These Cranberry Shortbread Bars are here just in time for your holiday baking! Soft, sweet, buttery, and rich with fresh cranberries, these bars are tasty treats that you definitely can’t have just one of.
Cranberry Shortbread Bars
Shortbread cookies are one of my favorite weaknesses. I can never pass them up if I’m offered one! And as much as I love recipes like my Salted Shortbread Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies, I think these bars offer a contrasting flavor profile to those cookies.
What makes these simple bars so delicious isn’t just the buttery shortbread consistency; it’s also the fact that they’re chock-full of real, juicy, fresh cranberries! The combination of the shortbread and the berries is downright mouthwatering and makes for the best bite every single time. You get a little bit of tang and a little bit of salty, buttery, and sweet. It’s like all the senses combined!
With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, you’ll want to stock up on new dessert recipes! It’s the baking season, and these bars deserve a spot on your holiday spread this year. After all, don’t cranberries just scream Thanksgiving and Christmas?!
Ingredients for cranberry shortbread bars
These ingredients are simple, sweet, and likely already in your kitchen.
- Butter – Unsalted is preferred.
- Sugar – You’ll need both plain white granulated and light brown sugar.
- Vanilla – Pure vanilla extract will yield better flavor than imitation.
- Salt – Just a pinch! And omit this if you end up using a salted butter.
- Flour – All-purpose is perfect.
- Cranberries – Fresh cranberries, not dried.
- Macadamia nuts – These are optional, but I love the delicate crunch they provide!
- White chocolate chips – These are also optional, but their added sweetness is SO scrumptious, I couldn’t imagine making these bars without them.
Cranberry sauce. Around Thanksgiving, we’re always seem to be left with a bunch of cranberry sauce (not the canned one, but the fresh cranberry sauce). This recipe would be a great candidate to use up the leftover cranberry sauce! You would simply add the cranberry sauce when the recipe calls for you adding the fresh cranberries.
Dried cranberries. I highly, highly recommend using fresh cranberries. Dried cranberries have lost all of their natural juices and won’t bake into the bars the same way as fresh cranberries. Fresh berries will release their juices into the batter as the bars bake, helping to create delicious cranberry flavor throughout the shortbread bars.
Citrus zest. A great way to give bold flavor to these bars would be to use some citrus zest! If you haven’t used any in your cranberry sauce yet (my cran-orange sauce already has it) then a great time to zest in some citrus zest (lemon or orange would be best here) is right before you add your cranberry sauce to the shortbread crust. If you’re using fresh cranberries, I would just sprinkle the zest on top throughout the pan.
Alternatively, you could mix the citrus zest into the shortbread mixture!
Do I need to refrigerate cranberry shortbread bars? Nope! These sweet bars will stay fresh at room temperature for up to five days. No need to refrigerate, you can just reach for a bar right there on the kitchen counter when you’re feeling peckish! Since they stay fresh for so long, this is also a wonderful make-ahead dessert.
If you love cranberries half as much as I do, you’ll love these recipes!
Cranberry Shortbread Bars
- 1 ½ cups (341 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (110 g) light brown sugar, packed
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 ⅓ cup (417 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 cups (200 g) fresh cranberries, rinsed and dried (about a 10 ounce bag will yield 2 cups)
- 1 cup (134 g) macadamia nuts, optional
- ½ cup (90 g) white chocolate chips, optional
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F (177 °C) and line a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside for later.
- Beat the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Pour in the vanilla extract and salt and beat again just until combined.
- Fold in the flour one cup at a time until there are no more lumps.
- Press two-thirds of the dough into the bottom of the prepared baking pan then add in the cranberries, macadamia nuts and chocolate chips in an even layer then crumble the remaining dough on top.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top turns a light, golden color.
- Let the bars set for about 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
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