If you were to open my refrigerator door right now, you might mistake my top three shelves for a roadside fruit stand. Summer fruit is in its prime, often on sale, and I’m powerless to resist. Last week, in a moment of fleeting fruit hysteria, I bought SIX pounds of cherries. The first order of business for my sweet surplus: easy Homemade Cherry Pie Filling.
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 day.
Even if you are not a fan of cherry pie, there are many, many delicious ways to devour this jar of homemade cherry pie filling:
- Mixed with yogurt (try it in these Berry Parfait Yogurt Popsicles)
- On top of Steel Cut Oats (or Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats and Overnight Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats)
- Spooned over a scoop of ice cream (bonus points if you add hot fudge)
- Spread on graham crackers with Nutella (HEAVEN)
- Baked in pie crust pockets to make a homemade Pop-tart
- On top of Greek Yogurt Cheesecake
- These incredible Cherry Bars
And, if you are a fan of sweet cherry pie, this recipe will be a favorite of yours too!
Although I adore fresh cherries, I used to shy away from cherry pie, because most I tried were cloyingly sweet and syrupy, or the cherries were unpleasantly mushy. What a great injustice to one of summer’s most precious gifts!
Still, six pounds of cherries are six pounds of cherries, and since I’m not planning on raising a fruit bat anytime soon, I knew I needed a way to use them up as efficiently as possible. Homemade cherry pie filling it would be, but done better.
How Do You Make Cherry Pie Filling From Scratch?
Most pie fillings call for gobs of granulated sugar, which I feel doesn’t allow the natural sweetness of the cherries to shine. Plus, the excess sugar made me feel less empowered to mix pie filling into my yogurt at breakfast.
I am by no means arguing that pie filling is a health food, but I do think that it can be more wholesome, without sacrificing the homey comfort that makes us crave a slice of cherry pie in the first place. My solution: naturally sweeten the cherry pie filling with honey instead.
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.
I finished off the homemade cherry pie filling with almond extract. Cherries and almonds are one of my favorite flavor combinations, but if it’s not your jam (er, pie filling) you can replace it with vanilla extract or omit it completely.
How to Store and Freeze
- 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.
- If you are going to use the cherry pie 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.
Tools Used to Make This Recipe
- Cherry pitter. A must-own for all cherry enthusiasts!
Easy Homemade 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.
- Store in an airtight container or jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 2 months.
- NOTES ON FREEZING: Because the pie filling 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. Done this way, the previously frozen filling was perfect for baking these cherry pie bars. When the bars came out of the oven, the filling was smooth and you couldn't tell it was frozen at all!). If you are going to use the cherry pie 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.
- Need a great pie crust? Try my low maintenance Whole Wheat Pie Crust.
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