Cranberry orange muffins with streusel topping are the perfect Thanksgiving or Christmas morning breakfast treat. Freezer friendly and easy to make, you can have a batch ready to serve for the holiday by prepping these ahead.
One of the best fall flavors in the world is fresh cranberry and cinnamon.
I think these sweet cranberry orange muffins with streusel topping taste like all the fall holidays rolled into one.
If you've never baked with fresh cranberries before, this easy muffin recipe is the place to start.
While they're baking, you could whip up a batch of my freezer friendly cranberry sauce for the holiday, too!
Bake a batch now and freeze them. You'll love being able to thaw them the night before Thanksgiving or Christmas!
Why This is the Best Recipe
I love baking sweet breakfast treats for the holiday season but I think this is the best cranberry orange muffin recipe because:
- SO Much Better than Grocery Store Muffins: When was the last time you tried a homemade muffin?? Grocery store muffins are crumbly and dry while the from-scratch version has an awesome moist and springy bite to it.
- Burst of Fresh Fruit: Using fresh cranberries and orange juice gives each muffin a burst of fruity flavor while the buttery streusel topping helps to balance the tartness.
- Spicy Cinnamon and Sweet Vanilla: To really add to the festive holiday flavors, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a bit of vanilla add even more depth to the flavor.
- Freezer Friendly / Make Ahead Friendly: The holidays are so busy, plan ahead and just freeze these muffins for a special breakfast for your family.
Homemade muffins are always popular because you only need a few pantry ingredients to make them:
- Brown Sugar: For the streusel topping
- Baking Powder
- Kosher Salt
- Fresh Cranberries: The kind you buy in the produce section, not the dried cranberries by the raisin aisle.
- Orange: You can use a fresh orange and squeeze the juice or you can measure the orange juice from a bottle in a pinch.
Prep the Muffin Batter
The key to perfect, fluffy muffins is to not overbeat the batter.
Start by whisking the liquid ingredients together in a large bowl.
Add the orange juice, butter, milk, and eggs and whisk until the eggs are smooth.
Add the fresh cranberries to the batter and stir. Set this aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the cranberries and gently stir them together.
Don't over mix!!
As you can see in my photo, it is ok to have little streaks of dry flour in the batter.
Use a spatula and just gently keep folding until everything is mostly combined.
Prep the Streusel Topping
The streusel topping is essential to this recipe. It adds just a little more buttery sweetness to balance the tart cranberries.
Without that classic crunchy topping, I'm not sure my kids would have liked these as much.
Add the flour and sugar together in a small mixing bowl.
Then press the butter into the flour.
You can use a fork to cut the butter but I find it easiest to use your fingers to finish incorporating the butter by pinching it with the flour.
Keep cutting the butter into the dry flour until everything has been moistened by the butter and it starts to stick together like this:
Fill the Muffin Pan
This handy recipe makes exactly 12 muffins, you only need one traditional muffin pan to bake it.
Evenly divide the batter among the 12 wells of your pan. It will fill each well nearly to the top.
The batter was thick enough that it was an easy transfer to spoon it into the pan.
I always use cupcake liners when baking muffins so that they are easy to serve.
Add the Streusel Topping
Finally, add the streusel topping to the muffins by pinching it and spooning the crumbles over each muffin top.
You don't want the streusel pieces to be too large, they should be roughly about the size of peas.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Bake the muffins for 22 - 26 minutes.
The cranberry orange muffins are done when they bounce back when you gently press on the tops and the streusel is golden brown.
Make Ahead Tips
Did you know that streusel can be made in advance?
It's not a hard thing to prepare but it does add on 5 minutes of time to baking these muffins.
I made a batch of my make ahead streusel topping the day before and it was so nice to just grab my prepared streusel from the fridge and go.
It's a simple holiday baking shortcut if you want to cut down on both time and messy dishes to clean.
If you want to bake these ahead of the holiday and freeze them, it is important to let the muffins cool completely before putting them in a container.
Store the baked muffins in an air tight container or plastic zip top bag and freeze them for up to 3 months.
Thaw them in the fridge overnight before serving. You can gently reheat them by placing them on a cookie sheet and warming them up in the oven for a few minutes at 350°F.
For this recipe, absolutely not. Fresh cranberries are essential. Dried cranberries will be overly chewy and dry in this muffin recipe. The fresh cranberries soften and get extra juicy in the oven. They are similar to giant blueberries in the final muffin and practically pop in your mouth.
Fresh cranberries are not usually pre-washed when you get them from the store. Be sure to rinse them well before you use them in baking or any other recipe.
For these muffins, I measured two cups of fresh cranberries and added them to the liquid ingredients for a quick stir. They got folded in with the dry ingredients in the last step. I was a little worried they may all sink to the bottom of the muffins when they baked, but they didn't. They were perfectly spaced all throughout the muffins.
I was a little worried my kids would be turned off by how tart the cranberries can be but was happy to see they loved them. I considered trying another version of the recipe where I swapped the cranberries for blueberries. The final texture of the cranberry is so close to a blueberry, I really think you could use either one in this recipe.
Blueberry and orange is a fantastic flavor combo, too. If you decide to make a blueberry muffin version, don't stir the blueberries into the batter at all. Add a tablespoon of batter to each muffin well in your pan and then drop a few blueberries in. Add more batter and then layer more blueberries, back and forth until the wells are full. This prevents your muffin batter from turning purple since blueberries are much softer than cranberries when they are raw and can easily be crushed when folding the dry ingredients into the wet.
While I could eat a cranberry orange muffin any day of the year, I think they would make an especially lovely treat to bake for a holiday treat.
You could serve them as a Thanksgiving breakfast while the turkey is in the oven or even save them to add to the Thanksgiving bread basket as a special surprise!
More Breakfast Treats
Looking for more sweet breakfast treats to serve for the holiday?
You will especially love this fresh cranberry bread recipe but don't miss these easy recipes, too:
Cranberry Orange Muffins
For the Cranberry Orange Muffins
- 6 tablespoon butter
- 1 large orange
- 2 tablespoon milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups fresh cranberries do not use dried
- 1 ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
For the Streusel Topping
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 3 tablespoon salted butter COLD, cut into cubes
- Pinch of cinnamon or pie spice optional
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 12-well muffin tin with paper liners.
Prepare the Cranberry Orange Muffin Batter
- Melt the butter on HIGH for 30-40 seconds and whisk with a fork to ensure it is completely melted. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Over a large bowl, zest the orange with a microplane zester. Cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice into a smaller bowl. Measure ¼ cup juice to add to the large bowl.
- Whisk the cooled butter and milk into the orange juice. Add the vanilla and cinnamon. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth and thoroughly combined. Add the cranberries and stir to combine.
- In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the batter bowl. Use a spatula to GENTLY fold in the flour to the liquid ingredients. Stir as few times as you can to incorporate. It is ok if you still see a few streaks of dry flour. This will keep your muffins from being tough.
Prepare the Streusel Topping
- Use a fork to whisk together the flour and brown sugar.
- Cut the cold butter into cubes and press it into the flour. You can use a fork but you may find it is easiest to use your fingers to finish incorporating the butter by pinching it with the flour.
Assemble the Muffins and Bake
- Fill the prepared muffin tin with the prepared batter. Each well should be filled evenly to the top. Pinch the prepared streusel over each muffin.
- Bake the muffins for 22 - 26 minutes. They are done when the muffin tops bounce back after gently pressing on the top.
- Let the muffins cool in the pan for a couple minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Best served the day they are made but will keep a day in an air-tight container at room temperature.
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