Cranberry Bliss Bars (Low Carb and Gluten Free)


It likely won’t win me any friends here in the Boston area to admit this, but I am not a fan of Dunkin’ Donuts. Around these parts, people take pride in the fact that there is a DD on every corner, and that you can give directions based on the nearest one, but I just can’t warm to either the coffee or the donuts. If pressed, I suppose I can always fall back on the handy excuse that I am a transplant from the Great White North…you know, all that snow and ice north of the border tends to addle our brains. But the truth is that I am a Starbucks girl through and through. I love the coffee, I love the ambience, I love the big wingback chairs where you can hang out a la the cast of Friends. And before I was diagnosed with diabetes, I loved the baked goods too.

I’ve tried the Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars a few times and although I liked them well enough, I think I like the idea of them even more. They seem so Christmas-y, with all the cranberries, white chocolate and ginger. Obviously, eating the real thing is no longer an option for me. But the thought struck me earlier in the fall to attempt a low carb version for this Christmas season. Surely it couldn’t be too hard to recreate, could it? I figured I would have to forego the white chocolate, since I haven’t found a decent sugar-free version of it to use in baking. But perhaps I could make the rest of the bar flavourful enough that the white chocolate wouldn’t be missed.

It wasn’t hard to come up with a good base for these bars. I simply took the recipe for my Walnut Blondies with Chocolate Chunks and made it with all almond flour, since it has a more neutral taste than walnut meal. I put fresh chopped cranberries into the bars themselves, along with chopped crystallized ginger and some chopped walnuts. For the topping, I made a cream cheese icing similar to the one from my Pumpkin Spice Bars, but with a touch of orange zest to round out the cranberry and ginger flavours. And I topped the whole thing with unsweetened dried cranberries.

The Results Merry Christmas to me! These turned out just as I had hoped and they make a wonderful low carb holiday treat. The bar itself has a nice gingery kick to it and the icing has a lovely sweetness with just a hint of orange. The fresh cranberries in the bar and the unsweetened dried ones provide a nice tartness that compliments the other flavours.

The only thing I would change here would be to bake them in a bigger pan, so that they were thinner like the original ones from Starbucks. That way, I could have a greater icing to bar ratio. But that’s just personal preference. I will write the recipe up as I made it, and if you want to bake in a bigger pan and make a little more icing, have at it. Just adjust the baking time accordingly.

Cranberry Bliss Bars

1 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated erythritol
1 tsp vanilla extract
20 drops stevia extract
2 cups almond flour
1 tsp ground ginger
4 eggs
1/2 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger (optional)

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp butter, softened
1/3 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp powdered erythritol
10 drops stevia extract
1 tsp grated orange zest

1/4 cup unsweetened dried cranberries (I made my own from this recipe, but you may be able to find them at a local health food store)

Preheat oven to 325F and grease an 8×8 inch baking pan. Line pan bottom and sides with parchment paper and grease parchment.

In a large bowl, mix melted butter with erythritol, vanilla and stevia extract. Add almond flour and ground ginger, stirring to incorporate. Add in eggs and stir until all ingredients are well combined. Stir in chopped cranberries, and walnuts and ginger if using.

Pour batter into prepared pan and spread the top. Bake for 40 minutes or until top is golden brown and firm to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool completely in pan.

For the icing, beat cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add cream and beat thoroughly, scraping down beaters and sides of bowl as needed. Beat in erythritol, stevia and orange zest until smooth.

Spread icing over cooled bars and sprinkle with dried cranberries. Chill in refrigerator until icing is firm, about 1 hour. Cut into bars or triangles.

