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Vanilla Bourbon Cranberry Sauce

Vanilla Bourbon Cranberry Sauce

Looking for something to add a little wow to your holiday table? Want to make a delicious homemade cranberry sauce? This vanilla bourbon cranberry sauce will wow your taste buds and its so easy to make!

A close up of a bowl of cranberry sauce.

*Note- this recipe was updated on 11/11/23 the pictures are different but the recipe is still the same!

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It is my humble opinion that on Thanksgiving the most important food is the side dishes. I mean really, who needs turkey?? Mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, sweet potatoes… yum!! I love love love the deliciousness that is Thanksgiving and Christmas side dishes.

One of my favorites is cranberry sauce. I’ve always been a fan of that fun can shaped chunk of cranberry jelly that pops out onto a plate to grace our holiday tables. However, several years ago I decided to make some from scratch.  I’ve tried a few recipes over the years and this one has stuck around as a favorite. Even though my dear sweet super hubby makes most of our Thanksgiving dinner I pride my self on a kick ass fresh cranberry sauce as an addition (even though I still buy canned cranberry sauce for my son!)

This cranberry sauce is so delicious with rich complex flavors. The vanilla helps bring out the sweetness and the bourbon adds a richness to the sauce that is amazing.

A white bowl with cranberry sauce with a bottle of bourbon in the background

FAQ & Tips for this Bourbon Vanilla Cranberry Sauce-

Can I make this cranberry sauce ahead of time?

Yes! I make vanilla bourbon cranberry sauce a day or two ahead of the holiday so that it is one less thing I have to do the day of. You can make it even further in advance if you need to, it keeps for 7-10 days refrigerated in an airtight container.

Do I really need a tablespoon of vanilla?

Yes, you need that much vanilla, I know it seems like a lot but it really lets the flavor shine through. You can also use this vanilla bean paste recipe for an intense vanilla flavor without the extract.

Additions & substitutions-

This recipe has been around for a long time and I’ve had lots of people try it and let me know their variations. Here are some of the most popular-

Add Orange– You can swap out 1/3- 1/2 of the water for orange juice to add delicious orange flavor to this recipe. To dial it up you can use 1-2 teaspoons of orange zest.

Add spices- One of the most popular spices to add to this recipe is cinnamon. You can add a cinnamon stick as the cranberry sauce cooks or add in 1/2- 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

Use Different alcohol- If you don’t love bourbon or don’t have any this recipe has been made with a few other alcohols. It can be made with whiskey, brandy or amaretto.

Different sweeteners- I like to use cane sugar in my sauce, but you can also use other sweeteners if you’d like. Maple syrup is an excellent choice because it’s flavor compliments the cranberries well. You can also use coconut sugar, or plain white granulated sugar. If you’d like to make this sugar free granulated Swerve works beautifully.

Other additions- For a bit of crunch some people have added chopped apples or chopped nuts like walnuts or pecans to their cranberry sauce. If you’re adding things in for crunch be sure to add them after the sauce has cooked.

What is the best bourbon to use?

I’ve made this sauce with several types of bourbon over the years. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not well versed on bourbon but I can say that most varieties work! I tend to go for Jim Beam or Maker’s Mark, and I’ve also used Wild Turkey. You can use your favorite for this recipe!

Can I can or freeze this sauce?

Yes! If you want to preserve your bourbon vanilla cranberry sauce you can! This cranberry sauce recipe can be frozen or canned to preserve it. Cranberry sauce will keep well in the freezer for about 3 months.

To freeze it– allow it to cool completely then place in an airtight container in the freezer. When you are ready to eat it you can allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator or reheat the frozen sauce in the microwave or on the stovetop.

To can– Place the hot sauce in jars leaving 1/2 inch of head space. Process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes. For detailed instructions on canning cranberry sauce this page is an excellent resource.

An overhead shot of a white bowl of cranberry sauce

How to Serve Vanilla Bourbon Cranberry Sauce-

Obviously this is a classic for your holiday table and it compliments turkey and ham beautifully it is also great served in other ways. It is an amazing addition to any turkey sandwich or turkey wrap. It is tasty mixed with mayonnaise to create a cranberry mayo. It is also great served with Swedish meatballs in place of lingonberry jam. We also love it with turkey or chicken meat loaf.

Here’s what you’ll need to make Vanilla Bourbon Cranberry Sauce-

Ingredients for vanilla bourbon cranberry sauce on a white marble counter

1- 12- 14oz. Bag of Fresh Cranberries

1- Cup Sugar (I used cane sugar)

1- Cup Water

2-Tbsp. Bourbon

1- Tbsp. Vanilla Extract

a spoonful of cranberry sauce with a bottle of Jim Bean bourbon in the background

Here’s how to make Cranberry Sauce with Bourbon and Vanilla

Place your cranberries in a colander and rinse them before starting, unless they are pre-washed.

