Soft and Chewy Vanilla-Orange Cranberry Cookies: home(run) for the holidays

There’s just something about orange and cranberry that tastes like Thanksgiving, isn’t there?

Cranberry-orange muffins. Cranberry-orange bread.

And my favorite: Tart-sweet, uncooked cranberry sauce: just ground cranberries, an orange (peel and all), walnuts if you like, and sugar to taste.

Now THAT says Thanksgiving!

As do these soft, moist sugar cookies, laced with grated orange peel, studded with cranberries, and flavored with a hint of vanilla – for that Creamsicle® effect.

Speaking of, did you know August 14 is National Creamsicle Day? Mark your calendar now.

And in the meantime, rustle together the ingredients for these cookies. They’re super easy to put together; you can have warm cookies on the table in just about 25 minutes; and they’re a delicious way to begin the countdown to Thanksgiving.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets, or line them with parchment.

Next, grate the peel from a medium to large orange. A microplane zester works very well here.

How large should the orange be? Well, how much orange flavor do you want in your cookies? Up to you.

Usually, I’d suggest orange oil as an alternative here. But I really like the added moistness the peel lends the cookies. Substitute 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon orange oil if you like, but the cookies’ texture will be slightly different.

Place the following in a mixing bowl:

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter
3/4 cup sugar
grated peel of 1 medium to large orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Beat to combine.

Add 1 large egg. Beat to combine again. The mixture may look slightly curdled; that’s OK.

Stir in 1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Finally, add 2 cups dried cranberries; or a mixture of dried cranberries and toasted chopped walnuts or pecans.

Stir to combine.

Drop the dough by heaping teaspoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2″ between them. A teaspoon cookie scoop works very well here.

Using the flat bottom of a glass dipped in sugar, flatten the dough balls slightly, to a scant 1/2″ thick.

Bake the cookies for 8 to 9 minutes, until they’re barely set, and a light golden brown around the edges. Don’t over-bake; if you do, the cookies will be hard, not soft and chewy.

To keep cookies soft and chewy, they shouldn’t brown on the bottom. The cookie pictured on the left will harden as it cools, rather than stay soft.

Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool them right on the pan. If you need a pan to bake the remainder of the cookies, give the cookies about 5 minutes to set before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

Light gold and bright red: the colors of the season. Enjoy!

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Soft and Chewy Vanilla-Orange Cranberry Cookies.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. JenWood

    I think I would like to make these next week. I much prefer almonds, as I love almonds and cranberries together. I was thinking of using roasted, slivered almonds, cut into pieces instead. Do you think that would alter the recipe much?

    Jen, if you don’t use orange peel, the cookies may be drier/harder; try baking them a tiny bit less. But they should be just fine – I love the cranberry/almond flavor combo… PJH

  2. theproperty

    As soon as I read the recipe this morning I knew I had to try it. The house now smells like oranges and vanilla, great way to start a new day. Doubled the recipe, put orange peel and craisins in one half and chocolate chips in the other. Using the small ice cream scoop it made a perfect three dozen for the cranberry part (well three dozen minus the one I tasted 🙂 The choc chips are waiting for this afternoon when the grandchildren will bake them. Really good cookie and one that will be great for Christmas cookie plates since they aren’t crumbly.

  3. gaa

    This recipe looks wonderful and a cinch to do. I too love cranberry and orange together and use that flavor combination in a lot of recipes this time of year. In fact, what you call uncooked cranberry sauce I call cranberry relish. I have been making it for years just like my mom did. One of my favorite memories of my mom is going to the market with her after school in the fall. Each day, we would check in the produce section for those wonderful bags of cranberries. When we saw them, oh joy, joy, joy! because I knew we were having cranberry relish with dinner that night. We grabbed oranges and cranberries and went home to prepare the relish. My mom did not have a food processor (this was the pre-Cuisinart era) so we used a blender to grind up the cranberries and oranges (yes peel and all!). It took a while becuase you couldn’t dump in a whole bag of cranberries or a whole choped up orange like I do today. But it was worth it! To this day, when I see the first fresh cranberries of the season at the market, I think of my mom and can just about hear her wahooing from Heaven. Thanks for the recipe PJ, I am sure it will be fantastic, and for letting me stroll down memory lane.

    Very happy to facilitate your stroll down Memory Lane – my mom had a HEAVY iron (?) food grinder, too. She’d put a big round of bologna through it to make “sandwich spread” with mayo and pickle relish… Bet you’re looking forward to having fresh cranberry-orange relish next week, eh? PJH

  4. Tess

    Oh – my favorite flavors! Could I substitute the orange oil I bought from KA for the grated orange peel (if so, how much)? Or would it be best to use the grated orange for not only the flavor but also the texture – the little bits speckled through the dough?

