Cranberry orange muffins are one of those things that I really only make November through December. There’s something about this particular flavor combo that’s the ultimate in holiday season nostalgia for me, evoking memories of my mom’s crumbly cranberry orange biscotti that we’d devour straight from the oven with a cup of tea. This muffin recipe, bursting with juicy tart cranberries and sweet orange zest, is my favorite version of the classic. It’s the perfect baked good to make for friends and neighbors through the holidays, or of course, to have on hand at home for a quick grab-and-go breakfast.
Mornings have been crazy at our house lately, so I’ve been making the most of the weekend to meal prep and get ahead for the week. Usually that means baking up a batch of muffins that I can freeze and pull out for a quick breakfast for the kids or even to throw in their lunchbox in a pinch. I even snuck in some whole wheat flour and greek yogurt to make these a little healthier, and everyone goes crazy over them.
For me, the secret sauce of these is all about the tart-meets-sweet mashup from the dried cranberries and an extra dose of zest—they’re truly hard to beat. Scroll on to find out how to make these simple Cranberry Orange Muffins—they come together all in one-bowl, and I know you’re gonna love them as much as we do.
Hero ingredients in these Cranberry Orange Muffins
Dried versus frozen cranberries
Though some recipes for cranberry orange muffins call for frozen cranberries, I recommend using dried that we’ll reconstitute in boiling water for max juiciness. To me, this recipe needs that sweetness from the dried fruit—frozen or fresh cranberries makes these muffins a little too tart.
I personally love a muffin recipe that calls for softened butter instead of oil.
Plain Greek Yogurt
The addition of greek yogurt adds creaminess and moisture without thinning the batter—this equals a fine, tender crumb. The acid in the yogurt also lends tanginess to the flavor, and acts as a leavener. Just be sure to use full fat—or you can also swap in sour cream.
Using the zest of two oranges gives lots of fresh orange flavor without thinning out the batter the way that orange juice would. Don’t skimp, this recipe is all about the zest.
Whole Wheat Flour
This is a trick I learned from my mom: go halvies on the flour and use a 1:1 ratio of whole wheat and all-purpose. The end result is the pleasing complexity of the whole grains and the fluffiness that only all-purpose delivers.
Course Sparkling Sugar
This is an optional topping that I highly recommend. Simply sprinkling on this sanding sugar before popping in the oven gives a satisfyingly sweet crunch that my kids go nuts over.
Pro Tips for Making This Recipe
Soak the cranberries
Since we’re using dried cranberries here, you want to extract every bit of sweet, juicy flavor possible. To do that, we cover them with boiling water and let soak for 30 minutes before you drain and fold into the batter. Trust me, this step is a game-changer (I do it before adding cranberries to anything.)
Make sure your ingredients are room temperature
If you’ve ever tried to beat together cold butter with sugar, you’ll know why. In order to get the super fluffy texture we’re after, allow your butter, eggs, and yogurt to sit out on the counter for awhile before you make this recipe. It’ll incorporate beautifully.
Combine it all in one bowl
Many baking recipes have you blend the wet ingredients and the dry ingredients in two separate bowls. I get it—it’s really important that the baking powder, baking soda, and salt are fully distributed throughout the batter. Rather than dirty two mixing bowls, it’s just as easy to give the dry ingredients a little whisk together right on top of the wet ingredients in the same bowl before fully incorporating it all together. Sure, it’s not quite as exacting, but this technique has never let me down.
Remove from muffin tin immediately
This is a key step that I used to skip (yes, out of sheer laziness), but it really does make a difference! By removing them to cool on a wire rack, it prevents the muffins from getting soggy with too much moisture or sticking to the muffin liners or muffin pan.
Drizzle on a glaze
These muffins are delicious on their own, but if you really want to take them over the top, you’ll want to top them with this simple orange glaze after they’ve cooled. It looks gorgeous, too.
How to Freeze These Cranberry Orange Muffins
As mentioned, these muffins are perfect for busy mornings, and such a cozy way to start the day. To freeze, I simply pop leftovers into a gallon-sized freezer bag and seal out all the air before freezing for up to a month. When ready to eat, remove from the freezer and warm at half-power in the microwave, or wrap in foil and rewarm in a 350 degree oven.
Pro tip: I sometimes throw a frozen muffin directly into my kids’ lunchboxes. By the time lunchtime rolls around, it’s thawed and ready to eat.
Other fall muffin recipes you’ll to love
Blueberry Muffins (Gluten & Dairy-Free)
Scroll on for this one-bowl Cranberry Orange Muffins recipe, and if you make them be sure to give us a rating and share your thoughts!
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup boiling water
4 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain full-fat greek yogurt (or sour cream), room temp
zest of 2 oranges
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
coarse sparkling sugar, for garnish, optional
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
Preheat oven to 375.
Line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners.
In a small bowl, pour the boiling water over the cranberries and let soak for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer until almost white and very fluffy, 3 - 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating between each addition, then add vanilla, yogurt, and zest. Beat well to combine.
Sprinkle the dry ingredients over, whisk dry ingredients gently together, then mix everything just until combined.
Drain cranberries, wringing out excess water with a kitchen towel. Add cranberries to the batter and use a spatula to fold in.
Transfer batter to the muffin tin by dropping heaping 1/4 cups into each liner. Sprinkle tops of muffins with coarse sanding sugar. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center muffin comes out clean.
- Meanwhile, make glaze by whisking together confectioner's sugar and orange juice. Use more sugar to thicken, or more juice to thin.
Remove muffins from oven and immediately take them out of the muffin tin. Cool on a baking rack, then drizzle with orange glaze
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