Condiments/ Recipes/ Seasonal Ingredients/ Seasonal Recipes

Bourbon Vanilla Cranberry Sauce

So, I don’t know if y’all remember, but last year I went all out with Thanksgiving recipes on the blog.

I was like a crazed maniac, making an entire turkey, stuffing, potatoes and sides a week and a half before the big day. I did it for you!

But this year things are a little different. I figure because I did all that last year and the recipes for all those Thanksgiving items are already on the blog, I’m not going to make another turkey. Or stuffing. Or mashed potatoes. Hallelujah. I’m heading to Texas on Sunday to spend Thanksgiving week with Adam’s whole family and can’t wait to eat his grandma’s cooking. I’m also SUPER excited to meet many of you a week from today at BookPeople in Austin! I’ll be posting a big Thanksgiving recipe round-up later in the week and maybe a sprinkling of side-dish recipes though….this cranberry sauce included!

I can say, hands down, this is the best tasting cranberry sauce I have ever tried. Bourbon and vanilla are a match made in heaven.

I really think that if people understood just how simple homemade cranberry sauce was to make, they would never buy the canned variety again. I mean, it has to be the simplest of all Thanksgiving dishes — from start to finish, this sauce took only 15 minutes to make and will stay good in the fridge for a week! So.flippin’.easy and absolutely delicious. You can definitely taste the bourbon and vanilla but it’s not overpowering or too strong, and since the alcohol cooks out when you simmer the sauce, it’s perfectly fine to serve the entire family!

Even if you’re not in charge of Turkey day dinner this year, I recommend trying the cranberry sauce! It’s perfect on turkey sandwiches, Greek yogurt and vanilla ice cream. Heck, I was eating it from the spoon the other day!

Bourbon Vanilla Cranberry Sauce

makes about 2 cups sauce

Print this Recipe!


14 oz fresh cranberries

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

2 tbsp bourbon

1 tbsp vanilla extract


Combine all ingredients in a large saucepot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until cranberries burst and begin to break down, about 10-15 minutes. Stir well and remove from heat. Sauce will thicken up greatly as it cools.


20 minutes

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  • the 3volution of j3nn
    November 12, 2012 at 3:33 am

    I was just thinking about ways to deviate from the typical orange/cranberry sauce and this twist solves it! That sounds like a wonderful flavor combination. Yum!

  • Becky Henderson
    November 12, 2012 at 3:39 am

    This sounds delicious. Any particular brand of bourbon that you recommend?

    • Becky Henderson
      November 12, 2012 at 3:39 am

      Lol. Never mind. I see the Makers Mark bottle in the background of the first picture! 🙂

  • Laura
    November 12, 2012 at 4:14 am

    As a Kentucky girl, I’m thrilled with the addition of bourbon! You’re right, vanilla and bourbon are a match made in heaven.

  • Anne
    November 12, 2012 at 4:29 am

    Yum, Cranberry sauce is hands down my favorite part of Thanksgiving (minus pie of course) but I have never tried to make it.
    This looks faboulous!

  • Averie @ Averie Cooks
    November 12, 2012 at 4:29 am

    A heavy handed-dose of either bourbon or vanilla, or both! – in any recipe is going to take it from good to great. Love your cranberries!

  • Michelle @ Eat Move Balance
    November 12, 2012 at 4:42 am

    Do you think this flavor combo would work if I wanted to make a cranberry relish? The idea sounds so yummy! Hmmm, but the alcohol wouldn’t be cooked out. But would that be so bad either? 😉

  • alyssa - life a la wife
    November 12, 2012 at 4:46 am

    It’s so nice to go to Thanksgiving and not have to cook – Enjoy yourself!

  • Lauren
    November 12, 2012 at 4:58 am

    Ah, I was JUST looking up cranberry sauce recipes. Search no more, I think I’ve got it. 🙂

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat
    November 12, 2012 at 5:01 am

    Yumm! I’m not a big gravy fan so this could definitely go on my turkey!! That’s so nice that yo’re getting to spend Thanksgiving with Adam’s family. I hope you guys have an amazing first Thanksgiving as an engaged couple!!

  • Rachel (Two Healthy Plates)
    November 12, 2012 at 5:41 am

    I’m normally not the Thanksgiving cranberry sauce maker in my household but I’m definitely going to change that this year so I can try this recipe. I’m from the bourbon state so I KNOW this will be a hit – yum!

  • Abby@ The Frosted Vegan
    November 12, 2012 at 5:58 am

    Anything with bourbon and cranberry is a win in my book!

