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
Print
4.96 from 152 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

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

Nutrition

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 theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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93 Comments

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    Please rate this recipe!




  • Reply
    Kathy
    December 26, 2021 at 7:32 am

    5 stars
    This was a huge hit this Christmas. Everyone loved it and was asking for the recipe. I personally felt the zest was a bit too much but that’s my personal preference. 🙂 I added white chocolate to the batch which enhanced the flavor. This will be included in my annual Christmas cookie baking list. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply
    Zoesmom
    December 23, 2021 at 7:39 pm

    4 stars
    We loved the flavor but even after cooking longer than suggested time, they seemed too soft.

  • Reply
    Cece
    December 22, 2021 at 12:56 pm

    If I use dried cranberries will I still get the pretty colors? Or does that only happen for fresh cranberries?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      December 22, 2021 at 1:20 pm

      Hi Cece! Fresh cranberries definitely have a brighter color and a more tart flavor, so you won’t get the quite the same look, unfortunately! But dried cranberries will still work in this recipe, it will just be a slightly different cookie.

  • Reply
    Kathy
    December 20, 2021 at 4:22 pm

    can I use dried cranberries.

  • Reply
    Rich Mahogany
    December 18, 2021 at 11:01 am

    4 stars
    Recipe is good, needs salt… I sprinkled each cookie with some crushed kosher salt and it did the trick.

  • Reply
    Laurette
    December 16, 2021 at 11:26 pm

    4 stars
    Sue, how long will they stay fresh if stored in the refrigerator?

  • Reply
    Anne
    December 16, 2021 at 5:26 pm

    Would it be possible to to roll this dough & use a cookie cutter?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      December 16, 2021 at 5:33 pm

      Yes, that will work fine.

  • Reply
    Kathy
    December 15, 2021 at 8:48 pm

    5 stars
    These are delicious. I love the flavors. They are so pretty and melt in your mouth. I will be making another batch soon.

  • Reply
    Jen F.
    December 15, 2021 at 3:09 pm

    The way to avoid pink colored dough is to *painstakingly*
    slice each cranberry super thin, by hand. I did it that way and my dough looks exactly like the photos.

  • Reply
    Paula Morin
    December 14, 2021 at 3:00 pm

    I made these cookies, they are amazing. I will be making them again In a week for Christmas with my grandkids. I love the tangents of the cranberries and the sweetness of the orange. They came out delicious my friends love them.? ?

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