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Spicy Cranberry Sauce

cranberry sauce in a white serving dish

A Classic Holiday Side with a Spicy and Boozy Twist

Cranberry sauce is ubiquitous at the American holiday table. It is deliciously sweet and tart, perfect with a bite of tender turkey meat. It is also a festive red color, which helps brighten up a plate full of brown gravy, brown stuffing, and brown rolls. But not all cranberry sauce is created equal. Everyone seems to have their own recipe they claim is the best one. We’ll happily hop on that bandwagon and present you with our recipe for spicy cranberry sauce: sweet, sour, hot, and boozy, this is something a little special. 

Brazilian Cranberry Sauce 

You may remember from our recent Thanksgiving in Brazil blog that cranberry sauce is not eaten much in Brazil. This isn’t because Brazilians don’t like it, it is simply that cranberries do not grow there. While tinned options may be available online, most holiday dinners in Brazil omit the cranberries or swap it with a chutney or sauce made from jabuticaba, which are also known as Brazilian grapes. They have a similar taste and texture to cranberries, but with a hint of blueberry. 

Good luck finding jabuticabas in the US, though. They can be grown in tropical areas like Florida, but they are definitely an exotic item around here. So we will stick with the cranberries but with a decidedly Brazilian twist: cachaca and red pepper. The resulting spicy cranberry sauce is unlike any you’ve tasted. 

What Cachaca to Use for Spicy Cranberry Sauce?

You have a couple options when it comes to choosing a cachaca for your spicy cranberry sauce. You could go for a newer, small batch variety, which will have a simpler flavor profile. Young cachaca has a distinctive grassy flavor, courtesy of the fresh sugar cane juice from which it is made. Also known as prata, unaged cachaca is famous as the alcoholic component of a refreshing caipirinha. 

Aged cachaca (“envelhecida”), on the other hand, takes on a more complex flavor. It can taste oaky, like the barrels it is stored in, along with the spice and vanilla flavors of the wood. It maintains that signature grassy flavor, but it is often more mellow. 

In order to be legally designated as cachaca envelhecida, at least half of the liquor volume must have been aged for one year or more in a wooden barrel with a capacity of no more than 700 liters (around 185 gallons). Strict regulations apply to the unaged cachaca as well. 

For this spicy cranberry sauce recipe, we like aged cachaca. Really, though, it is your choice. In a pinch, you can use spiced rum. Just be aware that no Brazilian will agree with you that cachaca and rum are the same thing. 

Other Spicy Cranberry Sauce Ingredients

Obviously, you’ll need cranberries! Fresh is best, but frozen will work as well. You will also need some warming spices: cinnamon sticks and one or two whole cloves. They pair beautifully with the aged cachaca, which has a rich herby flavor and spiciness all its own. 

We couldn’t call this “spicy cranberry sauce” without the other star ingredient: cayenne. We are using a half teaspoon, but you can add more or less depending on your desired level of spice. It will be complemented by the sweetness of orange juice and sugar, and a kiss of vanilla extract for one final note. 

Can You Make Spicy Cranberry Sauce Ahead of Time?

Yes. In fact, it is best if you do make it at least a day ahead so it has time to set. It will keep in the fridge for up to a week before serving. If you wish to make it earlier than that, you can freeze it just as well. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then transfer the sauce to a freezer safe container or gallon bag and freeze until you are ready to use.

Spicy Cranberry Sauce Recipe with Cachaca


12 oz fresh cranberries (one pack)
1 cup of orange juice (with or without pulp)
1 ¼ cups white sugar
8 oz aged cachaca or spiced rum
1 tsp real vanilla extract
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves
½ tsp cayenne pepper


  1. Add the sugar, cachaca, and orange juice to a saucepan over medium high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. 
  2. Reduce the heat to low and add in the cinnamon sticks and cloves. Cover the saucepan and let the spices infuse for 5-10 minutes, then remove them.
  3. Add in your cranberries, vanilla extract, and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine the ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to medium low. 
  4. Simmer the spicy cranberry sauce uncovered until the berries begin to pop. Yes, some of them will actually pop open! Let the mixture continue to simmer until the sauce thickens. 
  5. Transfer the sauce to a container and let it cool and set in the refrigerator for at least six hours, preferably overnight. 

What to Eat with Spicy Cranberry Sauce

Of course, turkey is delicious with this spicy, boozy cranberry sauce. But we have some other ideas:

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