Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies

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
4.95 from 154 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
Total Time 2 hours 27 minutes
Yield 18 cookies
Calories 163kcal
Author Sue Moran


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


  • 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


  • 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


Calories: 163kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 27mg | Sodium: 90mg | Potassium: 18mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 315IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 5mg | Iron: 1mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    December 11, 2020 at 8:51 pm

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

    • Reply
      December 12, 2020 at 5:54 am

      You can do either!

  • Reply
    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
      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
    December 9, 2020 at 5:59 am

    5 stars
    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
      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
      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
    December 7, 2020 at 3:18 pm

    They look delicious! Will they freeze well?

    • Reply
      December 7, 2020 at 7:06 pm

      Yes, shortbread cookies freeze really well.

  • Reply
    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
      December 6, 2020 at 6:09 pm

      That’s great to know, thanks!

  • Reply
    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
    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
      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
        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
      December 6, 2020 at 8:51 am

      Yay 🙂

  • Reply
    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?

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