Makes 16 large bars or 25 smaller ones. Total carbs for larger bars is 9.8g, and for smaller bars is 6.3g. If you subtract erythritol, large bars have 5.3g of carbs and smaller bars have 3.4g

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  1. Jeanine says

    Oh, Carolyn, these bars look amazing! You would have no problem having those disappear from a tray of baked goodies!
    Funny, we have Tim Horton's everywhere (similar to DD), and I just can't stand it. Never had a good cuppa coffee at one of them…but give me a Starbucks and I'm all smiles. :) Us coffee snobs, huh? ūüėČ

  2. Monet says

    Hi Carolyn,
    These look lovely. I remember living on the East Coast and how OBSESSED people were with DD. Now that I'm back in the mainland, life has returned to normal :-) What a great job on these bars. I would love one right now! Thank you for sharing with me. Have a wonderful weekend!

  3. Floriana says

    Yum! I don't care much about sweets these days, but I'd eat these! So beautiful to the eye and how could they not taste great with that mix of ingredients?!

    Thanks for vising my blog, Carolyn. It was so nice to see your comment. Yeah, I am not a low carber by choice, either. It was pure luck that I didn't become diabetic, but I have no doubt that it would have happened if I didn't get my eating in order. I have a big problem with sugar, unfortunately. Right now I am not eating anything sweet other than fruits and veggies (the sweet ones like butternut squash). Later on, when I get to my goal weight I'll experiment with a little bit of sweeteners and I can see your recipes as very helpful with that.

    But I ramble. Just wanted to say that I really love your blog and your creativity and sense of style. :)

  4. Emily says

    These look simply divine! I am going to dump my dairy allergies for a day and make these for a Christmas party. Thank you for the creative and healthy recipe, you rock!
    Living in the Pacific NW, I am burnt out on Starbucks and prefer Dunkin when we get back East, just for the novelty and rarity it is. But the Bucks does make the world a better place by debuting treats like this to the world :)

  5. Joanne says

    I'm gonna be straight up with you. I have never ever ever liked dunkin donuts. Ever. Starbucks girl all the way. Although actually now I'm more of a new England coffee girl (I buy the beans whole and grind em myself!)…just don't tell my mom. I made these bars last year and they were fabulous! I had never had the original version at starbucks but I knew they sounded good. So glad you figured out a way to enjoy them sugar free!

  6. Green Girl @ A little bit of everything says

    Just like you I'm a Starbucks girl too. Love their cranberry bars and scones and the asiago bagel and of course watching the world go by while enjoying a small latte.
    Your bars look amazing, I have to try them, can you tell me how much sugar they'd require?
    hope you're having a wonderful weekend

  7. Kari says

    This is so creative and they really do look like the Cranberry Bliss Bars at Starbucks. I loved reading your whole thought process behind how you came up with the recipe. I have to admit I do like Dunkin Donuts coffee, but I have a weakness for Starbucks, too!

  8. Tessie of Germany says

    They are beautiful! I will admit since you did that I am star bucks girl also not so much a fan of the DD lol

  9. Pretend Chef says

    My 6 year old self would disagree with this statement but Dunkin' Donuts does nothing to impress me. It's just another run of the mill donut place. I love Starbucks too but only go maybe two times a year. Your bars look so delicious! I would make them with more icing per bar too because my 6 year old self would agree with that.

  10. marla {family fresh cooking} says

    Your cranberry bliss bars sound amazing!! Love how low sugar they are. Nothing to miss when you find the right recipes. BTW: you would def not find me hanging out in a Dunkin Donuts- Starbucks YES!!
    Great seeing you tweeting & at Foodgawker :) XO

  11. sara @ CaffeIna says

    I don't like Donkin' Donuts either but maybe I'm justified by not being American :)
    Anyway, how could you eat Donkin' Donut when you make amazing desserts yourself? Come on, not possible. I was one of these bars instead. I love the top layer. Omg, I really love it!

  12. blackbookkitchendiaries says

    Wow, what an awesome idea. I like starbucks more than DD. I love your photos, and love that it is low card and gluten free. Good for even the strict vegetarians.

