These delicious cranberry crumb bars feature a golden brown shortbread crust, custard cranberry filling, and buttery crumb topping. Orange zest and orange juice add just the right amount of orange flavor. And you can use fresh cranberries or frozen cranberries for the cranberry mixture.
Cranberry Crumble Pie Bars
I make no effort in hiding the fact that when it comes to holiday flavors, I definitely play favorites. Don’t get me wrong… I love them all. I’ll take eggnog anything, gingerbread everything, and peppermint mocha flavored goodies all season long.
But it’s ruby red tart cranberries that truly own my heart this time of year! I bake with them as often as I can… and basically hoard them while they’re in season so my freezer has them in stock all-year-round.
If you’re looking for an easy last-minute holiday dessert, look no further than these cranberry pie bars! They’re super easy to throw together, don’t require hours of prep or cooling. And are especially loved by those who prefer desserts that aren’t “too” sweet.
And you can always make them sweeter by adding the optional glaze recipe… or topping them with a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream. Or: BOTH! I won’t judge you!
Ingredients for Cranberry Bars:
- Butter: Be sure to use the amount called for and bring it to room temperature before beating it. If you don’t have an electric hand mixer or stand mixer, you can bring the dough together in a food processor. Just don’t over work it!
- Sugar: Both granulated sugar and light brown sugar are used; do not sub all of one for another or your bars will lack proper flavor and texture.
- All-Purpose Flour: I do not suggest using any other variety of flour in this recipe.
- Ground Cinnamon: Adds just the right amount of warm spice to this cranberry dessert!
- Salt: Both enhances flavors and balances the overall sweetness in this recipe.
- Eggs: Be sure to use large eggs, and bring them to room temperature before adding them to the batter.
- Sour Cream: Full-fat works best here! If you cannot find sour cream, a thick Greek-style full-fat yogurt will work.
- Orange Juice: Preferably freshly-squeezed OJ! You can use the same orange you zest, but make sure you grab an extra one or two, as you can never predict how much (or little) juice an orange will yield.
- Cornstarch: Our secret ingredient to a thick custard-like filling. Do NOT skip this!
- Vanilla Extract: As always, I suggest using high-quality vanilla, and not imitation or artificial vanilla.
- Orange Zest: Be sure to finely grate it, and only get the orange peel, not the white pith, which will be bitter to the taste.
- Almond Extract: This is optional! I love the subtle almond flavor with the cranberries and orange, but if you often find yourself regretting the addition of almond or find it overpowering, I suggest leaving it out.
- Whole Cranberries: Fresh or frozen work fine here. If you’re using frozen cranberries, do NOT thaw them first. Also, dried cranberries and cranberry sauce will not work in this recipe.
Let’s Make Cranberry Bars:
- Preheat the and prep your pan: you’ll need a 9×13-inch baking pan and you’ll want to line it with parchment paper so that the paper overhangs on two of the ends. This will help you remove the bars in one solid slab once they’re baked and cooled. Be sure to also spray with non-stick baking spray. A metal or aluminized steel pan works best here, but glass and ceramic will work. You might need to increase the bake time a few minutes if you use one of those pans because they take longer to conduct heat.
- Beat together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Take your time here and really let it fluff up! If you notice it’s clumping around the edge of the bowl, stop the mixer, scrape it down with a spatula, then keep on mixing.
- Add in the dry ingredients (flour mixture) and mix JUST until combined. The dough will be pretty crumbly and this is totally normal.
- Use a measuring cup to remove 2 cups of the crumbs. Put them in a bowl and set them aside for a later use (your crumb topping!).
- Press the remaining crumbs evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack to cool. Keep oven temperature at 350.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, both sugars, orange juice, flour, cornstarch, vanilla, orange zest, almond extract, and cinnamon. Fold in 2 and ½ cups of the cranberries. Don’t worry if it looks thin! This is normal. It will thicken up as it bakes.
- Pour the filling mixture over the par-baked crust, then sprinkle on the rest of the cranberries.
- Crumble the reserved crust evenly on top of the batter. Use your hands to kind of pinch it into large clumps.
- Bake, then remove from the oven and cool completely, at least 1 hour! Then slice and serve!
If you want to make a simple orange glaze to make these bars sweeter, too can whisk together some powdered sugar and orange juice. Drizzle on top of cake and let set before slicing, about 5 minutes. Or you can skip the glaze and just top with ice cream! Or… do both. Totally your call!
Jump to the recipe below for the full recipe list and instructions!
More Cranberry Recipes:
- Chocolate Cranberry Christmas Cake
- Best Cranberry Orange Bundt Cake
- Cranberry Hand Pies
- Bakery-Style Cranberry Orange Muffins
- Easy Apple Cranberry Crisp
- Bakery-Style Cranberry Orange Scones
Cranberry Crumb Bars
For the Crust/Crumb Topping:
- 1 and 1/2 cups (340g) unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 cups (299g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (106g) light brown sugar packed
- 4 cups (480g) all-purpose flour
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Cranberry Filling:
- 1 and 1/4 cups (284g) sour cream room temperature
- 1 cup (199g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (106g) light brown sugar packed
- 1/4 cup (57ml) orange juice
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 2 Tablespoons (28g) all-purpose flour
- 2 Tablespoons (20g) cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons orange zest finely grated
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract optional
- 4 and 1/2 cups (450g) cranberries fresh or frozen
(Optional) For the Orange Glaze:
- 1/2 cup (57g) confectioners' sugar sifted
- 1 Tablespoon (14ml) orange juice
For the Crust/Crumb Topping:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). Line a 9x13-inch pan with parchment paper, allowing paper to overhang on two of the ends. Spray with non-stick baking spray and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld electric mixer, beat together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
- On low speed, add flour, cinnamon, and salt, and mix until combined. The dough will be crumbly.
- Remove 2 cups and reserve for later use.
- Press the remaining crust mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack to cool as you prepare the filling. Keep oven temperature at 350.
For the Cranberry Filling/Assembly:
- In a large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, both sugars, orange juice, eggs, flour, cornstarch, vanilla, orange zest, cinnamon, and almond extract (if using), until smooth and well combined, about 2 minutes.
- Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in 2 and ½ cups (250g) of the cranberries. The filling will be on the thinner side, this is normal!
- Pour the filling mixture over the crust, shaking the pan gently, then evenly sprinkle the remaining 2 cups (200g) of cranberries on top.
- Take the reserved crust and scatter it over the top of the berries, squeezing the mixture in your hands to encourage large lumps.
- Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the top is firm and golden brown, Remove from the oven and place the pan on a wire cooling rack to cool for at least 1 hour. The remote the bars from the pan, drizzle with glaze (if using), and slice into squares. Serve with ice cream, if desired.
(Optional) Orange Glaze:
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and orange juice. Drizzle on top of bars and let set before slicing, about 5 minutes.