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These Fresh Cranberry Shortbread Bars make a great Thanksgiving dessert or a beautiful addition to a Christmas cookie platter! Simple, buttery, and full of sweet-tart cranberry flavor, these wonderful bars have white chocolate and macadamia nuts to make them even more special!

Cranberries are one of my favorite seasonal ingredients! Some of our other favorite recipes using them are White Chocolate Cranberry Pecan Fudge, The BEST Cranberry Orange Bread, and White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies.

a carboard box full of cranberry bars next to a bowl of fresh cranberries a bag of bobs red mill and other cranberry goodies

I can't think of a better time to spread this message of sharing love through baking and giving than during the holiday season. For me, baking is a way I show my love, and these fresh cranberry shortbread bars are a wonderful way to do that while cranberries are readily available!

Bars are a fantastic idea during the busy baking season because you get so much reward for relatively little work! Plus, if you are baking with children, tiny hands get a kick out of helping pat the shortbread into the pan and pouring the beautiful, dark red cranberries over the dough!

stacked cranberry shortcake bars brsting with cranberries and berries beside it
a white baking dish filled with cranberry shortcake with some fresh cranberries scattered to the side

The shortbread base is made with only five simple ingredients, so it's a great recipe to make with little helpers!

a glass bowl full of butter and sugar next to a bowl of fresh cranberries and other ingredients needed to make cranberry shortcake. two elextric mixer beaters resting on a towel to the side

Traditional shortbread is historically made from a 1:2:3 ratio of one part granulated sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour.

I'm playing a little fast and loose with that ratio here by adding slightly more sugar, along with a little salt and vanilla, and using volume (cups) instead of weight (ounces), but it's all good, and really, pretty close to true, original shortbread.

But we go next level with the shortbread and make it even more fun and festive with fresh cranberries, white chocolate chips, and chopped macadamia nuts.

It literally only takes a few minutes to whip together the shortbread, press part of it into a pan, then top it with the fresh (or frozen!) cranberries and sprinkle the remaining shortbread dough on top.

No chilling dough, no scooping or rolling and cutting individual cookies or waiting while multiple batches bake in the oven. Just slice these into a whole bunch of servings after baking and you are good to go!

Because shortbread is so rich and cranberries pack such powerful flavor, I keep these on the small side and get 24 bars out of a 9x13" pan of these fresh cranberry shortbread bars!

This shortbread base is such a great, basic recipe to have in your arsenal, and you could easily swap out the fresh cranberries for blueberries, raspberries, etc. Whatever fruit is in season, really!

I just particularly love when fresh cranberries start showing up at the grocery stores this time of year because they impart such fantastic flavor and they look gorgeous! And I think their tartness goes beautifully with the extra sweetness of white chocolate and rich, butteriness of macadamia nuts.

But you could also switch out those white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts for chocolate chips and pecans or coconut and almonds or just leave them out altogether and go with just shortbread and fruit. This is a great, versatile recipe to play with and make your own!

Shortbread is a traditional Scottish recipe, which gives me all the feels as that is the land of my ancestors. Or at least some of them. And one of these days I'm going to go visit and see those beautiful isles and lochs and crags of that country!

When I was researching shortbread, I learned that it has its origins as early as the 12th century, although the first printed recipe appeared in 1736 from a Scottish woman by the name of Mrs. McLintock, apparently.

Mary, Queen of Scots, is said to have had a special fondness for shortbread during her reign in the 16th century, serving it for special occasions since butter was such an expensive commodity.

Shortbread is still a part of many Christmas and Hogmanay (Scottish New Year's Eve) celebrations today!

There are no eggs or leavening, like baking powder, so these bars are firm when baked and are perfect for delivering to a friend or loved one without breaking. And shortbread is baked at a low temperature to avoid browning.

When cooked, these fresh cranberry shortbread bars are nearly white with barely a light golden brown around the edges.

I always stock up and freeze a couple of bags of cranberries for baking throughout the year because I love to make cranberry orange muffins or use them in cranberry apple pie and other desserts.

If you have frozen cranberries on hand, you can absolutely use them in this recipe. Just throw the frozen cranberries over the bottom shortbread crust and finish the bars like normal. No need to defrost.

a white baking ddish full of cranberry shortcake bares with some pieces missing and a serving spatula resting inside. a bowl of fresh cranberries some plates with servings of cranberry shortcake and forks and a bag of bobs red mill to the side

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Fresh Cranberry Shortbread Bars

5 from 38 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 24 bars
These Fresh Cranberry Shortbread Bars make a great Thanksgiving dessert or a beautiful addition to a Christmas cookie platter!  Simple, buttery, and full of sweet-tart cranberry flavor, the white chocolate and macadamia nuts make them even more special!

