Cranberry Lime Bars

Say goodbye to toned-down lime bars – these Cranberry Lime Bars pack a serious sweet-tart citrusy punch!  With a cranberry shortbread crust and a zesty lime filling, they’re delicious year-round, but especially festive for Christmas.

nine cranberry lime bars topped with sugared cranberries on a decorative white plate.

I really wanted to share these cranberry lime bars with you at the beginning of the week, so you’d have time to make them for Christmas.

But then my toddler was sick.  And I was sick.  And I had to make all our holiday cards, which I was unable to do last week because of said sick toddler.  Then there’s my actual full-time job in the lab, and the gym, and… now it’s Friday, two days before Christmas.

But then I remembered that the day before Thanksgiving, I had the most unique visitors to my blog ever in a single day.  The day before Thanksgiving, thousands of you were still searching for food ideas.  

Fellow procrastinators!  My people!  Welcome – this is what you should make to add to your Christmas desserts.

Not a procrastinator?  Not a problem.  These cranberry lime bars are way too good to save up for once a year.  Make them next week, or next month, or in the middle of summer.  

A zesty sweet-tart lime bar while sitting by the pool sipping lemonade?  Yes, please!

side view of cranberry lime bars showing the lime custard and shortbread crust.

Like Lemon Bars, But Better

Maybe you’re not familiar with lime bars. You know lemon bars?  The mostly sweet, a little tart, dessert bar with a custardy filling on a shortbread crust?  Pretty similar.  Except using lime (obviously!) — and a whole lot more.  More lime juice, more lime zest — more flavor all around.

These cranberry lime bars pack a serious lime punch.  I love bold, bright flavors, and these reflect that.   If I’m eating a lime bar, I want it to taste like lime (novel idea, really).  So many citrus desserts are tooth-meltingly sweet with just a tiny hint of lemon or lime – not these!

I was a little nervous that I went overboard, but every single person who tried this at our holiday party (or the leftovers I brought to work) commented on how much they loved the bumped-up lime flavor.  Lime lovers unite!

And in order to make these cranberry lime bars, we’ll start with a buttery, soft, shortbread crust, studded with flecks of cranberries.  The cranberry flavor pairs so nicely with lime and adds a perfect pop of red — beautiful year-round, or especially fitting for the holidays.

pink cranberry-studded shortbread dough pressed into the bottom of a baking pan.

Ingredients and Substitutions

  • Cranberries: Either fresh or frozen cranberries can be used in the crust, but if you’re using frozen, be sure to thaw them first and thoroughly pat dry to remove any excess moisture.
  • Flour: To keep the cranberry lime bars gluten-free, substitute a 1:1 gluten-free baking mix or finely ground almond flour.
  • Confectioners’ Sugar
  • Salt
  • Butter: To keep these dairy-free, use margarine or chilled coconut oil.
  • Eggs
  • Limes: You’ll need both the juice and the zest from the limes (and use freshly squeezed lime juice – bottled lime juice doesn’t have enough flavor).
  • Sugar
  • Baking Powder
  • Food Coloring: Optional – only if you’d like to tint the lime bars green!
cranberry lime bars topped with sugared cranberries arranged on a serving dish.

How to Make Silky Smooth Lime Bars

I like to make everything easy and use a food processor to chop the cranberries, then make the rest of the shortbread crust right in there. 

No food processor?  No problem.  Chop the cranberries by hand, whisk together the other crust ingredients, and then cut in the butter by hand.

Par-bake the crust for a few minutes first.  We need it to be firm and crispy enough to hold our lime filling!

While the crust cools, make the lime custard.  It’s really hard.  Are you ready? Do you have a bowl?  Do you have a whisk?  You’re ready!  Whisk the ingredients together until fully combined, then pour over the crust and pop in the oven.

How do we get such a smooth custard layer with such little work? The ingredients are doing the work for us! We can understand this better with my favorite subject… kitchen chemistry!

