During the holiday season each year, a few of my high school marching band friends and I try to get together to catch up when we head back to our hometown to spend time with our families. With the mall as the main hub of activity in our town, which is always bursting at the seams with frantic holiday shoppers, we tend to meet at quieter coffee shops instead.
After exchanging big hugs just inside the door, we join the queue of patrons as we begin to chat. Since we rarely see each other more than once a year (and if one of us flies off to visit extended family during the holidays, sometimes not even that!), we talk and laugh and share stories practically nonstop for the next few hours.
Although I typically order the same thing — black coffee, no room (yes, I’m one of those crazies that enjoys the taste of plain coffee without any cream or sweetener!) — I often feel tempted to try something festive during those holiday visits. Those cheerful red cups and listening to everyone else’s gingerbread latte, peppermint mocha, and eggnog latte drink choices ahead of me never helps either!
And then comes the display case of baked goods… Oversized chocolate chip cookies, extra fudgy chocolate-studded brownies, cute snowman sugar cookies, pumpkin cheesecake bars, individual buttery pecan pies, thick slices of iced gingerbread… As a special occasion of visiting with friends, I always feel tempted to celebrate with one of those treats, too!
But when one of my best friends and I caught up shortly after this past Thanksgiving, I somehow avoided both the fancy coffee drinks and the baked treats. Instead, I baked these Healthy Copycat Cranberry Bliss Bars once I returned home to satisfy those cravings… Made with no butter, refined flour or sugar — and low calorie too! And judging by the reactions of everyone I shared them with, they turned out even better than the coffee shop’s!
I’d say that’s the true definition of bliss, wouldn’t you? 😉
HOW TO MAKE HEALTHY CRANBERRY BLISS BARS
These copycat Starbucks cranberry bliss bars begin with a basic cookie dough. To make them healthier, you’ll use white whole wheat flour. It sounds a little strange, doesn’t it? White whole wheat flour is actually made by finely grinding a special type of softer white wheat, which gives it a lighter taste and texture similar to that of all-purpose flour. However, it still has the same health benefits (like extra fiber!) as regular whole wheat flour.
To sweeten the cookie dough, you’ll use coconut sugar instead of refined sugar. Coconut sugar is exactly what it sounds like: sweetener that comes from coconuts! However, it does not actually taste like coconuts. It has a similar rich, caramel-like taste as brown sugar, but it has the same pourable consistency as granulated sugar. Many grocery stores have started to stock it near the regular sugars on their baking aisles, and you can also find it online here.
Of course, we can’t forget the most important part of these cookie bars… The cranberries! To make these bars healthier, you’ll use fresh cranberries instead of dried. (Dried cranberries often contain lots of refined sugar!) I have a secret trick to quickly dicing the cranberries… Pulse them in a food processor! This tip mainly works for cranberries, rather than more delicate berries (like strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries), since they’re hearty enough to hold their shape and contain little enough moisture that the food processor won’t turn them into a purée.
Once those cookie bars cool completely to room temperature, it’s time to frost them! The frosting is a mixture of Greek yogurt, Greek yogurt cream cheese, and liquid stevia. That’s right — no butter or powdered sugar required! I found my Greek yogurt cream cheese at Safeway (their own Lucerne brand), and many Walmart stores stock this brand as well.
As for the final ingredient, stevia is a plant-based, no-calorie sweetener that’s clean eating friendly and very concentrated. A little goes a long way — you just need ¾ for the entire batch of frosting! This is the kind that I use because I love its sweet flavor and don’t notice any strange aftertastes like with some other stevia products. You can find it at many health-oriented grocery stores, but I generally buy mine online here because that’s the cheapest price I’ve found. (And you’ll use it in all of these recipes of mine, too!)
A fresh cup of coffee, a warm fuzzy blanket, and one of these… Can the holidays get any better? ♡
And when you make your own, remember to snap a picture and share it on Instagram using #amyshealthybaking and tagging @amyshealthybaking IN the photo itself! (That guarantees I’ll see your picture! 🙂 ) I’d love to see your healthy cranberry bliss bars!
Healthy Cranberry Bliss Bars (Starbucks Copycat)
FOR THE COOKIE BARS
- 1 cup (120g) white whole wheat flour or gluten free* flour (measured like this)
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp (28g) unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 large egg, room temperature room temperature
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup (96g) coconut sugar
- ½ cup (55g) fresh whole cranberries, diced
FOR THE FROSTING
- ⅓ cup (80g) plain nonfat Greek yogurt (see Notes!)
- ⅓ cup (75g) Greek yogurt cream cheese, softened
- ¾ tsp liquid stevia (or adjusted to taste)
- 2 tbsp (14g) fresh whole cranberries, diced
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8”-square pan with foil, and coat with cooking spray.
- To prepare the cookie bars, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, egg, and vanilla. Stir in the coconut sugar. Add in the flour mixture, stirring until just incorporated. Fold in the diced cranberries.
- Spread the cookie dough into the prepared pan. Bake at 350°F for 14-17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the center feels firm to the touch. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before lifting the bars out by the foil, transferring to a wire rack, and cooling completely to room temperature.
- Just before serving, prepare the frosting. Beat together the Greek yogurt and Greek yogurt cream cheese until smooth in a small bowl with an electric mixer. Mix in the liquid stevia until fully incorporated. Spread the frosting on top of the cooled bars, and sprinkle with the diced cranberries. To slice, cut the large square of baked cookie dough in half horizontally, then in thirds vertically to obtain six rectangles. Slice each rectangle in half diagonally from the top left corner to the bottom right corner.
