Sweet and spicy, Drunken Cranberry Sauce pairs perfectly with a traditional holiday dishes like turkey, gravy and stuffing. Ready within 15 minutes, this lightning fast spiced cranberry sauce side dish adds sweetness to a meal. Makes 6-8 servings.
This dish sounds a lot boozier than it actually is.
The cranberries aren’t really drunk; they’re just jazzed up by a little spiced rum.
Because rum jazzes us all up sometimes, right? Right.
Why I love this recipe:
This recipe for Orange Cranberry Sauce with Spiced Rum is fast and one of my all-time favorite sides at the Thanksgiving table.
When it was initially made, it was conceived and executed in about 10 minutes before we sat down for Friendsgiving dinner… and it was utterly perfect.
I’d purchased cranberries, knowing I wanted to make a simple cranberry sauce for the meal with them. I completely forgot about them until everyone was at our home, and we were carving the turkey.
There’s something so sweet and lovely about a simple side, and this cranberry sauce is that to a tee. It’s also one of my favorite dishes to pair with a holiday meal because it plays well with so many flavors.
This spicy cranberry sauce is sweet, simple and pretty darn tasty. It calls for a handful of ingredients, and it highlights orange juice, which pairs beautifully with the tart cranberries.
Whether you serve it alongside a Thanksgiving dinner or the holiday table for another celebration, this not-quite-traditional cranberry sauce is special.
Other holiday recipes that involve cranberries: Cranberry Turkey Puff Pastry Tartlets | Cranberry Feta Brussels Sprout Salad with Candied Pecans and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette | Puff Pastry Baked Brie with Cranberry Chutney
Need holiday food inspiration? Be sure to swing by my Thanksgiving Food Recipe Index for tons of recipes!
What you need to make this recipe:
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Let’s talk ingredients!
In addition to the tools above, you’re going to need some ingredients to make this recipe, too! Chances are, you might already have some of them in your fridge or pantry. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full measurements and instructions.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Cranberries — you may use fresh cranberries or frozen cranberries for this recipe. You’ll need a bag of them.
- Spiced rum — your favorite brand works! I like to use spiced rum because it adds a little kick and some aromatics to the orange cranberry sauce. You can also use homemade spiced rum!
- Fresh orange juice — freshly squeezed is my favorite, but the bottled stuff works, too
- Brown sugar — my recipe says to use dark brown sugar, but light brown sugar works, as well. I like this significantly better than white sugar because it brings in molasses notes.
- Kosher salt — we just need a pinch of salt to balance the flavors.
If you want more orange punch to this recipe, add some orange zest or orange peel to the cranberries as they cook! Please note that we are not adding lemon juice because orange juice is providing the acidity for our sauce.
Add more spices. Cinnamon stick, fresh ginger and star anise would add extra flavor while the cranberries cook down.
If you’re in the market for another unique cranberry sauce, check out my Vanilla Cranberry Sauce, which is sweetened with maple syrup and involves more warm spices and vanilla beans.
How to make Drunken Cranberry Sauce with Orange
Combine the cranberries with the rum, orange juice and brown sugar in a large saucepan. Heat over medium heat.
Cook until the cranberries have popped (watch out! they’ll be hot!) and the sauce begins thickening. You may stir it with a your favorite cooking spoon.
This takes around 10 minutes, depending on how hot your stove gets and how evenly your pan cooks.
When the sauce has thickened, remove from the saucepan, and transfer to a serving bowl.
Serve warm or cold with your favorite holiday meal!
Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips and Tricks
There’s not much more quintessential than a tart cranberry sauce to pair with a Thanksgiving meal or any holiday spread.
I love this recipe for entertaining because it’s so simple!
Here are a few tips and tricks for making this recipe for a crowd:
- Make it in advance. This recipe for Cranberry Sauce can be served warm, at room temperature or cold, and it keeps well in the fridge. Cook it 1-2 days before your gathering, and keep it cool in the refrigerator until it’s serving time.
- Double the recipe. If your people love cranberry sauce, you’ll definitely want to do this! This recipe never lasts long with my family because we adore the combination of sweet and tart. You’ll need a few bags of cranberries if you do that.
- Transform it into a Leftover Cranberry Sauce Cocktail. This cocktail, which I’ve mixed up before with my friend Aline, is utterly delicious and such a fun way to use some extra cranberry sauce.
- Serve in cute glass jars or another vessel that matches your table decor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Warm fall spices, like cinnamon, ginger, allspice and nutmeg, pair beautifully with cranberries. Consequently, you can get hints of these spices in this cranberry sauce from the spiced rum.
This whole berry cranberry sauce recipe thickens because of the combination of cranberry juices paired with the sugar. We want the cranberries to burst as they cook and release those juices and mingle with the sugar… and then cook off a little so the sauce gets sticky. 🙂
When stored in a food-safe storage container in the refrigerator, this spiced cranberry sauce recipe can last for 5-7 days.
Quick tips and tricks to the best cranberry sauce recipe
- Make it early. Since this recipe keeps in the fridge, make holiday entertaining as easy as possible on yourself by making it when you’ve got time well before the festivities.
- Add more orange! Orange zest and peel add awesome orange flavor to the cranberries.
- How to store: Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.
What else can I serve alongside this recipe?
Interested in making this super simple, super flavorful cranberry sauce at home this holiday season?
Scroll on down to learn how you can make it at home!
Sweet and spicy, Drunken Cranberry Sauce pairs perfectly with a traditional holiday dinner of turkey, gravy and stuffing. Ready within 15 minutes, this lightning fast side dish adds sweetness to a meal. Fresh cranberries cook with spiced rum, orange juice and brown sugar to make this delightful recipe. Drunken Cranberry Sauce is what you'll want to serve at the Thanksgiving, Christmas and holiday party tables!
- 12 oz. fresh cranberries, whole
- 1 oz. spiced rum
- ½ cup orange juice
- 1 cup brown sugar (dark brown or light brown OK)
- A pinch of kosher salt
- In a saucepan, combine the cranberries with the orange juice and brown sugar. Add a pinch of salt.
- Heat over medium heat, and cook, for about 10 minutes, or until cranberries have popped and the sauce has thickened.
- Pour in the rum, and stir, cooking until it has evaporated. This should take 2-3 minutes, depending on how hot the sauce is.
- Serve warm or cold as a side dish at the holiday table.
In recent years, I've used ¾ cup of brown sugar instead of a full cup, and I really like how the cranberries are a bit more tart. If you're concerned that this recipe might be too sweet for you, try ¾ cup instead of the full cup!
How to Store: When the cranberry sauce has finished cooking, transfer to a serving dish, and let cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator up to 4 days before you're planning to serve it. When it's time to serve, simply unwrap it and transfer to the table!
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 121Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 7mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 2gSugar: 25gProtein: 0g
Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.
This recipe was originally published on November 13, 2013. The blog post was updated and republished in November 2020.
Erin Parker is a Southern gal living in Texas with her husband and two daughters. She started The Speckled Palate to share what she was cooking as a newlywed… and over the years, it’s evolved to capture her love for hosting. Specifically, the EASIEST, lowest key entertaining because everyone deserves to see their people and connect over good food. Learn more about her…