Kitchen Chemistry

Lime juice is highly acidic due to its citric acid content. This acidity denatures (unfolds) the proteins in the eggs. As the lime bars bake in the oven, the denatured proteins begin to coagulate, or clump together, transitioning from a liquid egg and lime juice mixture into a firm custard-like filling. The heat causes the denatured proteins to bond together, forming a network that traps in water, resulting in a semi-solid like texture.

Remove the bars from the oven, cool to room temperature, and then pop into the refrigerator for an hour or two before slicing. 

close up view of the side of a cranberry lime bar with green lime filling

Optional Green Color

If you’ve baked with lime before, you probably know that lime desserts turn out more yellow than green.  I added two drops of green food coloring to the filling to counteract this – both because I wanted the holiday-appropriate green and red pairing, but also because I wanted to make it very clear that these are lime and not lemon.

Feel free to omit it if you are not into food coloring; just know that they will look pale yellow without it (and even more yellow should you use key lime juice/zest instead!).

lime bars with cranberry shortbread dusted with powdered sugar and topped with sugared cranberries.

Tips and Tricks for the Best Cranberry Lime Bars

  1. Strain Lime Juice: To avoid any bitterness, strain your lime juice to remove any pulp and seeds. This results in a smoother filling.
  2. Avoid Overbaking: Bake the lime bars just until the filling is set. Overbaking can lead to a rubbery texture. The center should be slightly wobbly when you take it out of the oven, as it will continue to set while cooling.
  3. Cool Completely Before Cutting: Allow the bars to cool to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator before slicing. This ensures clean cuts and a fully set filling.
  4. Use a Hot Knife for Slicing: Dip your knife in hot water and wipe it dry before each cut. This trick helps in making clean, precise cuts through the lime bars.
  5. Decorate Before Serving: I like to top mine with a dusting of powdered sugar and a few sugared cranberries. Wait until serving to top with sugar, as the custard will absorb the sugar over time. The bars can also be topped with a dollop of whipped cream, drizzled white chocolate, or candied lime peel.
  6. Store Properly: Lime bars are best enjoyed within a few days, but can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

More Citrus Desserts:

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Cranberry Lime Bars

Yield: 20 bars
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Chilling Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 50 minutes

Say goodbye to toned-down lime bars – these cranberry lime bars pack a serious sweet-tart citrusy punch!


For the Crust

  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) cranberries, fresh or frozen (thaw and pat dry for frozen)
  • 2 cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (57 grams) confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

For the Filling:

  • 6 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup (151 grams) fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups (495 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons lime zest
  • 1-2 drops green food coloring (optional)

For Topping (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F. Line a 9x9-inch square pan with parchment paper, then lightly grease.
  2. Add the cranberries to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times, until cranberries are chopped into small pieces. Add the flour, sugar, and salt, and pulse several times to combine. Add the butter and continue to pulse in short, one second bursts, until the mixture resembles coarse sand. (Alternatively: chop cranberries with a knife, whisk together the ingredients, and cut butter into the dough with two knives.)
  3. Spread the shortbread crust into the prepared pan, pressing the crumbly dough down with a heavy glass, until the dough forms an even layer across the pan. Bake for 12 minutes, then remove from the oven.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, lime juice, flour, sugar, lime zest, baking powder, and lime zest. Add food coloring if desired. If there are little lumps of flour in the filling, the mixture can be pushed through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps. Pour the filling over the crust.
  5. Return the baking pan to the oven and bake until the filling is set, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely at room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator for 1-2 hours, or overnight, until bars are set.
  6. Cut bars into squares and top with additional confectioners sugar and sugared cranberries.


Cranberry lime bars can be kept at room temperature for 1-2 days, or refrigerated for up to a week.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 20 Serving Size: 1 bar
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 270Total Fat: 10.5gCarbohydrates: 41gProtein: 3.4g

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Cranberry Lime Bars: adios, bland lime bars - these cranberry lime bars pack a serious sweet-tart citrusy punch!