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups butter softened
  • 1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips or coarsely chopped white chocolate
  • ½ cup chopped macadamia nuts optional
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen* cranberries rinsed and patted dry

Instructions
 

  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9x13" baking dish with a parchment paper sling for easier removal after baking.
  • In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the vanilla and salt.
  • Add flour and stir, just until combined, then fold in the white chocolate chips and chopped macadamia nuts.
  • Lightly press ⅔ of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan using your fingers.  Pour the cranberries over top, then crumble the remaining dough over the cranberries.  It's okay if cranberries can be seen beneath the top layer of shortbread.
  • Bake for 45-50 minutes, just until the edges are starting to turn golden.
  • Cool completely before slicing into small bars.  

Notes

* I like to buy extra cranberries when they are in the store and then freeze them for baking throughout the year since they can be difficult to find.  There is no need to defrost your cranberries if using frozen in this recipe.

Nutrition

Calories: 323kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 3g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 42mg | Sodium: 239mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 16g
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Bob’s Red Mill.

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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Reader questions and reviews

  1. Dear Amy, your shortbread bars look marvelous! I love the fresh cranberry filling...perfect for the holiday season. xo, Catherine

  2. I love shortbread bars but I have never used fresh cranberries before. This is definitely on my list to try as I would love to use cranberries more often during the holiday season when I see it everywhere! 😀

  3. 5 stars
    I love that you are using fresh/frozen cranberries and not dried in this recipe. They just add such a wonderful burst of flavour and pair so well with white chocolate. The recipe sounds delicious!

  4. These remind me of the ones that I LOVE from Starbucks at Christmas! I can't wait to try a homemade version... Im sure they will be SO MUCH BETTER! and thanks for the Coupon!

  5. 5 stars
    These look like the perfect treat for the holiday season! I adore using Bob's Red Mill products for baking - my recipes always turn out better. 🙂 I would love to throw some almonds in this recipe AND the white chocolate, that's a great idea. You must visit Scotland sometime! My husband and I went last summer and it was breathtaking. When you go, lookup the Isle of Skye, it's out of this world!

  6. 5 stars
    This is a perfect holiday dessert!! I love such treats that do not take long to put together. Love cranberries.. yum.

  7. These are gorgeous and look so amazing! Love that they incorporate cranberries. So perfect for the season!

  8. 5 stars
    Such a great idea to combine white chocolate with cranberry, the white chocolate is so sweet that the cranberry acidity balance well. I like to freeze cookie dough so I can cook them as soon as we have friends coming over. Those should freeze well. I will prepare few batches.

  9. 5 stars
    I love cranberries at this time of year!! This would be the perfect dessert for an upcoming party I'm hosting so adding it to the menu now!

  10. Wow this looks absolutely fabulous! I don't cook with fresh cranberries very often, but I really need to change that. I love the tart bite that they give to every dish

  11. 5 stars
    I am bookmarking this recipe! My biggest fear is that I might eat this every single day of the year. I really really love shortbread and I have a major weakness for butter. You need a medal for adding cranberry to it too, I really enjoy cranberries! All this to say this is the perfect recipe!

  12. Lovely dessert! I'm not a big fan of cranberry sauce with turkey but I love cranberries otherwise! Pairing cranberries with white chocolate is genius!

  13. Love the cranberry filling - and as a Scot, I can confirm my family makes shortbread for Hogmanay, a tradition I loved! Hope you make it over there sometime 🙂

  14. These bars seem like an awesome breakfast idea, Amy! Can't wait to give them a try. Can I also add some other nuts?

  15. 5 stars
    These bars are beautiful, and I love that you've made them with fresh cranberries! So perfect for the season. Shortbread is just so inherently comforting. Love.

  16. 5 stars
    I have to say that my husband said he didn’t think he would like cranberry bars. But after I made them, he couldn’t stop eating them. Then he conceded and said that he was wrong. That this recipe made him realize he loved them! They are amazing!

  17. 5 stars
    White chocolate, macadamia, and cranberry sounds perfect together! I might have to make these to bring to my family's Thanksgiving dinner!

  18. 5 stars
    Wow! Your photos are so beautiful! I really love how the cranberry pops in these bars. I can't wait to get my holiday baking started and give these a try. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I'm sorry I didn't respond earlier! But yes, I think these would freeze just fine. Just thaw on the counter or in the fridge overnight before serving.

  19. This recipe has inspired me to start baking, and I was always awful at it! Kitchen still looks a small bomb went off, but something incredibly delicious came of it. So easy, even a scientist can do it 🙂
    Thanks a million!
    mg

  20. This recipe is absolutely lovely. I love everything about it! It uses fresh cranberries, which I wish I had frozen during the holiday season LAST year, and I will definitely be freezing this year. Lord have mercy, this could mean the end of my diet!

  21. I've been making these evey year since I found this recipe and it never disappoints. Not too sweet and so Christmasy.

  22. Crisp shortbread cookies with an orange glaze and fresh cranberries. A touch of orange in the frosting makes for a lovely dessert.

  23. Love cranberry recipes, looks delicious I’m think I’ll cut the sugar amount a little, I prefer tart taste of the cranberries and the white chocolate will add sweetness,

  24. 5 stars
    I had been meaning to make these bars for months and I finally did last night. I used frozen cranberries. Scrumptious and beautiful! Thank you so much for this recipe.