Delicious Cherry Pie Bars are like a handheld cross between a cookie and cherry pie with a buttery shortbread crust and lots of sweet and tart cherry pie filling. Add a sweet almond glaze on top and you've got dessert for a crowd that's perfect for backyard barbecues, picnics, and bake sales!
I originally made these cherry pie bars when I was working on recipes for Michigan week as part of my American Eats series but they just didn't turn out quite right. I couldn't get them out of my head though, so I kept revisiting until they were perfect and now I finally get to share them with you!
These sweet little bars are pure bites of bliss with the taste and texture of homemade or store-bought cherry pie filling in a cookie crust. I enjoy these chilled and they make a refreshing treat on warm afternoons.
This is a quick overview of some of the important ingredients you'll need for this cherry pie bars recipe. Specific measurements and full recipe instructions are in the printable recipe card below.
- Cherry pie filling: You can use two cans of store-bought cherry pie filling or make your own with our homemade cherry pie filling recipe. I used frozen tart cherries from Michigan to make my pie filling, but if you have access to fresh ones and they are in season, I highly recommend using those to make your cherry pie filling! Canned tart cherries are another great option and usually available at most grocery stores.
- Flour: Regular all-purpose flour works just great for the cookie base.
- Eggs: For binding and that chewy texture.
- Butter: I use salted butter in all of my baking unless otherwise noted.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar gives just the right amount of sweetness to the shortbread crust while a little powdered sugar is used to make the glaze.
- Vanilla extract: Use this for the cookie base.
- Almond extract: Use this for the glaze or sub out for more vanilla. The pairing of cherry and almond is wonderful together though.
You will also need a 9x13-inch baking dish.
How to Make Cherry Pie Bars
It's easy to make this recipe. This is a quick overview with step-by-step images to help you visualize the process. Scroll down to the recipe card for printable, detailed instructions. Here is the basic approach:
- Cream butter and sugar. I use my stand mixer to beat the butter and sugar until creamy and light, but a hand mixer will work as well.
- Add eggs and vanilla. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl, then add the eggs and vanilla and mix again to combine. It's okay if the mixture looks a little curdled.
- Mix in dry ingredients. Don't overbeat the dough at this point. You want to mix just until everything comes together.
- Press into pan. Press about ⅔ of the dough evenly into the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish. I like to line my baking dish with a parchment paper sling so I can easily remove the bars when they are done, but it's not necessary if you plan to just cut them in the pan.
- Par-bake the crust. I like to bake the bottom crust for 10-12 minutes to help set it before topping with the cherry filling mixture. This was a step I skipped the first couple of times I made these, but it really does seem to make a difference.
- Top with cherry pie filling. There should be just enough for a generous layer of cherries, which are the star of this show.
- Top with remaining dough. Drop small chunks of the remaining ⅓ cookie dough over the top of the cherries as shown in the pictures. It's okay (good even) to have some of the cherry filling showing through.
- Bake until golden brown and set. It takes another 35-40 minutes in the oven for these bars to bake through and the cookie topping to start browning around the edges. Remove from oven and cool completely.
- Make the glaze. In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, milk, and almond extract until you have a thin glaze for drizzling over the bars.
- Cut into squares and glaze. This is where the parchment sling comes in handy because you can lift the cooled bars out of the pan and more easily cut straight lines. Don't attempt this if the bars aren't completely cool though! I like to do small-ish squares for these bars, then glaze afterwards so I don't mess up my pretty zigzag lines.
Sure! I have used a 1-to-1 gluten-free flour substitute with great results before. Just make sure your cherry pie filling is also gluten-free or make my homemade version which uses cornstarch as the thickener so you can be sure.
You could absolutely use fresh cherries to make your cherry pie filling, then use that in these bars. I haven't tried making them by tossing cherries with sugar and cornstarch, then adding them onto the crust, topping, and baking that way though.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Do not use sweet cherries without adjusting sugar first. If making your own homemade cherry pie filling with sweet cherries, which are what you usually find in grocery stores during cherry season unless you happen to live in Michigan or Wisconsin and can get access to tart cherries, you might want to decrease the sugar in your filling by half.
- Cool completely before cutting. If you cut into these too early they will be super soft and crumbly rather than being firm enough to hold like a bar.
- Try with other pie fillings. These bars work just as well with blueberry pie filling, apple pie filling, or other fruit fillings.
Storage & Reheating Instructions
These cherry pie bars will keep well at room temperature for 2-3 days or up to 1 week in the fridge. We actually prefer them chilled and they last longer that way so it's a win-win.
You can also freeze the individual bars for up to 2 months. Wrap them in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container. Thaw on the counter before serving.
More Dessert Bar Recipes
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Cherry Pie Bars
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar (300g)
- 1 cup salted butter, softened (227g)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, scooped & leveled (423g)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 (21-ounce) cans cherry pie filling (or 4 ½ to 5 cups homemade)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 Tablespoon milk
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a 9x13-inch baking dish with a parchment paper sling.
- Beat sugar and butter together until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl and mixing well.
- Add flour, baking powder, and salt, stirring until combined to make a soft dough.
- Press ⅔ of the dough into the prepared baking dish, then bake for 10-12 minutes.
- Add the cherry pie filling to the partially baked bottom crust, spreading into an even layer. Drop remaining dough onto the cherry filling in spoonfuls. You want some of the cherry filling to peek through. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until golden brown and the center is set. Remove from oven and cool 15 to 20 minutes.
- Whisk glaze ingredients together in a bowl until smooth. Drizzle over the bars, then cut into squares and serve.
- Storage: These cherry pie bars will keep well at room temperature for 2-3 days or up to 1 week in the fridge. We actually prefer them chilled and they last longer that way so it's a win-win.
- Freezing: You can also freeze the individual bars for up to 2 months. Wrap them in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container. Thaw on the counter before serving.
- Variation: These bars work just as well with blueberry pie filling, apple pie filling, strawberry pie filling, raspberry pie filling, or other fruit fillings.
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