What tastes like pie without the extra work of baking a pie? Our Cranberry Bars, of course. They have a rich, buttery shortbread crust, the wonderfully melded flavors of cranberry and orange, and a rustic, crumbly crust on top.
These Cranberry Bars are an all-occasion treat. Dress them up with ice cream or whipped cream for a fancy and flavorful dessert. Cut them into classic squares for a sweet treat at lunch or mid-afternoon. Serve them on a drizzle of yogurt for a decadent breakfast. Or cut them into small squares, add toothpicks, and set them out as part of a dessert sampler tray.
Over the years, I’ve been a participant in a number of bake sales. I used to make brownies; they’re quick, easy, and popular. One year I made lemon squares; also popular, but more work to cut and wrap those individual sticky-edged bars. One time I made chocolate chip cookies—as did almost everyone else.
Sigh. I figured I better make something a little different to give our bake sale table some variety. We had extra cranberries one year (that’s what I get for forgetting to check the fridge before I head out to the market). Rather than just make an extra batch of cranberry sauce, I decided to pair up the gooey sweetness of cooked cranberries with the always-delicious flavor of shortbread. I’m glad I did!
The Cranberry Bars were a big hit at the bake sale—such a hit, in fact, that now I buy extra cranberries and freeze some so I can be ready at short notice to whip up a batch of this sweet shortbread treat!
Just a reminder that to ensure the shortbread mixture comes out nice and crumbly, use unsalted butter, and make sure the butter’s cold when you start to cut it in with the flour.Print
What’s easy-as-pie to make and just as delicious? Our Cranberry Bars! Get all the flavor of a fancy dessert with a one-pan, no-fuss recipe. Cut the bars into the size you need for dessert or a sweet snack!
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cooling Time: 2 hours
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: 3 hours 5 minutes
- Yield: Makes 18 to 24 squares 1x
- Category: Desserts
- Crust and Crumble Topping
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup (2 sticks) cold, cubed, unsalted butter
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Cranberry Filling
- 4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (Measure frozen cranberries when they’re frozen; do not thaw them.)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 2 teaspoons fresh orange zest
- 1 tablespoon orange juice
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper. If you don’t drape it over the sides of the pan (recommended), spray the sides with non-stick spray.
- For the Crust and Crumble Topping:
- In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together.
- Add the cold, cubed butter. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour until you get pea-size crumbles.
- In another bowl, whisk the egg, milk, and vanilla together.
- Pour the mixture over the crumble mixture. Gently mix together until ingredients look like crumbly sand.
- Set aside 2 cups of the crumbly mixture.
- Pour the remaining mixture into your baking pan and flatten it to make an even crust.
- For the Cranberry Filling:
- Mix the cranberry filling ingredients together. Spread the filling over the packed crust.
- Sprinkle the 2 cups of crumble topping over the cranberry filling.
- Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick comes out mostly clean.
- Take the pan out of the oven and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
- Cut bars into the serving size of your choice. Serve as is or topped with ice cream.
- Store leftover cranberry bars in an airtight container for up to 2 days on the counter or for up to a week in the fridge.
Cranberries have a special place in the American palate. They seem to be most popular for cranberry sauce, cranberry juice cocktail, and cranberry muffins. But there’s so much more to cranberries than that. If you’d like to learn more about growing your own cranberries, check out our Cranberries Gardening Guide: The Complete Guide to Growing, Cooking, and Eating Cranberries.
Have you made Cranberry Bars? How do you serve them? Let us know what you thought about this recipe by commenting below.