Cranberry Lemon Bars Recipe (2024)

By Genevieve Ko

Cranberry Lemon Bars Recipe (1)

Total Time
1 hour, plus cooling and chilling
Read community notes

Cranberries that are quick-cooked into jam add a striking magenta color and complex tartness to these two-toned lemon bars. A thin layer of the classic lemon filling coats the cranberry mix like icing, and lemon zest boiled with the berries echoes the citrus taste of the lemony top. (Its pectin also thickens the jam.) To achieve a sturdy crust that isn’t tough, melted butter is stirred into a flour blend and simply patted into the pan. That vanilla cookie base, generously salted to balance the tangy sweetness on top, comes out crisp and holds up well even as the bars keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Featured in: 3 Thanksgiving Desserts That Are Easy to Share, Even in a Pandemic

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Yield:2 dozen bars

    For the Cranberry Layer

    • 1(12-ounce/340-gram) bag fresh or frozen cranberries
    • ¾cup/150 grams granulated sugar
    • 2 to 3large lemons

    For the Crust

    • Nonstick cooking spray
    • cups/190 grams all-purpose flour
    • cup/65 grams granulated sugar
    • 1teaspoon fine sea salt
    • 1teaspoon vanilla extract
    • ¾cup/170 grams unsalted butter (1½ sticks), melted and cooled

    For the Lemon Layer

    • 1cup/200 grams granulated sugar
    • ¼cup/30 grams all-purpose flour
    • teaspoon fine sea salt
    • 3large eggs, at room temperature
    • Confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (24 servings)

179 calories; 7 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 28 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram dietary fiber; 19 grams sugars; 2 grams protein; 120 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Cranberry Lemon Bars Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Start preparing the cranberry layer: Combine the cranberries, sugar and 3 tablespoons water in a medium saucepan. Zest 2 of the lemons directly into the saucepan; reserve the lemons. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Continue boiling, stirring occasionally, until the berries burst and the mixture is jammy, 7 to 9 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve.

  2. Step


    Make the crust: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with one large sheet of heavy aluminum foil, making sure there are no gaps or holes, then generously coat with cooking spray.

  3. Step


    Whisk the flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the vanilla into the butter, then pour over the flour mixture. Stir until the dough comes together in a mass. Press into an even layer in the prepared pan. Bake until golden brown around the edges and dry and golden on top, 17 to 20 minutes.

  4. Step


    While the crust bakes, begin preparing the lemon layer: Squeeze the juice from the 2 reserved zested lemons. You should have ½ cup. Squeeze the juice from another lemon, if needed.

  5. Step


    Whisk the sugar, flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add the eggs and whisk gently just until incorporated. Add the lemon juice and stir gently with the whisk just until smooth.

  6. Step


    Let the crust cool for 5 minutes, then spread the cranberry mixture evenly over the crust. Carefully and slowly pour the lemon mixture on top to create two distinct layers.

  7. Step


    Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is set, 18 to 22 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, then refrigerate until cold and firm, at least 2 hours. Using the foil, slide the bars out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Cut into 24 squares, wiping your knife between cuts for clean slices. If desired, sift confectioners’ sugar over the tops just before serving.



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Cooking Notes

Will R

After the berries had begun to pop, I used an immersion blender to purée the cranberry sauce and cooked in on simmer for approximately 30 minutes until it was very think and jammy. Spread the cranberry sauce over the baked crust an allowed it to cool for 15-20 mins before pouring the lemon custard on top. This resulted in attractive, distinct layers of fruit when the bars were sliced.


After reading the comments of others, we used an 8 inch square pan with half a recipe of crust, half a recipe of cranberry filling, and the full amount of lemon filling. The baking in step 7 took about 25 minutes. Our bars were delicious, with three distinct layers—just like the picture!


Can the sugar be reduced in the cranberry filling? Usually when I make whole cranberry sauce, I use much less sugar and it gels nicely when chilled. Still spreadable.

stephanie g.

Agree with others who said this recipe was poorly worded. The ingredients for filling section should be divided into two distinct parts, or at least have the sugar amount say “divided” so you don’t dump all the sugar into the cranberry sauce and leave none for the lemon layer! For the distinct layers to form, 1) cook the cranberry sauce down until it’s completely smooth and the cranberries are no longer intact berries (30 min). 2) also consider doubling the lemon layer - not enough to cover!


I'd love to make this gluten free for a friend with celiac. Has anyone tried this with a gluten free flour?

Angel R.

I made this in an 8x8 glass Pyrex baking dish. I would absolutely recommend. I kept all of the same measurements and it resulted in a beautiful thick crust, a moderate but incredibly flavorful cranberry layer, and a thick (I estimate about 2/3 inch thick) lemon layer. The flavor is on point. The baking process is simple. The only thing that changed for me (because of the smaller glass baking dish) was the cooking time. I baked it for a total of 30 minutes before the center set.


Reduced sugar for lemon filling to 3/4 c and cranberry jam to 1/2 c. As written, not enough lemon filling to make a distinct layer: cranberry bleeding through. Next time will experiment with either doubling lemon filling or decreasing size of pan.


Cranberry filling1 12ounce (340gram) bag of fresh or frozen cranberries3/4Cup granulated sugar3 Tablespoons waterThe zest of two lemonsCrust-you probably only need 1 ¼ recipe but it isn’t easy to translate into measurable amounts without a scale. Use just enough for a thin but adequate crust layer2 ¼ Cups all purpose flour½ Cup granulated sugar1 ½ teaspoons salt1 ½ teaspoon vanilla2 ¼ Cups melted butter Lemon filling 1 cup lemon juice½ Cup flour¼ teaspoon salt2cups sugar6 eggs


These are delicious! I might have made them in a smaller pan, because the lemon part ended up quite thin. Also, for those asking if you could use less sugar, you probably can, but it is quite tart with the amount of sugar in the recipe. Last - an almond crust would be delicious!


