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The best bakery-style cranberry orange muffins are moist and fluffy, bursting with fresh, tart berries and bright citrus flavor, and finished with a crunchy sugar topping. Best of all, the easy muffins come together in one bowl with just 15 minutes of prep. Serve them for a simple make-ahead breakfast, a Thanksgiving or Christmas side dish, or a delicious addition to your next Sunday supper.

Front shot of cranberry orange muffins on a cooling rack

Orange Cranberry Muffins

You can’t beat the ease of a one-bowl muffin recipe that doesn’t require any electric mixers or other fancy equipment. Just some elbow grease! Best of all, though, these cranberry orange muffins are moist and tender, full of tart, juicy berries and bright citrus flavor, and blessed with big, high, sugar-crusted tops. What more could you ask for in a batch of homemade muffins?

How to Make Tall Muffin Tops

There are a couple of key steps to creating that nice, high dome on the muffin top:

  • Use a thick batter (you’ve got that here, thanks to the sour cream!)
  • Fill the muffin cups to the top (I like to use an ice cream scoop to equally measure the same amount of batter into each cup)
Square side shot of a bowl of easy cranberry orange muffins

What makes a muffin moist?

To keep the muffins light, tender, fluffy, and incredibly moist so that they don’t just crumble:

  • Use full-fat sour cream. The acid in the thick, rich, sour cream yields a muffin with a moist, tender crumb. The fat in the sour cream also contributes moisture to the batter.
  • Two different types of fat. The butter and the sour cream both contribute fat and flavor to the muffins. Don’t skimp on the fat in these bakery-style treats!
  • Do not over-mix the batter. You want it to come together so that everything is combined, but then stop stirring. Mixing too much activates the gluten in the flour and results in dry, dense muffins.
Cranberry orange muffin on a red and white plate

Ingredients

This is a quick overview of the simple ingredients that you’ll need for a batch of easy cranberry orange muffins. As always, specific measurements and complete step-by-step instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Salted butter: keeps the muffins moist and adds rich flavor. Melted butter blends easily with the other ingredients without the need for an electric mixer!
  • Sugar: for just the right amount of sweetness to balance the tart berries.
  • Orange zest: the outer peel of the fruit is where you’ll find the essential oils, which contribute the bold orange flavor. No need to thin the batter with orange juice!
  • Sour cream: provides an acidic element that helps the muffins rise. It also gives them a moist, tender texture, while keeping the batter thick so that the muffins rise high and have a nice dome. Use a full-fat sour cream (not light) for the best flavor and texture. You can also substitute with a full-fat Greek-style plain yogurt.
  • Egg: for structure and lift.
  • Vanilla extract: for extra flavor.
  • Baking powder and baking soda: the leavening agents that help the muffins rise.
  • Salt: to enhance the other flavors in the muffins, balance the sweetness, and add depth of flavor.
  • All-purpose flour: the base of the batter. For extra whole grains, substitute some whole wheat flour for about half of the all-purpose flour.
  • Cranberries: fresh or frozen will work. You can even sub with dried cranberries if you like.
  • Nuts: these are optional, and I tend to leave them out since my kids prefer nut-free muffins. That said, chopped pecans or walnuts are a delicious addition!
  • Coarse sugar: for those deliciously crunchy, bakery-style, sugar-crusted muffin tops! This is the brand that I use, but any similar sugar will work.
Stirring together muffin batter

How to Prepare Fresh Cranberries for Muffins

You can use either fresh or frozen cranberries in this recipe. If you’re starting with frozen cranberries, do not thaw them before adding the cranberries to the batter. Halve or coarsely chop the larger berries (small cranberries that are about the size of blueberries can be left whole). That’s it — the cranberries are ready to stir into the muffins! You do not need to cook the cranberries before adding them to the batter.

Can I substitute dried cranberries for fresh in muffins?

Yes! While I prefer the tart burst of flavor from fresh or frozen cranberries, dried cranberries (such as Craisins) will also work in this recipe.

Adding fresh cranberries to a bowl

How to Make Cranberry Orange Muffins

These muffins are a great option for prep-ahead breakfasts, a festive holiday side dish, or a quick addition to the weeknight bread basket. Best of all, you can stir together the batter in about 15 minutes — no electric or stand mixer required!

  1. Whisk together the melted butter, sugar, orange zest, sour cream, egg, and vanilla extract in a large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle the baking powder, baking soda, and salt over top. Whisk to combine.
  3. Add the flour and gently stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, just until combined. Do not over mix. The batter will be nice and thick!
  4. Fold in the cranberries (and nuts, if you’re using them).
  5. Divide the batter evenly between 9 muffin cups in a standard size muffin pan. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with plenty of coarse sugar.
  6. Bake in a 375°F oven for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  7. Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Overhead shot of cranberry orange muffins in a muffin tin

Serving Suggestions

The muffins are tasty on their own, but they’re also delicious when served warm and spread with butter, honey, or a dollop of orange marmalade.

