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!
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!
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
- Baking Powder
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.
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.
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.
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.
How to Make Perfect Cranberry Bars
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- Cook cranberries, sugar, and water in a pot. Stirring frequently for about 15 minutes until they thicken up. Let cool.
- In a bowl, mix sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Cut in butter until the texture is crumbly then add the egg.
- Sprinkle just over half of the mixture into a 9×13 pan then pack down into a solid crust.
- Spread the cooled cranberry sauce over top of the crust then sprinkle the remaining crumb over top.
- Bake in 350°F oven for 40 minutes until the top is golden.
- Cool, then slice into squares.
- *if using cranberry sauce, substitute 3 cups cranberry sauce for the cranberries, sugar, and water.
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.