    Tess, best to use the grated orange, as it adds texture/moisture. You can use orange oil (to taste – start with 1/8 teaspoon and go from there), but cookies will be harder, rather than soft and moist. PJH

  5. lynneweso

    These cookies DO look great, and I can also smell that orange and vanilla now! Two questions: If I add pecans, do I add 1 cup nuts and 1 cup cranberries, or does it matter the amounts as long as they add up to two cups? Also — I really like crisp cookies, however; so I’m presuming that I can just continue baking them until they are golden brown on the bottom, correct?

    Thanks for your information…always love to get my King Arthur emails! My friends think I’m so ‘brave’ to bake and especially to use yeast! If they only understood how simple and great it is …. 🙂 I’ve got the starter for the Irish Raisin Bread Toast working now…


    Lynne, 2 cups of whatever you prefer is fine. The cookies won’t get crisp if you bake them longer, but they’ll definitely become harder; the ingredients themselves aren’t designed to yield a crisp/crunchy cookie. Enjoy that raisin bread – it’s one of my favorites! PJH

  6. runrowcook

    I’m excited to try this recipe. I like to cook using my kitchen scale; but I noticed that the “Ounces” version of this recipe show the flour measure in cups. Can you please correct it? Thanks!

    Little technical glitch there – should be all set, thanks. PJH

  7. freem06

    Would these be a good cookie to make and freeze and then mail off without crumbling to bad?

    Yes, they should be. Wrap in layers separated by waxed paper, plastic wrap, or foil; they shouldn’t by lying directly on top of one another, as they’ll stick. Good luck – PJH

  8. Aaron Frank

    Very nice! These look great. And butter and flour just went on sale too!

    If you bake on parchment or wax paper and slide the cookies off the sheet onto a brown paper bag (like the kind from a grocery store) that helps them stay chewy.

    And if you have enough baking sheets you can double them up. It lengthens the baking time a bit but if you’re worried about over baking it gives you some leeway there.

    Thanks Aaron! ~ MaryJane

  9. pleasespammenow

    Just made this today – fabulous! But mine only yielded 36 – bummer!

    Did you use a teaspoon cookie scoop? It’s pretty small, and makes cookies about 2″ across… Glad you found them tasty, anyway. PJH

  10. pleasespammenow

    I thought I did. It’s OK, they’re fabulous. Whole family devoured. Hubby was surprised I didn’t make a chocolate cookie, but said he was not complaining! This will be a regular in the rotation. Keep up the great work!

    Good to hear – there’s more to life than chocolate, hard as it is to believe! PJH

  11. janer01

    Would it work to use Fiori di Sicilia in place of vanilla in this recipe? I just thought it might make a wonderful substitution but I’m not a pro at all.

    Jane, if you want a stronger citrus than vanilla flavor, sure, go for it. But don’t sub 1:1; the Fiori is strong, I’d suggest starting with 1/8 teaspoon and adding more to taste. You could also divvy the dough up, and flavor half the way the recipe suggests, and half with Fiori – do your own personal taste test! PJH

  12. weedsnstitches

    Would these cookies lend themselves to freezing before baking? As in make the dough, put on sheets, smoosh down and then freeze?

    It does sound like a delicious cookie that I think would be perfect for our Thanksgiving camping trip.

    Yes, I think that would work very well. Thanksgiving camping trip, eh? Now THAT sounds interesting… 🙂 PJH

  13. Karen

    I love the flavor of these cookies! I will try the recipe again but they did get brown on the bottom and did get dry even though I shortened the baking time and changed oven position fir 3 batches (I only got 36). Did anyone else have this problem? My oven usually runs cool. Should I adjust the temperature?

    Karen, I’m going to bake these cookies again this afternoon, both to test the yield, and temperature/bake time; they seem to be quite sensitive to potential over-baking. I’ll report back later today with my results, OK? Thanks for your feedback – PJH

    [time passes…] OK, baked the cookies. I ended up with 56 cookies, from 2-level-measuring-teaspoon balls of dough 1 1/4″ in diameter. I ended up increasing the baking powder from 1/8 teaspoon to 1/4 teaspoon; and reducing the baking time (425°F) to 6 minutes for dark (gray or darker) pans, 7 minutes for lighter-parchment-lined pans. The cookies baked on darker pans without parchment DID in fact have somewhat brown bottoms; the ones on lighter pans, with parchment, didn’t. So assess your pan/parchment situation, and bake accordingly. Again, thanks for your feedback – PJH

  14. JT

    Recipe looks lovely! I was surprised to see such a high oven temperature – 425 degrees. Anytime I go above 375 degrees for cookies, I have a problem. Is there something unusual about this recipe that warrants the high baking temperature?

