Cherry Pie Filling {Naturally Sweetened!} –

When stone fruit hits its prime, I’m powerless to resist. Every year, in a moment of summer hysteria, I buy an oversized crate of cherries. The first order of business for my sweet surplus: easy homemade Cherry Pie Filling!

The Best Homemade Cherry Pie Filling

Cherry pie filling is made of simple ingredients that are designed to thicken the cherries and help their flavor star brightly: fresh sweet or tart cherries, sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch.

The idea: stay out of the cherries’ way and help this precious red summer jewel taste its best.

Old-fashioned cherry pie filling recipe uses sugar, but I prefer to sweeten my filling with honey.

I was a little concerned that the honey’s flavor would overpower the cherries, but the two taste wonderful together.

The cherries shine brightly, while the honey adds light background notes of floral sweetness.

Pouring honey into a pot of fresh sweet cherries to make cherry pie filling

This cherry pie filling recipe turned out to be so tasty and so easy, I made a second jar the very next day and tucked it into my freezer for a later (and for these Cherry Bars of course).

Even if you don’t bake a pie, there are many, many delicious ways to use homemade pie filling (same with Apple Pie Filling).

Serve it over pancakes (like Banana Oatmeal Pancakes), mix it into a bowl of Steel Cut Oats, use it to top ice cream (like Oat Milk Ice Cream), and more!

5 Star Review

“Thank goodness for this recipe! I’ve always hated canned pie filling, and I’ve never found a recipe for a homemade version that I liked. Now I found one yay!!!”

— Marina —

How to Make Cherry Filling From Scratch

No more wondering which is the best canned cherry pie filling or how you make canned cherry pie filling taste homemade.

The answer is: use homemade pie filling you make from scratch!

This is a breeze to stir up.

The hardest part is waiting for fresh, in-season cherries to arrive.

The Ingredients

  • Cherries. A precious gift of summer! The cherries give the pie filling beautiful color without the need for red food coloring. Cherry season is short (a few weeks in July). Making pie filling is one of the bests ways to make the most of them.

Market Swap

What type of cherries are used in cherry pies? The choice is up to you! This cherry filling recipe works for any kind of cherry. Use whichever is best in season near you.

  • Sweet Cherry Pie Filling. Sweet cherries (such as Bing) are the most widely available and what you see in the photos of this recipe.
  • Tart Cherry Pie Filling. Tart or sour cherries are prized for pies and Cherry Crisp. Increase the amount of honey by 1 to 3 tablespoons, or to taste.
  • Black Cherry Pie Filling Recipe. Black cherries are slightly sweeter and softer than regular cherries. You can use them in this recipe without any further changes.
  • Pie Filling with Frozen Cherries. An ideal option outside of summer. No need to thaw the cherries first.
bowl of fresh sweet cherries for making homemade cherry pie filling
  • Honey. For a naturally sweet cherry pie. Using honey instead of sugar (or worse, high fructose corn syrup from cherry pie filling in a can) makes me feel all the more redeemed when I spoon this onto my breakfast parfait.
  • Lemon Juice. Essential for the best cherry pie filling.
  • Cornstarch. How to thicken cherry pie filling. To thicken the cherry pie filling without cornstarch, swap in arrowroot starch.
  • Pure Almond Extract. Cherries and almonds are a lovely flavor combination (have you ever noticed that cherry pits smell a little like almonds?). DO NOT use imitation almond extract, which tastes artificial.

Substitution Tip!

If almond extract is not your jam (er, pie filling) you can replace it with pure vanilla extract or omit it altogether.

The Directions

thickening cherry pie filling with honey and cornstarch
  1. Add all of the filling ingredients to a saucepan.
old-fashioned cherry pie filling on the stove
  1. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until thickened. Taste (be careful, it is hot!) and add additional honey if you’d like the filling sweeter. Let cool and enjoy!

Dietary Note

For a vegan cherry pie filling, use pure maple syrup in place of the honey.

thick tart cherry pie filling

How to Use Cherry Pie Filling

This recipe will yield 2 heaping cups, which is enough for a regular (non-deep dish) 9-inch pie.

That said, cherry pie is certainly not the only option! I encourage you to try:

Two Great Pie Crust Recipes

  • Whole Wheat Pie Crust. Classically flaky. The food processor makes it easy to prepare the pie dough.
  • Oil Pie Crust. No rolling required! It’s ideal for pie crust newbies (or anytime you need pie in a hurry).
  • Store-Bought Pie Crust. Cherry pie filling does have to be cooked, so you can take a shortcut with the crust. I won’t tell if you don’t!
thick tart cherry pie filling

Storage Tips

  • To Store. The filling will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.
  • To Freeze. Because it is made with honey, the filling does congeal somewhat when frozen and thawed. I found it worked best to let the frozen filling thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then warm it in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, to smooth it out a little.

Storage Tips

If you are going to use the filling in a classic cherry pie or as a sauce on top of ice cream, I would not recommend freezing, since in these cases, you’ll want the smoothest texture possible.

Pair Cherry Pie Filling With

Don’t limit this filling to just dessert. It enhances some of my favorite breakfast items too:

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Pie, a breakfast treat, cake filling, turnovers, or straight from the jar.

However you eat this cherry pie filling, it’s a taste of sweet summertime!

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Make Pie Filling with Frozen Cherries?

Frozen cherries are an excellent way to make this recipe year-round. Simply add your frozen cherries (be sure they are pitted and don’t have stems), then cook them on the stove as directed, adding a few extra minutes to the cook time.

How Do I Make Cherry Pie Filling Taste Better?

Great-tasting cherry pie filling starts first and foremost with the quality of your cherries. Be sure they are ripe and in-season (or were frozen during peak season). To brighten up the filling, be sure to add a little lemon juice. Pure extracts, like vanilla extra and almond extra, as well as cherry liqueur, also enhance the flavor of cherries.

What Spices Go with Cherries?

Cherries pair well with warm baking spices, like cinnamon, all-spice, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Add a little of any of these to your pie filling for a fun twist.

  • 4 cups whole pitted fresh sweet cherries about 2 pounds with pits or 1 1/2 pounds pitted or frozen, thawed pitted cherries
  • 1/2 cup honey plus additional to taste (if using tart cherries, you may need to add a bit more)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract optional or substitute 1/4 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

  • Place cherries into a large saucepan. Add 1/2 cup honey, lemon juice, cornstarch, and almond extract (if using), then stir to coat. Turn on the heat to medium.

  • Cook the filling, stirring often, until glossy and thickened, about 5 – 10 minutes. Very carefully so as not to burn your tongue, taste the mixture. If you desire additional sweetness, add more honey a few teaspoons at a time. Remove pan from the heat and let the filling cool completely. Transfer to a storage jar.

  • TO STORE. This cherry pie filling will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.
  • TO FREEZE. Because it is made with honey, it does congeal somewhat when frozen and thawed. I found it worked best to let the frozen filling thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then warm it in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, to smooth it out a little.

Serving: 0.25cup (generous)Calories: 128kcalCarbohydrates: 33gProtein: 1gCholesterol: 44mgFiber: 2gSugar: 27g

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