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Cranberry Streusel Shortbread Bars

Scott Phillips

Yield: Yields about thirty-five 1-3/4-inch-square bars.

One of our favorite holiday cookies, these bars have a tangy cranberry filling that keeps the ultra-rich crust and streusel topping in check.  


For the crust and streusel:

  • 10-1/2 oz. (1 cup plus 5 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to just warm
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. table salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 14-1/4 oz. (3 cups plus 3 Tbs.) unbleached all-purpose flour

For the cranberry topping:

  • 12-oz. bag fresh or frozen cranberries, picked over, rinsed, and drained
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional Sample Size per bar
  • Calories (kcal) : 150
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 60
  • Fat (g): 7
  • Saturated Fat (g): 4.5
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 2
  • Cholesterol (mg): 30
  • Sodium (mg): 50
  • Carbohydrates (g): 21
  • Fiber (g): 1
  • Protein (g): 1


Make the crust:

  • Line a straight-sided 13×9-inch metal baking pan with foil, letting the ends create an overhanging edge for easy removal. In a medium bowl, stir together the butter, 3/4 cup of the sugar, and the salt. Whisk in the egg yolks. Stir in the flour to make a stiff dough. Transfer about 2 cups of the dough to the prepared pan, and press the mixture evenly into the bottom. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes (or freeze for 5 to 7 minutes), until the dough is firm.
  • Meanwhile, position a rack near the center of the oven and another near the top. Heat the oven to 325°F.
  • Bake the dough until the crust begins to set but does not brown at all on the edges (the center will not be firm yet), about 20 minutes. While the crust bakes, prepare the streusel and the topping.

Make the streusel:

  • With your fingers, combine the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar with the reserved dough until crumbly. The mixture should hold together when pressed, but readily break into smaller pieces.

Make the cranberry topping:

  • In a medium saucepan, bring the cranberries, sugar, and 1/4 cup water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium high and continue to boil until the liquid is reduced to a thick syrup, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool 5 to 10 minutes—the syrup will continue to thicken as the mixture cools.
  • Spread the cranberry mixture evenly over the hot crust. Scatter the streusel over the cranberries (don’t crumble the streusel too much or the texture will be sandy). Increase the oven temperature to 350°F and bake the bars near the top of the oven until the streusel is golden and set, about 25 minutes. (Baking these bars at the top of the oven helps the streusel brown faster without overbrowning the crust.)
  • Place the pan on a metal rack to cool until the crust is completely firm, at least 1 hour. (For faster cooling, put the bars in the fridge once the pan is no longer piping hot, or even outside in winter.)
  • When the bottom of the pan is cool, carefully lift the bars from the pan using the foil sides and transfer them to a cutting board. Separate the foil from the bars by sliding a spatula between them. Cut the bars into 1-3/4-inch squares.

Make Ahead Tips

The bars will keep at room temperature for one week.


For the best results, measure your flour by weight instead of volume. (1 cup of all-purpose flour equals 4-1/2 oz.) If you don’t have a scale, be sure to use the proper technique when filling your measuring cups.


Rate or Review

Reviews (25 reviews)

  • Red#1 | 11/30/2017

    Under the ingredients on the left above, 1/4 cup water has been omitted in the list.
    In the directions, it is there.
    Wanted to point it out for those of us that read the ingredients and go by it first.
    I cannot wait to make this. I had a cranberry shortbread wedge at Starbuck's yesterday. This recipe looks just like it.
    Thank you Nicole Rees for sharing this with everyone!!!!

  • LArcher | 12/18/2016

    Make these every Christmas for holiday gatherings. It is always a hit and I have been told that they are a nice change from all the chocolate and caramel filled bars. It comes together easily but always is impressive when it comes out of the oven.

  • saffronsmom | 12/17/2015

    Made these for a Christmas potluck and they were a hit! Will keep it in my holiday repertoire!!!

  • Lilia37 | 11/19/2013

    I know, it is always annoying when someone reviews a recipe, but they changed it. But alas, here I am doing just that. Mainly because it turned out so well, I thought I'd share. What I did: Made the crust recipe as directed using less sugar as others indicated they did. But I halved the recipe to make it in a square dish rather than a large rectangle. I used my own homemade cranberry sauce (a pear ginger variation from Cook's Illustrated if you want to google it). But what I really wanted was a cranberry cheese cake bar. So I added a layer of cheesecake using the following ingredients: 1 brick [8 oz] cream cheese, softened1/3 cup granulated sugar1 large egg1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract1/2 teaspoon orange zestMix all together. (Mix cream cheese first. Then add sugar and mix. Then add egg and mix. Then add remaining.) I topped the partially cooled crust with a layer of this cheesecake mixture and then I covered the whole lot with the cranberry sauce and crumbled on the reserved crust ingredients. Baked in a 350 oven for about 45 minutes, but I started checking after half an hour. It was a hit at the party I brought it to.

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