    Just the way it worked out – I was riffing off another soft cookie recipe. You can certainly bake for a slightly longer time at a lower temperature, if you’re more comfortable. Bake a couple first, to nail the time/temperature you like best. Enjoy – PJH

  15. fran16250

    Hi PJ,
    I made a double batch of these the night before last. They are one of the best cookies I’ve ever made. Everyone loves them.
    Quick question for you: I’d like to make some bread to use for my stuffing. What recipe would you suggest? I was sort of thinking pan de mie.

    Pain de mie would be good, Fran. You could also try this Stuffing Bread, which has the seasoning baked right in. You want a bread that’s tough enough not to totally “dissolve” as it bakes. Whatever you make, let the cubes get a bit stale; cut them, and leave them on a baking sheet, uncovered, overnight.

  16. Helen

    I’d really like to bake and freeze the cookie portions before baking. Would the baking temperature or time change at all with using the pre-mixed and smoosched cookie dough?

    Helen, I’d say you should flatten the dough balls (as directed) before freezing. Then, when you’re ready, bake the frozen cookies at the same temperature, but maybe 1 minute longer; bake a couple first as a test, just to make sure. Should be just fine. PJH

  17. Action Kate

    I definitely think a lower temp will work better. Mine came out brown on the bottom at eight minutes with airbake pans (no parchment), although I’m certainly not complaining — they are fantastic!

    Mine barely spread; I was surprised to see how tiny they were, and I barely got two dozen out of the recipe. That’s okay, because now I have an excuse to make another batch. 🙂

    I might suggest a name update: Chewy Cranberry Creamsicle Cookies. 😉

    Kate, you’re right – they totally taste like a Creamsicle! One with cranberries, that is. I just made these again yesterday – got 56 cookies, each about 2″ in diameter. Did you flatten them a bit before baking? And yeah, I’m reducing the baking time to 6 to 7 minutes – thanks for reminding me to make that change… PJH

  18. annseams

    I got exactly 4 dozen cookies. Baked at 425° for 8 minutes, mine were light brown on the bottom and golden brown on the edges. The bottom and edges were crispy but the top and insides were soft when cool. The best of both worlds although I am partial to crispy. They are very tasty.

  19. ask

    Well these are really fantastic tasting, I even have visions of them in my dreams! I am a chocoholic but do not miss it one bit with these cookies. Thanks so much KA for another winner. BYW, I only got 18 nice size cookies so I suggest doubling this recipe.

  20. erendis

    I love this time of year because fresh cranberries are easy to find and usually on sale, and I like the tartness of them. Would this recipe work with chopped fresh cranberries? Would anything need to change?
    You can use chopped fresh cranberries in the recipe. Just keep in mind that fresh cranberries are much more tart than dried cranberries, and the texture will be slightly different. You could always sprinkle the tops with some sparkling white sugar to add sweetness and crunch. ~Mel

  21. weedsnstitches

    Do you think I could use an insulated cooking sheet with these? To help prevent them from getting too brown. I’m leaning toward taking them frozen on our camping trip and you have to use an insulated pan in the oven in the camper.

    PJ, yes… a camping trip for Thanksgiving. Since I live in Georgia Thanksgiving is frequently a reasonable time to go camping. My 4 sisters and their husbands, all their children and my mom and dad go camping. We do indeed do a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner on Thanksgiving Day. We’ve got it down to a science after all these years of doing it! There is a lot of bonding while chopping at the picnic table.

    I think that would work fine, yes. Enjoy your chopping – hope the weather cooperates! I see you’ve been having some tough weather in Georgia lately… my brother is in Milledgeville so I hear the reports. PJH

  22. Anne

    The uncooked cranberry sauce (or relish) PJ mentioned surely sounds good. PJ, would you be so generous and post your recipe here? Thanks for all the great tips over the posts…

    Anne – 1 bag fresh cranberries; 1 medium seedless orange (skin and all); 3/4 to 1 cup sugar, to taste – grind coarsely in food processor. Add nuts, apple, pineapple, crystallized ginger, etc. to taste. Pretty simple, eh? Enjoy – PJH

  23. aaronmholt

    These cookies are awesome.. will use extra orange next time. I noticed some of the above comments about the heat so my first batch oven at 415 deg. Came out great! Second batch used the recipe advised 425 and they still came awesome. i pulled them right when the edge off cookies changed to a darker brown. Don’t be scared about not being done, pull them.

    You’re absolutely right, Aaron – pull them when the time indicates. They’ll look quite undone, but will continue to cook a bit on the baking sheet, and will remain soft as they cool. Over-baking is a mistake many people make with these… PJH

  24. tgerould354

    These sound absolutely delicious…Can’t wait to try them.
    I do prefer soft cookies.
    On another note …Made some snickerdoodles and though they start out puffy, they deflate to a crisper cookie.
    Since I am a new KAF subsciber ( not a new baker) what product do you recommend for a softer cookie?

