Fresh Cranberry Drop Cookies

A festive colorful cookie for Christmas cookie plates, quick to make, easy to enjoy. The recipe uses less-expensive fresh cranberries, orange essence and pecans.

Fresh Cranberry Drop Cookies

"Luxury is not a necessity."

Many of us are celebrating Christmas frugally this year. We are “making the list, checking it twice” to save a few dollars here, more dollars there.

So a favorite food magazine’s frugal (ahem) entertaining ideas caught my attention. Granted, the article was titled ‘Luxury for Less’ – but still, it suggested we substitute American caviar for Russian beluga and truffle oil for scrapings of fresh truffles. “We get it,” the story opened. And they do, if luxury is a necessity. But luxury is luxury – and luxury not a necessity.

Me, I’m baking less this year, an accommodation to fewer cookie monsters within cookie-grabbing distance, and with less-expensive ingredients, in nod to life-strapped budgets.

But baking at all? It’s a luxury.

It’s a luxury to collect fresh cranberries and butter and sugar in my warm kitchen as Christmas carols waft in from the other room. It’s a luxury to put out cups of tea and a plate of fresh cookies and have loved ones reach out to enjoy them.

I feel rich beyond words.

This recipe goes way-way back to cookie swaps hosted by my dear friend Lisa (who much to my delight, now has the great blog My Own Sweet Thyme!) when we both lived in Dallas. I haven’t made the recipe in years but was attracted to the easy ingredient list, the use of less-expensive fresh cranberries versus dried cranberries, getting 5 dozen cookies from a single stick of butter – and most especially, the festive color! It’s going to be my contribution to my own cookie swap on Saturday.

So many Christmas cookie recipes seem to require chilling the dough before rolling or baking. This one – yahoo, another hat-tip to simplicity – actually works better if the cookies are baked immediately after mixing the dough. If the dough rests, the cranberry begins to stain the dough, resulting in a slightly muddy color, although no change in flavor.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!


Cookie bites bright with fresh cranberry, sweet orange and toasty pecans
Hands-on time: 45 minutes
Time to table: 90 minutes
Makes 5 dozen cookies two- to three-bites big
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 3/4 cup (165g) brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk (see TIPS)
  • 2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate (see TIPS)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 375g
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt (skip the salt if using salted butter)
  • 4 ounces (about 1 cup) pecans, preferably toasted, or black walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 6 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped in a food processor

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars with an electric mixer. Beat in milk, orange juice concentrate and egg. Separately, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, then blend well into the butter mixture. With a wooden spoon, stir in the pecans and cranberries.

Using two spoons, one to scoop and one to scrape, drop dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat (see TIPS). (For less rustic, slightly neater cookies, you can also roll the dough into balls though it is quite sticky. For very neat cookies, use a cookie scoop.) Bake for about 15 minutes for light-colored cake-like cookies, slightly longer for golden chewy cookies. Let cool for 5 minutes, remove from sheet to continue cooling.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Cookie: 76 Calories; 3g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 7mg Cholesterol; 46mg Sodium; 12g Carb; 0g Fiber; 6g Sugar; 1g Protein; Weight Watchers Old Points 2 & PointsPlus 2
ALANNA's TIPS Skim milk works fine, so does buttermilk. The original recipe called for two tablespoons of orange juice but using the concentrate bumps up the orange essence considerably. Once I added the zest of an orange. This added to the orange-ness but is optional, for sure. The original recipe suggested greasing the cookie sheets. The dough’s sugar content is quite high so something underneath is a good idea. I tested with parchment, a silicone mat and a good-quality non-stick baking sheet; all worked fine.

More Cookie Recipes for Baking on a Budget

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Mocha Morsels Molasses Cookies Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

More Recipes for Fresh-Cranberry Lovers

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Cranberry Chutney Cranberry Apple Crisp Cranberry Pudding with Butter Sauce

These sound delicious -- and just the thing to use up the cranberries sitting in my fridge!
Interestingly, I just made these last week. I found the recipe in the "Betty Crocker Cooky Book." I think I'd make them again, but experiment with cutting back the flour-- I found they were a bit cakey for my taste.
Hi Hanne ~ Funny! My recipe is copied onto a recipe card from another cookie swapper, no source noted.

FYI ~ You might try "fluffing to aerate before measuring" trick, it results in about 25% less flour (by weight). I do not recommend using less flour with the recipe, not if the technique is followed.
I made these after we talked about them. I don't usually like fruit in cookies but I had leftover cranberries and your recommendation so I thought I'd give them a try. They turned out pretty and delicious! I loved the tangy flavor, the nutty crunch, the small size and even the texture. I baked one pan until it was a little more brown than I hoped for but that batch was a little crisper too and that was nice. Thanks for sharing a great recipe and so many fond memories!
3 cups of flour???I thought that sounded odd, so I looked in other cookbooks, and no drop cookies had more than 2 cups (with the similar ratio of butter, egg, etc), in fact most had less.I used 2 cups ( not fluffed) and they're still pretty dry.
Dumb question do I get rid of the Google ads that plaster over the ingredients on the page? I don't see an X to close the box. Thanks!
Hi Anonymous - I'm sorry you've had trouble with the recipe. I waited to post your comment until I could answer with some confidence.

I believe that three cups IS the right amount. I can't put my hands on the original recipe but I checked with my friend Lisa, who made them right after I posted this (her link is in the story and in a comment as well) and she is certain she used 3 cups as well.

But then again, I note that another reader had an issue with dryness with a similar recipe from a Betty Crocker cookbook so something does seem to be going on. I hope to make these tomorrow to check the recipe. Other things CAN make a difference but I'd like to get to the bottom of this.

My website is 90% long-time, made-many-times recipes. This cookie I've made just once that I remember but the recipe came from a friend who shared them at a cookie swap and of course, again, my friend Lisa.

Thanks for letting me know so that I can work it out. I remember getting so frustrated with a cookie calling for macadamia nuts from Cooking Light. I figured out the problem and even wrote Cooking Light but the recipe was never corrected. It's here, if you want a another good cranberry cookie recipe, Cranberry Mac Morsels.
Maria ~ One ad provider uses ads that "expand" when your mouse hovers over top. Move your mouse off the ad, it will drop back. They're controversial, these ads, thanks for letting me know that it was hard to figure out how to get rid of the ad.
Anonymous ~ In case you're still following this thread, I remade these cookies again this year and had no trouble with the amount of flour. I also measured it by weight, that might help you too.

In fact, these were my very favorite cookies this Christmas!
I came across this cookies yesterday when I had a bag of fresh cranberries that needed to be used up. The cookies are absolutely wonderful! I say this as someone who is not only usually lukewarm about cookies, but rarely wants anything sweet if it doesn't have chocolate. These were a hit with my partner and neighbors and I'm planning to make these again for Thanksgiving and probably even Christmas.

Like the above commenter, three cups of flour seemed a bit much when I first added it, but after a minute my hand mixer incorporated it and the dough was the perfect consistency to scoop out. I did measure the flour by weight, though, as I'm too impatient to do the scoop and level method. Thanks for including the metric measurements!
Laura, Thanks for letting me know that the recipe worked for you, too. I know how much people count on "reliable" recipes and like to think that mine are 100% reliable.

FYI I'm working on another recipe that calls for fresh cranberries, hard to imagine but I like it even better than these cookies! I think it's the combination of sweet and tart.

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna