavor, feel free to steep one or two cinnamon sticks as you let it simmer, but be sure to remove them.

a glass dish of orange bourbon cranberry sauce next to a red and white kitchen towel

Best bourbon for cranberry sauce

My favorite bourbon brands to use for this bourbon orange cranberry sauce are Maker’s Mark, Bulleit and Old Forrester. This recipe only calls for a touch of bourbon, but its flavor does leave an impact.

These three are the ones I am most likely to have on my bar cart for old-fashioned cocktails, but you can and should use your favorite if you have one.

If you don’t have a favorite, check out my Bourbon 101 guide.

I always recommend using the best bourbon you can afford, but I would save the expensive stuff for sipping as a nightcap after dinner.

While this cranberry sauce has the flavor of bourbon, all or most of the alcohol will cook off, so don’t expect this sauce to get you tipsy. (Save that for the cinnamon White Russians.)

How to make orange bourbon cranberry sauce

You can make orange bourbon cranberry sauce in under 30 minutes, which makes it perfect for whipping up between pies and biscuits.

I use my Le Creuset Dutch oven, but you can use your favorite medium saucepan.

a red spatula mixing white and brown sugar into cranberries

Combine cranberries and sugars in a 1-quart saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir until the sugars melt, about 2 to 3 minutes.

cranberries cooking with sugars in a white dutch oven

Then add everything else — the bourbon, orange juice, orange zest, vanilla extract and spices to your saucepan. Stirring often, let it simmer for 20 minutes.

orange bourbon cranberry sauce cooking and bubbling in a white dutch oven

Once the sauce has reached your desired consistency, remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

After the sauce cools, you can store it in an airtight container for up to one week.

Tips for making this recipe

Don’t stray too far from your stove when you make this recipe. The ingredients can burn, and burnt sugar is not a smell you want to have in your house!

By the end, expect all the cranberries to pop. If they don’t, use a potato masher to help you smash any plump cranberries.

If you don’t like a lumpy sauce, you can run it through a blender or food processor.

a closeup of a gold spoon with orange bourbon cranberry sauce

What to serve with cranberry sauce

Serve it with your favorite Thanksgiving turkey recipe, of course! It even works if you aren’t serving a whole bird, like this Instant Pot turkey tenderloin.

If you wind up with leftovers and you’re a fan of cranberry sauce, you have lots of options!

The next day, use it on a Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich along with turkey, mashed potatoes gravy and a bit of old-fashioned Thanksgiving stuffing. You can even spread it on some really good crusty bread or toast for breakfast or brunch.

It works for baked goods too! You can also mix it into leftover cranberry sauce muffins or cookie bars.

It works in cocktails as well. I always make at least one cranberry sauce old-fashioned cocktail or you can use it as a base for cranberry syrup. You could also use it in this cranberry sauce cocktail with cachaça and ginger.

You can also mix it with ginger beer, bourbon (or vodka) and lime juice to make a Yule Mule. Substitute the sauce for the cranberry juice and be sure to stir it well with the bourbon before adding ice, lime juice and ginger beer.

For dinner later in the weekend, orange bourbon cranberry sauce would also be good with Swedish meatballs and leftover mashed potatoes, IKEA style.

Or serve this amazing cranberry sauce over your favorite vanilla ice cream!

— Did you make this recipe? —

Please leave a ★★★★★ review or comment below.

a glass dish of orange bourbon cranberry sauce next to a red and white kitchen towel

Orange Bourbon Cranberry Sauce

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Orange Bourbon Cranberry Sauce will be the star of your Thanksgiving table!
5 from 5 votes
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  • 4 cups cranberries
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon orange zest
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves


  • Combine cranberries and sugars in a pot over medium heat. Stir frequently until the sugars melt, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the bourbon, orange juice, orange zest, vanilla extract and spices. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often. When sauce has reached desired consistency, remove from heat.
  • Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.


Adapted from Design*Sponge

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nutrition information

Yield: 8 servings

amount per serving:

Serving: 0.25cup Calories: 223kcal Carbohydrates: 54g Sodium: 8mg Fiber: 2g Sugar: 50g
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  1. Kathy Hester says

    5 stars
    This was so easy to make and I loved the flavor the bourbon added.

    It’s a more mature version of the traditional cranberry sauce and my family raved about it.

  2. dlt says

    5 stars
    I made this just to use the cranberry sauce in the cocktail recipe for the Cranberry Sauce Old-Fashioned recipe . It turned out so good, I am keeping it as my standard from now on. It did take quite a bit longer to cook to the consistence I like.

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