These came out great! I used parchment instead of foil and very slightly reduced the sugar in the cranberry and lemon fillings.The directions are not clearly written so make sure you read thoroughly. Steps 2 and 3 are for the crust, steps 4 and 5 are for the lemon filling. It was confusing at first and could be easy to mix up the measurements.


I made these with two tweaks based on comments and they turned out beautiful and delicious, with distinctive layers. Very successful.1. I added 50 percent more to the lemon layer2. I used the immersion blender on the cranberry layer so it was smoother.


After reading the notes I decided to use Melissa Clark’s Lemon Bars with Olive Oil as the base recipe, then added the cranberry layer per this one. Used a 9x13 pan: without the cranberries there wouldn’t have been enough custard but with them, delish. Big hit. Even my daughter-in-law, a professional baker, gave these high praise.


Came together pretty well, but recipe needs editing. As a pretty experienced baker, still got tripped up when I added the wrong amount of sugar to the crust . Luckily, I realized it when I got to the lemon prep part and pulled the crust out of the oven and remixed. Please restate amounts in step 3 .Also, well-written recipes tell you what part of the oven to bake in (upper third seems to work). Freezing notes are appreciated, especially at Thanksgiving. Tart and Delicious and worth it.


Can parchment paper be substituted for the aluminum foil?


Maybe an almond flour crust? Really easy and splash of almond extract amps it up a little. Nice change. Tons of recipes available.


I am an impulsive baker and will bake any dessert/pastry that calls for melted butter instead of “room temperature.”

Ann O’Neill

Wish I had read comments before making these. I even used a smaller baking pan 8x11 versus 9x13 and STILL didn’t have enough to make a full lemon layer. Also feel it should be cooked like a curd before pouring it over the cranberry layer. It looks disgusting I’m sorry to say. Clotted cranberry seeped over a partial lemon layer that looks like a mornay sauce. I’m willing to taste them when they cool but I won’t be bringing them to Mah Jongg tomorrow, I can tell you that.


Use an 8x8 pan instead


These were messy, but I really did like the flavors.


Delicious. Following the advice of others, I also used an 8 inch square pan, but with a full recipe of crust and lemon layer and half the amount of cranberries.


Made these for the office for the holidays and got rave reviews. After reading the comments, I did double the lemon layer which everyone loved. I wish I had used my immersion blender on the cranberries. While I did get distinct layers, the larger pieces of cranberry came through the lemon although everyone thought it looked really pretty and they liked a slightly chunkier texture of the berries vs the smoothness of the curd.


Made these at Christmas. Having read the comments, I made in a 9x9 pan. I blended the cranberry layer with a stick blender and doubled the lemon layer. Otherwise I followed the recipe and made in the smaller plan. I felt I overcooked by 2-3min so keep an eye on them. They were very well received by the lemon lovers. Tart, lemony, not too sweet cranberry and nice shortbread.


I made this with leftover cranberry sauce I had made previously, otherwise I followed the instructions. They turned out good. My cookie crust took a bit longer to become golden than the directions (probably 25 mins total, my oven is usually reliable so not sure why so off), and I did use a 9x13 pan. My only regret is that I poured the lemon filling to quickly and didn't have the distinct layers as in the picture. I'd try again next time and be more careful about that.


I made these in my endless search for yummy tart-tasting desserts without much sugar. Changes I made, based on other's comments: used a 8x8 glass pyrex pan, 1/2 c sugar for the cranberries, 3/4 c sugar for the lemon layer, much longer baking time for the crust, about 20-25 min baking time for lemon layer, and an immersion blender on the cranberries. I let the crust cool completely before adding the cranberries. It came out beautifully. Wipe your knife after each cut to keep the squares pretty.


Made these to share as a new option with our traditional Christmas cookies. Several people contacted me to say that these were "excellent"; one even said, "The lemon cranberry cookie was SUBLIME!" Such high praise means they are being made for a New Year's Day brunch as well. :)


Lots of good response from family, young and old.The lemony top seems like an ugly color to me, so I did add the optional powdered sugar==still not beautiful, but when cut into bars it looks nicer. Next time I might make more cranberry goo. The lemon topping seemed adequate for cover.


Use less sugar, 50 g lass of both lemon and cranberry. Use immersion blender on cranberries. Make sure things cool a bit between adding layers.


This was delicious and was a huge hit at Christmas. However, baking the lemon curd layer took twice as long as the time indicated of 18-22 min. It probably took me almost 40 min for the lemon curd layer to set on my 9x13 pyrex dish. When I looked after 18 min, the lemon layer was still liquid. I made the recipe exactly as written (and divided the sugar properly per the layers). I also don't think the cranberry layer was quite enough but perhaps I cooked it too much.


this was a huge, huge hit with my lemon-loving mother and even my sweets-neutral dad. the lemon layer was indeed thin and though i cooled each layer prior to pouring in the next, i did end up with red-spotted lemon on the top - nothing a medium/heavy powdered-sugar sifting couldn't mask. will _definitely_ make again (and again).


these turned out very well. I used an extra egg yolk and a tablespoon of orange juice, so there was no problem with crumbling.

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Cranberry Lemon Bars Recipe (2024)
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