This dessert recipe for Cranberry Oatmeal Bars uses leftover cranberry sauce, canned or homemade. I know that it’s not quite cranberry sauce season yet. But when it is, you need to be ready for it with this amazing recipe!
My mom is one of the most innovative cooks I know. It was one of my mom’s great instincts that led to this recipe. Basically, what she did was to take her old recipe for Matrimonial Squares and substitute canned cranberry sauce for the dates.
What Are Matrimonial Squares?
Matrimonial Squares are the name used for Date Squares in parts of Canada. The reason for the matrimonial name seems to be that the two streusel-like layers are being brought together by the dates to solidify their relationship, like a couple getting married. Isn’t that amazing?
So, here’s how this recipe came about. My mom had an extra can of cranberry sauce left after a Thanksgiving dinner. Somehow, she then had the brilliant idea to use the sauce in place of the dates in her classic Matrimonial Squares recipe. Deliciousness was born!
How These Cranberry Oatmeal Bars Were Born
This easy dessert recipe hits so many amazing flavor and texture components – sweet, tart, rich, crunchy, soft, and chewy. It’s got it all. The best thing about these cranberry oatmeal bars, besides their taste and ease, is that they’re a great use for leftover cranberry sauce. You can use sauce from a can or make Homemade Cranberry Sauce.
Once Thanksgiving rolls past and you find yourself with some of that sauce leftover in a bowl, or an extra can on hand (because you forgot to open it and put it out with the turkey, which happens to me every second year), don’t fret and wonder what to do with it. Make these oatmeal bars. You’ll love them.
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.
If you’re looking for more ways to use up cranberry sauce, check out my list of ideas for what to do with leftover cranberry sauce .
NOTE: There were many comments on this recipe that were wonderful, and many that found the oat mixture to not have enough butter or be difficult to work with. I figured out that I was explaining things incorrectly, and that softened butter is easier to use for this than cold butter. I have therefore edited the recipe to use the easier softened butter and to explain how to work the butter into the dry ingredients. I hope this helps everyone enjoy this recipe more. It’s one of my true all-time favorites and I hope you end up loving it as much as we do.
Have a great day! -ChristinePrint
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. Note that this recipe originally called for cold butter but I have retested it and it now uses softened butter, which is much easier to work into the dry ingredients. The taste of the finished bars are not affected by this change. Enjoy!
Listen to me explain briefly about how to make these bars, with some great tips along the way, by clicking the play button below:
- 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
- 2 cups all-purpose flour*
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 (14 oz.) can whole berry cranberry sauce or 1 and 1/2 cups homemade cranberry sauce
- Preheat oven to 350ºF.
- In a large bowl mix together the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Add the softened butter and stir well. Once it’s fairly well mixed, use your fingers to get under everything and make sure that all of the oat mixture is moistened with butter.
- Spoon three-quarters of the oat mixture into an ungreased 13″x 9″ cake pan. Press down on it firmly everywhere to form a solid layer that evenly covers the bottom of the pan. You can press it where it’s thicker in places to help spread it more evenly as well.
- Add the cranberry sauce in dollops and spread it in a thin layer over the oat layer.
- Sprinkle with the remaining oat mixture, breaking it into small 1/4 inch bits as you let it fall. Press down lightly on the oats so that they adhere to the wet cranberry sauce a bit.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes. Note that the topping will not change color but it is still done.
- 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. Use a spatula to remove the bars from the pan.
*Using half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose white flour works as well.
This post was originally published in November, 2013. It has been revised many times and is now being republished in July, 2022.