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Mom’s Cranberry Bread recipe is easy to stir together, perfect for gifting around the holidays, and always moist, buttery, and full of fresh orange flavor. Tart cranberries and crunchy nuts serve as a tasty contrast to the sweet, tender quick bread. Enjoy a slice of cranberry orange bread for breakfast on Thanksgiving or Christmas morning, or offer the loaf as a snack throughout the season alongside a cup of coffee, tea, hot cocoa or mulled cider!

Close up side shot of the best cranberry bread recipe sliced and served on a red and white plate

Cranberry Orange Bread

Over the years, I have learned a few tricks to keep holiday baking stress-free and successful (even for newbies in the kitchen). First of all, I stick with what I know will work, following the tried-and-true recipes that we have loved for years. My mom’s easy cranberry bread recipe is always a guaranteed winner!

Since cranberries and oranges are a match made in heaven, this bread incorporates fresh (or frozen) tart cranberries with the bright flavor of fresh orange juice and fresh orange zest. Stirred into a rich, buttery batter and studded with crunchy walnuts or pecans, each loaf of cranberry orange bread is the ultimate holiday gift! Whether you share it with friends and neighbors, bake it for quick make-ahead breakfasts, or serve it alongside a roast chicken for your next family dinner, this easy quick bread will soon become a staple in your holiday baking schedule, too!

Whisking dry ingredients in white mixing bowl

Ingredients for Cranberry Walnut Bread

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a loaf of Mom’s cranberry bread. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • All-purpose flour: the base of the bread. Make sure that it’s properly measured by weight or by spooning and leveling. Incorrectly measuring the flour packs it too tightly into the measuring cup and results in dense, dry bread.
  • Salt: to balance the sweetness and enhance the other flavors.
  • Baking soda: the leavening agent that helps the bread rise.
  • Sugar: for just the right amount of sweetness.
  • Orange juice and orange zest: zest it first, then squeeze out the juice.
  • Butter: I like salted butter for its flavor. The butter keeps the bread moist and gives it a rich, tender crumb. It tastes a lot like pound cake!
  • Egg: gives the bread structure.
  • Nuts: walnuts or pecans are the most popular choice for cranberry nut bread.
  • Cranberries: fresh or frozen work best for their tart flavor and added moisture. If using frozen cranberries, do not thaw them before adding them to the batter. Fresh cranberries can be stored in the freezer so that you always have them available when you need them for this recipe!
  • Milk: to thin the batter and bring everything together.

Whisking wet ingredients in a measuring cup

Can you use dried cranberries instead of fresh?

Yes, you can! I prefer the tartness that you get from the fresh or frozen cranberries, as well as the extra moisture that they add to the loaf. That said, sweetened dried cranberries (like Ocean Spray Craisins) will also work fine! If using the dried cranberries, you might like to soak them in warm water or orange juice before adding them to the bread. This will soften them up and give them a plump texture.

Stirring cranberry bread batter with a wooden spoon

How to Prepare Fresh Cranberries for Baking

There’s not really anything special that you need to do here. Just cut the larger cranberries in half and then gently fold them into the batter. If using frozen cranberries, do not thaw them before cutting them and adding them to the batter.

Adding fresh cranberries to a bowl

How to Make Cranberry Bread from Scratch

This fresh cranberry bread recipe only requires 15 minutes of prep. It comes straight from one of my mom’s old, tattered, stained recipe cards — a treasure that I will hold onto forever!

  1. Whisk together the dry ingredients.
  2. Whisk together the wet ingredients.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then stir just until the mixture is combined. Be careful not to overmix.
  4. Fold in the cranberries and nuts.
  5. Transfer the batter to a loaf pan.
  6. Bake the bread in a 325°F oven for 65-75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack, and then slice and serve!

The end result is a moist, tender loaf of bread that is bursting with tart berries and chunks of buttery walnuts or pecans. Simple ingredients come together in a naturally beautiful way!

Close up side shot of sliced cranberry nut bread

How to Serve Orange Cranberry Bread

This cranberry quick bread can be served warm, at room temperature, or even cold (straight out of the fridge)! It’s delicious on its own, but it’s also really great when spread with butter,  cream cheese, or jam. For dessert, try topping a warm piece of the bread with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Square image of cranberry nut bread on a breakfast table

Storage

Allow the bread to cool completely on a wire rack before serving or packaging. Wrap the loaf in plastic wrap or foil to prevent it from drying out. The cranberry orange bread will stay fresh at room temperature on the counter for 1-2 days, and it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

How to Freeze

Allow the bread to cool completely, and then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in a Ziploc freezer bag or wrap again with foil. The bread will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw cranberry bread on the counter overnight or for a few hours, then slice and serve!

Overhead head of cranberry walnut bread sliced on a wooden board

Recipe Variations

  • Add a sweet orange glaze on top. Simply whisk together 1 cup of powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of orange juice until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the top of the cooled bread.
  • Omit the orange juice and orange zest. Replace the orange juice with extra milk.
  • Add warm spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg or cloves for that extra holiday touch.
  • Use sweetened dried cranberries instead of fresh or frozen cranberries.
  • Double all of the ingredients to make two loaves instead of one. Share a loaf as a gift and keep the second for yourself!