Put your cranberries into a large saucepan, and pour in your sugar and water. Heat over medium-high heat stirring frequently and bring it to a rolling boil.

a pot with cranberries, sugar liquid in it

Turn down the heat to medium-low and continue to heat on a low boil stirring frequently for about 5 minutes or until the cranberries begin to burst.

Reduce the heat to low and add in your bourbon and vanilla stir well.

Continue to simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes or until its a nice jam-like consistency. If you want it a little thicker boil about 5 minutes longer, a little more liquid boil about 5 minutes less! The sauce will thicken as it cools.

Let it cool and serve!! 

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A close up of a bowl of cranberry sauce.

Vanilla Bourbon Cranberry Sauce

This homemade cranberry sauce is full of delicious flavor! The taste of vanilla and bourbon make it rich and amazing!
4.59 from 203 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dishes
Cuisine: American
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 8
Author: krista


  • 1- 12- 14 oz. Bag of Fresh Cranberries
  • 1- Cup Sugar I used cane sugar
  • 1- Cup Water
  • 2- Tbsp. Bourbon
  • 1- Tbsp. Vanilla Extract


  • In an large pan combine your cranberries, sugar and water.
  • Heat over medium-high heat stirring frequently and bring it to a rolling boil.
  • Turn down the heat to medium-low and continue to heat on a low boil stirring frequently for about 5 minutes or until the cranberries begin to burst.
  • Reduce the heat to low and add in your bourbon and vanilla stir well.
  • Reduce to a simmer and add vanilla and bourbon and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes.
  • let cool before serving


Serving: 1g


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  1. Just heads up the picture is inaccurate Jack Daniel’s is a whiskey not Bourbon. Bourbon can only be from Kentucky and will say its Bourbon. Either way in sure this is something in going to try either way….

  2. Made this today. As usual, I put my own spin on the recipe. Added a cinnamon stick, some fresh orange peel, & a bay leaf. I was afraid to add the full 2 tbsp. of bourbon in fear of it tasting too alcholish, so reduced it to 1 tbsp. I think I could have used the whole 2 tbps, because it didn’t taste of alcohol, one bit! I make cranberry sauce every year, but this is the very best recipe, hands down!!! Delish ❤️

  3. I didn’t have bourbon, so I substituted brandy, and subbed 1//3 cup of the water with orange juice. It’s amazing! You were absolutely right about the vanilla. Thanks for the recipe!

  4. I didn’t have bourbon, so I substituted brandy, and subbed 1//3 cup of the water with orange juice. It’s amazing! You were absolutely right about the vanilla. Thanks for the recipe!

  5. Thanks for the post – this sounds epic. Love your blog name BTW, I’m diabetic and we have GF eaters and yeast allergies in the family too, so meal planning is tricky, and usually results in sourcing far from normal ingredients!
    I’m gonna try this for Xmas day – I’m doing Moroccan Meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce for the main dish, served with Cauliflower rice, but I’m also making a turkey-mince meatloaf with a chickpea (no bread) sage & onion stuffing core, so this sounds perfect to go with that!
    I’m going to try using coconut palm sugar instead though (it’s not quite as sweet but a LOT lower GI, so better for me) and I might try Staci’s suggestion with subbing 1/3rd of the water for fresh squeezed OJ to help sweeten things up a bit.
    Thanks for the ideas guys! Merry Xmas (or happy holidays / Hanukkah or Id-E-Milad) to you all 🙂

  6. I’m back, and….
    O.M.(F.)G!! That has got to be the BEST Cran Sauce I’ve ever tried!
    I did it as I said, with the coconut-palm-sugar and 1/3rd OJ (well it turned out to be Clementine juice actually, hubby picked up the wrong bottle at Tesco’s) and I used a full 50ml mini bottle of JD I had (so 3 tblsp + 1tsp) and reduced it all down for a good 20+ minutes.
    It’s already made an appearance (still hot from the pan) on a couple of chicken wraps ( I had some shredded chicken in the fridge from yesterday) and the rest of it is cooling in a pyrex jug before I tub it up to go in the fridge. Made just over a pint of sauce (according to the markings on the pyrex jug)
    I can see it’s going to take some will-power for there to be any left for Christmas day!! LOL

  7. That sounds like an amazing meal!! I actually just discovered coconut palm sugar myself and am going to be doing a lot more experimenting with it! Glad to know it worked in this recipe! Thanks so much for letting me know how it worked out for you! Come back again!

  8. This sounds amazing! I love anything and everything cranberry! I make my own vanilla. I actually made a bottle of bourbon vanilla. So, question is, since my bourbon and vanilla is all one, would you recommend 3 tbsp?? Thanks

  9. This sound delish. Was wondering if this would be safe to can using water bath method. That way u could have it year round.

