Love and Olive Oil
Cranberry Almond Shortbread Bars

Cranberry Almond Shortbread Bars

Glazed Cranberry Orange Almond Shortbread Bars

Holiday baking season is upon us, and that means the eternal search for recipes that meet a specific set of criteria (the holy trinity, if you will). In short, the best holiday baking recipes are:




Think about your favorite holiday dessert recipes, cookies or otherwise. Are they best fresh out of the oven? Do they start to go dry the next day? Do they involve multiple parts and pieces and layers? Will they sink or shatter or smush with a single bump in the road? I know many of my favorite recipes fall into one or more of these pitfalls, which are surprisingly hard to avoid.

This is not one of those recipes.

Instead, this recipe is dead easy. You don’t even have to dollop out individual cookie balls. It travels well, being flat in shape and sturdy in nature. And it is just as good, just as soft and tender and flavorful, days later, or even frozen weeks ahead of time (that is the definition of make-ahead-able).

Holiday Cookie Recipe: Cranberry Almond Shortbread Bars with Almond Glaze

Indeed, these Cranberry Almond Shortbread bars are everything you’ve ever wanted in a cookie, and more.

Soft and buttery.

Bright and fruity.

Sweet and zesty.

Glazed Cranberry Orange Almond Shortbread Bars

Cranberry Orange Almond Shortbread Bars

The tender shortbread cookie is scented with McCormick® Pure Almond Extract as is the glaze (so almond lovers, rejoice). There’s also some vanilla in there too (and almond haters, know that you can simply swap the almond extract for even more vanilla if you’d prefer).

Glazed Cranberry Orange Almond Shortbread Bars for McCormick

This shortbread’s other secret is that it is made with dried Valencia Orange Peel. Again, simplicity rules here, you don’t even have to zest an orange. The dried orange peel gives the final cookie a subtle citrus zing that helps cut the sweetness and accent the acidity of the cranberries (we all know that cranberry and orange are a natural pairing).

When it comes to dried orange peel, just make sure your bottle is fresh. If it’s more than a year old, it will have lost much of the volatile oils that give the orange it’s flavor. You may as well be putting ground up bits of corn for all the flavor you’ll get. But a fresh bottle of dried orange peel, especially a good quality orange peel like McCormick Gourmet™, is nearly as aromatic as a freshly zested orange, robust and fragrant and vibrantly orange in color.

Glazed Cranberry Orange Almond Shortbread Bars

While I added an artful drizzle of glaze, the shortbread cookie stands strongly on its own as well, so feel free to make it without the glaze if you prefer. But I thought the glaze made the bars even more festive looking, especially with the addition of the edible silver glitter stars (because you can never have too much glitter).

Cranberry Almond Shortbread Bars

Cranberry Almond Shortbread Bars

Tender orange and almond scented shortbread studded with cranberries.

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For Shortbread:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon dried Valencia orange peel (or use 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange peel)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped

For Glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons milk or cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, followed by orange peel, almond and vanilla extracts, and salt, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add flour and mix on low speed until mostly incorporated, then add cranberries and mix until evenly distributed.
  3. Press dough into prepared baking pan in an even layer. The dough is quite sticky, so it might help to lightly flour your fingertips so they don’t stick to the dough; you can also use a piece of plastic wrap to help you press the dough into an even layer in the bottom of the pan.
  4. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes or until top is puffed and matte in finish and the edges are just starting to turn a very light golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
  5. For glaze,  sift powdered sugar into a bowl. Add milk or cream and whisk until smooth; whisk in almond extract. If necessary you can add a bit more cream or powdered sugar as needed to acheive desired consistency. Drizzle over top of shortbread, then cut into squares or triangles. Cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
All images and text © / Love & Olive Oil

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Disclosure: This recipe was created in partnership with McCormick®/McCormick Gourmet™. As always, all opinions written are purely our own. We’re incredibly grateful for opportunities like these that allow us to continue sharing delicious recipes with you, so thank you for supporting us and the brands we love.

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  1. Can you keep these refrigerated for longer then 5 days?

  2. Wow – girl, I literally made this with a bowl, a fork, and determination. The first cookie I have baked since I was a kid. I am the furthest thing from a baker… more of a burner really… but your instructions were super easy to follow and it turned out great! I doubted myself at every beat of the fork! One note to a question above – I did use fresh cranberries – pre-infused in an orange vanilla simple syrup so they were quite juicy. I just made sure they were very drained before mixing them in, e.g. chopped them on a paper towel and let them drain a while more before I started baking. Now I’m amped to purchase a beater and try all the Amaretti Cookies and most especially the White Chocolate & Cherry Shortbread Cookies!! Thank you!

  3. This is a great recipe.  I make it year round as it’s probably one of the most requested baked goodies. I use fresh orange peels and substitute with gluten free flour and it’s always perfect. Love this recipe. Thank you. 

  4. Hi there!! 

    My niece makes a batch of these for Christmas Eve every year and they are AMAZING so thanks for the recipe. These are so delicious that I am making 9 batches for my holiday cookie swap this evening. (swap is Sunday) 

    My question is this: I have a rather large stand mixer and am considering mixing these in batches of 3 or 4. However, I know that some cookie recipes do not come out the same if mixed in more than 2 batches. Have you tripled or quadrupled this recipe successfully? Thanks in advance,


    • Yay, that makes me so happy to hear! :)

      And I think you’ll be fine scaling the recipe up as long as your mixer can handle it. Be sure you cream the butter/sugar well and I think you’ll be good to go!
      Happy baking!

  5. The best cookies, I’m not a fan of sweet things, but these are my absolute favourite! Nice texture, not too sweet and oh so flavourful.  Only made two slight changes, I used freshly grated orange peel and added about 1 cup of chopped almonds. And they are easy peasy to make, one bowl, one pan.  Love it!

  6. I just made these for a cookie exchange and they are fantastic! I found the Valencia orange peel at Cub which adds just a subtle orange flavor. I followed recipe exactly and very happy I did. Thanks for a great Christmas shortbread, my new fav😊 

  7. I love to make shortbread at Christmas time and this one looks extra yummy! The little star sprinkles are fab!

  8. I made these (twice now!) and they are fantastic! I used real orange zest since I had an orange already, and they turned out great. Thanks for the recipe!

  9. This orange peel flavor sounds magnificent. I enjoy making shortbread at Xmas time and this looks extra yummy! The little star sprays are fabulous!

  10. I love to make shortbread at Christmas time and this one looks extra yummy! The little star sprinkles are fab!

  11. Can you use fresh orange peel instead.  Does it interchange equally? This time of year I actually have fresh orange peel.   I can purchase the orange peel though if it is not interchangeable. Have used the orange and lemon in the past but prefer fresh .  Thank you!

  12. This orange peel spice sounds divine. Why haven’t I had this in my life before?

  13. These look amazing! Do you think I could substitute fresh cranberries for dried? I have some I’m trying to use up, but I guess that might mess with the amount of moisture?

    • I have not tried this recipe with fresh cranberries… my guess is it’d probably be too much moisture and you’d end up with soggy pockets around the berries.

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