No more canned pie filling! Learn how to make homemade cherry pie filling from scratch using fresh sour cherries. Use it to make cherry pie, cherry cobbler, stuffed cupcakes, and more!
Sometimes I can be really overambitious in the kitchen. I went through a phase where I insisted on making everything from scratch, even condiments and tortillas.
As I grew up and started working full time, I realized how limited my time and energy were. I gave myself permission to buy a few of these items to help with kitchen prep.
However, that part of me hasn’t died; I still find myself wanting to make everything from scratch, especially desserts. If it comes in a package or a mix, I make it homemade.
Today I’m bringing you the best Cherry Pie Filling made from scratch using sour cherries (also known as tart cherries) without corn syrup or preservatives.
I personally don’t care about those last two items, but I know others do. Whatever you believe, this homemade cherry pie filling recipe is easy and delicious.
In fact, it’ll take you longer to pit the tart cherries than to actually cook the filling. How easy is that?!
Don’t have sour cherries? No worries! I explain how you can easily substitute sweet cherries for pie.
Where To Buy Sour Cherries
Here in Pennsylvania, we have cherry farms. Most of the time I’ll pick my own, but sometimes the farms will sell them already harvested.
I first went cherry picking in 2012. The sweet cherry crops were hit badly from the frost, but the tart cherries were fine. I ended up picking 6.81 pounds.
As the name suggests, tart cherries are sour and hard to eat as a snack. However, they are ideal for baking because the sugar balances the tartness.
Can you make cherry pie filling with sweet cherries?
Since tart cherries have a short harvesting window and are hard to find, yes you can substitute sweet cherries for sour cherries.
As the name implies, sour cherries are very tart, so I didn’t add any lemon juice to the filling.
However, if you substitute sweet cherries, you want to add about a tablespoon of lemon juice. This helps balance the sweetness in the filling.
You may also want to cut back on how much sugar you use. I recommend starting at 3/4 cup sugar then adjust from there.
Best Way To Pit Cherries
The easiest way to pit cherries is with a cherry pitter (affiliate link).
I’m not big on unitasker utensils, but if you make a lot of cherry recipes like I do, you’ll want to invest in a pitter. It’s worth the time you’d save.
Plus you can also use it to pit olives.
How To Pit Cherries Without A Cherry Pitter
If you don’t have a cherry pitter, there are several ways to pit cherries with tools you already have on hand:
- Use a pastry tip by placing it tip-side up then push the cherry firmly onto it until the pit comes out.
- Use a chopstick or straw. Insert into the stem side and pop out the pit. If the pit isn’t completely centered, you may have to dig for a bit.
However you pit your cherries, make sure you’re wearing an apron because it will get messy.
How To Make Cherry Pie Filling
This cherry pie filling recipe is as easy as boiling water, mostly because that’s exactly what you’re doing to make homemade cherry pie filling.
To make fresh cherry pie filling, whisk together water, sugar, and cornstarch in a saucepan then bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens from the cornstarch.
Once thickened, remove from the heat then stir in the cherries and almond extract.
Because the cherries are soft (unlike apples, for example), you don’t need to cook it any further. Cool the filling to room temperature before using.
Is homemade cherry pie filling suitable for canning?
I’ve had people ask if my cherry pie filling recipe is suitable for canning.
The answer is no because of the cornstarch. Cornstarch breaks down after awhile, which affects bacteria growth.
Keep this tart cherry pie filling stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. You can also freeze it for future baking.
Do you need to refrigerate cherry pie filling?
Yes, you need to refrigerate this cherry pie filling recipe.
Once the sour cherry pie filling has cooled to room temperature, place it in a container then refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
I like to use a large mason jar because plastic may contain odors from previously stored food.
The filling will separate in the refrigerator once cold. When you’re ready to use, transfer it to a saucepan to reheat until smooth again.
How To Freeze Cherry Pie Filling
Using up your fresh cherries but not ready to bake yet? Much like cherry pie itself, you can freeze cherry pie filling.
There are two ways to freeze your filling:
- Line a freezable pie plate (not glass as it may shatter when baked at a cold temperature) with pie dough. Fill with the cherry pie filling then cover the top with another piece of pie dough. Fully cover with plastic wrap then place in a freezer-safe plastic bag.
- Transfer the pie filling to a freezer-safe plastic bag. Place the bag inside an empty pie plate and spread out so it takes the shape of the plate. Freeze until firm. Because it’s the shape of the plate, it should be easy to transfer and bake when ready.
Whichever method you choose, freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to bake, cut three slits into the top of the crust and bake at 400F for 45-60 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
How To Make Cherry Pie
Now that you have your cherry pie filling, it’s time to bake your cherry pie!
First, preheat your oven to 375F.
Line a 9 inch pie plate with pie dough. Fill it with your cherry pie filling.
Next, take a second piece of pie dough and cover your pie. Seal the edges then make 3 slits into the top to allow steam to escape.
Place your pie on a cookie sheet (to help catch spills) then bake 45 minutes or until golden brown.
Want to make a streusel pie? Check out my recipe for Cherry Crumble Pie.
Want to make a smaller pie? Check out my mini cherry pie for two.
What To Make With Cherry Pie Filling
Now you made a jar of sour cherry pie filling, what should you make with it? Here are some cherry pie filling desserts to make:
- Cherry Cobbler Bars – A different way to eat cherry cobbler
- Cherry Pie Ice Cream – Too hot for pie? Eat it in ice cream form.
- Mini Cheesecakes and No Bake Mini Cheesecakes – Garnish with pie filling on top.
- No Bake Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Dip – When you don’t want to bake a whole cheesecake
- Baked Cherry Cheesecake Wontons – Finger food that is both fun and messy
- Homemade Apple Turnovers – Swap out the apple filling for cherry.
For the full list of recipes, check out my post on Cherry Pie Filling Desserts.
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 5 cups pitted sour cherries*
- 1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
- 2-3 drops red food coloring (optional)
- In a large saucepan, whisk together sugar, water, and cornstarch. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Cook until thickened, about 1-2 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in cherries and almond extract. If it's not red enough, add food coloring if desired. Cool to room temperature then use as desired or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Recipe is not suitable for canning due to the cornstarch.
The filling will separate when refrigerated. Reheat everything back up in a saucepan until smooth again.
To make a cherry pie:
- Preheat oven to 375F. Add the filling to a prepared 9 inch pie crust (homemade or store bought). Top with another 9 inch pie crust, making slits to let steam escape. Bake 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before serving.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Originally published June 28, 2012