Filled with layers of sweet and tart cranberry and lemon atop a buttery shortbread crust, these lemon cranberry bars are a unique take on a classic lemon bar recipe.
There’s no denying that classics like chocolate chip cookies (this recipe is made without baking soda), brownies (these don’t include cocoa powder), and cheesecake (no bake, no problem!) are all winners.
I also love a good lemon bar — it’s a delicious combination of buttery, rich shortbread, and perfectly tart citrus.
Recently, as I was munching on a lemon bar, I had a brilliant idea: these would taste great with a layer of cranberries!
I tried it at home and was so happy with the results. I will definitely be making a few batches of them for the holidays! Christmas lemon bars, anyone?
Here’s what I’m going to teach you in this post:
- The ingredients you’ll need for each layer of my cranberry lemon bars, plus how to prepare and assemble them.
- Specific instructions on how to get the best lemon cranberry bars every time.
- Make ahead instructions so that you can keep a batch in the freezer, as well as advice on where to store your lemon cranberry bars so that they stay fresh.
I love the idea of serving Christmas lemon bars with cranberry at my holiday parties this year. It’s a twist on the lemon bars that everyone knows and loves!
How to Make Lemon Cranberry Bars
A full printable version of this recipe with ingredient measurements is available at the bottom of this post.
STEP ONE: Start with your crust. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13-inch pan with parchment paper and spray it with your favorite nonstick spray. Whisk the flour and powdered sugar together in a large bowl, then add the melted butter.
Mix to combine. Pour the dough into the pan and press it gently into an even layer. Don’t press too hard — you don’t want to compact it. Bake the shortbread crust for your cranberry lemon bars for 15-18, then allow to cool while you make the other layers.
STEP TWO: Now onto the cranberry layer. Add the cranberry sauce, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and cornstarch to a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 1 minute in the microwave and then whisk to remove any large lumps. Spread in an even layer over the shortbread crust.
STEP THREE: Last but not least, the lemon layer of the best lemon cranberry bars ever. Whisk together the sugar and flour in a large bowl. Then, add the eggs and vanilla and whisk again. Add the lemon juice and combine. Gently pour the lemon mixture over the cranberry layer.
STEP FOUR: Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the lemon layer has set. Allow the bars to cool to room temperature, then place them in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours.
STEP FIVE: Once chilled, use the parchment paper to lift the cranberry lemon bars out of the pan. Dust with powdered sugar if desired and slice them into even squares. Store your leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge, where they will keep for up to 3 days!
Can I Freeze Lemon Cranberry Bars?
100%! One of the reasons why this is the best lemon cranberry bars recipe is that it freezes beautifully.
After the bars have chilled, you can either cut them or freeze them as a slab. I recommend that you wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and then wrap them again with tin foil.
They will keep for up to 3 months. Allow them to thaw in the fridge overnight, or you can even enjoy them frozen!
Why Are My Cranberry Lemon Bars So Gooey?
You need to be careful to allow the bars to bake until the lemon layer has completely set. Test them by gently shaking the pan. If the lemon jiggles, they need to bake longer.
Do Lemon Bars Need To Be Refrigerated After Baking?
It’s important to chill your Christmas lemon bars after baking in order to ensure that they are set.
You can serve them at room temperature or chilled — it’s all about preference! That said, you do need to store them in the fridge to avoid any foodborne illnesses.
Can You Overcook Lemon Cranberry Bars?
Yes. If you allow this dessert to overcook, it will take on a grainy texture. The best lemon cranberry bars have a smooth and firm consistency, so keep an eye on the cooking time!
More Lemon and Cranberry recipes
- Graham Cracker Lemon Bars
- Lemon Blueberry Cookies
- Lemon Biscotti
- Lemon Shortbread Cookies
- Lemon Curd Cookies
- Jello Lemon Meringue Pie
- Cranberry Orange Sauce
For the Crust
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- ⅔ cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, melted
For the Cranberry Layer
- 1 (14 ounce) can jellied cranberry sauce
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 lemon, juiced and zested
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
For the Lemon Layer
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the Crust
- Preheat the oven to 350F and line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper. Lightly spray the parchment with nonstick baking spray.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and powdered sugar. Add the melted butter and mix to combine.
- Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and press it gently into the bottom– you just want to smooth the dough into an even layer, not compact it.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
- Remove the crust from the oven and let it cool while you make the other layers.
For the Cranberry Layer
- Add the cranberry sauce, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and cornstarch into a microwave safe bowl. Heat for 1 minute and then whisk until no large lumps remain. Spread the mixture evenly over the shortbread crust.
For the Lemon Layer
- In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and flour. Next, add the eggs and vanilla and which to combine.
- Finally, add the lemon juice and whisk to combine.
- Carefully pour the lemon layer over the cranberry layer, making sure not to disturb the cranberry layer.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the lemon layer is set and no longer jiggles when the pan is gently shaken.
- Allow the bars to cool completely to room temperature and then transfer them to the fridge to chill (at least 4 hours).
- When ready to serve, use the parchment to lift the bars out of the pan. Slice them into your desired size and dust with powdered sugar, if desired.
- Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 247Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 49mgSodium: 30mgCarbohydrates: 53gFiber: 1gSugar: 32gProtein: 4g
This nutrition information is based on the exact products I used in this recipe. Brands and sizes of products could alter exact nutrition and should always be calculated independently.