Cook the Story

Cranberry Oatmeal Bars: An Easy Dessert Recipe

This dessert recipe is for Cranberry Oatmeal Bars and it’s perfect for after Thanksgiving because it uses leftover cranberry sauce.

My mom is one of the most innovative cooks I know. It’s from her that I learned to trust my instincts to jump in and try new things in the kitchen. Not that my instincts (or probably hers) are always right. But the fun of cooking is when you try something different and it works.

I had that kind of perfect kitchen experience last week when working on some recipes for the New York Apple Growers’ RubyFrost apple (which you’ll be seeing in stores everywhere next fall!). I mixed together rosemary, pine nuts, butter and sea salt and spread it on a slice of the tart crisp apple.

Let’s just say I swooned. But more than that, I felt really proud for having come up with such a perfect flavor combination. Nutty, salty, sweet and sour with a crunch and a creamy softness all in one bite.

I bet that’s how my mom felt when she came up with this idea to use cranberry sauce in place of the date puree in Matrimonial Squares (a.k.a. Date Squares).

Cranberry Oatmeal Bars: Delicious and a great way to use up leftover cranberry sauce #thanksgiving #cranberries #leftovers #dessert

This easy dessert recipe hits so many of those flavor and texture components, sweet, tart, rich, crunchy, soft and chewy. It’s got it all. I wonder if she swooned when she first made it.

The best thing about these cranberry oatmeal bars, besides their taste and ease, is that they’re a great use for leftover cranberry sauce.

So once Thanksgiving rolls past and you find yourself with leftover cranberry sauce don’t fret and wonder what to do with it. Make these oatmeal bars. You’ll love them. So much so that at future Thanksgiving dinners I bet you’ll hide the cranberry sauce at dinner just so you’ll have enough left to make these bars.

But really, no need to hide the sauce from your guests. If you don’t have the amount of cranberry sauce called for in the oatmeal bars recipe below, you can absolutely supplement with jam of any kind. Or open another can of cranberry sauce and combine it with your leftovers since these bars can happily accommodates more filling.

Got leftover cranberry sauce but you’re not in an oatmeal bar kind of mood? Check out this cranberry smoothie recipe that also uses leftover cranberry sauce:

Cranberry Sauce Smoothie: A delicious use for leftover cranberry sauce.


Or this very easy (and gooey!) Cranberry-Basil Baked Brie:

Baked Brie with Cranberry, Basil and Lemon and 19 more delicious baked brie recipes

Or these Steaks with Cranberry Horseradish Glaze:

Cranberry Horseradish Pan-Fried Steak

Or check out my list of ideas for what to do with leftover cranberry sauce over here. There are tips, ideas and recipes too.

And I’d love to hear your ideas about ways to use up leftover cranberry sauce. It really is such a wonderful ingredient and it’s a shame to waste it if it doesn’t get eaten at Thanksgiving.

Cranberry Oatmeal Bars: Delicious and a great way to use up leftover cranberry sauce #thanksgiving #cranberries #leftovers #dessert

And now for the Cranberry Oatmeal Bars recipe.

4.4 from 8 reviews
Cranberry Oatmeal Bars
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This twist on the classic Matrimonial Squares (also called Date Squares) uses cranberry sauce as a filling instead of a date purée. They're super easy to make and are a fabulous use for leftover cranberry sauce.
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 24
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups flour (2 cups of all-purpose white or 1 cup of all purpose white and 1 cup of whole wheat)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 (14 oz.) can whole berry cranberry sauce or 1 and ½ cups homemade cranberry sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Use your fingers to rub in the butter until everything is moistened and no pieces are bigger than the oats.
  3. Spoon three-quarters of the oat mixture into a 13"x9" cake pan. Press down on it firmly to form a firm layer that evenly covers the bottom of the pan. Add the cranberry sauce in dollops and spread it in a thin layer over the oat layer. Sprinkle with the remaining oat mixture.
  4. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until the top is just starting to turn golden brown. Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into 8 strips along the length of the pan and 3 strips along the width yielding 24 bars.
Disclosure: The New York Apple Growers mentioned above have hired me to develop recipes and photograph them as well as to help promote their new apple varieties. All opinions are my own.
18 Responses to “Cranberry Oatmeal Bars: An Easy Dessert Recipe”
  1. S A Martin says:

