Homemade Cherry Pie Filling is so much better than store-bought and can be used in so many ways! We use it top ice cream, in cherry crisp, to fill cakes, on top of cheesecake, on pancakes, waffles, and so much more!
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I'll admit that for years I would buy cans of premade cherry pie filling from the store whenever a recipe called for it. They just seem so easy and convenient!
But I was always disappointed with the gel to fruit ratio, which was often way off for my tastes. And frankly, the flavor just doesn't come close to comparing with homemade cherry pie filling.
Once I started making my own cherry pie filling, I've never looked back. When cherries are fresh and in season, I like to use them. But this filling is almost just as good with frozen, bottled, or canned cherries too!
I felt like I had to test this recipe with every variety of cherries I could get my hands on to see if there was one I liked best, but since they are all delicious I'm sharing my tips for how to adjust the recipe depending on which cherries you have access too.
You can make this recipe with almost any cherries available. The principle adjustment is to the amount of sugar used and when to add the cherries. Tart or sour cherries, which you typically only find bottled or canned, require more sugar than sweet cherries, which are almost always what you will find fresh at the farmer's market or frozen at the grocery store.
Making cherry pie filling with fresh or frozen cherries
The hardest part of making cherry pie filling with fresh cherries is getting the pits out. It's the worst. Unless you have a handy dandy cherry pitter that is. I grabbed mine at target, but you can find them at any kitchen store or online as well.
If you are using frozen cherries, let them at least partially thaw and drain off the liquid so they don't turn the filling into a soupy mess.
Toss all of the pitted cherries in large pot and add the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir to redistribute the cornstarch and sugar, then add the water and lemon juice.
Heat the cherries over medium heat until they start to boil, stirring frequently. Once bubbling, continue to cook and stir often until the cherries have released their juices and softened and the liquid has thickened and turned opaque.
Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, almond extract, and red food coloring , if you want to use it. Let the filling cool completely, then transfer to jars and store in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Making cherry pie filling with bottled or canned cherries
The main difference using bottled or canned cherries are already softened and don't need to simmer as long as fresh cherries do. Also, rather than using water to create the gel part of the filling, I like to reserve some of the liquid and use that instead.
My favorite brand of bottled cherries are the dark Morello cherries from Trader Joe's, but the Oregon fruit brand also makes good canned tart cherries that you can find at any grocery store.
Start by whisking the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a large pot. Add the reserved liquid or water and lemon juice, then heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture starts to simmer.
Continue to cook, stirring often until the liquid thickens and turns clear instead of cloudy. Stir in the cherries, then remove from the heat.
Add the vanilla, almond extract, and red food coloring , if using. Cool completely, then transfer to jars and store in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
What to do if your filling is too thick or too thin
Because the amount of liquid going into your cherry pie filling can vary based on the type of cherries you are using, you might find that you want to thicken or thin out the filling to get it to the consistency you like best. This is particularly true with frozen cherries, in my experience.
If you find that it is too thick, simple add a little additional liquid, a couple tablespoons at a time. Stir this into the filling well before adding more.
If the mixture isn't thick enough, mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of cold water, then drizzle this into your filling a teaspoon or so at a time, continue to cook until the filling has thickened to your liking.
Ways to use cherry pie filling
- With puff pastry for easy cherry turnovers
- With crescent roll dough and cream cheese to make an easy braided pastry
- Swirled into your favorite ice cream base
- As an ice cream topping
- Over angel food cake, cheesecake, brownies, chocolate lava cakes, and more
- As a cake filling, particularly in Black Forest Cake
- In cherry pie or cherry crisp
More Cherry Recipes
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
Homemade Cherry Pie Filling
- 4 cups pitted tart cherries
- 1 cup granulated sugar*
- 4 Tablespoons cornstarch
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup water or reserved cherry juice from bottled cherries
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
- Red food coloring (optional)
If using fresh or frozen cherries
- Combine cherries (at least partially thawed and drained if previously frozen), sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large pot. Stir to evenly distribute the sugar and cornstarch.
- Add the water or reserved cherry juice and lemon juice, then place over medium heat. Cook and stir frequently until this comes to a boil. Continue to cook and stir until the cherries have softened and the liquid has thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla, almond extract, and red food coloring, if using. Cool completely. Store in jars in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for 3-4 months.
If using bottled or canned cherries
- Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in large pot and whisk well. Add the reserved cherry juice or water and lemon juice.
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat, cooking and stirring until thick and bubbly. This will turn into an opaque gel after about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the cherries, vanilla, almond extract, and red food coloring if using. Cool completely. Store in jars in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for 3-4 months.
- Cherries: You can use fresh, frozen, bottled, or canned cherries for this recipe.
- *Sweet Cherries: If using sweet cherries (either fresh or frozen), reduce the sugar to ½ cup.