This homemade cherry pie filling has the perfect balance between sweet and tart flavors and is ready in 10 minutes! It's made with fresh or frozen cherries and thickened with cornstarch until it's glossy and smooth. Recipe adjustments are included for sweet or sour cherries.
Homemade cherry pie filling is an incredibly easy recipe that tastes so much better than the store-bought canned version! It's a thick, luscious pie filling that's full of cherry flavor and perfectly balanced with sweet and tart flavors. If you're looking for a thinner version that can be used as a sauce, try my easy cherry sauce recipe.
What makes this the best cherry pie filling is it's made with just four ingredients and is ready in 10 minutes! Simply add pitted cherries, sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice to a pot and boil until thickened and silky in texture.
Once cooled, you have a delicious cherry pie filling that's ready to be added to any pie crust! You can store leftover filling in the fridge for up to 3 days or you can use it in various desserts such as cherry crisps, cherry cobblers, cherry tarts, crostatas, and galettes!
- Start with pitted cherries, fresh or frozen. Use a cherry pitter with a splatter shield to easily remove cherry pits while preventing red stains in your kitchen. Be sure to watch as each pit is removed so there isn't any remaining.
- Next create a cornstarch slurry, which is used to thicken the pie filling. Mix the cornstarch and water together and set it aside.
- Heat a large pot over medium-high heat and add the cornstarch slurry, cherries, sugar, and lemon juice. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.
- Once the pie filling thickens and the cherries have softened, reduce the heat and taste. As cherries can vary in sweetness and tartness, adjust with more sugar or lemon juice. Sour cherries may need more sugar and sweet cherries may need more lemon juice. Add the optional vanilla or almond extract at this point and gently fold in.
- Wait for the filling to come to room temperature before filling your pie crust as it can melt the crust.
Ways to use cherry pie filling
If you're making this pie filling for the holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, you can add spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and allspice for a delicious, festive twist!
Cherry Pie Filling
- 6 cups pitted cherries - fresh or frozen; about 2 lbs
- ½ to ¾ cup sugar - start with less and adjust
- ¼ cup water - double the amount for fresh cherries
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice - freshly squeeze
- ½ teaspoon vanilla or almond extract - (optional)
- Cornstarch slurry: In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and water. If using fresh cherries, double the amount of water listed in the recipe as they release less water compared to frozen cherries. Set aside.¼ cup cornstarch, ¼ cup water
- Cook cherries: Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the pitted cherries, sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch slurry. Bring to a boil, stirring to avoid burning.6 cups pitted cherries, ½ to ¾ cup sugar, 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- Taste: Once the sauce thickens and cherries have softened, reduce the heat and taste. As cherries vary in flavor, adjust with more lemon juice or sugar as needed. Sour cherries may need more sugar and sweet cherries may need more lemon juice. Add the vanilla or almond extract at this point, if using. Avoid over-stirring to keep the cherries intact.½ teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
- Fill pie or serve: Once cooled, fill your pie crust according to the directions or serve with desserts. Store leftover pie filling in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
✎ Recipe Notes
- Storing - To store, keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. It will become thicker once cold. Reheat in the microwave or the stovetop to get a glossy finish again.
- Type of cherries - You can use sweet or sour cherries for this recipe. If using sour cherries, increase the amount of sugar to balance out the tart flavors. If using sweet cherries, increase the amount of lemon juice to balance the sweetness. Keep in mind that fresh cherries release less liquid than frozen cherries, which is why we recommend adding more water for fresh cherries.
*Nutritional information is an estimate, calculated using online tools.
Pie filling can be runny if not enough cornstarch is used. Another reason can be that cherries release more juice over time. To thicken, mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water and re-boil with the cherry filling. Start with less cornstarch and add more as needed.
Various spices can be added during the holiday season, such as cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and allspice. It makes a great pie filling for Thanksgiving or Christmas!
Yes you can add frozen cherries directly to the pot along with the other ingredients. It will take longer to boil but I've had great success with it.