  10. So I’m going to try this tomorrow. I have a vanilla burbon do you think it would be to much vanilla?

  11. Made this for thanksgiving and I am making again for Christmas! Thanks for a wonderful recipe. Totally different from my usual cranberry relish and such a nice change it is,.

  12. Great recipe. But the big question is…have you posted the recipe for the awesome sweet potato soup as well? You can’t bait us like that and then not come thru…:-)

  13. What a unique twist on a traditional cranberry sauce! I love orange as a flavour to make seasonal recipes more festive, so I added a teaspoon of orange zest.

  14. I love this recipe! I made it last year in my crock-pot! Amazing the next day on toast or English muffins. Making it again tomorrow.

  15. Thank you for this recipe. I don’t normally make cranberry sauce, but really wanted to try it this year. I made it on Thursday and plan to make it on Saturday for another family gathering. I ended up adding 3/4 c water and 1/4 c orange juice. My niece said this is her favorite version of cranberry sauce.

  16. Does this keep well? Really want to take to my Daughter-in-loves dinner.
    I have rheumatoid arthritis & can’t stand for long, so I try to prepare holiday dishes ahead.

  17. It keeps beautifully! I usually make it a couple of days before Thanksgiving so we don’t have as much to do Thanksgiving day!

  18. I’m out of bourbon, been looking forward to making, found my bottle empty. Was thinking amaretto, Drambuie or vanilla vodka. Would one of these work? Don’t want a fail this week.

  19. LOVED IT !! But I too tweaked it. Boiled in ginger ale instead of water added extra 1/ cup sugar and a good amount of cinnamon sugar. Cooked it way down & it made a real firm jelly sauce. An added note it’s GREAT on grilled turkey sandwiches (one slice of bread-mayo on other)

  20. Thank you for this amazing recipe. I also add in an orange rind for some extra flavor. This has become the primary “must have” of Thanksgiving for my husband. I no longer have to make gravy, as he puts this stuff on everything. Thank you again!!

  21. This is awesome! I made with honey, a splash of maple syrup and a few serving spoon splashes of sugar. I cut the water with half orange juice, and added a cinnamon stick. The depth of all flavors together are amazing!! I can imagine the recipe is as is is incredibly tasty, i just love orange mixed with my cranberry and cinnamon. Yum, yum, yum.

  22. Just made this and it is the very best. I did substitute 1/2 cup orange juice for part of the liquid and then cut back on the sugar. For sure it is a keeper for future Thanksgiving dinners.

  23. 2nd year I am making this. My family loves it. It’s delicious, especially on cornbread. Thank you for the recipe!!!

  24. I think EVERYONE should make this sauce. It was amazing on it’s own but when I made the perfect bite of turkey, gravy and the sauce, I was in heaven. I can not wait to have leftovers later tonight….

  25. I am thinking of making as a substitute for lingonberry jam to go with swedish meatballs. Do you think this would work well?

  26. Have made this several years now.. . I Use Birddog blackberry whiskey and it turns out excellent a real crowd pleaser!

  27. I made this for Thanksgiving and it is still good in my fridge but I am making another batch for Christmas dinner. It was absolutely delicious and yes the picture is deceiving because it is made with Bourbon not whiskey. Love it!

  28. This was such a simple recipe that even I didn’t mess it up haha It’s the perfect addition to a thanksgiving meal. Just be careful it doesn’t get on your carpet. It will definitely stain. Thanks to carpet cleaners I was able to get the stain out in preparation for Thanksgiving. Thanks again for the recipe!

  29. This is a wonderful recipe! I added orange zest, and a diced Granny Smith apple while it was cooking. Just fabulous!

  30. I made the recipe as you noted. For me…it was too much vanilla It took away from the tartness of the sauce. If I make this again I might delete the vanilla altogether. But it’s still good.

  31. If you want it to be more tart I would maybe reduce the sugar. You could start with half the sugar and then add more to taste as it cooks. Hope that helps!

  32. could you can this and if so how long would the hot water bath need to be?

  33. 5 stars
    This is such an amazing recipe! My first time making homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving and it was such a hit. I would not change a thing.

  34. 5 stars
    I’ve been using this recipe for years, it truly is amazing! For all those asking about canning this recipe, I just gave it a go for the first time tonight. I did both pint and half pint jars. I used the water bath method, and processed for 15 minutes for the 1/2 pints and closer to 20 minutes for the pint jars. I did do this recipe in large batches, so a potato masher helped with the berries that didn’t pop. And this time I also tried out using dark brown sugar instead of white or cane sugar, which added even more depth of flavor (at least in my opinion) I hope this helps!

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