  • Brooke
    November 12, 2012 at 6:00 am

    This sounds delicious. I have nver MADE cranberry sauce before, but I might just have to give this guy a try.

  • katie @KatieDid
    November 12, 2012 at 6:01 am

    TJ’s also sells bourbon vanilla extract which I can attest is phenomenal.

    • Sonia the Mexigarian
      November 12, 2012 at 8:36 am

      yes. that vanilla is amazing. i finished it off in my baking yesterday 🙁 need more.

      • Jenn
        November 22, 2012 at 9:57 am

        In that case bourbon refers to the origin of the bean-the Isle of Bourbon, now called Madagascar not the flavor or the drink. They are both named for European royalty, the House of Bourbon. I think i might watch to much Alton Brown.

  • Emily
    November 12, 2012 at 6:01 am

    Seriously! I love homemade cranberry sauce and just don’t understand the canned stuff. You can’t coat your turkey in that Jello-like substance! Thanks for the interesting take on the recipe 🙂

  • Julie
    November 12, 2012 at 6:33 am

    I’ll admit, I love jellied canned cranberry sauce. I do. I also love real cranberry sauce. It is like comparing Kraft mac and cheese and homemade. There is a time and place for both in my heart.

  • Beverly Aragon
    November 12, 2012 at 7:30 am

    Alright, that’s it! I’m going to break down and make THIS cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinner this year. I’ve always been “can” loyal (please don’t judge!) but since I’m a bourbon girl, I clearly MUST give this a try.

  • jaime @ sweet road
    November 12, 2012 at 8:09 am

    Ha! Though homemade cranberry sauce is simple, I still have never gotten around to making it. I’ve been wanting to for years since I tried some at a friend’s house, but because there is always so much of a rush to get everything else cooked we’ve never gotten around to it. Maybe this year I will (the bourbon-vanilla shindig is a little too enticing to pass up…)!

  • Julia {The Roasted Root}
    November 12, 2012 at 8:11 am

    I have never made my own cranberry sauce and your bourbon-vanilla version sounds right up my alley. When given the chance to add booze for flavor, I say yes to the booze! Hope you have a great week with your fiance’s family!

  • Lia
    November 12, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Oooo, that sounds like a great match! I’ll be pressing the family to make this for Christmas dinner (I won’t be home for Thanksgiving, though I might make this for my roomy and myself).

  • Joelle (on a pink typewriter)
    November 12, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Ooooh I may need to give this a whirl for turkey day!

  • Sonia the Mexigarian
    November 12, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Lol! I JUST made cranberry sauce yesterday for my family’s early Thanksgiving dinner. And I added in some bourbon on whim. 🙂 Mine was a throw it together hodge podge of a recipe.

    The bourbon adds a whole other level of flavor to the sauce.

  • Dana @ Conscious Kitchen Blog
    November 12, 2012 at 8:47 am

    Yum! This cranberry sauce sounds delicious. I’m not in charge of this part of our Thanksgiving meal, but I think this dish is a great seasonal treat. I love your suggestion of putting it on greek yogurt – I’m going to have to try it!

  • Lauren @ Sassy Molassy
    November 12, 2012 at 8:55 am

    This sounds awesome and easy! I’m definitely going to make it. Last year I did an orange zested cranberry sauce. Also tasty.

  • Carrie @ The Cook's Palette
    November 12, 2012 at 9:01 am

    Yum! Looks fantastic! I wasn’t a fan of cranberry sauce when I was younger UNTIL I tried a homemade version. So worth it. Love the bourbon in this.

  • deva at deva by definition
    November 12, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Oh my goodness does this sound fantastic! As a transplant into Kentucky, I see a trip to buy some bourbon in my future!

  • Pam
    November 12, 2012 at 9:25 am

    I have been scouring the web for a great cranberry sauce recipe and this is it!!
    Thank you Jenna 🙂
    Enjoy Thanksgiving in Texas!!

  • the domestic fringe
    November 12, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Looks wonderful! I’ll have to remember this recipe, since I’m not cooking this Thanksgiving.

  • Kristin
    November 12, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Hi Jenna! This is a random question but I absolutely love the blue necklace you have on in your engagement blog! Would you be able to share where you got it?? I’m hoping to be able to order or find something like it! Congratulations to you!!! Sounds like a wonderful man!!!

    • jenna
      November 12, 2012 at 10:17 am

      Thanks! I actually got that little necklace at Francesca’s a couple years ago. I’m not sure if they still carry it but you can check!

  • Malkire
    November 12, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Mmmm just getting my recipes in order for Thanksgiving and will be adding this one. Thank you!

