Cranberry lemon crumble bars are a delicious and easy cranberry bar recipe and my favorite way recipe for fresh cranberries. that has a cranberry and citrus filling and it is so easy to make. These cranberry bars uses cranberries and one shortbread dough for the crust and the crumble. It makes a great dessert to entertain with at the holidays or a dessert to make just for yourself.
About These Cranberry Lemon Bars:
If you have never tried, or made shortbread crumble bars with jam or fruit, they are so delicious! It is a dessert with shortbread crust on the bottom, a fruity layer in the middle and another shortbread layer on top.
These cranberry lemon crumble bars have a crumble topping for the top layer which allows you to peak through to the delicious cranberry layer below.
To make this crumble bar recipe simple, there is only one dough that you need to make for the top and bottom shortbread layers. This saves so much time!
The lemon is added to the fresh cranberries when making the cranberry fruit layer which you will do on the stove before making the bars. You can adjust the amount of citrus added based on your preference.
You can also use frozen cranberries to make the lemon cranberry filling if that is what you have on hand. Another bonus of this recipe is you can use leftover cranberry sauce to make these crumb bars.
So make this before the holidays and after to use up any leftover cranberry sauce 🙂
Ingredients Needed For These Cranberry Crumb Bars
- Unsalted Butter
- All Purpose Flour
- Fresh Cranberries
- Granulated Sugar
- Light Brown Sugar
- Lemon and orange
- Vanilla Extract
Notes about the ingredients
All of the ingredients for these cranberry lemon crumb bars are pretty straightforward and not many substitutions are available. The recipe does call for all purpose flour which if you prefer a slightly lighter cranberry bar, you could substitute half of the flour for almond flour.
I do this with my triple berry shortbread tart and it tastes great. You can also adjust the amount of citrus to your liking for the recipe. If you do not like lemon, you can omit that part and just add orange (and vice versa).
You do want to make sure you are using unsalted butter since there is a lot of it in the recipe and salted butter would add too much salt.
How To Make These Cranberry Crumb Bars
The first thing you want to do is make that delicious cranberry and citrus sauce. This is just a homemade cranberry sauce that takes only a little time on the stove.
You can make this ahead of time as well and refrigerate the sauce until you are ready to make the dessert.
If you are making this dessert at Thanksgiving (like I love to do) just make a double batch of cranberry sauce to use for this dessert and for the main dish all at once.
The next step is starting on the dough that makes the crumb part of these crumb bars. You start by mixing the butter and sugar together.
You want to make sure you mix it well so it becomes a nice creamy texture like in the picture below.
Once you have that butter and sugar mixture creamed up, you can start adding the flour. This is very simple, just mixing the flour and creamed butter until it just starts to form a dough.
You do not need perfection with mixing the dough. Just mix until it all comes together.
Once you have a dough, you divide it in half. This recipe is really easy.
There is one dough for the top and the bottom of these cranberry bars. The dough on the bottom is pressed into the pan which makes a crust.
The dough on top will be crumbled later on to make the crumb.
You will want to pre-bake the dough on the bottom of the pan before moving on to adding the toppings. This will give the crust a head start on cooking all the way through.
It does not need too long in the oven for this step.
After the dough is pre-baked, you can now start adding the toppings. The first step is the cranberry sauce you made earlier.
Just smooth out an even layer over the entire top of the shortbread crust. It does not need to be perfect!
Now you can grab the other half of the dough that you reserved and begin to grab large pieces of the dough and crumble it over the top. This part is reaelly fun and really easy.
You can go back and touch up the crumble topping if you like when you are done adding it. You do this by grabbing pieces that may look too large and break it up with your fingers to make all the crumble topping look uniform.
I like to leave some space between some of the crumble pieces to let the cranberry show through a little. The crumble will not spread.
Now you bake it until golden brown on the top. That is it!
This makes a great dessert to serve to a large group since you can make a lot of it at one time.
You will want to make sure you leave time to let the cranberry crumble bars cool before slicing.
These cranberry lemon bars are to me just the right amount of sweetness with a little bit of sweet and tart in the center from the cranberries. If you like a more bitter cranberry flavor, you can half the amount of sugar in the recipe for the sauce.
Tips for making the best cranberry bars:
These cranberry and citrus bars can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge. I would recommend making these cranberry bars no more than 24 hours in advance.
When serving, remove them from the fridge about 1 hour before you are ready to eat them so they have time to come to room temperature. Alternatively, you can just make the dough portion and cranberry sauce ahead of time and assemble the bars the day you want to eat them.
You will want to remove the dough from the fridge about an hour before you need it so you will be able to press the dough into your pan.
More Easy Dessert Recipes For You:
- Triple Berry Shortbread Tart
- Mixed Berry Crisp
- Easy Creamy Lemon Bars
- Nellie and Joes Key Lime Tart (or pie)
- Balsamic Strawberries
- Easy Cheesecake Bites
- Easy Classic Carrot Cake
- Creamy Lemon Bars
- Pizzelle Cannoli
Cranberry and Citrus Shortbread Crumble Bars
Tried the Recipe? We Would Love To Hear From You In The Comments Below!
- 9x11 pan
- hand mixer or stand mixer
- 12 oz fresh cranberries
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large orange juiced
- 1 lemon zested and juiced
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter 3 sticks of butter at room temperature
- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup light brown sugar firmly packed
- ½ cup granulated white sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 12 oz cranberry citrus sauce see above for recipe
- powdered sugar for serving (optional)
- Add your fresh cranberries, orange juice, lemon juice and zest, sugar, vanilla and salt to a medium sauce pan.12 oz fresh cranberries, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 large orange, 1 lemon, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- Simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer for another 10-15 minutes or until the cranberries begin to burst and the sauce thickens. To test for the right thickness of the sauce, dip a spoon into the cranberry sauce and coat it well. Remove the spoon from the sauce and run your finger down the back of the middle of the spoon. If the line you made through the sauce on the spoon stays and does not fill up again with the sauce from the sides then it is ready.
- Once done, remove from the stove and allow to come to room temperature. The sauce will thicken a bit at this point.
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
- Spray or butter a 9x11-inch pan well so your shortbread comes out easy after baking.
- In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, combine the butter sugar (brown and white) and beat until smooth.1 ½ cups unsalted butter, ½ cup light brown sugar, ½ cup granulated white sugar
- Next, add your vanilla and salt and mix that in.1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon salt
- Now, add your your all purpose flour into the butter mixture and mix on low-speed until the mixture starts to form a ball .3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- Divide your dough in half and wrap up one half and place in the refrigerator until later. Press the other half of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan to form the bottom crust.
- Bake the crust until it is just beginning to turn light brown, around 20 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.
- Place your cranberry sauce over top of the shortbread crust and spread evenly.12 oz cranberry citrus sauce
- Now, take your reserved half of the shortbread out of the refrigerator and crumble the dough over the cranberry sauce to make your crumbled topping, being careful to not have really large pieces.
- Return the pan to the oven and continue baking for another 30-35 minutes until the crumble topping turns golden in color. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
- Once cooled, your can slice up your Cranberry crumble bars and serve!
- Dust with powdered sugar (optional)powdered sugar
Nutrition Values are estimates only.See full nutrition disclaimer here