Cranberry & Vanilla Bean Pie Bars

Easy cranberry pie bars (via now for my favorite part of our Friendsgiving meal: dessert! This year I decided to make cranberry and vanilla bean pie bars topped with vanilla ice cream. These were the perfect combination of tart and sweetness coupled with plenty of pie crumb goodness. Great way to end a good meal with friends. πŸ™‚

Cranberry pie bars with vanilla ice cream Cranberry pie bars with vanilla ice cream  We were stoked to partner with the Cranberry Marketing Committee again for this post (and our cranberry wreaths) as part of the #FriendsgivingCranberryContest (the winner gets $2,000!). Such a fun, tart flavor and the bright pop of red that they add to everything is just the best. Cranberries are naturally festive. πŸ™‚ And they make great pie bars, let's discuss.

Cranberry sauceCranberry and Vanilla Bean Pie Bars, makes one 9×11 inch pan which is roughly 14 bars depending how you slice it.
*You could easily cut this recipe in half and bake in an 8×8 square pan if you are serving less at your event.

18 oz. fresh cranberries
1 cup brown sugar
seeds from one vanilla bean
juice from 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch
1 1/2 cups cold butter (3 sticks)
1 cup powdered sugar
3 cups flour, all purpose
3-4 tablespoons cream or cold water

To make the filling, combine the cranberries, brown sugar, vanilla bean seeds and lemon juice in a large pot with a lid. Cook on medium heat with the lid on for 5-6 minutes until the berries begin to soften and release their juices. Continue to cook for an additional 3-4 minutes so that some of the juice begins to evaporate. Then stir in the corn starch to thicken the filling. I like to dust the corn starch in through a fine mesh sieve when I add it to avoid getting any big clumps. 

Cranberry pie fillingAfter another minute or two on the heat your filling should be done. You should be able to drag a spoon through it and it will leave a trail and then quickly seep back in. So it's not quite as thick or gelatinous as jelly, more like a chunky sauce. 

Cranberry pie barsThen make the pie crust by mixing together the cold butter, powdered sugar and flour. You can use a pastry blender or your clean hands for this step. (I usually use my hands. Remember to take any rings off you don't want covered in dough.) Blend until your mix resembles very small pebbles. Then add a few tablespoons of cream or cold water and stir until a loose dough ball forms. If the mix seems too dry to hold together, add a little more water or cream. 

Divide the dough in half. In a rectangle baking pan lined with parchment paper plop half the dough in and press into place. It doesn't have to look like a perfect rectangle, but do try to keep the thickness fairly uniform throughout. Bake this for 12 minutes at 350Β°F.

Then spoon the filling onto the crust and spread. Top with the remaining dough. Just crumble it all over the top. Bake for an additional 25-30 minutes until the top crust begins to brown.

Cranberry pie bars with vanilla ice creamYou can make the filling and dough ahead and just bake when you're ready, or you can go ahead and bake the bars a day before and rewarm them in the oven briefly before serving. I chose to do the latter so that my event went super smoothβ€”I'm a make-everything-you-can-ahead kind of hostess. πŸ™‚ Top warm bars with ice cream and watch them disappear. Enjoy! xo. Emma

P.S. If you haven't gotten a chance to post your favorite cranberry photo and enter the $2,000 #FriendsgivingCranberryContest yet, read the full details here! Contest is open until 12/14/15.

Credits // Author: Emma Chapman. Photography: Collin Dupree and Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

  • This looks so delicious!!! I’d love to try it πŸ™‚
    Also, a quick question, where did you get your cutlery? It’s so pretty!
    I love the gold!

  • This looks so delicious! You’re making me hungry πŸ˜‰ Also, just wanted to say thanks so much for your Start Small Dream Big class. I am working through it and have gotten so many useful tips already – thank you!

  • Oh my these look so good!! I wish I could have done! It could probably be made with cherries as well or any berry. Ooo, what about mixed berry? πŸ™‚ I have to make a note to try these.

  • These look delicious! I am going to make chocolate pavlova for Thanksgiving this year. It’s my first year away at college and coming home to visit for Thanksgiving so I want to contribute something to the meal! Dessert was an obvious choice and I want to top it off with raspberry and marscapone cream.

  • These look delicious! Question: Do you use salted or unsalted butter? Seems like you might want a little bit of salt in the crust/crumble dough to balance out the sweetness… Thanks!

  • I want to say that set came from Target or West Elm… but I don’t remember. Maybe Elsie will get on later and correct me. πŸ™‚

    One thing about gold cutlery is it’s pretty typical for it to be a bit more high maintenance, like not as dishwasher friendly. Or at least that’s been my experience. But this makes it great for special occasions. Plus I don’t mind hand washing a few things because this comes up with many other kitchen items I use regularly like wooden cutting boards.


  • You’re gonna love them. Honestly I wish had made a bit extra cranberry filling because I LOVED it even on it’s own and it would be great on toast with cream cheese.


  • You could use some other berries mixed in. I would recommend keeping it mostly cranberries though as they have a firm texture and the sugar ratio in the crumb batter is meant to pair with their tartness. So if you use another berry it may turn out well, or it may be too soggy and overly sweet. I’m not sure as I only worked with cranberries on this, but just a hunch so I thought I’d throw it out there.


  • I mostly use unsalted, for the exact reason you are kind of getting at with your question: I like to control the saltiness of my recipes. And yes, the crumb is quite sweet (although probably less than you might guess just based on reading the recipe) but this is meant to pair with the tart cranberry filling. But of course feel free to make it your own! I was actually just thinking today that a bit of chopped fresh rosemary thrown in with the cranberry filling might be nice.


  • do you think these would work out just as good if i did a paleo crust and subbed coconut sugar for brown??

  • These sound boss! Could regular vanilla extract be substituted for the vanilla beans? Thanks!

  • looks great
    a little casual for T day but I like the idea of mixing up the fruits as previously mentioned
    interested in messing around with the recipe thank you

  • Look delish!

    Love your cutlery as well. I have the same but only use it for photo shoots for my blog. πŸ˜‰

  • This looks DELICIOUS and I would love to try it! However in my country finding fresh cranberries might be next to impossible (it sucks I know) so I was wondering if using dry cranberries is an option?

  • My sister saw this post as she walked by my computer and now she’s obsessed. I guess I’ll be making these for her soon lol. They look great, I’ll let you know how they go!

  • I am definitely making these for Thanksgiving! How many cups is 18oz of cranberries? I don’t have a scale and I can only find 12oz bags of fresh cranberries. Also, I can’t find vanilla bean, can I substitute vanilla extract?

  • Caitlin – I made these without the vanilla bean and used a good vanilla extract. The conversion ratio I found was 1t of extract per 1″ of vanilla bean. I had one that was earmarked for another recipe and it was 7″ long, so I used the 7t of extract and I think it came out delicious! It was a huge hit and will become a regular treat for us.

  • Yum! I did not get enough cranberry goodness for Thanksgiving this year, so I may have to make up with it by baking these over Christmas. πŸ™‚

  • Just want to let you guys know that I’ve been making these every year since I saw this post. They go so quickly, that I usually have to hide some so that I can eat them too!