Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies




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a stack of cranberry orange cookies

Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies might just be the perfect little slice and bake cookies for the holidays, I’ll be making them right through to when I snag that last bag of fresh cranberries of the season (always a sad moment!)

a stack of cranberry orange shortbread cookies

We fell in love with these cranberry orange shortbread cookies at first bite

These unique cookies are made with fresh tart cranberries and lots of orange zest, which gives them that wonderful holiday flavor combination we’ve come to love. And by using fresh cranberries instead of dried, these cookies have a vivid cranberry flavor like no other I’ve tasted. They’ll brighten up any holiday cookie assortment.

a stack of cranberry orange cookies

What you’ll need: it’s a short list!

  • fresh cranberries ~ this is one case where I don’t recommend frozen because they will release too much moisture into the dough. Could you use dried cranberries? Yes, but it would be a completely different cookie.
  • fresh orange zest ~ I actually used tangerine zest because I have a bowl of beauties on my counter, and tangerine has a distinctive citrus flavor that I love.
  • butter ~unsalted
  • sugar ~ granulated
  • flour ~all purpose
  • vanilla extract ~ if you prefer you could use almond extract

slicing a log of cranberry orange shortbread cookie dough

Get your holiday baking done early

The good news: shortbread cookies freeze beautifully, and you can freeze them before or after baking.

to freeze before baking

  • wrap the log of dough really well, I like to wrap in plastic, then in foil, and then put in a heavy duty zip log bag. When ready to bake, leave the log in the refrigerator overnight to thaw.

to freeze baked cookies

  • let them cool completely, then layer them, separated by sheets of parchment paper, in a sturdy freezer container and freeze.

cranberry orange cookies on a cooling rack

Tips for making fresh cranberry cookies

  • I like to chop my cranberries in a small food processor, I just pulse to chop them finely. Some texture is fine, there will be a few bigger pieces. You can also use a sharp knife.
  • Be sure to start with room temperature butter. Soft butter will incorporate into the flour to form a dough whereas cold butter won’t. This is especially important with shortbread dough that doesn’t include any extra liquid.
  • Be sure to bring your dough together completely ~ you don’t want any dry flour or crumbly bits left. You can let the processor bring it together or you can do that final bit with your hands on a lightly floured surface. Shortbread dough does not contain egg or other liquid so it’s essential that you combine the soft butter and the flour completely to form the dough.
  • Thicker sliced cookies will bake up softer, and thinner ones will crisp a bit. You can also control the texture by how long you bake the cookies. I suggest baking one or two first as a test. I like mine melt-in-my-mouth tender, but you might like your crispier.

cranberry cookies on a cooling rack

More shortbread cookies to try

 

a plate of cranberry orange shortbread cookies

a stack of cranberry orange cookies
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4.93 from 52 votes

Cranberry Shortbread Cookies

Buttery shortbread slice and bake cookies studded with plenty of fresh tart cranberries!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
chilling 2 hours
Yield 16 -18 cookies
Author Sue Moran

Equipment

  • food processor (optional)
  • waxed paper or plastic wrap for wrapping your log of dough

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • zest of one orange or tangerine (just the orange part, not the bitter white pith)
  • 1 heaping cup fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Finely chop the cranberries and set aside.
    a bag of fresh cranberries
  • Cream the butter, sugar, and zest together until well combined. I do this in my food procesor.
    creaming butter, sugar, and citrus zest togethr
  • Add the flour and extract, and pulse about 10 times, then run the machine briefly, just until the dough comes together into a lump or lumps.
    Making shortbread dough in a food processor
  • Add the cranberries and pulse just until they are distributed, but don't process too much.
    making cranberry shortbread cookie dough in food processor
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and bring together with your hands. Work it just until it is no longer crumbly.
    Cranberry orange shortbread dough in processor
  • Form the dough into a 10-12 inch log. The longer your log the smaller your cookies will be. Wrap the log in plastic, using the plastic to smooth out the dough and help form your log. Twist the ends tight to seal.
    a log of cranberry shortbread cookie dough
  • Chill the dough for at least 3 hours, or overnight. I like to wrap up my log in a folded towel ~ this helps keep it round as it chills.
    wrapping log of cookie dough in thick towel
  • Preheat the oven to 350F Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
  • Slice the dough into 1/3 inch slices and place on the cookie sheet, two inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or slightly longer if you like your cookies crisper. They will be pale on top and just turning golden on the bottom. Note: if your cookies are smaller or thinner than mine, they may take less time to cook.
    cranberry shortbread cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment
  • Let them cool for a couple of minutes on the baking sheets and then tranfer them to a cooling rack. Be careful, the cookies are soft and delicate when hot and will firm up as they cool.
    cranberry orange cookies on a cooling rack
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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57 Comments

