This delicious homemade cherry sauce is made with sweet cherries and requires little more than adding all the ingredients to a saucepan and cooking them until the sauce is the consistency of maple syrup.
I make this sauce with fresh cherries all summer long, spooning it over ice cream, cakes, pancakes, waffles, scones, and biscuits. But, you can also use frozen cherries to make it any time of year.
"This sauce is simple, easy, and delicious. Thank you for sharing this recipe, it was what I was looking for to use on pancakes." - Debra
How much do we love cherry season???
Fresh, sweet cherries are a favorite summer snack around this house. From June through August, you'll almost always find a bag or two in our refrigerator.
Besides eating them by the handful and making a few Cherry Crumb Pies, I make an almost embarrassing amount of Cherry Sauce and spoon it over the obvious suspects like New York cheesecake, ice cream, and pound cake.
Really what I'm saying here is that there is no shortage of things for which a spoonful of cherry sauce cannot make better. But, you already knew that.
- Sweet cherries! Any variety of sweet cherries will do, fresh or frozen.
- Granulated sugar. There's just enough sugar in this recipe to create a sweet dessert sauce without drowning out the flavor of the cherries.
- Lemon juice. You'll need 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, which is about what you'll get from a medium to large size lemon.
- Salt. Salt is just as essential in sweet foods as it is in savory because it brings out the flavor of other ingredients.
- Cornstarch. A bit of cornstarch helps to thicken the sauce and gives it a gorgeous glossy appearance.
- Vanilla and almond extract. Both or either are optional, but the combination of vanilla, almond, and cherry is a showstopper in my opinion.
What Kind of Cherries Are Best in this Recipe?
This sauce uses the plump, juicy sweet cherries that can be found in abundance in almost every supermarket and farmer’s market all summer long. But, if you prefer, you can use sour cherries instead. Just increase the sugar to ¾ cup to balance out the sourness of the cherries.
The two most common types of sweet cherries are Bing cherries and Rainier cherries. Bing cherries are dark red and, in my experience, more plentiful than Rainier in pretty much every produce section.
Rainier cherries are two toned – red and gold. Either variety will work perfectly well in this cherry sauce recipe, but Bing cherries are usually what I prefer.
Can You Use Frozen Cherries?
Yes! Even though I tend to mostly make this in the summer when fresh cherries are plentiful, cherry sauce in the dead of winter is a welcome treat.
For those of us who rarely manage to freeze fresh cherries while they're in season, frozen cherries can be found in the freezer section of most supermarkets all year round.
The only modification you'll need to make to this recipe if you're using frozen cherries is to lengthen the cook time. Frozen cherries usually contain more water than fresh ones, so you'll not only want to allow time for frozen cherries to thaw as they cook, you'll need to cook the sauce long enough to allow excess water to evaporate.
How much more time will that take? Probably only about 5 minutes longer than it takes to cook cherry sauce with fresh cherries. But, be patient if your sauce is taking longer. Just keep simmering and stirring - it's just a matter of time before it thickens up.
How to Make Cherry Sauce in 3 Simple Steps
#1: Dump cherries, sugar, lemon juice, water, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan and cook until the liquid in the pan begins to simmer.
#2. Cook until the cherries start to break down and the sauce has thickened to the consistency of maple syrup. This only takes about 5 minutes.
#3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in vanilla and almond extracts. That's it! Done and done.
Pro Tip! Why I like to use BOTH Vanilla and Almond extract in cherry sauce.
Almond extract is one of my secret weapons in the kitchen. Although, honestly, I don't understand why it doesn't get used more often. The thing about almond extract is that it doesn't actually taste much like almonds.
Almond extract is made from bitter almond oil, the same stuff used to make Amaretto. Its intense, sweet flavor compliments vanilla in all varieties of cakes, cookies, muffins, custard and puddings, pies.... you name it.
In this cherry sauce, a touch of almond extract complements and intensifies the flavor of the cherries and vanilla. It also makes the sauce more interesting. I just love it.
