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Cranberry Bars

5 from 16 votes

With a shortbread-like bottom and perfectly balanced cranberry topping, these Cranberry Bars are not too sweet and simply loaded with fabulous flavors. They’re easy to make with fresh or frozen cranberries and are a welcome treat on any fall or holiday table. These bars are truly one of my favorite recipes.

cranberry bars on a white platter

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A cookie-like crust and not-too-sweet jammy cranberry filling make these Cranberry Bars a delectable treat. And when you jazz them up with a drizzle of white chocolate, they look oh-so pretty! Not too pretty to eat, though – just watch how fast they get gobbled up!

I used to make these at my deli. We’d make them by the giant pan, cut them into big squares, and they’d sell out in a jiffy. My pastry chef, Sallie, used to just shake her head and chuckle at the number of pans of cranberry dessert bars she’d make each week. They’re just that good. Trust me. Make them for your next cookie exchange or for the next holiday season. Try these amazing cranberry squares and your family will be hooked, too!

What You Need To Make Cranberry Bars

Don’t worry, this recipe makes one batch – about 12 squares depending on how small you cut them. If you do want to make a big batch, this recipe doubles, triples, and even quadruples like a dream – just in case you’re making them for a holiday party where they’re sure to be a huge hit. See the full recipe at the bottom of this post for detailed ingredients and instructions.

  • 8 x 8 baking dish
  • Parchment paper
  • Cold butter
  • White Sugar
  • All purpose flour
  • Cranberries – fresh or frozen – see my notes below
  • Light brown sugar
  • Pure vanilla or vanilla extract
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • White candy melts or white chocolate for the drizzle

What Kind of Cranberries Do I Need?

If you have access to fresh, tart cranberries, use those. This recipe is the perfect use of leftover cranberries. Measure them out and dump them into a bowlful of water. They’ll bob around in the water letting you pick through them – toss out any squishy cranberries.

This gives them a good wash at the same time.

Frozen cranberries can also be used. They’ve already been cleaned and picked through so go ahead and just use them from the bag.

cranberry bars on a plate

How To Make Cranberry Bars with White Chocolate Drizzle

This cranberry dessert recipe is an easy fix that’s made in two stages. Be sure to line your pan with parchment paper for easy removal (I’ll tell you how below), and bake the bottom cookie layer before adding the top. See the full recipe at the bottom of this post for detailed ingredients and instructions.

  1. Cut two strips of parchment paper as wide as the inside of your baking dish, but make the strips long enough so that they’ll hang up over the edge by a wee bit. For an 8 x 8 baking dish, you’ll need two strips 8″ wide and about 15″ long, or longer depending on how high the sides are of your baking pan.
  2. Lay the strips crosswise in the bottom of your baking dish. You’re going to bake the bottom layer on top of the parchment strips so you can remove the cranberry bars easily from the pan.

OR

  1. Spray the baking dish well with baking spray. To get the cranberry bars out later, you’ll need to freeze the whole dish of cranberry bars and then lift them out while frozen. I’ve got more tips on doing this below.

To make this cranberry bar recipe:

  1. Using a pastry blender or a fork, cut the butter into the flour and sugar until the butter is in smallish chunks. I get into the bowl with very clean fingers and use my hands to break up the butter. You want this mixture to have coarse crumbs and be crumbly with visible flecks of butter.
  2. Press the crumb layer into the bottom of the baking dish. I use an offset spatula and it makes this job so easy.
  3. Bake the bottom layer on the middle rack in a preheated 350-F oven for 15-20 minutes or until it is lightly golden brown.
  4. Meanwhile, make the cranberry filling. Start by adding your cranberries to a small pot and add 1/4 cup of the light brown sugar. Cook over low heat, stirring well, until the cranberries have popped. Set this mixture aside to cool.
  5. Add the eggs to a large bowl and using electric hand mixer, whip the eggs until light and frothy. Add the rest of the light brown sugar and vanilla and continue mixing until it’s all blended.
  6. Add the flour and baking powder and salt. Mix until just combined.
  7. Add the cooled cranberry mixture to the batter and use a spatula to blend it but don’t over-mix.
  8. Pour this batter on top of the cooked cookie base. Bake at 350-F for an additional 35-40 minutes or until the top is brown and set – it should have very little jiggle when you shake the pan.
  9. Let cool, then melt your candy melts as per the directions on the package. Add the melted candy to a small zipper-top baggie and cut the very itsy bitsy tip off one of the corners. Squeeze the candy melts out the hole in a drizzle over the top of this cooled Cranberry Bars recipe.

