Cranberry Shortbread Bars


My parents work so hard each year to host Thanksgiving dinner. The planning begins weeks in advance. My mom starts cooking a few days early in order to prepare her famous cornbread dressing.   My dad stays up all night slowly smoking the turkeys in the backyard.  He takes quick naps on the couch and gets up every few hours to add more wood to the smoker.  While the end result is always delicious, it leaves everyone exhausted.

Two Thanksgivings ago we found ourselves with an extra plane ticket from Texas to California, and my mom desperately needed a break from the usual hectic Thanksgiving.  She flew out to visit me and we made ourselves the most delicious Thanksgiving dinner for two.

We roasted a small turkey breast with butter and fresh herbs from my garden, made a small pan of dressing, mashed sweet potatoes with plenty of cinnamon and local honey, and sautéed Brussel sprouts with balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and garlic.  We made cranberry shortbread bars to satisfy our need for cranberry sauce and dessert at the same time.  We enjoyed them almost as much as the peaceful walk we took that day through the park.  I’m so happy I could give my mom a break from the holidays.

Y’all have a great Thanksgiving!

4.0 from 1 reviews
Cranberry Shortbread Bars
Yields 2 bars about 2.5" x 4.5" each.
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter, cold and diced
  • ¼ cup + ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar (optional)
  1. Line a 9”x5”x3” loaf pan with foil, leaving enough overhanging so that you can easily pull the bars out of the pan once they have cooked.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  3. In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour and ¼ cup of the sugar. Pulse once to combine. Add the butter and pulse a few times until a coarse meal forms. The dough should barely clump together slightly when you squeeze it in your hand. It will not be sticky or have the appearance of pie or cookie dough.
  4. Dump the mixture into the loaf pan and press it into an even layer. Bake for 25 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the cranberries, ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon of sugar, and the 2 tablespoons water. Bring to a simmer and cook about 5 minutes, until most of the berries have popped.
  6. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour this mixture over the shortbread and bake another 20 minutes, or until the shortbread is golden brown. Let cool in the pan before attempting to slice. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.


  1. says

    The smoked turkey sounds amazing–I just can’t believe your dad gets up every couple hours all night long to get it done! That’s dedication to quality food!

  2. Nancy says

    Christina, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I always enjoy your recipes and narratives. These cranberry bars look yummy. I will think of you when making and serving them to all my loved ones. Enjoy!!

  3. says

    Oh what a great idea, i love short bread and cranberries..well they are a must for Thanksgiving..glad you gave your mom a break, mine welll she has officially retired from Thanksgiving…we take over now, I of course enjoy the pressure..have a great thanksgiving!!
    HUGS from Edinburg, texas

  4. says

    I can’t believe your dad seriously stays up all night smoking the turkeys. That’s amazing! But it is nice that you were able to also celebrate a simple holiday with your mom. I hope this year was equally as nice and relaxing! These bars look so great, by the way. I love the tartness of cranberries in sweet desserts.

  5. says

    I was searching for some recipes to use leftover cranberry sauce with, and came across this. It sounds SO good. My mom still uses the canned cranberry sauce, but my MIL made some fresh this year and we have a big bowl of it left in the fridge. I think these are happening!

  6. Coro says

    I made this for my mister over Thanksgiving and it was a hit! I love this website and have made so many tasty recipes from. Thank you so much for sharing your yumminess with us!!


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