Cranberry orange bread with a sweet and citrusy orange glaze will become one of your favorite seasonal quick breads. Its tender crumb, moist texture, and perfectly sweet and tangy taste make it a delicious addition to your winter baking.
Cranberries are my favorite winter fruit. It’s a bold statement with contenders like persimmons, pomegranates and all the lovely citrus, but nothing beats the lively tartness and subtle sweetness of fresh cranberries.
I love how their versatility allows them to be enjoyed in sweet and savory recipes with equal success, and their status as a “superfood” means you should seek out any way you can to gorge on them while they are in season.
This festive quick bread recipe is one way, and when combined with the natural pairing of fresh orange juice and zest, it makes the ultimate winter baked good. If you like to gift homemade foods during the holidays, it’s hard to go wrong with a loaf of this bread or some cranberry orange biscotti.
Why you’ll love this cranberry orange bread recipe
- Fantastic flavor — The pairing of cranberry and orange is classic and timeless for good reason. It’s fresh, bold, intense, sweet and tangy.
- Easy quick bread — Like all quick breads, this recipe has no rising time. Everything is mixed and baked off immediately.
- Freezes well — Save the icing for later and freeze a loaf to have something ready to share with friends and family at one of the many holiday events of the season.
- Easy and festive — Orange cranberry bread is one of the easiest ways to add a touch of festive flair to the season. Whether baking it for Thanksgiving or Christmas morning or simply looking to enjoy it with a cup of tea on a cold winter day, this recipe rises to the occasion.
Ingredients to make cranberry orange walnut bread
- Flour — All-purpose flour is used, but we’ve also made this gluten-free by swapping it out with a gluten-free blend. Note that the texture tends to be slightly gummy when using most gluten-free flours.
- Baking powder — Acts as the leavening agent for the bread.
- Salt — Helps bring out the flavors and balance the sweetness.
- Cinnamon — This popular spice in quick breads pairs well with cranberries and oranges.
- Milk — The preferred liquid for making cranberry bread. It’s best at room temperature.
- Orange zest and juice — Using both helps intensify the flavors of orange throughout the bread.
- Butter — Choose unsalted that’s softened to room temperature. Butter adds great moisture to the loaf.
- Sugar — Granulated and brown sugar are used in this recipe to balance the tangy cranberries.
- Eggs — Large eggs at room temperature work best.
- Vanilla extract — Extract or vanilla bean paste can be used; both provide great depth of flavor.
- Fresh cranberries — Rinse them, then pat them dry and toss them in flour so they don’t sink to the bottom of the bread tin.
- Walnuts — Nuts are optional, but add delicious crunch and texture to this bread and complement cranberries and oranges well. Pecans are a good substitute for walnuts if preferred.
Ingredients for the glaze
There’s a deliciously sweet orange glaze for this bread, too, that’s optional but highly recommended. If you choose to glaze the bread, you’ll need:
- Powdered sugar
- Fresh orange juice — you can also add some orange peel for extra flavor and a pretty appearance.
How to make the cranberry bread
Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a bread loaf tin with cooking spray or butter. Lightly dust with flour and tap out any excess.
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside. Whisk together the milk, orange juice and orange zest in a separate bowl.
In a separate large bowl, cream the sugars and the butter using a handheld electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. You can also use a stand mixer if preferred.
In alternating turns, add a little bit of the flour mixture to the bowl and then the milk mixture, continuing to beat at a low-medium speed until the ingredients are incorporated. Do this until all the ingredients are combined.
Add the cranberries and walnuts to the bowl and gently fold in until incorporated.
My Pro Tip
Tossing the cranberries with a little bit of flour before folding them into the batter helps prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the loaf when baking, so they’re nicely distributed in the bread.
Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf tin and bake the bread for 45-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean.
Let the cranberry orange bread cool in the tin for a few minutes before removing it and transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.
Make the glaze by stirring the confectioner’s sugar with the orange juice until a drippy consistency forms. Pour the glaze over the cooled loaf as it sits on a cooling rack with parchment paper below it to catch any excess.
Let the bread sit until the glaze is set before slicing.
Can I use frozen cranberries?
Yes, frozen cranberries can be used in place of fresh cranberries. I always keep a bag in the freezer, and this is a great way to make this bread out of season.
It’s best not to thaw the cranberries before using. You may need to add a few additional minutes to the baking time.
Can I substitute dried cranberries for fresh in the bread?
You can, but it’s not ideal. Dried cranberries are much sweeter than fresh berries, so you’ll want to reduce the amount of sugar in the bread as well. If using dried cranberries, I recommend soaking them in water (or orange juice) to help them plump up a bit first. Drain them before using them in the bread.
Why is my cranberry bread green?
Don’t freak out if you notice a green tinge to some of the cranberry bread after baking! This is a normal occurrence caused by the reaction of the cranberries to baking powder.
It can also happen with other fruits like pomegranates. You can see it a bit in these orange pomegranate chocolate chip cookies. I promise the taste isn’t affected at all!
If you’re bothered by this, make these orange muffins instead. They’re bright and zesty like this bread but without the addition of tart cranberries.
Storing and freezing
Keep the bread tightly wrapped in plastic wrap or double wrap it with plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Store the bread at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. After a day out on the counter, I like to keep the bread in the fridge.
To freeze, ensure the bread is cooled completely, then wrap it tightly or place it in a freezer-safe bag and store it in the freezer for up to a few months. Thaw the bread in the refrigerator overnight.
An alternative freezing method is to slice the bread before freezing so you can take out one slice at a time. If doing this, store the bread slices between pieces of parchment paper so they don’t freeze together.
More cranberry and orange recipes to try
Cranberry orange compound butter — with a dash of cognac, this holiday compound butter is perfect for slathering on baked goods or roasting a turkey.
Cranberry orange thumbprints — these thumbprint cookies use a secret unusual ingredient compared to most, but their tart cranberry orange filling is the perfect bite in the center.
Orange cranberry almond chocolate chip cookies — the classic chocolate chip cookie gets a festive winter makeover with hints of orange infused inside and dried cranberries sprinkled throughout each bite.
Cranberry Orange Bread
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ cup milk, room temperature
- zest of 1 large orange
- 1/3 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed and patted dry
- 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
FOR THE GLAZE:
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1-2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- Preheat oven to 350˚F. Butter or grease a loaf pan then dust with flour, tapping out the excess flour.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
- In a measuring cup, combine the milk, zest of 1 orange and orange juice. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars on medium/high speed for about 2 minutes. Beat in 2 large eggs and vanilla extract, mix until well incorporated.
- Add the flour mixture in in batches, alternating with the milk mixture and mixing on medium/low speed until just incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed.
- Toss cranberries with the 1/2 tablespoon flour then gently fold them along with the walnuts into the batter until just incorporated.
- Transfer the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45-50 min at 350˚F until golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let the bread cool in pan for 10-15 minutes then run a knife around the edges to help release and transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.
- Make the glaze in a small bowl by stirring together the powdered sugar and orange juice until smooth. It should have a consistency where you’re able to drizzle it on the bread but not be too loose that it will run right off. Add more orange juice to thin it out or powdered sugar to make it thicker.
- Drizzle the glaze over top of the cooled bread while sitting on a wire rack with parchment paper below it to catch any drippings. Let set before slicing and serving.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.