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.

you can never have too many cranberry recipes

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Cranberry Apple Crisp

Fresh Cranberry Muffins

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Fresh Cranberry White Chocolate Scones

Cranberry Christmas Cake

Cranberry Apple Butter

A cranberry shortbread bar on a wooden surface.
3.84 from 314 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
    November 18, 2018 at 8:24 am

    5 stars
    Sue, I made this last year with regular flour and loved them! I made them this morning and used cake flour and they are delicious. I love this recipe! So pretty to serve as well. It’s a keeper! Thank you!

    • Reply
      November 18, 2018 at 11:22 am

      I keep forgetting to get cake flour, I love what it does to baked goods…glad you liked this and enjoy your holidays 🙂

  • Reply
    November 17, 2018 at 2:40 pm

    I would like to make these in a half sheet pan. Do you think tripling the recipe would work? I’ve had success doing that with a brownie recipe that calls for an 8×8 pan.

    • Reply
      November 17, 2018 at 3:11 pm

      I think that should work!

      • Reply
        November 18, 2018 at 4:11 pm

        5 stars
        They were a huge hit! I received a lot of requests for the recipe. Thank you for such a delicious and easy treat!

  • Reply
    January 20, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    I’m a little late making these, but I’m stuck at home in the snow with only salted butter – will it work to use, and just leave out the salt calledfoe in the recipe? Thanks!!

    • Reply
      January 20, 2018 at 2:28 pm

      I think that will be just fine, and enjoy your snow day!

    • Reply
      November 17, 2018 at 4:35 pm

      In the oven now. Looks great so far!

  • Reply
    December 17, 2017 at 8:38 am

    5 stars
    Dear Sue, Thank you so much for posting this recipe–it’s absolutely delicious! I’ve made it 3 times since Thanksgiving and it’s been a hit every single time. Yesterday’s version was for a holiday party so I made them in springform pans. By lining with parchment on the bottom, I was able to display them as a beautiful round “pie” even after slicing into squares. Doubling the recipe resulted in the perfect quantity for a 10″ AND an 8″ round pan. I have been using a little less butter (1.75 sticks instead of 2) and regular flour and it comes out great! Next time I’ll try adding orange zest to the berry layer.

    • Reply
      December 17, 2017 at 8:43 am

      I love the idea of serving it in the round, thanks for the tip Suwin. And orange zest sounds amazing, why didn’t I think of that??

  • Reply
    December 16, 2017 at 9:12 am

    5 stars
    Just whipped these up with some leftover fresh cranberries from the holiday and they turned out amazing !!!

    • Reply
      December 16, 2017 at 9:25 am

      Enjoy Kelly, just thinking about them makes my mouth water!

  • Reply
    December 5, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    Getting ready to make this. Two sticks of butter for a 8×8 pans seems like a lot. But nobody has mentioned so I guess it’s fine.

    • Reply
      December 5, 2017 at 4:50 pm

      It’s a butter shortbread type dough, Tommy, I use this proportion in most of my crumble bars and they turn out delicious!

      • Reply
        December 17, 2017 at 12:59 pm

        5 stars
        They were great! Made them twice already and of I get off here I’ll make another batch. I was low on butter and finished with shortening the first time. Worked fine.

        • Reply
          December 17, 2017 at 1:01 pm

          By the way I used whole wheat pastry flour (fine).

        • Reply
          December 17, 2017 at 1:21 pm

          Thanks Tommy!

  • Reply
    November 23, 2017 at 11:11 am

    Hi, sue
    Thank you so much for the quick reply.
    I’ll try the “flour method” next time, which will be Christmas.
    I hope the dough will be easier to handle, because this recipe is definitely a keeper.
    Thank you again! Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

  • Reply
    November 23, 2017 at 8:53 am

    I made this last year for thanksgiving dinner and everyone liked it.
    I used AP flour and regular butter omitting adding salt, just because that’s I always have in the house and I hate buying something just for this recipe.
    Anyways, it came out delicious, so I decided to make it again this year.
    Actually, it’s in the oven right now:)
    This time I decided to follow your recipe exactly using cake flour and unsalted butter.
    …dough is SO sticky, I had very hard time spreading it in the pan.
    They stuck to my fingers. Using non stick spatula did not help.
    I don’t recall this happened last year.
    Any suggestion?
    Shall I put the dough in the fridge for a while first?
    I’d appreciate any suggestions.
    Thank you in advance.

    • Reply
      November 23, 2017 at 9:08 am

      The shortbread dough is sticky, Toko, and sometimes I’ll flour my fingers to help with the sticking. So don’t worry, that’s the way it’s supposed to be! Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

  • Reply
    November 19, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    5 stars
    I made these tonight and they came out delicious! My husband and I had a hard time waiting for them because they smelled so amazing in the oven! Yours look much thinner than mine, but I used a 9×9 pan…. how do you think they’d do in a 13×9 at less time?

    • Reply
      November 19, 2017 at 5:29 pm

      Thanks Katie, I’m so glad you liked these. I think you might be able to double the recipe and make it in the larger pan. I think the baking time should be a little longer, if you double the recipe that is.

  • Reply
    Patti J. Stewart
    November 10, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    5 stars
    Oh my! Your recipe is making it to the family recipe box of thing we have to make. What a hit, Sue. Thank you for making a wonderful and wicked easy recipe. Dave and I love them and I am sure the entire family will for the holidays. I wanted to add a picture, but could not get it to happen. They came out just perfect.

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