Pair the orange cranberry muffins with any of these cozy meals:

Square side shot of cranberry orange muffins on a cooling rack

Storage

Allow the muffins to cool completely. Store cooled muffins in a large Ziploc freezer bag or other airtight container. The muffins will last for 2-3 days at room temperature, or you can freeze the muffins for up to 3 months.

How to Reheat

If the muffins are frozen, allow to sit on the counter for a few minutes while you preheat the oven to 350°F. Frozen muffins will require about 10-12 minutes in the oven; room temperature muffins will only need about 5 minutes to warm through.

Side shot of a bowl of easy cranberry orange muffins

Recipe Variations

  • Add this streusel topping. Sprinkle on top of the muffin batter, pressing down gently. Bake according to recipe instructions.
  • Top the muffins with an orange glaze like this one.
  • Double the ingredients to bake 18 muffins instead of just 9.
  • Blueberry Cranberry Muffins: Use ¾ cup of fresh or frozen blueberries and ¾ cup of fresh or frozen cranberries for a nice combination of sweet-and-tart ingredients. You do not need to thaw frozen blueberries and you do not need to halve or chop the blueberries before adding them to the batter.
  • Use dried cranberries instead of fresh cranberries.
  • Add ½ cup chocolate chips to the batter instead of nuts.
Side shot of cranberry orange muffins on a cooling rack

Tips for the Best Cranberry Orange Muffin Recipe

  • When zesting the orange, be sure that you only scrape off the outer layer of the peel (this is where the essential oils and delicious flavor can be found). Be careful not to grate any of the bitter white pith.
  • The key to a perfect muffin is just barely mixing the ingredients. You want them to come together, but a few lumps are fine. This way they’ll stay moist and tender!
  • Fill the muffin cups nice and full. I like to use an ice cream scoop to make sure that each cup has an equal amount of batter, ensuring that the muffins bake evenly in the oven.
  • To check if the muffins are done, insert a toothpick into the center and make sure it comes out clean. Don’t cook them for too long, or they can dry out.
  • This recipe yields 9 standard-size muffins. You can bake the batter in jumbo muffin tins for giant bakery-size treats. You’ll need to increase the total baking time to 30-35 minutes for the jumbo muffins. Similarly, you can bake the batter in mini muffin tins. The mini muffins will bake much faster, so they will only need a total of about 12-15 minutes in a 350°F oven.
Hands serving a bowl of cranberry orange muffins
Square side shot of a bowl of easy cranberry orange muffins

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings 9 muffins
Calories 228 kcal
You only need one bowl, a whisk, and about 15 minutes to make the best bakery-style cranberry orange muffins!

Ingredients
  

  • 5 tablespoons salted butter, melted
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Zest from 1 orange
  • ¾ cup (6 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups fresh or frozen cranberries (very large cranberries halved)
  • Optional: ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • Coarse sugar, for topping

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Line a muffin tin with 9 paper liners. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sugar, orange zest, sour cream, egg, and vanilla extract.
  • Sprinkle the baking powder, baking soda, and salt over top. Whisk to combine.
  • Add the flour and gently stir with a wooden spoon or spatula, just until combined and no dry streaks of flour remain. The batter will be nice and thick!
  • Fold in the cranberries and nuts (is using).
  • Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with coarse sugar.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into each muffin comes out clean and the tops are golden.
  • Cool muffins in the pan for about 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Notes

  • When zesting the orange, be sure that you only scrape off the outer layer of the peel (this is where the essential oils and delicious flavor can be found). Be careful not to grate any of the bitter white pith.
  • The key to a perfect muffin is just barely mixing the ingredients. You want them to come together, but a few lumps are fine. This way they’ll stay moist and tender!
  • Fill the muffin cups nice and full. I like to use an ice cream scoop to make sure that each cup has an equal amount of batter, ensuring that the muffins bake evenly in the oven.
  • To check if the muffins are done, insert a toothpick into the center and make sure it comes out clean. Don’t cook them for too long, or they can dry out.
  • This recipe yields 9 standard-size muffins. You can bake the batter in jumbo muffin tins for giant bakery-size treats. You’ll need to increase the total baking time to 30-35 minutes for the jumbo muffins. Similarly, you can bake the batter in mini muffin tins. The mini muffins will bake much faster, so they will only need a total of about 12-15 minutes in a 350°F oven.
  • Add this streusel topping. Sprinkle on top of the muffin batter, pressing down gently. Bake according to recipe instructions.
  • Top the muffins with an orange glaze like this one.
  • Double the ingredients to bake 18 muffins instead of just 9.
  • Blueberry Cranberry Muffins: Use ¾ cup of fresh or frozen blueberries and ¾ cup of fresh or frozen cranberries for a nice combination of sweet-and-tart ingredients. You do not need to thaw frozen blueberries and you do not need to halve or chop the blueberries before adding them to the batter.
  • Use dried cranberries instead of fresh cranberries.
  • Add ½ cup chocolate chips to the batter instead of nuts.

Nutrition

Serving: 1muffinCalories: 228kcalCarbohydrates: 30gProtein: 3gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 46mgSodium: 159mgPotassium: 134mgFiber: 1gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 349IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 57mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: cranberry orange muffins, orange cranberry muffins
Course: Breakfast, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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