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    Please rate this recipe!




  • Reply
    Cindy
    January 10, 2021 at 4:38 pm

    4 stars
    My husband didn’t care for these, saying they didn’t have enough flavor. I think they might be better if I used the rind of two oranges instead of one, but for now, I’m going to make an orange glaze or frosting to put on them to amp up the orange flavor a little more. Other than that, I really enjoyed them, so yay, more for me!

  • Reply
    L Allen
    January 4, 2021 at 7:53 pm

    5 stars
    These cookies were wonderful, easy to make and a perfect Christmas cookie. I appreciate the details of a well written recipe. This is a perfect example of what an author should do to help people succeed in making good food. Thank you. (I used dried cranberries rehydrated in warm water, then drained and the recipe was still a success).

  • Reply
    Dolores Brandt i
    December 29, 2020 at 9:13 pm

    5 stars
    These are amazing! My adult daughter commented they were her favorite of my this year’s holiday baking. I chopped the Cranberries in my food processor but used my mixer for blending the ingredients.

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 30, 2020 at 7:26 am

      Glad you liked them Dolores!

  • Reply
    Dawn
    December 29, 2020 at 8:14 am

    5 stars
    I agree with Lorinda, this was a winner! I made about 10 different cookies this holiday season and this was my favourite. I made them 3 different times each time refrigerating them and making them the following morning. They were excellent. And it so so easy! I sprinkled sugar on them after I removed them from the oven. They looked gorgeous and even a week later we ( rather I) am still enjoying them right out of the pantry. I will definitely make these every year going forward. Thanks for an excellent recipe.

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 30, 2020 at 7:27 am

      Thanks Dawn, these have become a favorite here, too 🙂

  • Reply
    Lorinda
    December 26, 2020 at 4:26 pm

    5 stars
    Sue, this is another winner recipe! I added chopped pecans and they were a lovely addition. Everyone gobbled them up! Love, love, LOVE your recipes!

  • Reply
    Shauna Fernandez
    December 24, 2020 at 4:21 pm

    5 stars
    I subbed regular flour for gluten free and these were delicious!

  • Reply
    Theresa
    December 20, 2020 at 6:16 am

    4 stars
    I was distracted while making these and used reduced sugar craisins instead and they came out great.

  • Reply
    Celeste
    December 18, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    I felt something was missing. Another recipe like said baking powder. Took much longer to cook.

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 19, 2020 at 5:43 am

      Hey Celeste, shortbread doesn’t contain any leavener because it isn’t supposed to rise. You might check your oven temp with a thermometer for accuracy, so many of them are off.

  • Reply
    Penny Ramirez
    December 13, 2020 at 8:22 pm

    5 stars
    Sue, these cookies are amazing! So pretty, and of course, delicious. I’m already planning to bake a second batch! Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Reply
    Su
    December 12, 2020 at 10:28 am

    The dough tastes great but it turned pink! Did this happen to anyone else? It looks pretty though. The dough is in fridge right now so I haven’t a final product yet.

