Cranberry Orange Muffins
These cranberry orange muffins are so nice for the season! Moist, light, & full of zippy flavor, and the recipe couldn’t be easier to make.
Every year at this time, I find myself craving cranberry orange muffins with my morning coffee!
So I got to work and created this cranberry orange muffin recipe, and guess what? It’s perfect!
Moist, light, and full of bright, seasonal flavor. It’s everything you could ever want in a cranberry orange muffin!
Muffins are a major staple in my house. I’ll often bake up a big batch and stash them in the freezer, in zip-top bags. They make a great on-the go breakfast or snack!
Table of Contents
- What are cranberry orange muffins?
- What’s great about this cranberry orange muffin recipe
- What do orange cranberry muffins taste like?
- Special equipment
- How to make this cranberry orange muffins recipe
- How to serve an orange cranberry muffin
- Expert tips
- Frequently asked questions
- A few more of my favorite cranberry recipes
What are cranberry orange muffins?
This is a quick bread recipe, so it’s leavened with baking powder and it comes together according to that classic formula: mix up the dry ingredients, mix up the liquid ingredients, then fold everything together.
This version is just sweet enough, and loaded with tart, juicy fruit. And I love to sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar, for added crunch and a wintry sparkle!
You can enjoy these for breakfast, brunch, dessert, or as an afternoon snack. I especially love them toasted and slathered with soft butter!
What’s great about this cranberry orange muffin recipe
- So flavorful: These muffins bake up moist and buttery, with tons of sunny orange and tart, seasonal cranberries.
- Few ingredients: You’ll only need a handful of simple ingredients to make them.
- Easy to make: They come together in less than 30 minutes flat!
- Versatile: Enjoy them any time you need a little pick me up!
What do orange cranberry muffins taste like?
These special little treats bake up so moist and buttery, with tons of sunny citrus flavor. And they contain a mix of both dried and fresh cranberries, so with every bite you get a little sweet and chewy, and a little tart and juicy.
Flour: All-purpose flour is my go-to, but you can swap it out for any kind of whole-grain option if you like (you may need slightly less if you go that route). A gluten-free flour blend that can sub 1:1 for regular flour should also work just fine, if you’d like to make gluten-free cranberry orange muffins.
Sugar: Sugar adds sweetness (obvs!) but it also aids in browning and keeps things moist, since it’s hydrophilic (this means it loves water, in other words, it draws moisture in). Regular white sugar is fine, or sub for another type of sweetener if you like. As long as it swaps 1:1 for granulated sugar it should work.
Orange zest: Grab a fresh orange and grate the peel (orange part only) off with a microplane.
Baking powder: This cranberry orange muffin recipe utilizes baking powder to leaven (or “lift”) the muffins. Baking powder is a double-acting leavener, so it starts the bread rising both when liquid is added to it, as well as when it hits the hot oven. Baking soda will not work in this recipe because there isn’t enough acid to activate it. Baking powder has a little bit of that acid built in.
Salt: Salt carries the flavors and intensifies them. The end result won’t taste salty, but it will make everything so much more flavorful! I like kosher salt best because it doesn’t have any additives (table salt usually contains iodine which can leave a bitter taste), so the flavor is pure. It’s also inexpensive and easy to find in a regular grocery store.
Butter: Butter adds a richer flavor to the muffins and helps to keep them moist. I like to use unsalted butter because it lets me control the amount of salt in the dish. Different brands of butter can contain different amounts of salt, so this way you get a more consistent result. For a vegan or dairy free cranberry orange muffin recipe, use a plant-based butter that can substitute for dairy butter 1:1.
Sour cream: This ingredient works in conjunction with the baking powder to help the muffins rise nice and tall. You could also use the same amount of plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt or buttermilk. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can substitute by stirring 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar into 1 cup of regular milk. Allow the mixture to stand for 5 minutes, or until thickened and slightly curdled.
Eggs: Eggs add moisture to the batter and structure to the muffins. Use large chicken eggs, or a plant-based egg substitute that can swap 1:1.
Orange juice: Squeeze a little of the juice from the fresh orange that you zested.
Vanilla: Vanilla extract adds a subtly sweet flavor without being at all sugary.
Cranberries: I like a combination of sweetened, dried cranberries and fresh or frozen cranberries. This way you get a nice balance of sweet and tart, chewy and juicy. If you use frozen fruit, you don’t have to thaw it first.
Sparkling sugar: I love the added crunch you get when you sprinkle the muffin tops with coarse sparkling sugar. It also gives them the prettiest frosted look!
- Muffin pan: Just a standard-sized, 12-cup muffin pan. Or you could bake this in a 5-cup loaf pan (adjust bake time as needed).
