Orange Cranberry Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies
Perfect for the holidays, Orange Cranberry Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies are a one-bite, flavor-filled dessert! Singing of tart cranberry and bright orange, these cookies are a twist on classic thumbprints. Makes 38 cookies.
Love holiday cookies? Don’t miss these Shortbread Brown Butter Cookies, Lemon Drop Cookies and All-Butter Tea Cake Cookies. If you love to decorate cookies with friends, consider hosting a Cookie Decorating Party!
I don’t know what it is about the Sweetest Season, but everything about it gives me the warm fuzzies.
And quite honestly, warm fuzzies are necessary for me (and maybe all of us?) these days.
Maybe it’s because adapting to a having newborn and a super active 3-year-old has been a huge challenge for me. (Going from one to two was hard, and I feel like the rug was pulled out from under me because some friends assured me it was easier this go ’round. It has not been, but I’m happy to report we are slowly and surely figuring it out.)
Maybe it’s the state of the world and the doom and gloom we hear on a daily basis.
Or maybe it’s just because it’s nice to know people still care, in spite of the negative.
Whatever it is, I love the influx of cookie recipes, hearing the stories behind them and seeing people get excited about Cookies for Kids’ Cancer again this year.
As you should know by now, orange-cranberry everything is my favorite this time of year. (If you don’t know yet, please reference Orange Cranberry Bars, Creamy Cranberry Tart, Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls and more…)
Is it any surprise that I made thumbprint cookies featuring this combo? NOPE.
The best news is that these cookies call for leftover cranberry sauce, so if you’ve got some lying around that you don’t want to eat (and I don’t know why you wouldn’t—cranberry sauce is amazing), these cookies are an awesome way to not let that go to waste.
10/10 recommend, y’all. These orange cranberry thumbprints are utterly scrumptious!
Other festive cookies for the holiday season: Cranberry Pinwheel Cookies | Peppermint Chocolate Crinkle Cookies | Cranberry Chocolate Potato Chip Cookies
What tools/products do I need to make these thumbprint cookies with?
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- Glass bowls
- Hand mixer or stand mixer
- 1 tablespoon cookie scoop
- Sheet pan
- Wax paper
- Nonstick baking mat or parchment paper
- Muddler (for making the thumbprint indentions)
- Wire cooling rack
How to make Orange Cranberry Thumbprint Cookies
Make the Thumbprint Cookie Dough
To make this cookie dough, you’re going to want a stand mixer or a hand mixer. It’ll make your life a lot easier, so please, get yours out before you begin all these shenanigans.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and granulated sugar together. Continue mixing them until the sugar is well incorporated into the cream cheese.
Add in the egg and vanilla extract, then whip those into the batter, too.
Pour in the milk and white vinegar. Stir those in, as well.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. (Yes, I know this is an extra step, but it’ll make your cookies more consistent. Take the time to do this.)
Sprinkle the dry ingredients the wet ingredients, and use the hand or stand mixer to mix the ingredients until they’re completely incorporated.
Line a large baking sheet with wax paper. This is where we are going to cool off the cookie dough balls, so use your biggest baking sheet.
Use a tablespoon cookie scoop to scoop out the cookies. Use your hands to roll the dough into balls.
Place the rolled cookies onto the prepared baking sheet. You don’t have to space them out because they will be chilling like this.
When all the dough has been rolled into balls, cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour.
Mix The Filling
While the cookie dough chills in the fridge, it’s time to mix the filling!
In a small bowl, combine the leftover or canned cranberry sauce with the orange zest. Stir the ingredients together until incorporated, and refrigerate.
Bake The Cookies
Preheat the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. (Please know that parchment paper and wax paper are different things, so do not use the same strip of wax paper you used in the fridge… your cookies won’t be edible.)
In a glass bowl, combine the granulated sugar and orange zest to make the orange sugar. We’re going to roll the cookie dough in this before we press the thumbprints into them and bake!
Remove the chilled dough balls from the refrigerator, and transfer the chilled dough balls into the orange sugar. Toss with your hands or a spoon until each one has been coated with the orange sugar.
Next, place the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Give them a little bit of space, as they will spread as they cook, and repeat until the every cookie has all been coated in the orange sugar.
Bake the cookies for 8 minutes, then remove from the oven.
