Cranberry Bars

Three golden bars with a ruby red middle layer on a sparkling glass platter.

Cranberry Bars are rich, buttery and so easy to make. Perfect for the holidays and a great way to use up any leftover fresh cranberries or cranberry sauce. 

Do you love the kick of tart cranberries in sweet or savoury dishes? There are so many great sweet cranberry recipes out there but we love them with a little heat. Check out this fiery Jalapeño Cranberry Salsa with fresh cranberries for a great appetizer idea.

For the sweet lovers, these individual Cranberry Pomegranate Christmas Trifles are an extra special treat that bring a little sparkle to your holiday table.

*this well loved post from 2013 has been updated with new photos and useful baking information. It’s the same great recipe!

A stack of baked layered Cranberry Bars on a white plate.

Cranberry Bars

This Cranberry Bar recipe has withstood the test of time in our home and here’s why. They’re super easy to make (check!). They are so tasty…sweet enough to be a dessert but just enough cranberry sass so that they aren’t too sweet (check!). Finally, they are sturdy enough to travel the ten hours to my parent’s house for Christmas (check!).

Oh, I forgot to mention that you can make them using leftover cranberry sauce or fresh cranberries. It’s up to you. To me, any leftovers in the fridge are an excuse to invent something new and delicious. These Cranberry Bars are leftover recipe perfection!

A stack of baked layered Cranberry Bars on a white plate.

Ingredients for Cranberry Bars

The holidays are a great time for stocking up on pantry basics like flour, sugar, baking powder, and spices. Fresh ingredient will yield the best (and tastiest!) results. I like to keep an eye out for sales on butter and stock up when I find them. Butter freezes well and is essential to most holiday baking.

  • Fresh Cranberries
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Baking Powder
  • Butter
  • Egg
  • Salt

Fresh cranberries are plentiful around the holidays and they are so easy to cook down into a tasty sauce. I honestly don’t know why anyone would want to buy cranberry sauce from a store. You can use this recipe to make your own sauce, if you like.

Ingredients needed to bake Cranberry Bars.

It will yield about 3 cups of cranberry sauce which is the same amount of leftover cranberry sauce you need if using leftovers. You can also easily replace the fresh cranberries with frozen cranberries in this recipe.

Pantry staples include flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt for the base and top crumble layer on the bars. They are combined with butter and egg to make these layers extra rich and crumbly. Feel free to substitute brown sugar for the portion of sugar that goes into the shortbread base and top layers.

Using unsalted butter in baking gives you more control over how much salt you add. You can use salted butter but please omit salt as an added ingredient if you do.

Fresh cranberries in a saucepan about to be cooked into cranberry sauce.

Delicious Nutritious Cranberries

When fresh cranberries are available I always buy a few bags and freeze them for later. We enjoy the sweet and tart flavour of both fresh and dried cranberries in baking year round.

The good news is that cranberries contain many health benefits and are sometimes referred to as a ‘superfood’ because they contain so many nutrients and antioxidants. Studies have shown that cranberries may help treat and prevent urinary tract infections, boost immunity, and reduce blood pressure.

If you eat fresh cranberry, you will increase your dietary fiber, along with a host of B vitamins, Vitamin C, Magnesium, and Potassium just to name a few. It’s worth noting that Cranberry Juice and dried Cranberries usually contain a lot of added sugar because they have such a tart flavour.

Several golden baked Cranberry Bars on a white platter.

Fresh Cranberries or Cranberry Sauce?

For this recipe, I prefer the cranberry filling to be made with fresh cranberries. Why use canned cranberries when you can make your own?

However, if you do have some leftover cranberries you can use those and turn out the same results. The only thing to be aware of here is to cook them down just enough so that the middle layer doesn’t ooze when you cut the cold bars.

Close up of cranberry sauce on a spoon.

How to Make Perfect Cranberry Bars

The Cranberries

Cook the cranberries, sugar, and water in a small saucepan on medium-low heat. Cook and stir frequently for about 15 minutes until they become thickened. Remove the cranberry sauce from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

For a little extra flavour, feel free to add lemon, orange zest or a squeeze of lemon or orange juice to the cranberries as they are cooking.

The Shortbread Base and Crumble Top

The perfect place to start building a sturdy bar is the base. The base for these Cranberry Bars is similar to shortbread. There is enough butter in it to hold everything together, but not too much as to make it ooze.