View Nutrition Information + Weight Watchers Points
You may also like Amy’s other recipes…
♡ Healthy Cranberry Bliss Scones
♡ Healthy Cranberry Bliss Cake
♡ Healthy Dark Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
♡ Healthy Mini Cranberry Gingerbread Cheesecakes
♡ Healthy Cranberry “Cinnamon” Rolls
♡ Healthy Cranberry Orange Scones
♡ Healthy Cranberry Orange Mini Muffins
♡ Healthy Dark Chocolate Cranberry Coffee Cake
♡ …and the rest of Amy’s healthy holiday-flavored recipes!
Marina @ A Dancer's Live-It says...
Oh my gosh, I actually found something that we DON’T have in common…black coffee!! 😉 I have to have a little creamer and stevia in mine! Either way a cup of coffee and these bars sound like the perfect way to catch up with friends! I’ve actually never had a baked good from Starbucks….am I weird?! 😉
What is the world coming to??? Something we don’t have in common?? WOW! 😉 (Although in all fairness, I used to need milk or creamer and a hint of sweetener in mine until about a year ago…) And you’re totally not weird for never having a baked good from Starbucks, not with how much you love to bake! 🙂
If you don’t have liquid stevia, can you use normal stevia from the bag and add vanilla extract for flavoring, or is that not the same?
I actually addressed that question in the Notes section underneath the Instructions! It can be easy to miss. 🙂 But yes, that will work! I can’t wait to hear what you think of the bars Lorraina!
Elaine @ FoodParsed says...
I love the substitution of fresh cranberries for the dried kind. I’ve always been meh about cranberries because they’re too sweet, but this sounds lovely. <3
Thanks Elaine! 🙂
GORGEOUS! All my time working at Starbucks, I never tried one of these either. I bet yours are better anyways! <3
Thank you, sweet pea!! ?
How do you do what you do!? These look SO good, no one will ever know they’re the healthy version! Need to try these soon!
Oh my goodness Karly, you’re such a sweetheart! That means a lot to me! 🙂 I’d love to hear what you think if you try these bars!
These were delicious!!! I was nervous because I’ve had coconut sugar in the pantry for a while and haven’t used it before… it smelled different, kind of toasty? The dough was very thick, I sprayed a spatula with nonstick spray to spread it. I was very glad when the recipe turned out really good! I frosted them and put them in the fridge, I hope they hold up ok and don’t get soggy. How do you recommend storing these for future reference?
Thanks for a good recipe! I will be trying more from your blog!
I’m so glad you enjoyed these Lindsay! That means a lot to me! The storage info is actually included in the paragraph directly beneath the recipe title in the recipe box. It can be easy to miss! 😉 Coconut sugar does tend to have a different aroma when in the pantry, but it basically tastes just like brown sugar once it’s been baked! 🙂 I’m so excited to hear what recipe of mine you try next!
These are so good! I found out too late that my cream cheese was moldy so I sadly wasn’t able to frost them but they’re great on their own. What is the texture supposed to be like though? I anticipated cookie bar texture but they’re pretty cakey. Not sure if that’s how they’re supposed to be or if it was my error. Regardless they taste delicious!
I’m so happy you enjoyed their flavor, Molly! I’m happy to help solve that texture mystery. 🙂 These cranberry bliss bars are supposed to be soft and chewy, like true cookie bars, not cakey or dry. If yours had the latter texture, then that’s usually a result of either (a) using a 9″-square pan instead of an 8″-square one, (b) baking them for too long, (c) using too much flour in the cookie dough.
When you measure your baking pan, is it 8″ across the top or the bottom of the pan? I know many pans have sloping sides, so the top measurement isn’t always the same as the bottom (which can be rather confusing when trying to determine which pan to use!). However, pan dimensions are measured by the top rim, not the bottom. So if your pan was 8″ across the bottom but 9″ across the top, then that was actually too large of a pan… Which would then contribute to overbaking, if you baked them for the amount of time I provided in the Instructions!
Your cookie bars will be done baking when the center still looks and feels slightly underdone but the sides closest to the edges of the pan look fully baked. If those sides pull away from the pan’s edges within 10 minutes of removing the pan from the oven, then you’ve baked them long enough! The heat from the pan will continue to cook the center all the way through as you let your cookie bars completely cool to room temperature in the pan.
Finally, too much flour! Did you use a kitchen scale or measuring cups to measure the flour? If the latter, can you describe how you used them to measure?
One last culprit could be making modifications or substitutions to the recipe! Did you tweak the recipe in any way, including using any of the modifications I shared in the Notes section?
I have a question–can these be frozen. Very good, enjoyed that used whole real cranberies. My dough even though weighed etc was very dry, I added a couple tabs of applesauce as I saw in another similar recipe and that helped. I think I am guilty of overbaking things so next time will watch that and trust them to be done sooner. Festive recipe, will do again.
I’m so glad you enjoyed these bars, Frances! That’s the best kind of compliment, if you already think you’ll make them again. Thank you for taking the time to let me know and rate the recipe — it means a lot! 🙂
It’s odd that your cookie dough was so dry though. I’m happy to help figure out why that was, if you’d like! Was it so dry that you couldn’t incorporate all of the flour mixture? Also, did you make any substitutions or modifications to the recipe, including those listed in the Notes section?
If it’s helpful for any future batches you might make, I use a visual test to determine when the bars are done baking. The center will still look and feel a bit soft and underdone, but the edges closest to the rim of the pan should look fully baked. If those edges begin pulling away from the rim of the pan within 10 minutes of removing the pan from the oven, then you’ve baked the bars long enough!
I haven’t tried freezing the frosted bars, but I know the unfrosted ones freeze and thaw really well! 🙂