When stone fruit hits its prime, I’m powerless to resist. Every year, in a moment of summer hysteria, I buy an oversized crate of cherries. The first order of business for my sweet surplus: easy homemade Cherry Pie Filling!
Cherry pie filling is made of simple ingredients that are designed to thicken the cherries and help their flavor star brightly: fresh sweet or tart cherries, sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch.
The idea: stay out of the cherries’ way and help this precious red summer jewel taste its best.
Old-fashioned cherry pie filling recipe uses sugar, but I prefer to sweeten my filling with honey.
I was a little concerned that the honey’s flavor would overpower the cherries, but the two taste wonderful together.
The cherries shine brightly, while the honey adds light background notes of floral sweetness.
This cherry pie filling recipe turned out to be so tasty and so easy, I made a second jar the very next day and tucked it into my freezer for a later (and for these Cherry Bars of course).
Even if you don’t bake a pie, there are many, many delicious ways to use homemade pie filling.
5 Star Review
“Thank goodness for this recipe! I’ve always hated canned pie filling, and I’ve never found a recipe for a homemade version that I liked. Now I found one yay!!!”— Marina —
How to Make Cherry Filling From Scratch
No more wondering which is the best canned cherry pie filling or how you make canned cherry pie filling taste homemade.
The answer is: use homemade pie filling you make from scratch!
This is a breeze to stir up.
The hardest part is waiting for fresh, in-season cherries to arrive.
- Cherries. A precious gift of summer! The cherries give the pie filling beautiful color without the need for red food coloring. Cherry season is short (a few weeks in July). Making pie filling is one of the bests ways to make the most of them.
- Honey. For a naturally sweet cherry pie. Using honey instead of sugar (or worse, high fructose corn syrup from cherry pie filling in a can) makes me feel all the more redeemed when I spoon this onto my breakfast parfait.
- Lemon Juice. Essential for the best cherry pie filling.
- Cornstarch. How to thicken cherry pie filling. To thicken the cherry pie filling without cornstarch, swap in arrowroot starch.
- Pure Almond Extract. Cherries and almonds are a lovely flavor combination (have you ever noticed that cherry pits smell a little like almonds?). DO NOT use imitation almond extract, which tastes artificial.
- Add all of the filling ingredients to a saucepan.
- Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until thickened. Taste (be careful, it is hot!) and add additional honey if you’d like the filling sweeter. Let cool and enjoy!
How to Use Cherry Pie Filling
This recipe will yield 2 heaping cups, which is enough for a regular (non-deep dish) 9-inch pie.
That said, cherry pie is certainly not the only option! I encourage you to try:
- Mixed with yogurt (try it in these Berry Parfait Yogurt Popsicles)
- On top of oatmeal (try Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats and Overnight Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats)
- With ice cream (this Banana Ice Cream would make for a fun, fruity combo)
- Spread it on warm Healthy Chocolate Muffins
- On top of Oatmeal Pancakes or Whole Wheat Waffles
- Swapped in for the strawberry in these Strawberry Hand Pies
- Baked in puff pastry to make Brie Bites (swap it for the cranberry sauce)
- On top of Greek Yogurt Cheesecake
Two Great Pie Crust Recipes
- Whole Wheat Pie Crust. Classically flaky. The food processor makes it easy to prepare the pie dough.
- Oil Pie Crust. No rolling required! It’s ideal for pie crust newbies (or anytime you need pie in a hurry).
- Store-Bought Pie Crust. Cherry pie filling does have to be cooked, so you can take a shortcut with the crust. I won’t tell if you don’t!
- To Store. The filling will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.
- To Freeze. Because it is made with honey, the filling does congeal somewhat when frozen and thawed. I found it worked best to let the frozen filling thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then warm it in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, to smooth it out a little.
If you are going to use the filling in a classic cherry pie or as a sauce on top of ice cream, I would not recommend freezing, since in these cases, you’ll want the smoothest texture possible.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Saucepan. These saucepans have two layers of stainless steel for balanced heat conduction.
- Small Whisk. Perfect for small bowls and containers.
- Magnetic Measuring Spoons. One of my favorite purchases!
Pie, a breakfast treat, cake filling, turnovers, or straight from the jar.
However you eat this cherry pie filling, it’s a taste of sweet summertime!
Frequently Asked Questions
Frozen cherries are an excellent way to make this recipe year-round. Simply add your frozen cherries (be sure they are pitted and don’t have stems), then cook them on the stove as directed, adding a few extra minutes to the cook time.
Great-tasting cherry pie filling starts first and foremost with the quality of your cherries. Be sure they are ripe and in-season (or were frozen during peak season). To brighten up the filling, be sure to add a little lemon juice. Pure extracts, like vanilla extra and almond extra, as well as cherry liqueur, also enhance the flavor of cherries.
Cherries pair well with warm baking spices, like cinnamon, all-spice, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Add a little of any of these to your pie filling for a fun twist.
Cherry Pie Filling
- 4 cups whole pitted fresh sweet cherries about 2 pounds with pits or 1 1/2 pounds pitted or frozen, thawed pitted cherries
- 1/2 cup honey plus additional to taste (if using tart cherries, you may need to add a bit more)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract optional or substitute 1/4 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
- Place cherries into a large saucepan. Add 1/2 cup honey, lemon juice, cornstarch, and almond extract (if using), then stir to coat. Turn on the heat to medium.
- Cook the filling, stirring often, until glossy and thickened, about 5 – 10 minutes. Very carefully so as not to burn your tongue, taste the mixture. If you desire additional sweetness, add more honey a few teaspoons at a time. Remove pan from the heat and let the filling cool completely. Transfer to a storage jar.
- TO STORE. This cherry pie filling will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.
- TO FREEZE. Because it is made with honey, it does congeal somewhat when frozen and thawed. I found it worked best to let the frozen filling thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then warm it in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, to smooth it out a little.
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