These cranberry lemon bars are made with a tangy, sweet cranberry lemon curd filling and a thick, buttery shortbread crust. They are delicious, refreshing, and a stunning dessert that is easy to make and perfect for holidays or special occasions.
If you love lemon bars and desserts with lemon curd as much as much as I do, then you will absolutely adore these cranberry lemon bars! They are made similar to classic lemon bars, but the addition of tart, sweet cranberries makes them absolutely irresistible! You won't be able to stop at just one. The crisp, buttery shortbread crust is easy to make and is the perfect vessel for the thick, cranberry lemon filling.
What You Need to Make Cranberry Lemon Bars
- Flour: All-purpose flour, measured correctly. Use a kitchen scale, or lightly spoon the flour into your measuring cup and then level it off with the flat side of a knife.
- Sugar: Granulated.
- Salt: ¾ teaspoon.
- Egg yolks: 2 large egg yolks add flavor, richness, and help bind the dough.
- Vanilla extract: Adds flavor and helps bind the dough.
- Unsalted butter: Melted. If all you have is salted butter then reduce the added salt in the recipe to ¼ teaspoon.
Cranberry Lemon Filling
- Cranberries: 2 cups, fresh or frozen.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar. You will need 2 and ½ cups total, divided.
- Lemon juice: Fresh-squeezed. For 1 cup of fresh lemon juice you will need 6-8 large lemons.
- Water: Just ¼ cup to cut down on the tartness slightly.
- Cornstarch: Thickens the filling.
- Butter: 1 stick, I used unsalted butter, but salted butter is also fine.
How to Make Cranberry Lemon Bars
Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a 9 x 13" cake pan with parchment paper. Leave some overhang to make removing and slicing easier.
Make the Shortbread Crust
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Add the melted butter and mix with a wooden spoon or with your hands until the dough comes together. Spread the dough mixture evenly into the lined cake pan and use your hands or the flat side of a measuring cup to pack it down tightly and evenly into the pan.
Use a fork to poke several holes in the dough, which helps the filling sink in and adhere to the crust better.
Pre-bake the crust for 18 minutes while you make the filling.
Cranberry Lemon Filling
Add the fresh or frozen cranberries to a large saucepan along with 1 cup of granulated sugar and set the pan over medium heat. Cook and stir, mashing the cranberries as you do, until they start to release their liquid, about 5 minutes.
In a small bowl or a glass measuring cup, whisk the fresh-squeezed lemon juice, water, and cornstarch until the cornstarch is dissolved. Add it to the saucepan with the cranberries and continue to cook and mash the cranberries until the mixture is bubbling and starting to thicken slightly. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, remaining 1 and ½ cups of granulated sugar, and vanilla extract until completely smooth. Add that to the saucepan with the cranberry lemon mixture and whisk vigorously to combine.
Place the saucepan back over medium heat and bring the contents to a boil, whisking occasionally. Once it starts to boil, lower the heat and cook, whisking constantly until very thick, about 3 minutes.
Turn the heat all the way down and stir in the unsalted butter. Once the butter is melted, take the pan off of the heat and immediately strain through a sieve and into a bowl.
Pour the strained filling over the prebaked shortbread crust and use an offset spatula to spread it out evenly.
Bake the cranberry lemon bars for 12-14 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely at room temperature, then cover and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight in the fridge.
When ready to serve, use a large, sharp, clean knife to cut into even-sized bars. Wipe the knife clean between each slice.
How to Store and Freeze Cranberry Lemon Bars:
Cranberry lemon bars can be kept out at room temperature for a few hours, and they stay fresh, covered tightly, in the fridge for 1 week.
These cranberry lemon bars are great for freezing, which makes them great for making ahead of time and won't affect the texture at all. You can freeze them full in the pan or after slicing.
To freeze in the pan, cover the pan tightly and keep frozen for up to 3 months. Then thaw in the fridge when ready to slice and serve.
To freeze after slicing, cut into bars and arrange on a baking sheet. Set the baking sheet flat in your freezer overnight or until the bars are completely solid. Transfer to a large plastic bag and keep them in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, remove from the bag and arrange the bars on a serving plate. Thaw overnight in the fridge or at room temperature for 30 minutes-1 hour.
More Holiday Recipes:
Cranberry Lemon Bars
- 9 x 13" cake pan with straight edges
- 3 and ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
Cranberry Lemon Filling:
- 2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
- 2 and ½ cups granulated sugar, divided
- 1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 6 large eggs
- 8 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a 9 x 13" cake pan with parchment paper. Leave an overhang to make removing the bars from the pan easier.
Make the shortbread crust:
- In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Add the melted butter and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough is cohesive.
- Spread the crust mixture evenly in the cake pan and use your fingers or the bottom of a measuring cup to press it down tightly and evenly into the pan.
- Use a fork to poke several holes in the dough, then prebake the crust for 18 minutes. Start making the filling while the crust bakes.
Cranberry Lemon Filling:
- Add the fresh or frozen cranberries to a large saucepan along with 1 cup of granulated sugar. Place the pan over medium heat, cook, and stir until the cranberries start to soften and release their liquid.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the fresh-squeezed lemon juice, water, and cornstarch until the cornstarch is dissolved. Add it to the saucepan with the cranberries and bring the liquid to a boil. Use a wooden spoon or a potato masher to stir and break down the cranberries as they cook.
- Take the pan off of the heat and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, remaining 1 and ½ cups granulated sugar, and the vanilla extract. Whisk vigorously until well combined.
- Whisk the egg mixture into the saucepan with the warm cranberry lemon mixture. Whisk very well until combined and smooth.
- Place the saucepan back over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking occasionally.
- Once boiling, lower the heat and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until bubbling and thick. About 3-5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and stir in the butter until melted.
- Once the butter is melted, immediately strain the cranberry lemon mixture through a sieve and into a bowl. Use a spatula to press as much of the liquid through the sieve as you can.
- Spread the cranberry lemon filling evenly over the prebaked shortbread crust. Bake the cranberry lemon bars for 10-12 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let cool completely at room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, but overnight is best.
- When ready to serve, lift the cranberry lemon bars out of the pan and place on a cutting board. Use a large, sharp knife to slice into bars. Wipe the knife clean between each slice. Tip: For cleaner slices, place the pan in the freezer for about 30 minutes before cutting into bars.