These cranberry bars are a delicious and easy cranberry dessert that is made with fresh cranberries and a delicious shortbread crumb topping. This recipe uses one shortbread dough for the crust and the crumb topping making it so easy to make. A great dessert to entertain with at the holidays or a dessert to make just for yourself when cranberries are in season.
Why You'll Love These
If you have never tried or made shortbread bars with jam or fruit, they are so delicious! It is a dessert with a shortbread crust on the bottom, a fruity layer in the middle, and another shortbread layer on top.
They are exactly this type of dessert with a crumb topping for the top layer (which allows you to peak through to the delicious cranberry layer below), a delicious fresh cranberry sauce center, and a yummy shortbread crust to hold it all together.
To make this cranberry 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 and orange are added to the 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 cranberry filling if that is what you have on hand. Another bonus of this cranberry bar 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 🙂 These also go really well with my mini crustless pumpkin pies!
- Unsalted Butter: I always use unsalted butter in my baking recipes.
- All Purpose Flour: Use your favorite brand.
- Cranberries: I love making these with fresh cranberries when I can and when they are in season. If cranberries are not in season, go ahead and use frozen cranberries.
- Granulated Sugar
- Light Brown Sugar
- Lemon and orange: The lemon and orange help brighten the cranberries.
- Kosher salt
- Vanilla Extract
All of the ingredients to make these cranberry 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 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).
How To Make Cranberry Bars (Step By Step Photos)
Making these is so easy. Here are all the steps in photos to show you. (full recipe below)
- Make your cranberry mixture. The first thing you want to do is make that delicious cranberry and citrus sauce. This is just a homemade cranberry sauce with orange juice 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.
- Cream sugar and butter. The next step is starting on the dough that makes the crumble part of these crumble 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.
- Now mix your dry ingredients in. Once you have the mixture creamed up, you can start adding the flour. This is very simple, just mix 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.
- Keep mixing until dough forms. It may seem like the dough is not coming together but be patient and keep that mixer going. It will begin to come together all at once.
- Divide dough and refrigerate half. 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 for these. 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.
- Press half of the shortbread dough into the pan and bake. 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.
- Add fresh cranberry mixture to the cooled crust. After the dough is pre-baked, you can now start adding the toppings. Just smooth out an even layer over the entire top of the shortbread crust. It does not need to be perfect!
- Now add crumble topping (the other half of dough from earlier). 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 really fun and really easy. I like to leave some space between some of the crumble pieces to let the cranberry sauce show through a little. The crumble will not spread.
- Bake until golden brown. Now you bake it until golden brown on the top. That is it!
These make 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 them cool before slicing.
These simple and delicious cranberry bars are to me just the right amount of sweetness and the right amount of tart from the cranberries. If you like a more bitter cranberry flavor, you can half the amount of sugar in the recipe for the sauce.
When making these easy cranberry crumble bars, make sure you are using a 9 x 13 pan for the best results. This size pan makes the crust-to-filling the perfect ratio.
How to serve
If you are making these cranberry crumble bars for guests, you can make sugared cranberries to sprinkle over the top for a beautiful presentation. They are delicious to eat too!
If you are looking to add a little more decadence to these holiday bars, you can serve a side of vanilla sauce for guests to drizzle over the top.
I also like just dusting them with a little powdered sugar for a festive look at the holidays.
Making these ahead of time
This cranberry bars recipe can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge. I would recommend making them no more than 24 hours in advance
When serving, remove the bars 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.
If you do have any extra left, they store really well on the counter or in the fridge. If you do store them on the counter, make sure to cover them and store them no more than 2 days this way.
You can store them longer in the fridge, for up to one week.
Cranberry bars are a shortbread crust base with a cranberry filling center that is topped with a crumble topping.
Cranberries are naturally very tart in not high in sugar.
More holiday recipes
If you love this cranberry bars recipe, you may also enjoy these:
More Easy Desserts Like This
- Berry Shortbread Tart
- Mixed Berry Crisp
- Key Lime Tart
- Balsamic Strawberries
- Cheesecake Bites, or Philadelphia Cheesecake and Strawberry Cheesecake
- Easy Classic Carrot Cake
- Creamy Lemon Bars
- Pizzelle Cannoli
The Best Cranberry Crumble Bars
Tried the Recipe? We Would Love To Hear From You In The Comments Below!
- 9x13 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
- 12 oz cranberry citrus sauce see above for recipe
- ½ cup light brown sugar firmly packed
- ½ cup granulated white sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 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