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Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies

These slice-and-bake cranberry orange shortbread cookies are packed with flavor and easy to make with just a few simple ingredients. Every bite is buttery and delicious, dotted with chewy cranberries and fresh orange zest. Don’t forget a drizzle of creamy melted chocolate!

A cranberry orange shortbread cookie drizzled with chocolate leaning against a stack of cookies.

Buttery Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies

You’re going to love these soft and tender shortbread cookies bejeweled with ruby red cranberries and flecks of fresh orange zest. Not only because they’re gorgeous to look at and filled with holiday flavor.

These cranberry orange shortbread cookies are also SO easy to make. Like my cranberry almond shortbread cookies, all you need are some simple pantry ingredients and a single bowl to bring the cookie dough together for this recipe. Then, just slice and bake!

Why You’ll Love This Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookie Recipe

  • Festive flavors. The brightness of the orange zest and sweet-tart cranberries are a perfect pairing for the holidays (just ask my orange cranberry bread and Chewy Cranberry Orange Cookies.)
  • Drizzled with chocolate. These buttery shortbread cookies are delicious on their own, and even better topped with creamy melted chocolate.
  • Make-ahead-friendly. These festive cranberry orange shortbread cookies are super convenient, especially during the holidays. Prepare your dough ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to slice and bake.
A spoonful of fresh orange zest next to a citrus zester on a countertop, with a zested orange in the background.

Ingredient Notes

Below are some notes on the important ingredients you’ll need to make your cranberry orange shortbread cookies. Don’t forget to scroll to the recipe card for the complete ingredient amounts and recipe instructions.

  • Unsalted Butter – Brought to room temperature before you begin your shortbread dough.
  • Orange Zest – You’ll need a large-sized orange for zesting. If you don’t have fresh oranges, use a teaspoon of orange extract instead.
  • Cranberries – Sweetened or unsweetened dried cranberries, chopped up into little pieces. 
  • Chocolate – I recommend good-quality chocolate chips, like the kind from Ghirardelli. You’ll melt them down to drizzle over the finished cookies. 

How to Make Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies

I just love how the dough for these cookies comes together all in one bowl. It makes cleaning up that much easier, and the shortbread cookie dough is ready for the fridge in just a few quick steps:

  • Combine the wet ingredients. First, beat butter together with sugar, vanilla, and salt until it’s light and fluffy. Beat in the orange zest.
  • Add dry ingredients. One cup at a time, add the flour. Once the dough is crumbly, mix in the cranberries. Continue to beat the dough until it forms into a ball.
  • Chill the dough. Separate your dough ball into two halves, and shape each half into a log. Wrap the logs tightly and place them into the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours.
  • Slice. When you’re ready to bake, slice the dough logs into cookies and place them onto a lined baking sheet.
Two logs of cranberry orange shortbread cookie dough resting side-by-side on a countertop.
  • Bake. Bake the shortbread cookies at 375ºF for 9-11 minutes, just until the edges are browned. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes before moving them over to a wire rack. If you want to trim off of the crispy edges, use a round cookie cutter and do it right when they come out of the oven.
  • Drizzle with chocolate. Once the cookies are cool, melt chocolate in the microwave, stirring until it’s smooth (see my tutorial on how to melt chocolate chips). Then, using a piping bag, drizzle the chocolate over the cookies. 

Should Shortbread Cookies Be Soft or Hard?

The secret to perfect shortbread cookies is to not over- or under-bake them. Your cookies should be firm to the touch and ever so slightly browned at the edges. If they’re soft and squishy, they’re underbaked. If they’re dark brown, they’re overbaked. See the section below for more baking tips.

Cranberry orange shortbread cookies drizzled with melted chocolate, stacked on a white plate.

Tips for the Best Shortbread Cookies

Follow these tips and tricks to ensure that your one-bowl cranberry orange shortbread cookies turn out perfectly baked:

  • Chill the dough. Make sure that you don’t skip this step! Chilling the shortbread cookie dough is a must for perfect slice-and-bake cookies.
  • Avoid a flat edge. Do you know that flat edge along the bottom of the icebox cookie dough logs that comes from resting in the fridge? An easy trick to avoid it is to place your wrapped dough log upright in a glass while it chills. The end stays flat, while the log stays round!
  • Don’t cut the cookies too thin. Aim to slice the dough no less than ¼” in thickness, to keep the cookies from spreading too much in the oven.
  • Use a silicone baking mat. Lining the pan with a silicone mat (or at least a piece of parchment paper) helps to prevent the bottoms of the cookies from over-browning.
  • Trim off the browned edges. This is the secret to perfect cookie edges! Right when the shortbread cookies come out of the oven, use a round cookie cutter to trim away the crispy edges.
  • If you don’t have a piping bag to drizzle the chocolate, use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off. Works like a charm!

Common Questions

Why is it better to use unsalted butter in shortbread?

