Fresh Cranberry Bars

Fresh Cranberry Bars are buttery shortbread crumble bars bursting with fresh tart cranberries and the combination is pure heaven. If you haven’t baked with zingy cranberries yet, now is the time to start!

A stack of Fresh Cranberry Bars with a fork.

fresh cranberry bars are a delicious celebration of cranberry season!

When I spotted the first stack of fresh cranberries in my supermarket the other day I lunged at them. Even though cranberry production still exceeds demand in this country, you never know when people are going to wake up and figure out that fresh cranberries have so much more to offer than just being boiled up into a sauce. I like to hedge my bets and stock up the minute I see them. Remember the great pumpkin shortages of  ’06, ’08, ’09, and ’11? I don’t take any chances with my fall staples.

Two bags of fresh cranberries.

don’t be afraid of fresh cranberries!

I use them like any other berry, there’s no need to cook them first or add a lot of sugar. They burst open in the oven and form a ruby red layer in these bars that has a wonderful lemony tartness.

A stack of Fresh Cranberry Bars with a fork and fresh cranberries.

cranberry shortbread bars are a versatile holiday treat

These are perfect for pot-lucks, bake sales, book groups, office parties, all that stuff. They pack and travel well, and can be eaten with fingers or forks. I think these are the easiest of all the crumble bars that I’ve made (and I’ve made a lot) because the cranberries just get scattered in between the layers of shortbread dough. There’s only one bowl to worry about, no nuts to chop, no spices to measure. This is definitely one of those recipes that could become habit forming, in a good way.

Fresh Cranberry Bars before baking.

the flavor of cranberries blooms in the oven

They get soft and jammy, and become even more brilliant red when they bake, so these bars are especially pretty. I use vanilla in these cranberry bars, but you can also use almond extract, and then the cranberries take on a cherry flavor.

Fresh Cranberry Bars and fresh cranberries on a wooden surface.

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Cranberry Christmas Cake

Cranberry Apple Butter

A cranberry shortbread bar on a wooden surface.
3.84 from 313 votes

Fresh Cranberry Bars

Fresh Cranberry Bars are buttery shortbread crumble bars bursting with fresh tart cranberries and the combination is pure heaven. If you haven't baked with zingy cranberries yet, now is the time to start!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Yield 12 bars
Calories 260kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract
  • 2 cups cake flour, or you can use regular flour
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed and patted dry


  • Set the oven to 350F
  • Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the salt and vanilla.
  • Mix in the flour, just until combined.
  • Line an 8×8 or 9×9 baking pan with parchment paper or foil with overhanging edges, this will make it easy to lift the bars out of the pan for cutting. Alternatively you can just lightly spray the pan with non-stick spray.
  • Using your fingers, pat 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the pan. The dough will be soft and sticky, do your best to cover the entire surface of the bottom, but you don’t need to compact the dough, just lightly pat it down.
  • Spread the cranberries out across the dough, and then, using your fingers again, crumble the remaining dough on top. Try to get the dough in smallish crumbles, but don’t worry about covering all the cranberries, they will show through.
  • Bake for about 45-50 minutes until just beginning to get golden around the edges.
  • Cool on a rack.


Calories: 260kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 100mg | Potassium: 36mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 481IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 9mg | 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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  • Reply
    October 8, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    i LOVE that this is a minimal monday post: cranberry bars with few ingredients? sold. i can’t wait to make these. i haven’t seen cranberries yet in the markets, but i haven’t really set about looking for them either. that changes today, thanks to these. gorgeous, Sue.

  • Reply
    October 8, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Hooray, cranberries! We still have some in our freezer from last fall, and now I think I know just what to do with them. 🙂

    • Reply
      October 8, 2013 at 11:11 am

      Wow, mine never last that long!

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    October 8, 2013 at 9:29 am

    These are so pretty. Love the vibrant red color. I guess a trip to the store is needed asap!

  • Reply
    Karen Harris
    October 8, 2013 at 8:06 am

    Is it that time already?! These look delicious and so simple to make. These will definitely make an appearance in my kitchen soon.

    • Reply
      October 8, 2013 at 8:34 am

      I know…right about now the days start whizzing by at warp speed…

  • Reply
    October 8, 2013 at 7:07 am

    I have been getting email notifications for your blog posts for only a short time but so look forward to them. This is another wonderful recipe I am going to try. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Reply
      October 8, 2013 at 8:40 am

      Thanks Julie, glad to have you with us!

  • Reply
    Laura (Tutti Dolci)
    October 7, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    I love cranberry bars, these are so pretty!

  • Reply
    Denise @ magnoliaverandah
    October 7, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Oh YES the perfect Christmas nibble! How beautiful do they look and no sugar – this is a bonus!

  • Reply
    October 7, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    These look awesome, Sue! Thanks for the link to my cake as well. I just took some cranberries out of the freezer this afternoon to play with a gluten free version.:)

  • Reply
    Averie @ Averie Cooks
    October 7, 2013 at 11:49 am

    I almost never (ever?) see anyone bake with fresh cranberries and not doctor them up in a sugary sauce first or feel the need to first cook them down. I love this idea, Sue, of just adding them and treating them like any other berry!

  • Reply
    October 7, 2013 at 9:52 am

    dare I say these are almost christmassy!… they look so special and I bet they’re just the right (or wrong) side of tart!.. I love ’em!

    • Reply
      October 7, 2013 at 10:57 am

      Very Christmassy, I was going to say they would look very holiday-ish on a tray garnished with something green.

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