- Non-stick spray: So your muffins don’t stick to the pan.
- Mixing bowl: In which to mix up the batter.
- Microplane grater: To remove the zest from the orange.
- Whisk: For combining the dry ingredients.
- Silicone spatula: For folding, and it helps to get every drop of batter from the bowl!
- Scoop: I think a trigger scoop is a great tool for portioning out the batter. Makes things super quick and mess-free!
How to make this cranberry orange muffins recipe
Just 4 simple steps to cranberry orange muffin bliss!
Step 1: Combine the dry ingredients
Start by placing the flour, sugar, orange zest, baking powder, and salt in a big bowl.
Give these dry ingredients a quick whisk, just to get them combined. Then, create a well in the center.
Step 2: Work in the liquid ingredients
Pour the melted butter, sour cream, eggs, orange juice, and vanilla into the well.
Starting at the center, whisk the liquid ingredients together until combined. Then, gradually work outward to incorporate the dry ingredients, a little at a time.
Stop mixing just as soon as everything is just barely combined. If you overmix, your muffins could come out tough.
Then add the fruit.
Fold the cranberries in, in as few strokes as possible. It’s totally fine if your batter looks lumpy or has a few streaks of flour in it.
Step 3: Scoop and garnish
Next just portion out the batter into your muffin pan.
Divide the batter equally between all 12 wells of the pan. The wells will be quite full! This is how you get sky-high, bakery-style muffins.
Sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar for added crunch and sparkle.
Step 4: Bake
Slide your muffins into the oven and allow them to bake until puffy, golden around the edges, and springy to the touch.
A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
How to serve an orange cranberry muffin
I love to heat a muffin up in the microwave or toaster oven until it’s steamy warm, then slather it with soft butter.
Use fresh or frozen cranberries: I can usually find fresh cranberries in the produce section of my regular grocery store, but only in late fall and early winter. If you can’t get your hands on fresh, frozen berries work great too. You don’t even have to thaw them before you add them to the batter!
Don’t overmix: Once the flour meets the liquids it’s really important not to overmix, or your muffins could come out tough. Use as few strokes as possible, and don’t worry if there are lumps!
Get creative with toppings: I love the look of white sparkling sugar, but you could also top these muffins with streusel or nuts. I think chopped pecans would be especially nice!
Don’t overbake: Keep a close eye on the muffins while baking and avoid overbaking them. Overbaking can lead to dry muffins. A few minutes before you think they will be done, flip on the oven light and have a look through the window. If they don’t look wet in the middle, crack open the door slightly and give them a feel. If they’re springy, give them the toothpick test. If it comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, the muffins are done.
Frequently asked questions
Just divide the batter equally between 12 wells of the muffin pan. The wells will be very full!
These cranberry orange muffins will keep at room temperature, uncovered, for about 24 to 36 hours.
After that, cover them loosely and stash them in the fridge.
I find that muffins often become soggy if they’re kept in an airtight situation, so I’ll often leave them in the pan and just loosely drape plastic wrap on top, allowing a little air to flow.
These can also be frozen! They should keep for a couple of months in the freezer. Thaw them at room temperature or in the fridge. Reheat them for around 15 seconds in the microwave, or until warmed through.
The serving size for this recipe is one muffin. The nutritional info noted in the recipe card below includes the coarse sugar topping.
A few more of my favorite cranberry recipes
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Cranberry Orange Muffins
- 2 1/2 cups (312.5 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons (12 g) orange zest
- 1 tablespoon (12 g) baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon (1.5 g) kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (113.5 g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup (230 g) sour cream, (plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt or buttermilk* can be substituted)
- 3 tablespoons (51 g) orange juice
- 2 (88 g) eggs, large
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (121.21 g) dried cranberries
- 1 cup (100 g) fresh or frozen cranberries
- 2 tablespoons (36 g) sparkling sugar, for garnish
- Place the flour, sugar, orange zest, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
- Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the melted butter, sour cream, orange juice, eggs, and vanilla.
- Working from the center outward, whisk the liquid ingredients together until smooth, drawing the dry ingredients into the mixture a little at a time.
- Fold the batter until just barely combined (it's ok if it's lumpy or has a few streaks of flour).
- Fold in the cranberries, in as few strokes as possible.
- Divide the batter equally between each well of the muffin tin, and sprinkle with a pinch of sparkling sugar.
- Bake for 5 minutes at 425 degrees F, then turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees F (without opening the oven door) and bake until the muffins are puffed, golden around the edges, and springy to the touch. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs (approx. 15 minutes more).