Close overhead shot of slices of cranberry orange bread on a red and white plate

Tips for the Best Cranberry Bread Recipe

  • Properly measure the flour. Always spoon and level the flour or weigh it on a kitchen scale — do not scoop it out of the package. Incorrectly measuring the flour packs it too tightly into the measuring cup and results in dense, dry bread.
  • The orange zest is the outer layer of the orange peel, where you’ll find all of the essential oils (and therefore the most potent orange flavor). Make sure that you don’t scrape off any of the bitter white pith underneath when grating the orange zest.
  • How to Make Cranberry Bread Moist: Be careful not to overmix the batter. Mixing too much activates the gluten in the flour, resulting in a dry, dense loaf of bread. Gently fold together the ingredients just until everything is combined.
  • To prevent quick breads or Bundt cakes from sticking to the pan, I prefer to use a baking spray (that includes flour). It also helps to run a knife around the outside of the bread while it’s still warm and cooling in the pan.
  • I prefer a light colored loaf pan (rather than a dark pan), because the darker pans tend to brown or burn the outside of quick bread before the inside cooks through.

Front shot of a plate of cranberry orange bread on a table

More Cranberry Recipes to Try

Close up side shot of the best cranberry bread recipe sliced and served on a red and white plate

Mom's Cranberry Bread

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 10 minutes
Cooling Time 2 hours
Total: 3 hours 25 minutes
Servings 10 - 12 servings (1 loaf)
Calories 263 kcal
A delicious and easy cranberry bread recipe that takes only 15 minutes to prepare and makes a perfect holiday gift or festive breakfast!

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Juice and zest from 1 orange
  • ¼ cup salted butter, melted
  • Approximately ½ cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, halved (if using frozen cranberries, do not thaw before adding to batter)
  • ½ cup chopped nuts, such as walnuts or pecans (increase to 1 cup of nuts for an extra nutty crunch)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325°F (190°C). Grease an 8 ½ x 4 ½-inch loaf pan; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and sugar.
  • In a large measuring cup, whisk together the melted butter, orange juice, and milk, adding enough milk so that the wet mixture totals 1 cup.
  • Add the egg and orange zest to the wet ingredients. Whisk until completely combined.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients; stir until just combined, being careful not to overmix. The batter should be nice and thick, without any dry pockets of flour. Add a splash of extra milk, if necessary.
  • Gently fold in cranberries and nuts.
  • Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  • Bake for about 65-75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Notes

  • Properly measure the flour. Always spoon and level the flour or weigh it on a kitchen scale -- do not scoop it out of the package. Incorrectly measuring the flour packs it too tightly into the measuring cup and results in dense, dry bread.
  • The orange zest is the outer layer of the orange peel, where you'll find all of the essential oils (and therefore the most potent orange flavor). Make sure that you don't scrape off any of the bitter white pith when grating the orange zest.
  • How to Make Cranberry Bread Moist: Be careful not to overmix the batter. Mixing too much activates the gluten in the flour, resulting in a dry, dense loaf of bread. Gently fold together the ingredients just until everything is combined.
  • To prevent quick breads or Bundt cakes from sticking to the pan, I prefer to use a baking spray (that includes flour). It also helps to run a knife around the outside of the bread while it's still warm and cooling in the pan.
  • I prefer a light colored loaf pan (rather than a dark pan), because the darker pans tend to brown or burn the outside of quick breads before the inside cooks through.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/10 of the loafCalories: 263kcalCarbohydrates: 42gProtein: 5gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 224mgPotassium: 87mgFiber: 2gSugar: 21gVitamin A: 196IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 29mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: cranberry bread, cranberry nut bread, cranberry orange bread, cranberry walnut bread
Course: Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in December, 2016. The photos were updated in November, 2021.

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!

Read More

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Comments

    1. Hi, Lisa! No, I haven’t — but I’m sure it would work fine! Just double the ingredients and divide the batter between two pans. 🙂

    1. Hi, Connie! You can use a sugar substitute that measures like sugar (for instance, a stevia product). If you’re looking to use something like maple syrup or honey, it would not be a 1:1 replacement because those options are sweeter than sugar — and the liquid nature would change the texture of the bread. I’m sorry that I haven’t tested the recipe with other options to be able to give you specific measurements. Hope you get to try it! 🙂

  1. If I separated the batter into 4 mini loaf pans how long would you think I would cook them and on would you change the temperature?

    1. Hi, Stacy! I haven’t tested mini loaves with this particular recipe, but in general the smaller loaves bake at 350 degrees F for about 33-38 minutes. Hope you enjoy!

  2. Hi Blair,
    Recently, I baked an orange nut bread similar to yours using orange zest & juice, baking soda, & baking powder. The skin of walnuts after baking turned out dark. I would appreciate if you would comment on that since the walnuts in your picture have a similar color. Was it caused by orange juice & baking soda? Is this a natural reaction?

    1. Hi, Marta! I used pecans in those photos, and I didn’t even really notice the change in color. Maybe it looks more pronounced in the photos than it did in real life? I honestly have no idea why the skin of walnuts (or pecans) would change color during the baking process. A quick Google search showed this response when someone asked about walnuts changing color in banana bread: https://www.nigella.com/ask/walnuts-changing-colour-in-banana-bread

      Not sure if it’s helpful or not, but it’s more info than I would have! 🙂

  3. Hi Blair,
    Thank you so much for your prompt reply. It was very helpful. Next time I will try tossing the walnuts in a spoonful of plain flour (without any raising agents) before using them in the cake batter. I always sift all the dry ingredients. I do suspect that the cause is the reaction between baking soda and orange zest. It also happened to me years ago while baking carrot bread. It must have something to do with the orange color & baking soda. My only concern is if the discolored skin of nuts (caused by a chemical process) is safe to our health?