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 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
    November 26, 2020 at 8:32 am

    5 stars
    Made this recipe and loved it. I used cake flour and sifted it before measuring out the 2 cups. Should I have measured out 2 cups then sifted it? Doing the latter would add more flour to the recipe and I wonder if that would make it a little less sticky. Do you usually sift the cake flour before or after measuring it (or do you sift it at all)? Thanks.

  • Reply
    March 31, 2020 at 9:01 am

    Well, the pandemic is here and, like most of the world, we are making use of what we have in the house. Which for us includes four bags of cranberries in the freezer since Thanksgiving. Not sure what I was thinking at the time, but now that I’ve found your recipe I know exactly what I am going to do with them. Thanks for the great idea! Our memories of being housebound will involve many yummy servings of this sweet treat.

    • Reply
      March 31, 2020 at 9:20 am

      I only wish I had some leftover bags in the freezer, used mine long ago :/ I hope you enjoy them, Wendy ~ stay safe and healthy!

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      November 5, 2021 at 4:24 pm

      I measure first, then sift.

  • Reply
    February 22, 2020 at 8:43 am

    5 stars
    Amazing recipe – thank you
    We found it hard not to eat the whole cake in one evening!!
    Could I use frozen cranberries or would it make the cake too soggy?
    This will become one of our favourites.

    • Reply
      February 22, 2020 at 1:13 pm

      Glad you liked these Maggie ~ I’m not sure about the frozen berries, they might make the bars soggy but I’m not certain. It’s worth a try, for sure.

    • Reply
      Elise Starbird
      February 28, 2020 at 2:02 pm

      5 stars
      Hi! I have made this 3 or 4 times now & always use frozen berries. It is delicious every time. Never soggy. Hope this helps!

      • Reply
        February 28, 2020 at 2:58 pm

        Thanks Elise 🙂

  • Reply
    February 14, 2020 at 5:25 pm

    5 stars
    Love this recipe. It had me at cranberry!!!!!!! Made it exactly as the recipe suggested and it was perfect. It’s a keeper and l’ll make it again and again. Thank you 🙂

  • Reply
    Michelle Love
    December 29, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    5 stars
    I love this recipe so much that I decided to try it with blueberries instead so my husband would love it too. LOL.
    Now I need HELP. I made it twice before with cranberries and it turned out perfect but the one time I try blueberries the bottom crust comes out rock hard. ?? Completely inedibly hard. I have no idea why it would come out differently when I didn’t make any changes to the dough. ? Any idea?

    • Reply
      December 29, 2019 at 4:48 pm

      I don’t know what could have changed Michelle, but it does sound like something was different to make it come out that way. Did you by chance pack it down really hard that time? Or could the oven have been hotter?

      • Reply
        Michelle Love
        December 29, 2019 at 5:01 pm

        The oven was set at 350° just like the first two batches. I suppose it is possible I may have patted down the bottom crust more this time around. Would that cause it to harden?

        • Reply
          December 29, 2019 at 5:14 pm

          It doesn’t seem like it would make that much difference…but I always make sure not to cram it in real tightly.

          • Michelle Love
            December 29, 2019 at 6:22 pm

            I’ll try it again in the next couple days and update. ?

          • Michelle Love
            December 31, 2019 at 5:22 pm

            5 stars
            I tried it with blueberries again and it turned out perfect! With the cranberries I ended up needing to leave it in for 50-55 mins so that’s what I did with the first batch of blueberry ones. This batch I only put in for the 45 mins and I didn’t pack down the bottom crust and I guess that did the trick.

            Thank you for this recipe. It will forever be a favorite of mine! ?

          • Sue
            December 31, 2019 at 5:39 pm

            I’m so relieved you worked it out, I’ll try it with blueberries next time.

  • Reply
    Michelle Love
    December 27, 2019 at 5:52 pm

    5 stars
    I don’t bake often but these looked easy enough so I tried them. Twice. Family loved them! As did I.
    Now I’m wondering…. Do you think blueberries would work just as well in place of the cranberries?

    • Reply
      December 27, 2019 at 8:42 pm

      I think they would work well.

      • Reply
        October 17, 2020 at 6:45 pm

        5 stars
        Love this recipe! I found it last year and have been waiting for cranberries to appear this year so I could make again! Next time I’m at the store I’m going to stock up so I can make these all winter! Really easy and delicious!!

  • Reply
    December 8, 2019 at 6:55 pm

    5 stars
    Very good and easy to follow! Only thing I did differently is add a little bit of cinnamon to the cranberries and sprinkled a little bit of sugar on the top before baking. Everyone loved them!

  • Reply
    molli hamilton
    November 28, 2019 at 10:04 am

    5 stars
    I made this yesterday and served today with our Thanksgiving dinner. It was a huge hit! Thanks so much for the easy and delicious recipie!

    • Reply
      November 28, 2019 at 11:06 am

      Thank you Molli and Happy Thanksgiving to you too :))

  • Reply
    November 27, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    5 stars
    I love this recipei have made it the last 3 years to take to thanksgiving, its yummy and delicious!

  • Reply
    January 8, 2019 at 7:37 pm

    These are good. The first time I made them the dough wasn’t sweet enough. They were still good but the second time I made them I used a full cup of sugar and added 2T of brown sugar to the topping. I also added small chocolate chips. It was amazing with chocolate.

    • Reply
      January 9, 2019 at 9:04 am

      Oooh, the chocolate sounds good!

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