Favorite Cranberry Orange Muffins (Easy and Healthy!)

Combine a handful of simple ingredients into fresh Cranberry Orange Muffins to share with the kids come breakfast or snack time … or to serve alongside your favorite chili, soup, or holiday recipe! These work well to make ahead, too.

cranberry orange muffins on wooden plate

Cranberry Orange Muffins

I’m always ready for Cranberry Bread come fall, but I find my kids are usually more game for fun mini muffins than full slices of bread. This easy recipe has loads of fresh flavor, is bursting with fruit, it has lots of natural sweetness, and a totally moist interior.

These healthy mini muffins have low amounts of added sugar—just enough to balance the tartness of the cranberries—and get extra fresh flavor from fresh cranberries and orange juice. They also have vitamin C, protein, and complex carbohydrates to make them a balanced snack or breakfast.

The cranberry orange muffins recipe pairs nicely with cozy dinners like roasted pork or chili—or make a great side for Thanksgiving dinner. They have a really tender and moist texture, and a bright, fresh flavor.

TIP: We love these muffins on their own, but they’re also great topped with a little butter or cream cheese.

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Ingredients You Need

To make this recipe, you’ll need a few pantry staples, as well as fresh fruit. Here’s a look:

ingredients in cranberry muffins
  • Fresh cranberries: Look for them in a bag in the produce section in the fall. I use these in this recipe rather than dried since they really increase the cranberry flavor.
  • Orange juice and zest: You can use a fresh medium orange for both of these.
  • Whole-wheat flour: This hearty flour pairs well with the moisture in the cranberries and orange.
  • All-purpose flour: I like to use a mix of flours here so you get fluffiness and some extra nutrition.
  • Baking powder and baking soda: To help the muffins rise nicely.
  • Cinnamon
  • Eggs: These help add moisture and hold the batter together.
  • Vanilla extract: Look for “pure” vanilla extract, rather than “imitation,” for the best flavor.
  • Maple syrup: You can also use honey if you prefer.
  • Butter or neutral oil: I recommend unsalted butter or a neutral flavored oil like canola or a mild olive oil.

Ingredient Substitutions

  • You can use honey instead of maple syrup if that’s what you have on hand.
  • You can use just all-purpose flour instead of using the combination.
  • Orange juice in a carton can be substituted for freshly squeezed. Just omit the zest.
  • To make this with frozen cranberries, break them apart if they are at all stuck together in clumps, and remove any large pieces of ice. The recipe should work fine, though the batter may hold together a bit since it will be cold from the cranberries.
  • Gluten-free: Use a 1:1 style of gluten-free flour blend.
  • Dairy-free: Use melted coconut oil or canola oil in place of the butter.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s a look at the simple process involved in making this recipe. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full information.

how to make cranberry muffins step by step
  1. Add the cranberries to a food processor and grind into smaller pieces. You can run the processor on low or use the “pulse” button.
  2. Use a microplane to zest the orange, avoiding any of the white part under the skin (which can be a little bitter). Cut in half and squeeze the juice.
  3. Stir together all ingredients, both the wet and dry ingredients, in a medium bowl or large bowl.
  4. Add batter to a greased mini muffin pan, filling each cup about full. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out cleanly. (I prefer to bake in a well greased muffin pan instead of liners as I find muffins tend to stick to paper liners.)

TIP: You can sprinkle each muffin with a little extra cinnamon and granulated sugar if you’d like.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make these Cranberry Muffins ahead of time?

You can make them ahead of time, though you may want to heat them briefly if serving them from the fridge. Let the muffins cool fully, then store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days, or up to 3 months in the freezer.

What flour works best?

I like to use a mix of all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour for a moist and tender texture, though you can use all whole wheat flour if you prefer. They will be a smidge more dense, but still good.

Can I use frozen cranberries?

The method has us grinding up the cranberries in the food processor, so you can use frozen ones but you’ll want to make sure they’re not in big clumps for that step. It should work okay though!

sliced cranberry muffin on towel

How to Store

Store cooled muffins (either leftovers or if you plan to make them ahead) in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. These muffins freeze really well and are nice to make-ahead for Thanksgiving. Thaw overnight or at room temperature. Warm slightly to serve if you prefer.

Best Tips for Success

  • Grind up the fresh cranberries to make the pieces more evenly distributed throughout the muffin recipe.
  • Use freshly squeezed or bottled orange juice.
  • Grease the muffin pan well with nonstick cooking spray.
  • I like to use whole wheat flour for a moist and tender texture, though you can use all all-purpose flour if you prefer.
  • Use maple syrup or honey as the sweetener. This helps to balance the tart cranberries.
  • Serve topped with butter, honey, or cream cheese.
  • I’ve never tried these with chopped walnuts or pecans mixed into the batter, but I bet that would be delicious.

Related Recipes

I’d love to hear your feedback on this recipe, so please comment below to share!

mini cranberry orange muffins on plate
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and grease a 24-cup mini muffin tin well with nonstick spray.

  • Place the cranberries into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Grind to chop up into smaller pieces.

  • Add the cranberries to a large bowl with the orange juice, maple syrup, butter, eggs, orange zest, if using, and vanilla. Whisk to combine. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine gently.

  • Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling each cup about full.

  • Bake for 12-14 minutes for mini muffins (or 16-18 for full size) or until a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out cleanly.

  • Remove from oven and let sit for 2 minutes, then transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool fully. Use a paring knife around the edges to help release the muffins if needed.

  • Serve at room temperature or slightly warm plain, with apple butter, a little butter, or cream cheese, as desired.

  • Store cooled muffins in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • Gluten-free: To make these muffins gluten-free, use gluten-free cup-for-cup flour.
  • Dairy-free: To make these muffins dairy-free, use melted coconut oil or canola oil.
  • Grind the fresh cranberries up to make the pieces more evenly distributed throughout the muffins.
  • Use freshly squeezed or bottled orange juice.
  • Use maple syrup or honey as the sweetener.
  • Stir the ingredients together gently to ensure you don’t overwork the batter.
  • I like to use whole wheat flour for a moist and tender texture, though you can use all all-purpose flour if you prefer.
  • Grease the muffin tin well.
  • Use a paring knife around the edges of the muffin pan to help release the baked muffins if needed.
  • Allow to cool in the pan for about 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool fully.

Serving: 2muffins, Calories: 121kcal, Carbohydrates: 21g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 3g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 32mg, Sodium: 119mg, Potassium: 112mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 140IU, Vitamin C: 10mg, Calcium: 42mg, Iron: 1mg

This post was first published November 2018.

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