These gluten-free cranberry orange muffins are moist, tart and just sweet enough for a breakfast or brunch treat. They can also be made dairy-free.
Fresh cranberries are my preference for this recipe. They hold up best once baked and won’t make the muffins soggy. They are VERY tart so you’ll toss them with a little powdered sugar before adding to the batter. The tart cranberries with sweet orange is a wonderful combination.
Can you use frozen cranberries? – Yes, frozen cranberries will work in the recipe but they will break down a little more than fresh ones. Since fresh cranberries have such a short season, this is a good option. But, do not toss them with sugar as this will start to break them down. Simply stir them into the batter frozen.
Can you use dried cranberries? – Yes. Just like raisins can be used in baking, so can dried cranberries. Since they almost always come sweetened, they do not need to be tossed with sugar.
Gluten-free flour blend – King Arthur Measure for Measure is my go-to flour for gluten-free baking. It works very well in almost all of my recipes and is available in most grocery stores. It is also the most affordable of the flour blends I’ve tested. Be sure to check out more of my recipes with King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour.
Pamela’s All Purpose Artisan Blend is another good gluten-free flour that will work in this recipe. Cup4Cup is another widely available gluten-free flour blend but it contains milk powder so I don’t test with it.
All three of these flours are certified gluten-free and contain binders like xanthan gum, guar gum and inulin. Regardless of which flour blend you use, if yours does not contain xanthan gum, guar gum or inulin add ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum to the recipe.
To be sure that these muffins get a strong orange flavor, the recipe includes orange juice and orange zest. One medium sized navel orange does the trick.
Orange zest is the colorful outer layer of the peel which contains the oils and wonderful flavor from orange. It’s a great way to inject citrus flavor without any liquid. If you have not used zest before, check out my blog post how to zest a lemon for a quick tutorial.
A microplane works best for zesting citrus. It is essentially a super fine grater that creates tiny, tiny shreds that disappear into the batter but leave wonderful flavor behind. If you don’t have a zester my tutorial linked above has a different method.
Oil is my preferred way to add moisture to gluten-free baked goods. Butter adds great flavor but the moisture does not hold up as well once the muffins are cooled. Avocado, sunflower, canola or any other neutral flavored vegetable oil will work.
Sour cream adds a wonderful tangy and rich flavor to the cupcakes. I tested the recipe with both plant-based and dairy sour cream and both worked equally well. Follow Your Heart Sour Cream Alternative is a great plant-based option. The only difference was that the ones with dairy sour cream browned a little bit more.
These muffins are moist and delicious as is, but a pretty drizzle or a coating of icing can’t hurt, right? Here are a few options:
- A simple powdered sugar icing takes 2 minutes to mix up. Mix 1 1/2 c powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of water.
- To bring another pop of orange, use orange juice instead of water in the icing and add a little orange zest.
- For an icing that uses no powdered sugar and just a tiny amount of sweetener, try my Icing with No Powdered Sugar.
Moist, Fluffy Gluten-Free Cranberry Orange Muffins
- 1 c fresh or frozen cranberries (do not thaw) or 3/4 c dried cranberries
- 1 Tbsp powdered sugar
- 1 medium sized navel orange
- 2 large eggs
- ½ c sugar
- ⅓ c sour cream (vegan options ok)
- ⅓ c oil – avocado, sunflower, canola or other neutral flavored vegetable oil
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¾ c gluten-free flour blend* gluten-free rice-free flour option
- 1¼ tsp baking powder
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a muffin tin with paper liners.
- If using fresh cranberries, place them in a bowl and toss with 1 Tbsp powdered sugar. Initially the sugar will not stick. Keep tossing or gently stirring until the sugar sticks to the berries.If using frozen cranberries add the 1 tablespoon sugar with the other wet ingredients.If using dried cranberries, omit the powdered sugar.
- Use a microplane to zest the orange into a large mixing bowl. See my post How to Zest a Lemon for more info on zesting.
- Cut the orange in half and juice it into a measuring cup to get 3 Tbsps juice (this is 1 Tbsp less than 1/4 cup). Don't worry about being super exact.
- To the large mixing bowl with the zest – add the eggs, sugar, sour cream, oil, orange juice and salt. Beat with a mixer or wire whisk until smooth.
- Add the flour and baking powder and mix until smooth.
- Gently fold in the cranberries with a rubber spatula.
- Divide the batter evenly among the liners – about 3 Tablespoons each.
- Bake 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are set and bounce back from a gentle tap.
- Cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Serve as is or top with icing. See above for icing options.