The holidays make me nostalgic. My cravings often tie back to pieces of my childhood. I bought the same pine-scented candle that my mom burns in her kitchen. I listen to The Carpenter’s Christmas album that once played in our minivan. I bake from my Grandma Dorothy’s collection of Christmas cookie recipes, including these Cranberry Orange Cookies.
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Grandma Dorothy has made several appearances on my blog.
One Christmas, I shared these Candy Cane Snowball Cookies, which are based on her Swedish tea cakes.
Before she lost her battle with Parkinson’s disease, my grandma painstakingly recorded her most treasured recipes in a home-printed cookbook she called Lovin’ from the Oven.
Included in that cookbook is the base recipe that I used for these orange drop cookies.
These melt-in-your-mouth, traditional orange cookies are pillowy soft and float away on your tongue.
In addition to their delightful texture and holiday-inspired flavor, these cookies contain a sneaky, healthy ingredient.
My grandma’s original recipe is actually called “Carrot Cookies,” because the cookie dough contains mashed carrots.
BIG IMPORTANT NOTE: These orange cookies do NOT taste like veggies.
- The carrots don’t flavor the cookies; rather, they make the cookie dough sweet and incredibly tender.
- I kept Grandma’s carrots then took the liberty of adding lots of orange zest and cranberries. (I love this flavor combination so much, I even made a Cranberry Orange Muffins recipe.)
Every bite is sweet, citrusy, and reminds me of the love my grandma put into everything she made. I hope that your family loves them too.
5 Star Review
“These cookies have become a holiday classic for me. Delicious with a cup of tea or coffee, great for a gift or cookie exchange or just to munch on at home. I highly recommend them!”— Anna —
How to Make Cranberry Orange Cookies
These easy orange cookies truly melt in your mouth (similar to cranberry orange shortbread cookies), and that dreamy, too-perfect-to-be-true orange frosting takes them over the edge.
During the holidays, there’s nothing I love more than fresh cranberry cookies from the oven!
- Carrots. The carrots do not impact the flavor of cookies, but they do help create a deliciously sweet and moist orange cookie. Plus, the carrots bring vitamins and potassium to the cookies, making them a healthy cranberry orange cookies addition.
- Butter + Vegetable Shortening. My grandma’s original recipe calls for 100% vegetable shortening. I opted to replace half of the shortening with butter, because I prefer butter’s flavor).
- Sugar. Helps make these cookies perfectly sweet and moist.
- Orange Zest. For delicious, citrusy flavor that pairs famously with the cranberries.
- Vanilla. Accentuates the other flavors in the cookies and provides essential coziness.
- Flour. I used whole wheat pastry flour in place of half of the all-purpose flour to give the cookies a slight nutritional boost. You can’t taste the whole wheat AT ALL, and my thinking is that if we can squeeze in a bit of extra healthy at the holidays with zero negative impact on flavor, why not?
- Cranberries. The cranberries make the cookies feel extra festive for the holidays and taste lovely paired with the orange.
- Orange Frosting. The orange frosting is smooth, buttery, and, as I can personally attest, tastes as delicious licked right from your fingers as it does atop the buttery orange cookies themselves.
- Cook, mash, and cool the carrots.
- Cream the butter, shortening, and sugar. Add the eggs, orange zest, orange juice, vanilla, and mashed carrots.
- In another bowl, stir the dry ingredients together. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add the cranberries.
- Drop cookie dough balls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes. Let cool.
- Make the frosting, then frost the cookies. DIG IN!
- To Store. Store leftover cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
- To Freeze. Place cookies in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. If freezing the cookies, I recommend waiting to frost them if possible (or freezing the frosting separately), but iced orange cookies can also be frozen (they just aren’t as easy to stack).
Meal Prep Tip
To Freeze Cookie Dough. Drop cookie dough balls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid. Transfer the frozen cookie dough balls to an airtight freezer-safe storage container or ziptop bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. Bake cookies from frozen as desired (they may need a few extra minutes in the oven).
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Baking Sheet. Perfect for making this orange cranberry cookies recipe.
- Citrus Zester. Since you can use orange zest for these cookies, having a tool like this one is essential.
- Parchment Paper. Makes cleanup so much easier. A silicone baking mat will also work well.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you prefer orange cookies without cranberries, you can simply omit them.
I recommend using my delicious Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies recipe instead. Top them with the orange frosting from this recipe.
I think white chocolate cranberry orange cookies would be scrumptious. Stir white chocolate chips into your cookie dough with the cranberries.
Cranberry orange pecan cookies would also be tasty. Stir chopped pecans into the cookie dough with the cranberries.
Cranberry Orange Cookies
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FOR THE CRANBERRY ORANGE COOKIES:
- 1 cup mashed cooked carrots about 7 ounces uncooked—4 to 5 large carrots or 16 larger baby carrots
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature*
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening*
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- Zest of 2 large oranges
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped reduced-sugar dried cranberries
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, then set aside. If needed, cook, mash, and cool the carrots: Peel and cut the carrots into large pieces (cut baby carrots in half), then place in a small saucepan. Cover with water, then bring to a boil over high. Let boil until the carrots are tender, about 6 minutes. Mash and let cool to room temperature (you can also place the carrots in the freezer to cool more quickly).
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla extract. Stir in the mashed carrots.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients, then mix gently, just until the flour disappears. Fold in the cranberries.
- Drop by rounded teaspoons (the cookies are very small—do not make them larger or they will not bake as well) onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 8 minutes, until the edges are barely golden. Let rest for 2-3 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- For the frosting: In a mixing bowl, beat together the powdered sugar, butter, orange juice, and vanilla extract. Frost the cooled cookies, then enjoy!
- *My grandma’s original recipe called for all shortening. If you prefer to stick to the original, use an additional 1/2 cup vegetable shortening in place of the butter. If you prefer to use ALL butter, you can swap it out for the shortening, but the cookies will have a heavier texture.
- TO STORE: Store leftover cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
- TO FREEZE: Place cookies in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. If freezing the cookies, I recommend waiting to frost them if possible (or freezing the frosting separately), but iced orange cookies can also be frozen (they just aren’t as easy to stack).
- TO FREEZE COOKIE DOUGH: Drop cookie dough balls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid. Transfer the frozen cookie dough balls to an airtight freezer-safe storage container or ziptop bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. Bake cookies from frozen as desired (they may need a few extra minutes in the oven).
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