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Homemade Cherry Pie Filling makes the best cherry pie in the world, but it doesn’t stop there. Spoon it over yogurt, cheesecake, or ice cream; all of the sudden, life is a whole lot cheerier.
Cherry Pie Filling is decadent served with a thick slice of Easy Pound Cake, Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, or Classic Waffles for the most outrageously luscious breakfast ever. Or just eat it straight out of the jar when no one’s looking.
Nothing’s more American than celebrating the cherry, in all its glory. Sweet, tart, sour, or bright, every variety is simply delicious.
And the best cherry pie filling? Well, it’s the one you make yourself, but don’t worry— it’s super easy. In fact, once you do, you’ll never be tempted by the gloppy red stuff in the can ever again. It’s only about a million times better than canned cherry pie filling.
This recipe makes enough for two juicy fruit pies or two Cherry Crisps. If you’re blessed with a ton of fresh cherries, however, you’re in luck— this cherry filling freezes beautifully so you can savor every last moment of the season’s cherries. Make extra.
Got way more than a bowl of cherries? Bliss! Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
How to make Cherry Pie Filling:
These instructions walk you through the recipe without giving you specific amounts, which are all listed below in the recipe card, which is adjustable based on how much you plan to make.
- First, you have to stem and pit the cherries. A good cherry pitter helps, but you can also do it with an empty wine bottle and a chopstick (see below).
- Once the cherries are ready to go, put them in a bowl and sprinkle some of the sugar over them. Then let them rest for a bit to release their natural juices—maybe 15 to 20 minutes.
- By the way, if you’re using sour cherries for pie filling, you might need to add a little more sugar than this recipe calls for.
- Then grab a large stainless steel pan. If your pan isn’t stainless steel, make sure it’s non-reactive (avoid aluminum and cast iron).
- In the pan, whisk together the rest of the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Next, add the lemon juice, water (or fruit juice, if you have it), and whisk again. Pour in the cherries and their juice, along with any sugar in the bowl. Give everything a good stir.
- Now it’s time to cook. Turn on the stove to medium heat and allow the cherries to simmer, while stirring often, so they don’t burn on the bottom.
- Turn up the heat slightly, to medium-high, and continue to stir until the cherries come to a rolling boil. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the pot.
- As soon as the mixture boils, set a timer for 3 minutes. Keep stirring, though! You don’t want anything to get scorched. At this point, the cornstarch needs to boil in order to thicken the pie filling, so cook the cherries for the entire 3 minutes.
- After the 3 minutes is up, remove from the heat and stir in the almond extract and red food coloring, only if you’re using it.
Why is my cherry pie so runny?
Homemade cherry pie is delicious, no matter what, but runny pie can be prevented.
If the mixture looks too runny, here’s an easy fix: mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch with ¼ cup cold water to make a slurry. Then, add a few teaspoons of the slurry to the filling as it boils. Cook for at least one minute.
If you think it’s thick enough, discard the remaining slurry. But if it’s still too thin, add a little more of the slurry. Don’t forget, though, that the filling will be thinner when it’s hot than when it is cold.
How to store cherry pie filling:
Pour the filling into clean jars with tight-fitting lids, then let the filling cool before moving into the freezer or refrigerator.
How to pit cherries (even if you don’t have a cherry pitter):
The brand OXO Good Grips makes a sturdy cherry pitter that’s easy to use, but you don’t absolutely need one to pit cherries.
Believe it or not, you can pit cherries with an empty wine bottle and a wooden chopstick. Here’s how:
Position the stemmed cherry carefully on the mouth of the bottle.
Hold the cherry still, then poke the chopstick through the cherry where the stem used to be.
Hopefully, the pit should pop right out of the fruit and into the bottle, voilà, you’re left holding a pitted cherry.
Can you make Cherry Pie Filling with frozen cherries?
Yes, you can! Canned or frozen cherries will need slightly more thickener than fresh.
How to thicken fruit pies without cornstarch:
Maybe you don’t have any, or maybe you’re trying to avoid cornstarch. That’s fine! Here are some other effective ways to thicken up a fruit pie:
- Instant ClearJel. This product is a modified food starch that is used as a thickening agent in canning recipes and pie fillings. You can use the same amount of ClearJel as cornstarch.
- Quick-cooking tapioca flour. If you use tapioca to thicken pie filling, use half as much, and make sure the filling rests for about 30 minutes so the tapioca can absorb.
- All-purpose flour. This easy thickener is almost always available, but you might have to use more of it than you would other thickeners. This recipe, made as-is, would require ½ cup of flour in place of the cornstarch.
- Gluten-free flour. Cherries are naturally gluten free, and making a gluten-free cherry pie is easy when you work with your favorite gluten-free flour.
The flour can also be used to thicken fruit pies, but cornstarch or tapioca flour is also gluten-free. In other words, you have some choices!
Cherry Pie Filling recipe ideas:
You’ve worked all day and have filled your freezer with jars of beautiful cherries, waiting to be used. Now what? Here’s a few ideas for using cherry pie filling.
- Cherry Pie with Lattice Crust. A showstopper of a pie that sweeps state fairs and takes home blue ribbons.
- Cherry Crisp. What could be better than a crispy, crumbly topping over cherries?
- Cherry Cobbler. The easiest thing you’ll make all month.
- Cherry ice cream sundaes. Swap out the chocolate sauce for cherries, or just do both.
Cherry Pie Filling
- Place pitted cherries in a large bowl and sprinkle with ½ cup of sugar. (You'll have ¾ cup sugar remaining.) Let stand for 15-20 minutes to allow the release of natural juices.
- In a large stainless steel or other non-reactive pan, whisk together remaining sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add lemon juice and water (or juice) and whisk until smooth.
- Add cherries and any accumulated juices to the pan, making sure to scrape out any undissolved sugar as well. Stir well.
- Place pot on stove and turn heat to medium and allow the cherries to come to a simmer, stirring often. Raise heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly making sure to get the bottom and sides of pan as the liquid comes to a rolling boil. As soon as it starts to boil, set a timer for 3 minutes. Keep stirring as directed above so the bottom doesn't scorch. Don't skimp on the time - the cornstarch will only thicken if the liquid is brought to a full boil.
- Remove from heat and stir in almond extract and red food coloring, if using. Transfer to jars or another container with tight-fitting lid. Allow to cool before storing in the refrigerator.
Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.