  • Erica @ Coffee & Quinoa
    November 12, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Totally agree about how easy cranberry sauce is… but it seems so much more impressive if we all keep the secret! 🙂 This looks amazing and I will have to try it out!

  • anne wakefield
    November 12, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Ahhhhh so excited to get to meet you next Monday!! I’m a Houston girl but a girlfriend and I are going to drive up and stay the evening so we can see you! Looking so forward to it!

    Also, going to have to make this…sounds ahhhh-mazing!!

    ALSO, CONGRATS!!! I’m so happy for you and Adam and can’t wait to hear and see all the planning in the upcoming months! God is so faithful to bring us just who we need at just the right time!

  • Sarah @ Yogi In Action
    November 12, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Wow! I don’t even like cranberry sauce but your recipe may just change things up for me! That looks (and sounds) amazing! Definitely added to my list of things to try

  • Aimee from AL
    November 12, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    This makes me actually kind of sad I am not doing Thanksgiving this year.

  • Caroline L.
    November 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    I looked at this and thought “turkey sandwiches.” Yum! Woohoo for Texas – I’m heading back there this weekend, so excited to get the week off for some good ol’ fashioned family time 🙂

  • Caroline L.
    November 12, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    I looked at this and just thought “turkey sandwiches.” Yum! Woohoo for Texas – I’m heading back there this weekend and am excited to get the week off for some good ol’ fashioned family time! 🙂

  • Caroline L.
    November 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    I looked at this and just thought “turkey sandwiches.” Yum! Woohoo for Texas – I’m heading back there this weekend and am excited to get the week off for some good ol’ fashioned family time! 🙂

  • Caroline L.
    November 12, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    I looked at this and just thought “turkey sandwiches.” Yum! Woohoo for Texas – I’m heading back there this weekend and am excited to get the week off for some good ol’ fashioned family time! 🙂

  • Kristen @ notsodomesticated
    November 12, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Yum!! If I wasn’t pregnant, I would be loving this sauce! Homemade cranberry sauce is definitely better than the stuff in a can!

  • jenna k
    November 12, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    YUM! cranberry sauce freaked me out until last thanksgiving, when i slathered it on everything. i’m actually planning to make some this weekend to go with chicken breast, so this is perfect timing!

  • Sarah
    November 12, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Jenna – I am just catching up on your blog and congratulations!!!! I have been checking in daily to see when you guys would be getting engaged. I am so happy for you two. You look incredibly happy. So so happy!!!
    I must share – I just got married (a month ago today actually!!) and my husband and I for our first dance chose to dance to Tupelo Honey!!!!! You guys have some awesome taste!!! Can’t wait to see all the wedding plans. As someone who just got married my advice would be not to stress!!!! Everyone planning weddings has breakdowns but just enjoy the process. At the end of the day you’re marrying your best friend and that is all that matters…. That’s the mentality we stuck to and we just threw everything up to God that we had no control over.
    Congratulations again!

  • Charise
    November 13, 2012 at 5:42 am

    Ooh, I was planning on making cranberry sauce this weekend just because I love having it to stir into oatmeal this time of year and won’t have leftovers since I’m not hosting like last year. Mine has an orange-ginger flavor profile – this would be totally different and delicious in oatmeal too, so I’ll have to give it a try!

  • amy walters, aDESIGNdock
    November 13, 2012 at 6:19 am

    Ooh…I love the food styling for this recipe Jenna. So pretty!

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  • Ashley
    November 13, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I wouldn’t have thought that bourbon would go well with cranberries.

  • Kari@Loaves n Dishes
    November 13, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    It’s true, I think that people just don’t know how easy it is too make cranberry sauce. I love this version, I’m thinking it would be great over ice cream or cheese cake too!

  • jan
    November 13, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Mmm that is just perfect for Thanksgiving!

  • Rachel
    November 13, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Made this last night and ate it with some yogurt and chia seeds for a snack, and with cream cheese on a cinnamon raisin bagel, so, so good!

  • Chelsa
    November 13, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    I am so making this for my family’s Christmas dinner since I wont be home for Thanksgiving.

  • Tiffany
    November 13, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    Wow! Why have I never thought of this….Genius!!

  • Nicole
    November 14, 2012 at 7:48 am

    This may sound like a weird question, but do you serve this warm or cold? We grew up eating cranberry sauce cold, but not sure if that’s traditional??

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  • Carol
    November 15, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    I was just telling my MIL how easy is to make REAL cranberry sauce today! I’m intrigued by the flavor combo, but I do not have Boubon (I would buy it if someone here would drink it!). I do have repasado tequila, triple sec, whiskey, white rum, gold rum, vodka, gin, and many wines. Any substitution suggestions?

  • Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie
    November 17, 2012 at 7:42 am

    This looks phenomenal, I can’t wait to taste it!

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  • Karin K.
    November 18, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    I make my own cranberry sauce all the time. It’s seriously the easiest thing I make for the holidays, and I love the little popping sounds the cranberries make. I have to try this recipe. My go to is cranberry orange, but vanilla bourbon sounds so delicious… thank you for sharing.

  • Aja Speights
    November 18, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    Yum! I’m in charge of cranberry sauce and I’m going to try this out this year! Thanks for the recipe!!

  • Jessica Lamb
    November 20, 2012 at 8:31 am

    I cannot wait to make this! I’ve been looking for a cranberry sauce recipe that did not have raisins and/or walnuts in it, which I love but my husband does not. I was just going to pick one and leave out those ingredients but I saw this and he does love bourbon (who doesn’t?)! Beautiful! Congratulations on your recent engagement! Happy Thanksgiving!

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  • Kellie
    November 22, 2012 at 4:24 am

    Made this last night on my way out the door to a party. I can not believe how easy it was. And we tasted it before putting in the fridge for tomorrow… Delish! Thanks! New family thanksgiving must have.

  • Stacey
    November 22, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Made this today for our family Thanksgiving and it is FANTASTIC. Thanks!

  • Leslie
    November 22, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    This was fantastic! I loved it!!

  • Pam
    November 22, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    I made this today for Thanksgiving and my whole family loved it, thank you!! I am thankful for you today and all of the great recipes and stories you share 🙂
    Have a great time in Texas!
    xoxo, Pam

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  • Molly K
    November 24, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Thank you for this amazing recipe! I couldn’t believe how easy it was and fabulous to boot! My in laws who prefer the canned variety even declared it wonderful!
    I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving!

  • Renee'
    November 25, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    I tried this for Thanksgiving and it was a hit! I added a little bit of orange juice as well. Great recipe 🙂

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  • Maria
    November 25, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Wow! All I can say is wow! The husband is salivating in anticipation…

  • Heather
    November 27, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    I was trolling around looking for something different for my cranberry sauce this year (so over cranberry-orange). Just finished making your recipe and…wow. LOVE THIS. I was sitting there eating spoonfuls of warm cranberry sauce and had to force myself to put it in the fridge for tomorrow.
    And darn, now I have to sit here and drink bourbon. What a hardship…

    I’ve never been to your blog before, but will have to take a look through!

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      Heather, we must be the same person, I agree with each thing you said…in anticipation. NOW, I will definitely try it. Just for the record, I am going
      to name it “Cranberry Sauced”… Picture us *clinking* glasses, please!
      (Happy Thanksgiving, a year later!)

  • Katie
    November 27, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    This recipe is fantastic!! I adjusted it a bit by adding some lemon and orange zest, the juice of one orange, and a cinnamon stick. By far, the best cranberry sauce EVER!! And… you can make a tasty cocktail with the leftovers. Just combine the sauce, orange juice, lemon juice, more bourbon, and some sprite. Yum!

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    December 17, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Made this with some fresh raspberries and ground ginger…divine with turkey as well as on vanilla ice cream!

  • Jayme
    December 31, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    I made this for Thanksgiving this year after seeing it on here – my first time making cranberry sauce – and it was delicious! I agree with you that it is the best cranberry sauce! Thanks so much for sharing. Recently, I didn’t have any bourbon on hand, so I made it exactly as written just without the bourbon and it was great too.

  • Mary
    October 16, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Made this and will never go back to canned. So easy and tasted fabulous!!

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    November 26, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    This was so amazingly delicious last year, there was absolutely no question that we’d have to make it again this year. Can’t wait to enjoy it again!!! Thank you!

  • Kristen K
    November 26, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    Love this recipe. Makes the best cranberry sauce that even I can make and I can’t cook to save my life. Really adds a special touch as so easy. This year I dressed it up a bit with some cinnamon, a dash of cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom. It tastes more like a jam or pie filling now so not sure I’ll like it this way with turkey, but certainly found an easy jam or oatmeal mix in!!

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    November 22, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    We make this recipe every year and my entire family loves it.

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      November 24, 2019 at 1:30 pm

      How many people would you say this serves? Trying to decide if I need to double or triple for 25?

  • Kathryn
    November 21, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    I look up this recipe EACH year, since 2012! We love it and look forward to the mild sweetness and bourbon to contrast our salty Thanksgiving meal. Thank you!

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