This simple crockpot cranberry sauce uses only 5 ingredients but the bourbon makes it seem much fancier!
We’re hosting Thanksgiving this year and having a few friends over. Even though it will be a small group of us (only 4-5 total), I’ll inevitably use the oven, the stove top, pots, and pans. And there’s never quite enough time or kitchen items available. A few years ago, I decided to put my crockpot to work for one of my favorite side items – fresh cranberry sauce. This simmered away in the corner, out of the way and out of mind. And then I ate it by the spoonful, before, during and after dinner. And I plan to do the same thing this year.
Cranberry sauce is a holiday staple for me.
We grew up on the canned version and I loved it. But I didn’t even know fresh, homemade cranberry sauce was a thing until my adult life. I much prefer fresh cranberry sauce now, but the canned version still gives me a sense of nostalgia. And honestly, cranberry sauce is one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving, if not my VERY favorite part. It basically makes every part of the meal taste better. It’s good on sweet potatoes, regular mashed potatoes, turkey, dressing, cornbread and I’ve even put it on my salad.
I’m cutting back on Thanksgiving desserts this year since last year we had six desserts for seven people. But I plan to double the cranberry sauce because I go through it so fast. And if you have a larger group, this recipe can easily be doubled or tripled. (You can see my Thanksgiving menu and links to nearly every recipe here!)
It’s a perfect side dish to make in advance since it stores well in the fridge for 3-5 days. Or, you can make it the day of Thanksgiving since it smells amazing and is very hands off. You just place all the ingredients in the crockpot, stir to combine, then cover and cook for a few hours. The cooking time is flexible. It can be ready in about 2 hours if you cook on high, but you can also leave it in for 3-4 hours on high. Or, cook on low for 6-8 hours.
Crockpot Cranberry Sauce
This is really the easiest recipe you’ll make for Thanksgiving. You can jump to the recipe below or read through a few pointers first.
First, a good crock pot (or slow cooker, whichever term you prefer!) is a must-have for your kitchen (and for this recipe, of course). So if you don’t love yours (or heaven forbid, you don’t have one), treat yourself to an early Christmas present. This is the one I have and love since I can brown meat in it, which is always an extra step to many crockpot recipes that also requires dirtying an additional dish.
You can use fresh cranberries or frozen cranberries, but I prefer fresh. I find they hold their shape a little bit more, which I prefer in terms of texture and appearance.
Second, keep in mind that this is a very versatile and forgiving recipe. You can use brown sugar instead of white sugar. I used coconut sugar last year and it was great. You can add more sugar if you like a sweeter version or follow the measurements below (or cut back even more) for a tart option.
For a different flavor, try using orange juice instead of water or add some orange zest to the mix.
For your bourbon (or whiskey), buy something you’d want to drink. Since the recipe doesn’t use much, you’ll want a nice bottle to have around for the holidays rather than something cheap. I love Bulleit and Basil Hayden. Or, you can leave the bourbon out and add a dash of cinnamon.
You can leave the berries whole or mash them with a potato masher to your preferred texture. Play around with it to see what you like each year. I even made a trial batch on November 23 (well ahead of Thanksgiving) so I could try a few different iterations!
How To Make Bourbon Cranberry Sauce In A Crockpot Step by Step
- 1 bag (12 oz) fresh cranberries, rinsed
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 tbsp bourbon (or a little more, just for good measure)
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract (high quality extract is important!)
- Add the cranberries, sugar and water to a crockpot. Turn to high. Once the mixture starts to boil, reduce heat to low.
- Cook over low heat for 2-3 hours until the cranberries have softened and skins start to peel off.
- About 45 minutes before serving, add the bourbon and vanilla. Continue cooking over low. I like to add a pinch of salt at this point too.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool and thicken slightly before serving.
Keywords: cranberry sauce
Be sure to serve in a pretty bowl! This and this are both lovely and can be used year round. This is more festive and beautiful for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And this option would be great if you’re setting up dinner buffet style. And I personally really love this bowl given the name of it. Granted, they spelled Maizey wrong, but that’s okay. 😉
Be sure to pin this for your Christmas parties and dinners too. It simplifies your life and impresses guests. 🙂
I hope you have a really lovely Thanksgiving and take time to reflect on all the good you have in your life. Gratitude is a practice and I’ve found it makes a huge difference in the overall quality of my life and helps with the little day-to-day frustrations and the big, scary, challenges that pop up in life. Let Thanksgiving be the beginning of a daily gratitude practice, even if it’s as simple as taking something frustrating and verbaling stating what is good about it.
What was your experience with cranberry sauce growing up? Fresh or canned?
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