These fluffy cranberry orange muffins will make your house smell like the holidays! I hope they become your new favorite holiday muffin recipe. It took me eight tries to get these muffins just right, but they were absolutely worth the effort.
These muffins are bursting with fresh cranberry and orange flavor. They’re fluffy and moist and delicious—everything I want a muffin to be.
Plus, they’re made with wholesome ingredients like whole wheat flour and Greek yogurt, and they’re naturally sweetened with honey or maple syrup. You can keep those details to yourself, though—no one will guess that these muffins are healthier than most!
Did I mention that you can easily mix these together by hand? No mixer required. Serve them for breakfast or brunch, or bring them to your holiday parties this year!
Cranberry Orange Muffin Recipe Development
I thought this recipe was going to be so easy. Take my blueberry muffin recipe, substitute cranberries for the blueberries, add orange zest—done. Not so fast, Kate!
Problem: The fresh cranberries were so much bigger than blueberries and so tart that they left mouth-puckering polka dots in the muffins. Fortunately, I found a clue in America’s Test Kitchen’s cranberry muffin recipe.
Solution: Blitz the fresh cranberries in a food processor for a few seconds to break them up. That way, you get delicious little bits of cranberries in every bite. This also allowed me to double the amount of cranberries for maximum cranberry flavor.
Problem: The muffins were still far too tart, though (and I like tart).
Solution: To counteract the tartness of the cranberries, I added 1/4 cup more honey or maple syrup, which made these muffins perfectly sweet—not too much, not too little.
Problem: The extra moisture from the additional liquid sweetener made the muffins flatten out on the top. I wanted beautifully domed, fluffy muffins, so I tried decreasing the amount of yogurt, tweaking the baking powder and baking soda, and I was almost ready to give up…
Solution: I went back to the original formula and added 1/4 cup more flour. The muffins rose like a dream!
Eight tries later, I landed on perfect cranberry orange muffins! I hope you’ll make them while cranberries are still in season.
Cranberry Orange Muffin Ingredient Notes
Here’s what you’ll need to make these cranberry-studded beauties:
White whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour: Either one will work. White whole wheat flour (available in health food stores or well-stocked grocery stores) is made with white wheat berries instead of red, and has a more mild flavor as a result. As long as your whole wheat flour hasn’t been sitting on the shelf too long, your muffins will not have a strong “whole wheat” taste. In fact, if your flour smells rancid or your muffins taste bitter, your flour has gone bad.
You could also substitute all-purpose flour or Bob’s Red Mill’s gluten-free all-purpose blend.
Pro tip: The proper way to measure flour is to spoon flour into your measuring cup and level off the top with a knife. Do not scoop flour into your cups, or you could end up with way too much flour, and dry/tough muffins.
Baking powder and baking soda: These are leavening agents, which help the muffins rise so they are light and fluffy. These ingredients are not the same thing and are not interchangeable, so be careful with your measurements!
Fine sea salt: I prefer to use non-iodized sea salt instead of plain table salt because it has a cleaner taste and contains some good-for-you trace minerals. You can substitute regular salt if that’s what you have!
Coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil: Instead of butter, these muffins call for oil. I can’t taste either one in the end result. If you use olive oil, I recommend a mildly flavored one, like California Olive Ranch’s Everyday variety.
Honey or maple syrup: Instead of sugar, these muffins are naturally sweetened with honey or maple syrup! These do impart some delicious flavor, so choose your favorite.
Eggs: Eggs also act as a leavener, helping the muffins rise while also imparting richness. If you have an egg allergy or you’re a vegan, you can substitute flax eggs (see recipe notes).
Greek yogurt: Yogurt replaces sour cream, but offers the same delicious richness and tang. Yum! Check the recipe notes for a buttermilk alternative (which can be made vegan).
Vanilla extract: You know, for some luscious vanilla flavor.
Orange zest: All you need is the zest of one orange to infuse these muffins with flavor. After you take the zest off the orange, you can slice it up and eat it. I do recommend buying on organic orange if you can find one, since pesticide residue sticks to the rind.
Fresh cranberries: One bag is more than enough. You’ll blitz these in the food processor before folding them into the batter.
Turbinado (raw) sugar: This is optional, but I recommend it. Turbinado sugar is large crystal sugar that lends an irresistible sparkling, crunchy top to the muffins. I bet you could even take a tiny bag of raw sugar home from your local coffee shop!
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USA-made muffin tin: This sturdy muffin tin bakes beautiful muffins and has a non-toxic, non-stick silicone coating. I never have to grease the cups!
11-cup food processor: This Cuisinart is not too big or too small, and blitzes the cranberries in five seconds.
Microplane: It’s so easy to remove the zest from citrus with this handy tool.
Love these muffins?
Here are more of my favorite naturally sweetened, whole-wheat muffin recipes!
- Healthy Apple Muffins
- Healthy Banana Muffins
- Healthy Carrot Muffins
- Healthy Raspberry Muffins
- Healthy Pumpkin Muffins
- Healthy Zucchini Muffins
- Healthy Blueberry Muffins
Please let me know how these muffins turn out for you in the comments! I love hearing from you, and hope the recipe is a big hit.
Fluffy Cranberry Orange Muffins
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 12 muffins
- Category: Baked good
- Method: By hand
- Cuisine: American
These cranberry orange muffins will be your family’s new favorite! Don’t tell them the recipe calls for healthy ingredients. These fluffy muffins are bursting with fresh cranberry and orange flavor, plus they’re whole grain and naturally sweetened! Recipe yields 12 muffins.
- 2 cups fresh cranberries
- 2 cups white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ⅓ cup melted coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
- ¾ cup honey or maple syrup
- 2 eggs, preferably at room temperature
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt*
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Zest from 1 medium orange (about 1 teaspoon), preferably organic
- 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (also called raw sugar), for sprinkling on top
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease all 12 cups of your muffin tin or line them with papers, if necessary.
- In a food processor, process the cranberries for about 5 seconds, until they are broken into little bits (but not puréed—see photos). Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oil and honey and beat together with a whisk. Add the eggs and whisk to combine, then add the yogurt, vanilla and orange zest. Mix well.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix with a big spoon, just until combined (a few lumps are ok). Gently fold the cranberry pieces into the batter.
- Divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups (they will be quite full). Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with turbinado sugar. Bake the muffins for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the muffins are golden on top and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
- Place the muffin tin on a cooling rack to cool. You might need to run a butter knife along the outer edge of the muffins to loosen them from the pan. If you have leftover muffins, store them, covered, at room temperature for 2 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Freeze leftover muffins for up to 3 months.
Recipe adapted from my healthy blueberry muffins.