  13. Megan says

    Hi Carolyn! These are blissed out bars…. love them! The cheese blog give away wasn't rigged…. I promise… I wanted to ship everybody some amazing cheese – Next time the cheese maker gives me free award winning cheese, I will send you some! – Megan

  14. Charlie @ SweetSaltySpicy says

    These look absolutely incredible! I love baking with fresh cranberries. Love the idea of adding crystallized ginger too :).

  15. Kimberly Peterson says

    These bars look absolutely festive!! And don't worry, I'm not a big fan of Dunkin Donuts either hahahaha.

  16. Amy says

    These sound wonderful! A blondie transformed into a holiday bar with cranberries…Mmm! I love the addition of the creamy topping as well. Beautiful photos!

  17. baking.serendipity says

    I'm definitely a Starbucks girl too and I always drool over the cranberry bliss bars. I love that this version is a bit better for you, and I'm sure less expensive as well. Thank you!

  18. Kristen says

    Those are amazing. You are so good at recreating carb loaded foods into things that won't raise your blood sugar. I am so impressed.

  19. Karen says

    I love the cranberry bliss bars from Starbucks, and these look like such a fantastic, less-guilt attached treat!
    And I'm with you on the DD coffee…I don't get what all the fuss is about!

  20. The Cilantropist says

    I am with you, i am absolutely a Starbucks girl; gold card in hand, I head there at least twice a week to get my fix. I tried to stay away and I cant do it! ūüėČ I also go for the ambiance and bustle of people, and I also love their holiday cranberry bliss bar. I havent had one yet this year, but I have definitely gazed longly through the glass case at them, lol. Way to go making their recipe work for you, these look great!

  21. Alyson @ Nourished Fitness says

    I spent a couple years out east and I seriously do not understand people's obsession with Dunkin' Donuts! But these look ammmaazing.. definitely on my holiday baking list!

  22. savoringeverybite says

    These look gorgeous and I can only imagine how great they taste! Just found your blog and love your recipes!

  23. Anonymous says

    I was so tickled to see the bliss bar picture. For years I've been wanting to figure out the recipe so I could get a delicious bar without those awful white chunks–but gluten and sugar free? Oh, dear… guess I'll have to work something out myself, using regular ingredients.

  24. Lynn @ I'll Have What She's Having says

    These look amazing! I've been thinking about making a chocolate version of these. I've never actually had them but whenever I'm in Starbucks I stare at them and dream about what they taste like.

  25. Sprinkles of Parsley says

    I have to admit I'm an avid dunks lover… but you just can't beat the sweets at Starbucks! This is a great rendition of their version. Looks beautiful and sounds delicious!

  26. Carol@easytobeglutenfree says

    Stopping by from Gluten Free Feed. What a beautiful treat you have made. I love all things cranberry and these bars look fantastic! And I really like that you have used nut flour.

  27. BakingWithoutaBox says

    These are amazing! What a beautiful colorful treat. And to be sugar free! This is one of those many reasons we all love you Carolyn!

  28. Kim - Liv Life says

    Looks absolutely "blissful"! After my recent eating extravaganza long weekend in Hawaii with my husband I direly need to switch gears and eat healthier. I also am looking for some desserts for the holidays for my diabetic mom and MIL, so I will be watching closely. The erythritol I'm not familiar with… do you find it difficult to find? I will do some local research!

  29. honey82 says

    Mmmmmmh..che meraviglia Cara!!!!
    Assolutamente deliziosa questa torta e poi che colori…:-)
    Un bacio a presto:-*

  30. The Human Food Blog says

    Those look so good! I used to eat these at Sbux all the time! I definitely need to make these. Followed you girl!

  31. FamilySpice says

    I am drooling! These look amazing!! I love baking with almond flour. It makes me feel less guilty about the guilty pleasure I am indulging in!

  32. Sommer J says

    Deliciousness, Carolyn!!!! These look perfectly moist with the right amount of crumble. Love the topping- I love me some cream cheese. My god, girl. I'll be baking your cookies this weekend btw. Hope I make ya proud!

  33. Stephanie says

    I'm right there with you about Dunkin' Donuts. I've tried their coffee a gazillion times in the hopes that maybe, just maybe this time, I'll fall head over heels in love with it — because, isn't it supposed to be like America's favorite coffee or something?! Anyway, I still don't get it.

    And your treats really do look festive. Like little ornaments ready to be hung! :-p

  34. christine says

    I have to give Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts big thumbs down, but these treats look awesome! What is granulated erythritol? I'm always checking out new gluten free recipes, but I've never heard of this ingredient before.

  35. bakingbarb says

    These look amazing!
    I never liked DD either but I did LOVE Tim Horton's wayyyy back when. Now I love Tully's but only for the coffee!

  36. Rica says

    Happy Thanksgiving Carolyn, I am thankful of you, your blog and all the wonderful recipes you shower me with. I made these bars again for a Yogini Gathering recently, and they were wonderfully received. I didn’t have the dried cranberries, so used some dried sour cherries instead and also happily baked them in the 9×9-inch pan with wonderful success. I hope you and your family had a blessed holiday.

  37. says

    Hi Carolyn, it’s fall. There are pumpkins everywhere and oh how I miss the Starbucks pumpkin spice muffins stuffed with cream cheese. Do you think you might try your hand at those?? I’m desperate!! Tried on my own, and will continue to do so, but would love to see that as a post!

    • Carolyn says

      So funny that you should mention those…I was thinking of making them too! Let me see what I can whip up over the next week or so…

  38. Margaret says

    Hi Carolyn! I’m from Chicago, where there is a Starbucks on every corner and recently moved to Boston, so I know what you mean about the DD :). Thanks for posting these awesome recipes!

  39. Guinan says

    sugar free white chocolate can be made combining 30% cocoa butter, 40% sweetner of choice, 30% powdered whole milk and vanilla powder to taste.
    I haven’t tried this yet, but came across it online.

  40. Anne says

    Thank you for listing these in your best Holiday 2014 – I made them last night and they are perfect! It has been years since I have had a Starbucks Bliss Bar, but they seem to taste exactly like the real deal. Love the tartness and creamy sweet icing. My neighbors will be enjoying them.

  41. jennifer says

    1 cup of butter cannot be right. I just made these tonight and it was a greasy mess! I am so confused right now. The only substitution that I made was 1/4 cup brown sugar Splenda. Such a shame to waste the almond flour…and I really wanted these!

    • Carolyn says

      It’s correct and it may be the Splenda that’s to blame, unless maybe you used almond meal instead of flour? Not sure but the Splenda might cause the lack of absorption of the butter since it’s a very different consistency than erythritol and has no bulk. I can’t say for sure that it’s the issue.

  42. Helen says

    I was SO excited when I saw this recipe, and I’ve made it about 4 times now. I’m a HUGE fan of the Starbucks version, and the first time I made these I really missed the white chocolate chunks. So I went on a quest to find some. Found them – sells sugar-free white chocolate chunks for baking. Having a package shipped to me was a bit of a splurge, but found them on sale and I’m so glad I got them. So I’ve tweaked the recipe a few ways – 1) I add my cranberries whole – chopping them makes them too small, 2) same with the ginger pieces – I use Reed’s Crystalized Ginger and cut the pieces in half, and 3) I add a very generous 1/4 cup of the sugar free white chocolate chunks, cut in half. The cranberries, ginger and white chocolate provide pockets of amazing flavor when you bite into the bars. These are so good, I gave my best friend a pan of them for Christmas, at her request! Thanks so much, Carolyn, for creating these. I’ll never miss the Starbucks ones again!

  43. Barb says

    Hi Carolyn,

    Can I possibly make these in muffin/cupcake form? Would the measurements be the same, and what temp would I bake them at (if it’s possible)?

    Thanks so much, love your recipes!


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