Three squares of Cranberry Bars on a white background with fresh cranberries.

PRO TIP: Packing the crumbly mixture well, then baking it ensures that the bars will not crumble while you’re holding them.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a large bowl combine sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt together. Use a fork, pastry blender, or food processor to cut in the butter until the texture is crumbly then add the egg. Mix well.

Sprinkle just over half of the crumb mixture into a 9×13 pan then pack down into a solid base layer. Next, spread the cooled cranberry mixture over the base layer, then sprinkle the remaining crumb over top.

A stack of baked layered Cranberry Bars on a white plate.

The Top Layer

Like onions, bars have layers. These Cranberry Bars are topped with more of that delicious shortbread crumble from the base layer. You just can’t go wrong with more shortbread!

Bake the bars in a 350 F oven for 40 minutes or until the top layer turns a nice golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

How to Store Cranberry Bars

These Cranberry Bars hit the mark on taste, texture, and travel-ability. They were a huge hit with the entire family and add variety to the Christmas goodie platter both visually and in taste.

The best news is that they store well, both in the fridge (up to a week) and freezer (2 months) so you can make them ahead of the busy holiday season.

Pinterest image featuring stacks of layered Cranberry Bars on white platters.

If you make these Cranberry Bars, please be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Pinterest for my latest recipes. Also, if you do make this recipe, please tag me on Instagram, I’d love to see what you guys are making! Thank you so much for reading my blog.

Yield: 20 bars

Cranberry Bars

Three golden bars with a ruby red middle layer on a sparkling glass platter.

Cranberry Bars are rich, buttery and so easy to make. Perfect for the holidays and a great way to use up any leftover fresh cranberries or cranberry sauce.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 12 oz package of cranberries (if using cranberry sauce, refer to notes section below)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup butter; room temp.
  • 1 egg; beaten

Instructions

    1. Cook cranberries, sugar, and water in a pot. Stirring frequently for about 15 minutes until they thicken up. Let cool.
    2. In a bowl, mix sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.
    3. Cut in butter until the texture is crumbly then add the egg.
    4. Sprinkle just over half of the mixture into a 9×13 pan then pack down into a solid crust.
    5. Spread the cooled cranberry sauce over top of the crust then sprinkle the remaining crumb over top.
    6. Bake in 350°F oven for 40 minutes until the top is golden.
    7. Cool, then slice into squares.

Notes

  • *if using cranberry sauce, substitute 3 cups cranberry sauce for the cranberries, sugar, and water.



Nutrition Information:

Yield:

20

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving:Calories: 196Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 28mgSodium: 166mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 1gSugar: 21gProtein: 2g

Nutritional calculation was provided by Nutritionix and is an estimation only. For special diets or medical issues please use your preferred calculator.

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48 comments

  1. KellyL

    Can I use canned whole cranberry sauce in the filling? Thanks!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Hi Kelly, absolutely. The instructions for using canned cranberry sauce are in the ‘notes’ section.

  2. Mar bhat

    Can I make the cranberry sauce Wednesday, bake them Thursday, for Saturday 😃

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Sure! That’s technically ‘leftover’ cranberry sauce.

  3. Cranberry Pomegranate Christmas Trifle - Dish 'n' the Kitchen

    […] it cool before serving, or serve slightly warmed. By the way, I also developed these Cranberry Bars to use up leftover cranberry sauce and they have been the most popular blog recipe for […]

    Reply

  4. Pam

    Made these bars and I was pleased. I used three fourths cup of sugar for the cranberry sauce and it was just perfect! Very good!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      That’s so great to hear Pam. So glad you enjoyed the bars and thanks for letting me know.

  5. Bette

    I made these yesterday.They are so good.I will definitely make again.Thank you for sharing your recipe.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      So glad you loved them Betty. They’re a classic recipe in our family and a ‘must bake’ for the Holidays

  6. Sue Maggs

    I have the bars in the oven now; however, my crust is nowhere as thick as in the picture, and neither is the topping. Not with only 2 cups of flour. There’s no way I could’ve stretched it that far! Not in a 9”x13” pan. I’m hoping the topping will “stretch” out while it’s baking. I’m so disappointed. I hope they at least come out tasting good.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Hmmm. I’m not sure why you have had this issue…I’ve made these bars several times, and always get great feedback on them. The bulk of the biscuit combination is used in the base, while the rest is more of a crumbly top scattered on the topping. It’s okay if the topping isn’t a solid layer.

