These Easy Cranberry Bars are simple to make and fun to eat. With a rich creamy cranberry filling and a buttery pecan graham cracker crust, these make a bright, delicious dessert.
I know Spring is only one hot second away (and believe me, no one is happier about that than me) but I am still doing the cranberry thing around here. Cranberries at my house are on the menu year round.
When cranberry season arrives, I buy ALL the bags of fresh cranberries to freeze and use all year long. There’s also cranberry juice and dried cranberries in the mix too. I just really love cranberries.
These particular Cranberry Bars aren’t really season specific anyway. The cranberry flavor is mild (but look at that color!) and a buttery graham cracker crust is going to be a hit no matter what time of year you serve it.
Easy Cranberry Bars
The texture of these Cranberry Bars is a cross between a custard and a cheesecake. It’s a little bit softer than cheese cake, but firmer than custard or pudding.
The rich, creamy cranberry filling is exactly what you should pour inside a crunchy pecan and graham cracker crust. It’s a delicious combination of both flavors and textures.
The Cranberry Bars are very sweet, but that’s not a bad thing. It just means that an 8×8 pan can easily make 16 to 20 servings because you can cut them into small squares. Each little square packs a big punch – a little morsel of sweetness.
These Cranberry Bars are a fun treat to make for a party or potluck. They’re just unique enough, and plenty bright enough, to stand out on a table of cookies and brownies.
I think these would make a lovely dessert for a tea party. But they’re really not fussy so they do just fine as an after dinner treat on an ordinary weeknight too.
Unsweetened Cranberry Juice and Its Benefits
This recipe calls for Unsweetened Cranberry Juice. It’s important that you actually use Unsweetened juice and not a cranberry cocktail juice blend.
Unsweetened cranberry juice is quite tart – it will definitely make you pucker up. It’s not sweet at all, and that’s exactly what this recipe needs. The filling is made with a can of sweetened condensed milk, which is very sweet all on its own. Using a juice sweeter than a tart, unsweetened cranberry juice, would make these cranberry bars unpalatable.
If you’ve never bought unsweetened cranberry juice before, let me tell you why I buy it.
- It can treat and prevent urinary tract infections
- It keeps your immune system healthy
- It can restrict yeast formation in your gut
- Helps maintain blood sugar levels
- And so much more (all this information and more is from here)
Obviously, adding it to a sweet cranberry bar isn’t about health benefits. That’s all about flavor and color. However, if you buy a bottle to make this recipe you can use the leftover juice to be a little bit healthier.
But, dessert first!
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- ⅔ cup finely chopped pecans*
- 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (4 oz of graham crackers, or a little less than 1 package)*
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
- ½ cup Unsweetened cranberry juice (not a cocktail blend)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8x8 pan and line the pan with parchment paper, leaving the ends on 2 sides long enough to hang over.
- Stir together the chopped pecans, graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar, and orange zest. Press the mixture into the bottom and ¼ inch up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool crust in pan for 20 to 30 minutes.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the filling ingredients until smooth. Pour mixture into the cooled crust.
- Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven and cool in pan on a wire rack. Transfer the pan to the fridge and chill for at least one hour.
- Using the parchment paper overhang, gently lift the bars out of the pan. Cut into squares (16 or 20) and serve chilled. Store any leftovers in the fridge.