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
4.96 from 153 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
    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
      December 30, 2020 at 7:26 am

      Glad you liked them Dolores!

  • Reply
    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
      December 30, 2020 at 7:27 am

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

  • Reply
    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
    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
    December 18, 2020 at 5:33 pm

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

    • Reply
      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
    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
      December 15, 2020 at 7:32 pm

      4 stars
      Mine too

      • Reply
        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
    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
      December 12, 2020 at 9:28 am

      Thanks Elizabeth, love your glaze idea!

    • Reply
      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.

      • Reply
        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
        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
          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!

    • Reply
      December 12, 2020 at 9:21 pm

      Sorry, I meant Su

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