    These were a huge hit with the volunteers at my local food pantry. I made a pan of them for the distribution day prior to Thanksgiving.
    Thanks for sharing the recipe.
    S A Martin recently posted: Delicious Kale Soup with Kielbasa

  2. Elida says:

    Everything is very open with a very clear clarification of the challenges.
    It was truly informative. Your website is very helpful.
    Many thanks for sharing!
    Elida recently posted: Elida

  3. alan says:

    I can’t wait to try them… FYI, my mom “invented” the same thing about 50 years ago — but I’m pretty sure it was either suggested on a product container or came from Betty Crocker somewhere… :)

  4. courtney says:

    I’m not sure if you are aware but the recipe calls for brown sugar but never tells you when to add it. Wow! Just wasted money on these.

    • Christine Pittman says:

      Courtney, I am so so very sorry. It is added when you add the flour. I’ve edited the recipe to reflect this change.

  5. Renee says:

    Made these today and they are awesome! I sprinkled 2 tablespoons of white sugar on top before I baked them to give them a shiny look so the kids would eat them. It worked!

  6. Nikki says:

    Delighted to find this recipe, the end produce seems right up my street.. But there is a flaw in the instructions. Sugar listed in the ingredients but no instruction as to when this should be added to the mixture. I added it after rubbing in. The mixture is in the oven cooking so not sure how they will turn out. Have rated the recipe based on a successful outcome.

    • Christine Pittman says:

      So sorry for missing the sugar in the instructions. It’s added when you add the flour. I’ve edited the recipe to reflect this. I hope they turned out good with adding the sugar when you did.

  7. Ginnie says:

    I made these today and I think they taste wonderful! Mine never really “browned”. I cooked them on 325 because my oven cooks at a higher temperature and I left them in for probably 35 minutes, just watching them carefully. Great way to use left over cranberry sauce, which I always have after Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thank you for sharing!!

  8. Jane says:

    I have made this recipe three times now and will not be making it again. It is impossible to get the top of the bars to brown. The last time I made it I baked it for 35 minutes and the top still didn’t brown. In desperation, I drizzled some melted butter over the top and place it under the broiler. Despite only being under the broiler for approximately 30 seconds, the top burned. In one last attempt to save the dish, I topped it with chopped nuts, but it still didn’t mask the burned taste. Oh, well, it’s only money, right? Money for the butter, sugar, flour, cranberry sauce, etc. etc. etc. I am a gourmet cook and rarely come across a recipe that I can’t make work, but this is one of them. I would have given it one star, but am giving it two because of the creativity of using cranberry sauce.

    • Nadia says:

      I can’t say I blame anyone but you for burning the bars. This is a pretty simple and straight forward recipe; maybe you should consider learning how to use your oven properly.

  9. Christine: These bars look amazing! I have always bought the raspberry oatmeal bars from Whole Food Market, but I’ll try to make my own using your recipe… Thanks a lot!
    Denise Browning@From Brazil To You recently posted: “Pass the Prosciutto – Bruleed Pears with Prosciutto, Cranberry Sauce, and Goat Cheese”

  10. Love these bars! Cranberries are now a total favourite in our house. Can’t seem to get enough of that tart flavour. Hope the flight to the UK was smooth C:
    Jane’s Adventures in Dinner recently posted: Scrummy Soup Time: Roasted Beet Borscht

  11. phyllis says:

    Thanks for the kind words, but you are my inspiration. These cranberry bars are truly delicious.

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