    • Reply
      Candace
      December 15, 2020 at 7:32 pm

      4 stars
      Mine too

      • Reply
        Cindy
        January 10, 2021 at 4:41 pm

        4 stars
        The dough for my second batch turned a little pink because I processed the cranberries more than I did on the first one. I didn’t mind.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth
    December 12, 2020 at 9:12 am

    5 stars
    These cookies are fabulous Sue! So easy to make. I decided to make a powdered sugar and orange glaze to drizzle on them… OMG are they ever addictive 🙂 So good. Thanks for all the great recipes you post. They are always spot on.

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 12, 2020 at 9:28 am

      Thanks Elizabeth, love your glaze idea!

    • Reply
      Sherri
      December 12, 2020 at 9:18 pm

      Hi Elizabeth, my dough turned pink as well and is also a little soft and sticky. I have it sitting in the fridge now to firm up before I form it into a log. I’m thinking my butter may have been to soft. Fingers crossed.
      Sherri

      • Reply
        Sue
        December 13, 2020 at 5:45 am

        When I use frozen berries my dough turns pink, but not with fresh. Maybe your berries were extra juicy? The pink color should be pretty, and the flavor should be fine.

      • Reply
        Su
        December 13, 2020 at 6:32 am

        Hi Sherri, The cookies do look “pretty in pink” and taste great but mine are a bit cake like. I believe it is because I used a short patent flour by mistake. (all they had at the market) Also next time I will chop the cranberries in the food processor and do the rest in a mixing bowl. I believe the food processor made my dough too warm. Maybe the dough won’t turn pink if I use the mixer as perhaps the cranberries got too chopped and released too much juice. I will try again! Merry Christmas! Su

        • Reply
          Sherri
          December 13, 2020 at 9:02 pm

          Hi Su, I believe you are right! We overprocessed both the berries and dough. My cookies flavor and texture turned out great. Next time I will use the mixer or just do it by hand. Merry Christmas!
          Sherri

    • Reply
      Sherri
      December 12, 2020 at 9:21 pm

      Sorry, I meant Su

  • Reply
    Stefanie
    December 11, 2020 at 8:51 pm

    Should I freeze the log and then thaw and bake or freeze the baked cookies?

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 12, 2020 at 5:54 am

      You can do either!

  • Reply
    Dianne
    December 9, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Hi! Would these keep their shape if cut and baked in shapes? Also, sanding sugar sprinkled before baking tried by anyone? The recipe looks delicious. Baking tonight!

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 9, 2020 at 2:04 pm

      Yes, these will hold their shape, but you wouldn’t want to use anything too intricate. Be sure to chill the cut cookies before baking for best results. The cookies can be sprinkled before baking, but larger crystal sugar holds up best.

  • Reply
    Melody
    December 9, 2020 at 5:59 am

    5 stars
    OHMYGOODNESS!
    I absolutely NEVER have good luck with shortbread. But these came out beautifully & taste soooooooo lovely! They will be a marvelous addition to my dessert charcuterie board Christmas Day.
    Thank you for the recipe.

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 9, 2020 at 6:54 am

      I’m so happy Melody, I really loved them too. Happy Holidays!

  • Reply
    Beth Kimball
    December 8, 2020 at 8:53 am

    Thank you for the recipe, looks great.
    It says to cut 1/3″, that would be 30 cookies if the roll is 10″ long. Recipe says it makes 16.
    Should they be cut thicker or does it make more than 16?

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 8, 2020 at 9:22 am

      Hey Beth ~ this is always an issue with slice and bake cookies, I don’t usually count the ends, since they don’t bake up as well as the other slices, and the math never seems to work out, lol. I may cut mine slightly thicker than 1/3 inch, but you can certainly make thinner cookies if you like, just watch the baking time.

  • Reply
    Stacy
    December 7, 2020 at 3:18 pm

    They look delicious! Will they freeze well?

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 7, 2020 at 7:06 pm

      Yes, shortbread cookies freeze really well.

  • Reply
    Patty
    December 6, 2020 at 4:55 pm

    5 stars
    I used dried cranberries. I soaked them in hot water for 30 minutes and drained them well and spread them out on chopping board, pat dry then chopped them. Worked out well!

