November 23, 2020
Fresh Cranberry Bars
These vegan and gluten-free cranberry orange bars are the perfect balance of tart and sweet.
Makes 12 bars

fresh cranberry bars

I found myself with three bags of fresh cranberries in the fridge last week; a happy coincidence of forgetting I already had a bag and then forgetting to update my cart with grocery delivery. I threw one bag in the freezer for healing cranberry smoothies this winter, saved one for my Thanksgiving cranberry orange sauce and used the other to make these fresh cranberry bars.

If you like cranberry sauce and cobbler, then you are going to love these cranberry oat bars. One part sweet brown sugar oat crust and another part tart orange filling; the perfect yin and yang combination for this time of year.

fresh cranberries

It’s no wonder that all of my cranberry recipes on this blog contain some version of cranberry and orange flavors together– I obviously gravitate towards the combo and I love the bright, tart, slightly sweet pairing. These fresh cranberry bars are no different, pairing fresh cranberries with plenty of orange zest and fresh orange juice. 

These bars are also much easier to make than a traditional pie, which is one holiday tradition I can get behind. As much as I enjoy baking this time of year, homemade pie always feels a little overwhelming. But bars? I can make bars in my sleep. They are very forgiving, easy to freeze leftovers and perfect for those sweet little toddler hands that always seems to be in the kitchen with me.

vegan gluten-free cranberry bars

How to Make Fresh Cranberry Bars

Stock up on fresh cranberries now! They freeze beautifully and while cranberry might be a winter flavor, I’d argue that it’s welcome anytime of the year. 

First, make the crust by combining oats, oat flour, brown sugar and spices. To keep things easy, I make my own homemade oat flour by adding rolled oats into a food processor/blender and pureeing until a flour forms. This usually takes about 30 seconds and the oat flour makes these bars lighter than using all-purpose. Yes, you can sub in all-purpose flour if you wish! 

Press half into the bottom of a square baker, then make the filling. Simmer fresh cranberries with orange juice, orange zest and enough starch to thicken. Let cool, then add into the prepared crust and top with remaining crust. 

That’s it! Bake, let cool and slice. 

healthy cranberry bars with fresh cranberries

Can you use leftover cranberry sauce?

Yes, you can use leftover cranberry sauce as long as it’s thick enough. The mixture should be like a thick jam, as shown in the photo below. Homemade cranberry sauce is probably best in these and I would skip the canned, gelled version as it will be too thick in these bars. 

If you have lots of leftover cranberry sauce, then I recommend making these bars first and enjoying the rest in my cranberry parfaits or cranberry oatmeal

cranberry orange sauce vegan cranberry oat bars

Can I use other fruit besides cranberry? 

While these are cranberry bars, the bar recipe is one that I’ve used over and over again with various fruits depending on the time of year. 

These bars work great with cooked apples, pear and berries. You’ll cook them the same way, though you may need to adjust the liquid/starch ratio a bit depending on what fruit you use. 

vegan cranberry oat bars

Are these fresh cranberry bars vegan and gluten-free?

Choosing oat flour over all-purpose flours means these bars are completely gluten-free, as long as the oats are certified gluten-free. For non-dairy baking, I prefer to use Earth Balance baking sticks. Earth Balance is a salted butter, so I only use a small pinch of salt in the crust recipe. 

However, you can sub in all-purpose flour or regular butter if preferred. 

healthy cranberry bars with fresh cranberries

Once you bake these, make sure to let them cool completely before slicing. The cranberry orange filling needs time to set and gel and cutting them warm will leave you with a gooey mess. 

To make things easy, I make a parchment-lined overhang in my baker. Cut two long pieces of parchment paper and criss-cross them in the square, pressing down to line. As parchment paper is non-stick, I don’t spray with any type of cooking spray but if you skip the parchment then you’ll need to spray your baker.

When the bars are cool enough to slice, simply lift the parchment paper overhang out and place onto a cutting board to slice. I normally do 12 bars, or 9 if I am gifting these fresh cranberry bars and want a larger, bakery-size offering.

You can also slice these into 16 for a smaller, toddler-size dessert.

fresh cranberry bars

Hope you enjoy these fresh cranberry bars as much as we do! If you make them, make sure to come back to leave a comment and rate them. Seeing you make my recipes makes my day and your feedback helps other readers. 

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vegan cranberry oat bars

Fresh Cranberry Bars

  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 12 bars 1x
  • Category: dessert
  • Method: oven
  • Cuisine: American, Thanksgiving
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Fresh Cranberry Bars! These vegan and gluten-free cranberry orange bars are the perfect balance of tart and sweet. A must for Thanksgiving, Christmas and the holidays.


  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 12 bars 1x
  • Category: dessert
  • Method: oven
  • Cuisine: American, Thanksgiving
  • Diet: Vegan
  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 12 bars 1x
  • Category: dessert
  • Method: oven
  • Cuisine: American, Thanksgiving
  • Diet: Vegan
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups oat flour*
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) non-dairy butter like Earth Balance, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot starch
  • Zest from 1 orange
  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice**

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8″ baking pan with parchment paper both ways so that it overhangs slightly. This will allow you to lift the bars out of the pan after cooking for easier slicing. You don’t have to do this, they will just be a little harder to cut.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the rolled oats, oat flour, sugar, cinnamon baking soda, salt.
  3. Add in the melted butter and vanilla to the oat mixture, then stir to form a dough. Place about 1 ¾ cups of mixture in the base of a square 8×8 pan and press down firmly. You should have enough to make an even layer on the bottom, but add more crust dough if you have any holes. Set aside while you make the cranberry filling.
  4. Whisk together berries, maple syrup, starch, orange juice and zest. Bring to a boil and reduce heat and cook for 3-5 minutes until mixture is thickened. Let cool slightly, then pour onto the prepared crust.
  5. Top with remaining crust– I crumbled the rest on and then gently pressed down into the cranberry mixture.
  6. Place in the oven and bake for ~30 minutes, or until golden brown on top and bubbly. Remove and let cool for at least 1 hour, then remove and slice into 12 bars.

Notes

*To keep these easy, I use oat flour in place of all-purpose. To make oat flour, add rolled oats (or any kind of oats, steel cut will work as well, but it will take longer to process) to a blender or food processor and process until a flour forms.

**A large orange will give you enough zest and juice, but if you are in a pinch then you can use prepared orange juice instead and skip the zest.

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, Plant-Based Chef and Yoga Instructor. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

9 comments
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    • I don’t see why not… but I haven’t tried it, so not sure of the 1:1 conversion; with gluten-free, there usually needs to be some added binder.

      • Made these this morning with almond flour and they were so amazing!! I will say that my filling did not look nearly as pretty as your picture (it looked like whole cranberries with brown stuff around them, lol), so I cooked it longer, adding some water when it got too thick, and it all turned out great. Love that it’s bright and not overly sweet! Thank you, Alex!!

    • Hi Jake– You could omit the brown sugar completely but it would be a much more savory crust without the sugar. Adding in maple to the crust will add more liquid, so you will have to adjust the oat flour ratio. You can also increase the maple in the filling, but you may need to add in more starch depending on how liquid it is. I would make the filling as-is and then add in more starch whisked with maple as needed. If you add in cornstarch cold to a warm liquid, it won’t dissolve correctly!

  1. Did I miss the part to add the citrus juice/zest? I assume it goes in the cranberry mix/sauce.

    I’ll let you know how mine turn out! (I’m subbing lemon/lime for the orange) 🙂

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