Due to the high quantity of butter in shortbread recipes, using unsalted butter will give your cookies the most balanced flavor. You can always add a pinch of salt to taste.

Can you make shortbread with margarine instead of butter?

I always recommend butter as a first choice for shortbread dough, but yes, you can substitute a good-quality margarine instead. It’s important to note that shortbread cookies made with margarine will be softer and will brown faster.

Should you chill shortbread dough before baking?

Yes. Baking dough that’s cold from the fridge is essential in shortbread recipes. There’s a lot of butter in shortbread dough, and cold dough is less likely to over-spread while it bakes.

Close up of cranberry orange shortbread cookies drizzled with melted chocolate, stacked on a white plate.

Variation Ideas 

Here are just a few of the many ways that you can make these cranberry orange shortbread cookies your own.

  • Instead of drizzling, you can opt to dip your cookies in the melted chocolate instead. You’ll need to melt about double the amount of chocolate in this case.
  • Use white chocolate. Top your cranberry orange shortbread cookies with melted white chocolate or white melting wafers.
  • Add nuts. If you love the extra crunch that comes with nuts in cookie recipes, stir in some chopped pecans, almonds, walnuts, or macadamias.
A stack of cranberry orange shortbread cookies in a glass dish.

Can I Prepare the Cookie Dough In Advance?

Absolutely! These cranberry orange shortbread cookies are the best during the holidays, as you can easily make the dough ahead of time. Prepare, wrap, and refrigerate the cookie dough logs up to 3 days in advance. Whenever you’re ready, simply slice and bake as directed. 

You can also double-wrap the dough and freeze it for up to 2 months. Defrost it in the fridge before slicing.

How to Store Cranberry Orange Cookies

  • To Store. Store the baked shortbread cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. If you’re stacking these cookies, separate the layers with parchment paper to prevent sticking.
  • Freeze. If possible, I recommend freezing the baked cookies before they’re covered with chocolate. Store the cookies airtight and keep them frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw at room temperature before adding the chocolate and serving.

More Holiday Cookie Recipes

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A cranberry orange shortbread cookie drizzled with chocolate leaning against a stack of cookies.

Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies

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  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Chilling Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
  • Yield: 32-34 cookies
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Description

These cranberry orange shortbread cookies are rich and buttery holiday cookies dotted with chewy dried cranberries and flecks of fresh orange zest, drizzled with creamy melted chocolate.


Ingredients

  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup (143g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large orange, zested
  • 2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (120g) sweetened dried cranberries, very finely chopped
  • 23 ounces Ghirardelli dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. In a stand mixer, combine the butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Beat until light and fluffy and well combined, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the orange zest.
  2. Next, slowly add the flour ½ cup at a time until all the flour has been added. Mix at a low speed until the dough is crumbly, add the cranberries then increase the speed to medium-high and beat only until the dough starts to come off the sides of the bowl and stick together in a ball.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper. Divide the dough into two halves, press, and shape into a log about 1 ½ inches thick and about 6-7 inches long. Tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a large cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Unwrap the dough and slice the cookies at least 1/4” -3/8″ thick. Place on the prepared baking sheet approximately 1 inch apart. Bake for 9-11 minutes or just until the edges start to brown. Cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. To drizzle with chocolate, wait until the cookies have cooled completely. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt half the chocolate in 15 to 30-second intervals; stir after each interval and continue until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Transfer the chocolate to a piping bag and drizzle over the cookies. Allow the chocolate to set.


Notes

  • The cookies will spread a little bit. Cutting them thicker helps reduce the spread.
  • To remove the crispy edges, right when the cookies come out of the oven, use a round cookie cutter to remove the crispy portion of the edges, all around the outside of the cookie.
  • Cookies can be dipped in chocolate instead of drizzled. About 6 ounces of chocolate would be needed.
  • To prevent the flat edge on the bottom of the log of dough, place the wrapped log of dough upright in a glass cup.
  • Storing: Store the baked shortbread cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week or the freezer for 2 months. 

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 Cookie
  • Calories: 122
  • Sugar: 9.4 g
  • Sodium: 19.4 mg
  • Fat: 6.4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 16 g
  • Fiber: 0.6 g
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Cholesterol: 15.3 mg

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4 comments on “Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies”

  1. Hello! This sounds delicious. I was wondering if I can use fresh cranberries instead of dried as its all I have on hand.

    Thank you.

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Hi Lily, I have not tested this and I’d be concerned with the added liquid of fresh cranberries. It’s hard to say if it will work or not.

  2. Avatar photo
    Tonyna Gornie

    I’d like to make these very soon, but have a question….if using Orange Extract in place of zest, do you also add in the vanilla extract as well??? Thanks in advance and I absolutely LOVE your recipes!!

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Hi Tonyna, I’d add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and then use orange extract for the remaining personally. I think a little vanilla is always a good idea.