Use a kitchen instrument like the back of a cookie scooper or the non-muddling end of a muddler to press “thumbprints” into the warm cookies. (10/10 do not recommend using your actual thumb to press this into the warm cookie dough.)
Scoop a heaping ½ teaspoon of cranberry sauce into each indention. Some will be larger or smaller, depending on how you make the indention, so don’t fret if they’re not perfectly uniform.
Bake for an additional 5-7 minutes, then remove from the oven to cool on a wire cooling rack.
Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips
To me, these Cranberry Orange Thumbprint Cookies feel special, and so, you know I’m going to tell you they’re perfect for hosting and sharing.
But these cookies are also perfect to bake with your family at home, if you’re not hosting or entertaining this season, too.
You can involve your kids and other family members in the making of these cookies and then spread the joy after the cookies have baked and cooled off.
- Kids can assist in the measuring of ingredients. My girls love to be involved with anything baking-related, and they’re both semi-reliable measurers now. They could also measure out and mix the cranberry sauce.
- Make it an assembly line for the whole family! I wouldn’t put kids in front of a hot pan that came out of the oven for the thumbprint making and filling process, but they can be involved in every step up until then.
- Share your end result! We’ve been known to bring plates of cookies to friends and neighbors after baking for the holidays, and I encourage you to do the same and spread the love! Just make sure the cookies have cooled completely before putting them in a cookie box or wrapping in plastic wrap.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are they called thumbprint cookies?
These cookies are called thumbprints because to make them, you can press your thumb into the cookie, creating a thumbprint indention. We don’t do that for this recipe, as we’ll bake them first before creating the indention. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to stick my thumb into a hot cookie straight from the oven…
Fun fact: Thumbprint cookies originate from Sweden, where they’re called Hallongrotta. The name translates to “raspberry cave,” and is traditionally made with—surprise, surprise—a raspberry filling.
I don’t like the taste of cranberry sauce. Can I use something else as the filling?
Absolutely! You could easily substitute your favorite kind of jam in place of the cranberry sauce.
Depending on the jam, though, I might change the sugar out. For example, if you want to do a blueberry filling, I’d use lemon zest instead of orange.
That said, if you’re into fig or raspberry jam, keep the orange goodness intact.
Can I freeze these cranberry cookies?
Short answer: YES!
Long answer: There are two ways you can freeze ‘em.
If you want to make the dough in advance and freeze it until later, absolutely! Simply mix up the dough, and roll it into the balls, as detailed in the recipe below. Stop before you roll them in the orange sugar, though. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, pop them in the oven and freeze for 2-4 hours. Once frozen solid, transfer to an airtight container.
When you’re ready to enjoy them, remove from the freezer and let thaw. Roll in the orange sugar, and follow the baking instructions.
If you want to freeze the baked cookies, you absolutely can… but here’s the trick: Make the cookies, and follow the recipe as outlined below. Bake the cookies, but do not continue with the filling step. Let the cookies sans filling cool, then place on a baking sheet and freeze, and then transfer them to an airtight container.
When you’re ready to enjoy them, let the cookies thaw, mix up the filling, heat up the oven, and follow the instructions, starting with adding the filling.
Do I need to refrigerate these cookies since they use cream cheese?
Short answer: Yes.
If you’re not going to eat them for a few days, I suggest freezing them with the method detailed above to ensure the utmost freshness.
Long answer: Sugar stabilizes baked goods by pulling water from the cream cheese and reducing the amount of water where bacteria can grow. But the cream cheese-sugar ratio isn’t great enough in these cookies for them to be OK hanging out on the counter for days on end. (My friend Julie talks about the science of this at length in her Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies post.)
Store them in an airtight container.
What are some recipes that I can pair with these Orange Cranberry Thumbprint Cookies?
Quick tips and tricks for these Orange Cranberry Thumbprint Cookies
- Double the recipe to share the love with friends and their families.
- Use your Thanksgiving or Christmas leftover cranberry sauce to make this recipe even easier!
- Bake these beauties in advance and freeze them until you’re ready to consume!
- Store the cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days tops.
Orange Cranberry Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies
Perfect for the holidays, Orange Cranberry Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies are a one-bite, flavor-filled dessert! Singing of tart cranberry and bright orange, these cookies are a twist on classic thumbprints. Instead of using butter and raspberry jam, these call for cream cheese and cranberry sauce. Whether you're baking for a cookie exchange, Santa, friends, family or yourself, Orange Cranberry Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies make a tasty treat!
