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Gorgeous Cranberry Shortbread Cookies with Pistachios

Cranberry Shortbread Cookies with pistachios are an easy cookie to make and can be personalized with your own variations. I love this sandy, buttery cookie!

Cranberry and Pistachio Shortbread Sables

Last week Manservant found a recipe in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “This Holiday Season’s Smartest Cookie“.

These cranberry pistachio shortbread cookies and their endless variations sounded fabulous and wanting to help in the baking process, Manservant printed this out; for me!

Hmmm. I guess he was trying to tell me something.

As in the past I’ve had issues with the WSJ’s recipes but I thought I’d give this a go, because as you know I love shortbread and sables are just a stone’s throw away.

Sables mean sand and yes these cookies have the texture of sand.

If sand tasted like butter you’d come close to describing the flavor of this cookie.

With a touch of salt and a hint of vanilla, these cookies to which I added some tart red cranberries and green nutty pistachios look a bit like Christmas.

With their vintage Christmas sugar they look festive and surely will be one of the first off of your cookie platter.

Now let’s take a step back? Vintage Christmas Sugar? I didn’t make this up.

My sanding sugar was titled this and I just had to laugh. Does this mean my sugar is old? Who thinks of this stuff? 

Don’t you love its soft and faded colors, which aren’t as harsh as bright red and glowing green?

I guess that’s what makes this sugar vintage!

cranberry shortbread cookies

Now back to the WSJ. As usual I did find several errors in their recipe for these cranberry shortbread cookies.

Not enough butter. And sables should contain an egg yolk or they become shortbread, so what I baked is really just a version of shortbread, which you’ve already seen twice this week.  Enjoy.

They all taste similar but different. Additionally they had me make four cookie logs when 2 is enough, unless you want really tiny cookies.

So follow my directions and I think you will do better. But visit their site for the myriads of variations you can try.

Cranberry and Pistachio Shortbread Cookies

Cranberry and Pistachio go together like chocolate and vanilla, so I figured why not. I’m happy I did and I’m happy that I only have one more batch of cookies to bake. So far I’ve baked:

  1. Molasses ginger cookies
  2. Icebox chocolate toffee cookies
  3. Salty dark chocolate sables from the WSJ
  4. Raisin and Walnut Cardamom cookies from Maida Heatter
  5. Shortbread nuggets
  6. Peanut brittle that is more like peanut praline and though it isn’t brittle, it sure is good.
  7. Peanut butter chocolate bites
  8. Italian panforte with cherries and hazelnuts (if anyone has had the real thing please tell me what the consistency is supposed to be…this is like a sticky chewy slice and is very good and very dense but I have no idea if it turned out like it was supposed too!)
  9. Levain chocolate drop cookies
  10. Walnut Coconut Chewy Bars
  11. These Cranberry and Pistachio Shortbread Sables

Now I need to package it all up. Sending two packages out, three more to neighbors and 1 to my favorite dog groomer.

Already gave two packages away to people I care about, and needless to say it’s Friday and I’ve had it! Enjoy!

Cranberry and Pistachio Sable Shortbreads

Enjoy your holiday baking and don’t eat too much. Manservant is telling me to get this stuff out of the house now!

I think this time I might listen to him. Next week I promise not so much butter! Here’s some comfort food to tide you over:

Red Beans and Rice Cajun Style

Chicken Parmesan Pizza Style

Chicken Parmesan Pizza Style

Salmon with Garlic Ginger and Black Pepper

salmon with pepper and scallions

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Cranberry and Pistachio Sable Shortbreads

Cranberry and Pistachio Sable Shortbreads

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 3 reviews
  • Author: Abbe Odenwalder
  • Prep Time: 20 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 18 Minutes
  • Total Time: 38 Minutes
  • Yield: 24 Cookies 1x
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


These cranberry and pistachio sable shortbreads are sandy and slightly salty with a touch of vanilla and the added flavors of tart cranberries and nutty pistachios.


Units Scale

12 T softened butter

1/3 c sugar

3/4 t vanilla

1/2 t flaky sea salt, such as Maldon or just sea salt

1 3/4 c flour

1/4 c chopped dried cranberries

1/4 c chopped pistachios

Sanding Sugar


With an electric mixer, cream butter until soft and whipped, 2-3 minutes or until light colored. (Use the best butter you can find.)

Add sugar and continue beating until incorporated, about 1 minute.

Add vanilla and sea salt and beat briefly.

Add flour and beat until almost incorporated and then add your cranberries and pistachios and beat until mixed in. Mixture will be very sandy. As long as it is moist and you can gather it into a plastic wrapped log you are OK. If not feel free to add another tablespoon of softened butter and beat until mixed in. (No this is not traditional, but it worked when I had to try this.)

Form dough into two  logs and shape into as round a log as you can get. Roll in sanding sugar. Wrap logs in plastic wrap and transfer wrapped logs to refrigerator. Chill until firm, but still sliceable. Usually you will need an hour, but this dough can be kept for several days in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 325 when ready to bake. Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Remove plastic wrap from dough. Cut off ends if needed to make a straight slice. Slice each log into 12 slices. Arrange on an ungreased cookie sheet, spaced about 1 1/2″ apart.

Bake rotating cookie sheets after 9 minutes. Cookies should be firm and undersides just barely golden. Total baking time is about 18 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Cookies can be made up to two weeks ahead and kept in a covered container at room temperature. (If they last that long.)

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star


Friday 8th of December 2023

Think I’m missing something unless I read instructions wrong. Why would you roll plastic wrapped logs in sanding sugar? How do you get the sugar on unwrapped logs?


Saturday 9th of December 2023

Thanks for catching this Mindy. I tried to make the directions more clear. Before you wrap the cookie dough in plastic wrap you should roll the logs in the sugar. THEN wrap in plastic wrap to chill.

William H.

Saturday 29th of December 2018

Cranberry and pistachios are one of my favorite combos (I’m actually using both for a truffle recipe a few days ago!). These are works of art, Abbe! Must try!


Tuesday 18th of December 2018

So festive and pretty cookies, Abbe . I haven't made any cookies this year as we are trying not to bring sugar in the house but I have made no bake treats for few people that I care for. Really love your recipe of chicken Parmesan pizza style.

Abbe Odenwalder

Tuesday 18th of December 2018

I know what you mean about sugar! And that chicken parm? It's one of my favorite recipes!

Lea Ann (Cooking On The Ranch)

Monday 17th of December 2018

The WSJ ain't the only smartest Holiday Cookie - Manservant wins this one. I'll have to thank him for printing this out. Can't wait to make them this week. Pinned.

Abbe Odenwalder

Tuesday 18th of December 2018

Too funny Lea Ann! I do think I need to make another batch. These were popular!

2 Sisters recipes

Sunday 16th of December 2018

These 2 flavors are my favorites!! What a wonderful combination! Pinning !!