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    […] is complete without a touch of cranberry. If you love this tart fruit, check out these ever popular Cranberry Bars which can be made from either leftover cranberry sauce or fresh […]

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  8. Alli

    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Thank goodness I stocked up on fresh cranberries! Easy & delicious, the perfect combo of sweet & tart. Bet you can’t eat just one good!!😍

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      These bars are so darn good!! Glad you enjoyed them Alli.

  9. Vanessa

    THanks for sharing! How far ahead of time can I make them?

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      As far as you like…3 months? They freeze very well.

  10. Suzanne

    This looks so good! What a simple and and pretty dessert to make!

    Reply

  11. Colleen pulley

    Wow!! These are fabulous! They ship great, and are wonderful tasting. I got rave revues.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Great to hear. Thanks for letting me know Colleen.

  12. J Zannier

    These are delicious and easy to make! Thank you for a new Christmas favorite!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Great to hear Joce! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year as well.

  13. Noreen

    I made these bars today, using fresh cranberries and cooking them 15 minutes as recipe says.when pressing down bottom crust it helped if i floured my hands a little. These bars are delicious and will go in with my other favorite cookie/bar recipes! Thank you

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Great tip Noreen, thanks for posting!

  14. DONNA

    Does the pan need to be greased?

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Hi Donna! There should be enough butter in the crust to keep the pan well lubricated!

  15. Mar bhat

    Hi. These look delish. I want to make for Saturday. Can these be made Friday? How do I store. On counter or fridge?

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Absolutely. They also freeze well for Christmas prep!

    2. Mar bhat

      So. How how do I store them? On the counter or in fridge 😬😋

    3. Bernice Hill

      the counter is fine overnight.

  16. LAUREN

    I’m so excited to make these for Thanksgiving – wondering if they freeze well so I can double and pull out for Christmas cookie platters?

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      They sure do…if you have any left!!

  17. Jennifer

    Delicious – added half a cup of chopped walnuts to the topping.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      That would be delicious…I like the way you think Jennifer!

  18. Leslie Hargrove

    I made these today except I made my cranberry orange relish to put in the middle. I use the cranberries, sugar, water and a tsp of corn starch. When that is done (all the cranberries are popped) I push it through a small strainer to get rid of most of the skins and then add 1 cup of orange marmalade. They came out great!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      YUM! Adding citrus sounds like a great idea to me…especially marmalade!

  19. kristin

    Hi, How much sugar do you mix with the dry ingredients? I only see the sugar for the cranberries…

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Hi Kristin, you are entirely correct! That one cup sugar amount is for the cranberries (though you can start with 3/4 cup and adjust to taste if you wish) and there should be a second cup for the crust. The crust mixture will be fairly dry but you should still be able to press it into the ban for baking.

  20. tinywhitecottage

    Oooo. I like these. I really like bars yet I see what you mean about them becoming a huge mess if you have to “share” them outside your house. Love the tartness about these. Have a wonderful Holiday, and I found the perfect chocolate w/chili’s for you today…sending it you way!

    Reply

    1. dishnthekitchen

      Thanks Seana! I think they’ll be a refreshing change of pace, then again there is lots to choose this year. I may have gone a little nuts.
      I’ll be watching my mailbox 🙂 Have a Super Christmas Seana!

    2. Belinda

      Can I use frozen cranberries?

    3. Bernice Hill

      Yes, you can for sure use frozen cranberries Belinda.

  21. seancowan1

    Simple and quick the way bars should be, nicely done looks awesome. Rather similar to lemon bars my grandma used to make, aside from the choice of filling.

    Reply

    1. dishnthekitchen

      Welcome to Dish ‘n’ the kitchen Sean 🙂
      yes, thanks. I’ve made bars with a shortbread crust but never added an egg before. I think they’ll be a little more durable. It’s nice to have some different flavours like tart cranberry when you get sick of buttertarts and chocolate cookies 🙂
      Have a very Merry Christmas!

    2. Lynn

      Any way of some how using dried cranberries?

    3. Bernice Hill

      I’m sorry Lynn, I’ve only ever made the bars with leftover cranberry sauce or fresh cranberries.

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