These rich, buttery cranberry shortbread bars filled with tart cranberry sauce make a beautiful seasonal dessert. Perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas, these cranberry shortbread bars will be a hit at any holiday event.
I bet most of you already have your Christmas menus ready. But I’m going to keep posting Christmas recipes until Christmas because that’s how I roll. 😉
This recipe comes from the absolute best shortbread recipe that was printed on the back of a cornstarch package back in the day. I, unfortunately, don’t know which – let me know if you do so I can give credit!
Cornstarch is what gives it an impossibly tender, almost crumbly texture that is amazing.
I used almond extract in the shortbread because I think almond extract + cranberries is an excellent combination, but you could also use vanilla extract.
Orange extract might also be tasty! Or a bit of orange zest.
You would think that with a cup of sugar in the filling and shortbread that these cranberry bars would be quite sweet. But they’re not overly sweet at all. That is where the cranberry filling fits in.
The cranberry filling
It’s tart and a perfect pair for the shortbread. You could probably use leftover cranberry sauce, like this Honey Orange Cranberry Sauce, but I prefer to make this filling a little less sweet than regular cranberry sauce.
While these bars aren’t super sweet, they’re quite rich. I could only eat a small bar before I was full. And that rarely happens to me with sweets.
So keep that in mind if you want to use really sweet cranberry sauce. And definitely don’t use the canned stuff!
For the gluten-free version, I used Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-free Baking Flour. It’s the one in the blue bag.
It worked great! Out of the oven, the crust is a little sandy but once it cools, it’s perfect. No grit, no funny taste.
Doubling the recipe
If you need to double the recipe, it works great but I’m not sure of the baking time. You’ll know when it’s ready when the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden.
I do know that the baking time won’t be that much longer than for the single recipe. So probably around 35 minutes.
Need more Christmas recipes?
If you’re looking for more holiday recipes, also check out these:
These Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Maple Bacon Brussels Sprouts and Cranberries also look great!
If you give these cranberry bars a try, I’d love to hear what you think!
Cranberry Shortbread Bars
For the filling:
- 3 cups (or one 340-gram package) fresh or frozen cranberries
- 2/3 cup (166 grams) granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
For the shortbread:
- 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour, white whole wheat flour or 2 cups (276 grams) Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-free Baking Flour for a gluten-free version
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (225 grams) unsalted butter softened
- 1/3 cup (67 grams) light brown sugar packed
- 1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
- For the filling, add ingredients to a medium-sized pot and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then cook until thick and syrupy, about 5-10 minutes. Set aside and let cool 10 minutes before continuing to the next step (the filling should cool at least 20 minutes total before pouring on the unbaked crust).
- Preheat oven to 375 °F (190 °C).
- For the shortbread, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the extract and then mix in flour, cornstarch and salt.
- Add 2/3 of the dough to an 8x8 pan and spread out evenly, pressing the dough into one even layer.
- Add the cranberry mixture and spread evenly, then crumble the remaining shortbread over the cranberry mixture. Lightly press down so none of the shortbread crumbles are too tall as they will brown more than the rest.
- Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until golden. Cool before slicing.
- Store in a covered container at room temperature for up to 5 days. It can also be refrigerated for a week.