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 6, 2020 at 6:09 pm

      That’s great to know, thanks!

  • Reply
    Andrea
    December 6, 2020 at 2:16 pm

    5 stars
    I made a batch of these today and they are delicious. Such a great addition to my holiday baking.

  • Reply
    Jean
    December 6, 2020 at 8:43 am

    I have two bags of cranberries in the freezer. Would prefer not to use them frozen…. will thawing them first work or be “soggy”?

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 6, 2020 at 8:50 am

      I think they’d be too soggy Jean, but not 100% sure. I’ve tried these with chopped frozen berries and it didn’t work that well, the dough got sticky. I haven’t tried with thawed berries, but I assume the result would be the same, sorry.

      • Reply
        Jean
        December 6, 2020 at 10:52 pm

        Just an excuse to buy more fresh cranberries!! I’ll save the frozen berries for a cake. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Dale Cady
    December 6, 2020 at 8:17 am

    5 stars
    These cookies were outstanding. I wouldn’t change a thing.

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 6, 2020 at 8:51 am

      Yay 🙂

  • Reply
    Becky
    December 3, 2020 at 6:42 pm

    We make our shortbread way ahead of time, because the longer it’s in that sealed cookie tin, the better they taste. Do the fresh cranberries give these a shorter shelflife then regular shortbread cookies?

  • Reply
    Tracy
    December 3, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    I don’t have a food processor, but I do have a stand mixer. After the chopping and zesting, can you use the mixer instead?

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 3, 2020 at 4:08 pm

      Yes, that will work great. Be sure your butter is at room temperature.

  • Reply
    Marie-Charlotte Chatelain
    December 3, 2020 at 10:47 am

    5 stars
    These look amazing! They will totally go onto my holiday cookie platter

  • Reply
    Melanie L Ebert
    December 3, 2020 at 10:42 am

    Hi Sue,
    I so love cranberries in anything, so I plan on making you cranberry shortbread cookies.
    In the short list you reference salt, but in the main recipe, no salt in the ingredients.
    Do we use salt or no.

    Thanks so much and keep baking and sending us your recipes. I have tried so many!1

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 3, 2020 at 11:22 am

      Thanks for spotting that Melanie, I removed it from the earlier list. I didn’t use salt in this recipe but I often add pinch. it’s a matter of taste in this case.

  • Reply
    Dannii
    December 3, 2020 at 10:31 am

    5 stars
    I love the flavour combo of cranberry and orange. These look delicious.

  • Reply
    April
    December 3, 2020 at 10:29 am

    5 stars
    These are now my favorite shortbread cookies. They had so much flavor and I loved the cranberries.

  • Reply
    Anita
    December 3, 2020 at 10:20 am

    5 stars
    First time using fresh cranberries other than making homemade cranberry sauce and was not disappointed! These cookies are delicious and look so festive.

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 3, 2020 at 10:37 am

      You are so quick Anita! Glad you liked them.

  • Reply
    Jess
    December 3, 2020 at 9:14 am

    5 stars
    I love cranberry and orange together! They complement each other so well.

  • Reply
    Laurie
    December 2, 2020 at 4:05 pm

    My husband doesn’t really like shortbread cookies, but he wants me to make these. Can’t wait to try them.

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 2, 2020 at 5:37 pm

      Hope they’re a hit Laurie 🙂

  • Reply
    Lisa Williams
    December 2, 2020 at 6:26 am

    Will this recipe work with frozen cranberries?

    I’m not far from you…Bailey Island!

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 2, 2020 at 6:57 am

      Most of the time I say that frozen cranberries work just fine in place of fresh, but not in this case. I tried it with frozen and they’re just too wet, they interfere with the texture of the shortbread dough. You could use dried cranberries, though.

  • Reply
    Lorinda
    December 2, 2020 at 6:19 am

    Sue, these cookies sound amazing! Can’t wait to make them!

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 2, 2020 at 6:20 am

      They have such a bright flavor Lorinda, we loved them 🙂