    Any kind of liquid sweetener will often yield a softer cookie – corn syrup, molasses, honey… Also, start with a recipe that’s supposed to make soft (rather than crunchy/crisp) cookies. And underbake a little. And either wrap when slightly warm, or leave out overnight – it’s funny, depending on the recipe, either one or the other of those two will make cookies soft. Enjoy! PJH

  25. gaynellec

    I made these with 2 changes – I used Fiore de Sicilia instead of vanilla and added some walnuts. Fantastic! The fresh orange zest creates an “out of this world” good cookie. They make the best crumble on top of ice cream you can imagine! Why a crumble you ask? Because I doubled the recipe (That shows confidence in KA!) and neglected to double the flour. I only realized near the end of cooking my double batch and wondering what the heck was going wrong with the baking process. But we still ate all the double batch – they were that good! Thanks, KA!
    Brilliant use of a baked good “gone wrong”. Wouldn’t that make a great new trend? “Gourmet Ice Cream Crumbles”. I can just see it sweeping the nation now. ~ MaryJane

  26. Helene

    They were over-baked at 7 minutes, so I turned the heat down a bit and baked for 6 minutes and they were fine. Thanks, I love them.

    Thanks for your feedback, Helene – it’s useful for all of us to read what others are experiencing… Glad you like them, I do, too! PJH

  27. pdw20515

    These look delicious! I would like to make this with the orange flavored cranberries I purchased from KAF. What revisions do you suggest?? Thanks!
    You can reduce the orange peel in the recipe by half if you think it will be too strong in flavor for you. Otherwise, no revisions should be necessary.

  28. Sarah

    These cookies are fabulous! I made them last night and then had to make a double batch today because they were all gone! I read through the comments and was a little nervous about the temperature, so I baked at 415 for about 8 minutes and they came out perfectly! Thanks for sharing!

  29. Doreen

    Just wondering if frozen cranberries would work in this recipe…I have bags of them in my freezer and would love to use them up…This recipe sounds amazing am going to give it a try…Thanks for sharing 🙂 Email address:

    Sure, Doreen – just uncover, pour onto a baking sheet, and thaw them at room temperature first, OK? Good luck – PJH

  30. Colleen

    I just made these and they are awesome. Instead of the whole 1 and 1/2 cup of flour, i used 1 cup of flour and a 1/2 cup of almond meal. I also used white whole wheat flour. They are so good. THanks! I will definitely make these again.

  31. Veronica

    Mine didn’t come out as well as expected. They taste very good but the texture is somewhere between a bad cookie and a bad cake. Kind of flat, spongy, and greasy instead of what a great cookie should me. I’m sure it was because I didn’t have butter so I substituted margarine. Now I know, butter is a must when baking! I have to say the flavor combination is perfect in this recipe though.

    You hit the cookie on the head, Veronica: margarine would create a very poorly-textured cookie–most margarine brands contain less fat compared to butter–the rest of margarine is water and other “fun” additives, which wreaks havoc on cookie recipes. Stick with butter and all should be well! I hope your next batch is spot-on! Kim@KAF

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Try using half butter and half oil. The cookies will spread a bit more and be a bit softer. ~ MJ

  32. Edwina Madeley

    Hiya PJ! I thought you may like to know that I’m using your recipe for our 4* Safari Guest Lodge (Themba Sunset Lodge in South Africa!! EVERYONE raves about them ~ all our guest have a cookie jar in their rooms filled with these and a couple of other choices…. Thanks so much for blessing guest from all over this magnificent planet! Hugs Edsxxx

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Eds, I’m honored! So cool that the recipe has found its way from Vermont to South Africa – and I’m glad you’re able to get the dried cranberries there. Thanks for letting me know – and for sharing your baking with your lucky guests. PJH

  33. Mary

    Just came across this orange/cranberry cookie recipe I’ve been looking for.
    Would like to know if I used a box cake with pudding in the mix instead of the flour?
    If so, how much and would it taste signifantially different? Need to know ASAP.
    Thanks, Mary

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      HI Mary,
      Sorry, that’s not something we’ve tested at all with the recipe, we can’t really say if it would come out well at all. ~ MJ

  34. Michelle Perrine

    I Pinned this recipe a few years back and then forgot about it! I finally made it over Christmas and wow, they’re so good! I had a bag of cranberries in the freezer so I used those instead of dried and I really liked the contrast of the tart with the sweet. Really a great cookie!

  35. Sue Hankins

    How do you store these? Zip lock bag? Cookie tin? They came out perfectly at 6 minutes per batch. Only change I would make is use fewer cranberries. Some hardly had any “cookie” between the cranberries. Husband said it was a perfect combination of sweet/sour.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sue, store these cookies in an airtight container (either a cookie tin, zip lock bag, or plastic/glass container) for about 4-5 days at room temperature. Freeze for longer storage. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

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