- 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoons milk (whole, 2% and nonfat all work!)
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup cranberry sauce
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
Make the dough
- In a large bowl, cream the cream cheese and granulated sugar together using a hand mixer or a stand mixer.
- Add in the egg and vanilla extract. Beat those into the batter then pour in the milk and white vinegar. Stir until combined.
- In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Sprinkle the dry ingredients the wet ingredients, mixing until completely incorporated.
- Line a baking sheet with wax paper, and set aside.
- Use a tablespoon cookie scoop (or a regular tablespoon measuring spoon) to measure out the cookies.
- Roll the dough into balls using your hands.
- Place the rolled dough onto the prepared baking sheet. They do not need to be spaced out because they will be chilling on this sheet pan, not baking.
- When all the dough has been rolled into balls, cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour.
Mix the filling
- In a small bowl, combine the cranberry sauce with the orange zest.
- With a spoon, stir until the ingredients are incorporated.
- Refrigerate until time to use.
Bake the cookies
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.
- In a medium-sized glass bowl, combine the granulated sugar and orange zest to make the orange sugar.
- Remove the chilled dough balls from the refrigerator.
- Transfer the chilled dough into the orange sugar and toss until coated.
- Place the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them 1-2" apart.
- Repeat the process until all the cookie dough balls are coated in orange sugar and placed on the sheet pan.
- Bake the dough for 8 minutes.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Use a kitchen instrument, like the back of a cookie scooper or the non-muddling end of a muddler, to press “thumbprints” into the warm cookies.
- Scoop a heaping 1/2 teaspoon of cranberry sauce into each indention. (Some will be larger or smaller, depending on how you make the indention. Do not worry about them all being uniform.)
- Bake for an additional 5-7 minutes, then remove from the oven.
- Cool completely on a wire cooling rack before serving with a glass of milk!
Recipe adapted from my Dairy-Free Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies.
Obviously, if you make less cookies, the calories per cookie will go up. We liked using the 1 tablespoon cookie scoop to measure ours out so they were relatively the same size.
Store them in an airtight container on the countertop.
Do I need to refrigerate these cookies since they use cream cheese?
Yes, you do not need to refrigerate these cookies after baking. However, if you’re not going to eat them for a few days, I suggest freezing them to ensure the utmost freshness.
How to freeze these cookies
If you want to make the dough in advance and freeze it until later, absolutely! Mix up the dough, and roll it into the balls. Stop before you roll them in the orange sugar, though. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, pop them in the oven and freeze for 2-4 hours. Once frozen solid, transfer to an airtight container.
When you’re ready to enjoy them, thaw the cookies in the refrigerator. When they're not frozen solid, roll in the orange sugar, and follow the baking instructions.
If you want to freeze the baked cookies, follow the recipe as outlined, but do NOT fill them. Let the cookies cool, then place on a baking sheet and freeze, and then transfer them to an airtight container.
When you’re ready to enjoy them, let the cookies thaw, mix up the filling, heat up the oven, and follow the instructions, starting with the filling.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Serving Size:1 cookie
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 81Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 64mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 0gSugar: 9gProtein: 1g
Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.
These are delicious! Wonderfully festive and would be perfect for a cookie exchange or a holiday dessert table. Rolling them in orange sugar was a perfect complement to the cranberry sauce.
YAY! Your comment makes me so happy, Meggie! That orange sugar makes all the difference, huh? I wish I’d had a cookie exchange to take these to because they were so yummy! That said, I’m happy I was able to share some of them with you. 🙂
Yes! I love the use of cranberry in these and can never resist that fresh citrus taste from oranges! Plus cream cheese? Yum! These are dreamy!
Thanks, Vanessa! I’m a sucker for cranberry with orange, and the addition of cream cheese is so, so, so lovely. I hope you’re able to make some of these this holiday season!
I love your ratio of jam to cookie! I love my thumbprint cookies with lots of jam. The flavor combo of these sounds delish, too!
Thanks, Jenna! I love a lot of jam in my thumbprints, too, and am glad that I’m in good company. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with this flavor combo. 😀
I am so obsessed with the cranberry orange combination right now! These cookies look amazing. Definitely adding this to our cookie list this year 😉
High five for the cranberry orange obsession! I hope you and yours enjoy these cookies as much as we did. They are so darn scrumptious!