Meatless Monday Challenge

Easy Brandy Cranberry Sauce

on October 20, 2021
last updated April 23, 2024
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This Easy Brandy Cranberry Sauce is simple to make, boasting the perfect balance between tangy and sweet and a subtle hint of floral brandy.
brandy cranberry sauce with gold spoon and garnished with rosemary

Sick of the canned stuff and ready to make your own Cranberry Sauce this year? This Easy Brandy Cranberry Sauce is super simple to make while boasting complex flavors.

Sweet and tangy with a hint of brandy and orange, this perfectly balanced cranberry sauce will tie your Holiday meal together with a vibrant zing of flavor!

bowl of cranberry sauce with sprig of rosemary garnish, surrounded by fresh cranberries

Eating seasonally is a great way to decrease your carbon footprint.

In-season produce puts less strain on the environment in the form of food miles (it generally has to travel less to get to you), and oftentimes less polluting crop-enhancers have to be used for them to thrive.

In the United States, cranberries are mostly grown in just 5 states and are at their peak from September through December.

As an environmental scientist, I am always focused on making seasonal crops shine, which means Cranberry Sauce is abundant throughout the Fall and Winter.

Green tip: Eating seasonally is one of the best (and most delicious) ways to support local and decrease your carbon footprint. Local foods have less associated transportation costs and fuel emissions.

Brandy Cranberry Sauce Tips and Tricks

Gather Your Ingredients

Aside from fresh cranberries and sugar, this sauce uses only a couple of flavor enhancers to give you tons of flavor. Here’s everything you’ll need:

  • Cranberries. Fresh preferred, but frozen works, too!
  • Brandy. The subtle floral flavor in brandy adds uniqueness to this sauce!
  • Water. To dissolve the sugar and burst the berries in, bringing it all together!
  • Sugar. Granulated works best for this recipe. The sweetness is necessary to balance out the tart cranberries.
  • Orange. For freshness.
  • Cinnamon. For flavor.
cranberries, brandy, water, sugar, cinnamon, orange

Rinse Your Cranberries First

It’s always best practice to rinse your produce before cooking it. I recommend using fresh cranberries for this sauce, but you can also opt to use frozen in a pinch.

I love to conserve 1/2 cup of fresh cranberries to add last so that there are some whole cranberries remaining in your sauce. After rinsing your cranberries, you can separate out 1/2 cup and set them aside for later.

close up of fresh cranberries

Use a Fresh Orange

The fresh citrus in this recipe actually enhances the flavor and adds a much-needed freshness. You’ll be using both the juice and the zest from 1/2 an orange.

It’s best to use an orange rather than orange juice, so you can avoid any added sugars and preservatives.

I zest my orange with a cheese grater. Don’t forget to rinse your orange first!

close up of orange zest

Dissolve the Sugar First

The first step is to make a simple syrup by dissolving the sugar in your liquids. Bring the brandy, water, orange juice, and sugar to a boil. Stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved completely. This usually takes about 5 minutes.

If you like your cranberry sauce on the tangier side, add 1/2 cup of sugar.

If you like your cranberry sauce on the sweeter side, use 3/4 cup sugar.

I opt for 1/2 cup of sugar because I like a little tartness in my cranberry sauce. I find the subtle sweetness from the brandy and orange juice is enough.

However, I have tested this thoroughly both ways and confirm it’s not too sweet with 3/4 cup sugar. If you are used to the canned stuff, use 3/4 cup sugar to achieve that same level of sweetness.

adding sugar to a large pot to make cranberry sauce

Allow Your Cranberries to Burst

Once your sugar is dissolved, keep your heat up high and drop your cranberries, orange zest, and cinnamon in.

Keep your pot uncovered and allow the cranberries to bubble in the water until they burst. You will see them and sometimes even hear them burst open within about ten minutes.

Once they burst, turn your heat off, but keep the pot on the still-hot burner. Use a potato masher or wooden spoon to crush the cranberries further until you get a thick sauce.

Green tip: Organic farms rely on biodiversity to generate rich soil, avoiding the use of pesticides and fertilizers, which means no toxic runoff. Consider organic cranberries and oranges for this recipe.

Keeping Some Whole

Once your sauce has formed, add the cranberries you conserved, give it a stir, and cover the pot. Keep the pot on the still-hot burner and leave it covered for about 5 minutes.

This will keep the cranberries whole, but soften them. These whole berries lend a little extra texture to your cranberry sauce.

adding cranberries to a large pot

Should You Have Leftovers

This Brandy Cranberry Sauce will last about two weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Enjoy it cold right out of the fridge.

You can also opt to freeze it for about two months. Just thaw before enjoying.

This long shelf life makes this cranberry sauce a good contender for things you can prep ahead of time.

And once you are ready to reinvent this cranberry sauce into something new, use it for this Leftover Cranberry Sauce Cosmo or this Leftover Cranberry Sauce Coffee Cake.

Green tip: Did you know that of the billions of pounds of food wasted annually, it is estimated that 50% of it happens in our homes? It’s always best to avoid food waste as much as you can!

Cranberry Sauce Frequently Asked Questions

How do you reduce the bitterness in cranberry sauce?

To reduce bitterness, you add sweetness, but it’s not as simple as just adding sugar.

Adding granulated sugar to already cooked cranberry sauce will make it grainy, because the sugar will not dissolve. Try adding a liquid sweetener like simple syrup, honey, maple syrup, or date syrup.

If you catch that your sauce is too bitter during the cooking process, you can add sugar, as heating it will allow it to dissolve.

Regardless of what sweetener you use, add just a little bit at a time, stirring and taste-testing as you go. It can go from too bitter to too sweet rather quickly.

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Is homemade cranberry sauce worth it?

While this answer is definitely subjective, to me the answer is yes!

Not only does making your sauce homemade mean you are using fresh ingredients, but it also gives you more control over the sweetness of your sauce.

Why is my homemade cranberry sauce runny?

If your sauce is too runny, it is probably underdone.

As you cook your sauce and it releases steam, the water is being evaporated, which causes it to thicken. If you find that your sauce is too runny, hit it with a little more heat!

a bowl of cranberry sauce with orange zest sitting on newspaper

Why You Should Make this Brandy Cranberry Sauce

  • It’s unique. The addition of Brandy adds a unique flavor to this awesome sauce.
  • It’s simple. Minimal ingredients, no fancy gadgets. Easy peasy.
  • It’s balanced. Sweet, tangy, and citrus all come through for a complex yet balanced bite.

If you are loving this Cranberry Sauce and need more fun Thanksgiving sides, check out this list of Exciting Thanksgiving Recipes.

brandy cranberry sauce with gold spoon and garnished with rosemary

Easy Brandy Cranberry Sauce

5 from 17 votes
Marley Goldin
This Easy Brandy Cranberry Sauce is simple to make, boasting the perfect balance between tangy and sweet and a subtle hint of floral brandy.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 8 servings


  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • ¾ cup Brandy
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ to ¾ cup granulated sugar (see note below)
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice (2 tbsp usually = juice of ½ an orange)
  • 1 tablespoons orange zest (1 ½ tbsp usually = zest of ½ an orange)
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon


  • Rinse your cranberries and set them aside to dry.
  • In a large pot, bring Brandy, water, orange juice, and sugar to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar is completely dissolved (about 5 minutes).
  • Add 3 and ½ cups cranberries, cinnamon, and orange zest, and continue to cook on medium-high heat uncovered until cranberries burst (about 10 minutes). Conserve the remaining ½ cup of cranberries to add later.
  • Once your cranberries burst, turn off the heat but keep the pot on the hot burner. Use a potato masher or wooden spoon to crush cranberries and stir until you have a thick sauce.
  • Add remaining cranberries and cover, leaving your pot on the burner (with heat off) for another 5 minutes until whole cranberries soften.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and allow to cool before serving.

Pro Tips

  • If you like your cranberry sauce on the tangier side, use ½ cup of sugar. If you like it on the sweeter side, use ¾ cup sugar. I always make it with ½ cup because I find it to be sweet enough with the subtle sweetness of the Brandy or orange juice, but I’ve tested it thoroughly both ways and enjoyed both!
  • Conserve ½ cup of cranberries to add last to add texture to your cranberry sauce.
  • This dish is a classic holiday recipe. For more like this, check out my comprehensive list of best Thanksgiving recipes.
Course Sides
Cuisine American
Diet Vegan
Keyword 30 Minutes or Less, Cranberry Sauce, Easy, Fall, One-Pot, Thanksgiving
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4 thoughts on “Easy Brandy Cranberry Sauce”

  1. Please stop talking about ‘carbon footprint’. It’s a scam by bankers and billionaires to impoverish humanity and take the money off the table. There is no climate crisis. It’s a hoax. Many scientists speaking out – like ‘Covid’ are being suppressed and silenced. I’m going to try to make your recipe now

    1. You of course are entitled to your opinion! Any information I share pertaining to sustainability is backed by research as well as my own hypotheses based on 4 years of education in Environmental Health Science in undergrad and 4 years of education in Public Health while getting my masters degree. Not trying to change your mind, just wanted you to know that I put a lot of care into those little green tips in hopes that it can help people make informed decisions should they choose to and am not just making flippant statements based on any kind of agenda. Thank you so much for trying my recipe! Hope you enjoyed!

    1. Hi Gail!! Such a great question! Unfortunately, canning dairy-based sauces is never recommended because the canning process kills the bacteria in dairy products that fights off botulinum bacteria (harmful bacteria), but I LOVE that you’re thinking about how to reduce waste! It can be frozen in a glass jar or airtight container for 3 months, and stays fresh in the fridge for up to one month. Hope this helps!

4.95 from 17 votes (16 ratings without comment)

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