Having said all that, feel free to leave the almond extract out and just use vanilla if you prefer. You should also adjust the amount of extract to your personal preferences. Start with a little, taste, and add more until you get the flavors exactly where you want them.
Pitting Cherries is the Pits
Ok. It's actually not that bad, and might even be considered fun and relaxing in a meditative kind of way. Had an especially crazy and stressful week? Get yourself a few pounds of cherries, shut yourself in the kitchen, zone out and pit away. You'll feel better.
The easiest way to pit cherries is with a cherry pitter. My favorite cherry pitter is the OXO Good Grips Cherry and Olive Pitter. It has a splatter shield that helps contain cherry juice splatters. “Helps” is the key word in that last sentence. There will still be some splattering and cherry juice has a remarkable ability to stain most everything it touches.
My suggestion is to pit the cherries over a deep bowl so that the sides of the bowl catch most of the errant splatters. Also, you might want to wear an apron and some disposable plastic gloves to keep all that cherry juice from staining your clothing and your hands.
How to Store Cherry Sauce
This sauce will keep well in the refrigerator for about 5 days. Allow the sauce to cool completely, then scoop it into a jar or other air-tight container before placing it in the refrigerator. It will also freeze well, remaining fresh tasting for about 3 months.
How to Freeze Cherry Sauce:
- Ladle the cherry sauce into jars, leaving about 1-inch of room at the top of the jar.
- Let the jars sit until cooled to room temperature.
- Screw the lids onto the jars and place in the freezer.
Preserving cherry sauce in sealed jars that have been processed in a hot water bath also works well.
How to Can Cherry Sauce:
- Right after cooking the cherry sauce, while it's still warm, ladle it into hot, sterilized jars, leaving about ½-inch of room at the top of the jar.
- Using a damp cloth or paper towel, wipe the tops of the jar to ensure a clean seal. Cap and screw on the lids; do not tighten the jars super tight.
- Bring a large pot of water, or water-bath canner, to a rolling boil and gently lower the jars into the boiling water using tongs. The water should cover the jars by at least ½ inch. Let process for 10 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the water for 5 minutes. Remove the jars from the water bath and place on a dry towel laid out on a flat surface. Allow to cool completely.
- Once the jars are cool, check the seal by gently pressing down on the center of the lid. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If that should happen to a jar or two, just store the cherry sauce in the refrigerator and use it within 3 weeks. (Or freeze for 3 months) Properly sealed jars can be stored in a cool dark place for 12 - 14 months.
More Cherry Recipes
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #ofbatteranddough on Instagram.
- 4 cups (20 ounces) pitted sweet cherries
- ½ cup (100 grams) sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon (7 grams) cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
- 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
- Add the cherries, sugar, lemon juice, water, cornstarch, and salt to a medium size (2 or 3 quart) saucepan and set the pan over medium low heat.
- Cook the cherries, stirring frequently, until the liquid starts to simmer.
- Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened to the consistency of maple syrup, about 5 minutes. (*See note) As you stir, use the back of the spoon to smoosh some of the cherries against the side of the pan. Do not smash all of the cherries, just about ⅓ of them.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla and almond extract if using.
To use sour cherries instead of sweet cherries, increase the amount of sugar to ¾ cup (175 grams).
Several factors can affect how long your cherry sauce will take to thicken up:
- If you're using frozen cherries the sauce could take as much as 15 minutes to thicken up
- If your cherries are especially juicy, the sauce will take a bit longer to thicken up
In both cases, you just want to allow enough time for excess water to evaporate. Just keep simmering and stirring until the sauce is the consistency of maple syrup.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Ball Regular Mouth Mason Jar 32 oz [6 Pack] Glass Mason Jars With Airtight lids and Bands
Ball Regular Mouth Mason Jars 8 oz, 12 Pack Canning Jars
McSunley Medium Stainless Steel Prep N Cook Water Bath Canner, 21.5 quart, Silver
Cuisinart MultiClad Pro Stainless Steel 3-Quart Saucepan with Cover
OXO Good Grips Cherry and Olive Pitter, Red
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: ¼ cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 81Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 59mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 1gSugar: 18gProtein: 1g