To Get Your Cranberry Bars Out of the Baking Dish

  • If you used parchment, it’s as simple as letting the Cranberry Bars cool at room temperature for a few hours. Then, grabbing the ends of the parchment paper, lift the bars out and put them on a cutting board. Cut them into squares.
  • If you didn’t use parchment paper, my advice is to freeze the whole baking dish. Give it a few hours in the freezer for that bottom layer to firm up. Then, run a knife around the edge to loosen the bars, and then a spatula or flipper should help you pop the semi-frozen bars out and onto a cutting board.

Step By Step Drizzle Process

Chef Jenn’s Tips

  • Let the cooked cranberry mixture cool to the touch before adding it to the egg batter or you run the risk of cooking the egg when hot cranberries are added.
  • Let the nut-free cranberry bars cool to the touch before adding the drizzle or it’ll pool on top and be a mess.
  • Cut them into small squares with a hot knife to get nice clean edges, or if you semi-froze the bars, cut them while they’re still partially frozen.
  • This cranberry bar recipe makes about 12 2-inch squares.
  • If you double this recipe, use a larger baking dish and increase the cooking time by a bit.
  • Make these cranberry bars with white chocolate chips – melt the chips to make your drizzle.
  • These are similar to cranberry bliss bars, but these bars have distinct layers and are the perfect holiday dessert.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can I keep Cranberry Bars?

These cranberry dessert bars can be frozen for a few months, if tightly wrapped. Or, keep them in an air-tight container in the fridge for about a week.

Are these cranberry bars made with fresh cranberries?

Yes, but you can also use frozen cranberries. See my notes for how to do that.

Can I make cranberry bars with dried cranberries?

This recipe won’t work with dried cranberries. You need the berries to pop and make a syrupy mixture that you blend into the batter. Dried cranberries won’t behave the same way and your mixture won’t be as good.

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Step By Step Instructions

cranberry bars on a plate
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5 from 16 votes

Cranberry Bars with White Chocolate Drizzle

With a shortbread cookie-like layer on the bottom and a not-too-sweet cranberry topping, these Cranberry Bars are a fabulous make-aheadable seasonal dessert.
Course Desserts
Cuisine American
Keyword bars, chocolate, cookies, cranberries, cranberry, cranberry bars
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 12 bars
Calories 239kcal

Equipment

Ingredients

For the shortbread base:

  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour

For the topping:

  • 1 1/2 cups cranberries frozen or fresh
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup light brown sugar divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white candy melts or white chocolate for the drizzle

Instructions

  • Cut two strips of parchment paper as wide as the inside of your baking dish, but make the strips long enough so that they'll hang up over the edge by a wee bit. For an 8 x 8 baking dish, you'll need two strips 8" wide and about 15" long, or longer depending on how high the sides are of your baking pan.
  • Lay the strips crosswise in the bottom of your baking dish. You're going to bake the bottom layer on top of the parchment strips so you can remove the cranberry bars easily from the pan.

For the shortbread layer:

  • Using a pastry blender or a fork, cut the butter into the flour and sugar until the butter is in smallish chunks. I get into the bowl with very clean fingers and use my hands to break up the butter. You want this mixture to be coarse and crumbly with visible flecks of butter.
  • Press the crumb layer into the bottom of the baking dish. I use an offset spatula and it makes this job so easy.
  • Bake the bottom layer on the middle rack in a preheated 350-F oven for 15-20 minutes or until it is lightly golden brown.

To make the topping:

  • Add the cranberries to a small pot and add 1/4 cup of the light brown sugar. Cook over low heat, stirring well, until the cranberries have popped. Set this mixture aside to cool.
  • Add the eggs to a large bowl and using electric beaters, whip the eggs until light and frothy. Add the rest of the light brown sugar and vanilla and continue mixing until it's all blended.
  • Add the flour and baking powder and salt. Mix until just combined.
  • Add the cooled cranberry mixture to the batter and use a spatula to blend it but don't over-mix.
  • Pour this batter on top of the cooked cookie base. Bake at 350-F for an additional 35-40 minutes or until the top is brown and set – it should have very little jiggle when you shake the pan.
  • Let the bars cool, then melt your candy melts as per the directions on the package. Add the melted candy to a small zipper-top baggie and cut the very itsy bitsy tip off one of the corners. Squeeze the candy melts out the hole in a drizzle over the top of the cooled Cranberry Bars.

Notes

The nutritional values for the drizzle are not included in this recipe because they could vary depending on if you use white candy melts or white chocolate.

Nutrition

Serving: 1bar | Calories: 239kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 48mg | Sodium: 151mg | Potassium: 69mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin A: 283IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 38mg | Iron: 1mg

A Note on Nutritional Information

Nutritional information for this recipe is provided as a courtesy and is calculated based on available online ingredient information. It is only an approximate value. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site cannot be guaranteed.

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By Chef Jenn