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Cherry Pie Filling Recipe ~ Never Buy the Canned Stuff Again!

Cherry Pie Filling Recipe ~ Never Buy the Canned Stuff Again!

Making foods from scratch gets easier the more you do it. This cherry pie filling is made with fresh or frozen cherries and is so sweet and delicious you’ll never want to go back to the canned stuff ever again!

If you use fresh cherries, you can use a cherry pitter, but a plain ole straw works fine too. Pit the cherries, then you can cut them in half or leave them whole if you like. Frozen cherries will be pitted already. Using frozen cherries is often more economical, and you can buy them all year, not just in season.

This cherry pie filling recipe is super easy to make and tastes delicious. 

Cherry Pie Filling

Cherry pie is an old time favorite – pretty much everyone loves it! However, you can also use homemade cherry filling in other desserts and to top breakfast foods such as pancakes, crepes and waffles. I list some ideas below. 

Use these step-by-step directions to make homemade cherry pie filling. This recipe tastes so much better than buying it in premade in cans. In addition to not having that tin taste, it will have less preservatives. Making it at home is easier than you may think.

After you pit the cherries, (if you use fresh cherries such as Bing cherries or Montmorency cherries) it takes just 2 minutes to prep and 10 minutes to cook. 

Recipe Ingredients

  • 4 cups cherries 
  • 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

Serves: 2 cups filling for one cherry pie

How to Make Cherry Pie Filling

  1. Wash and pit the cherries if using fresh cherries. If using frozen cherries, drain the juice.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine the cherries, water, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cherries soften.
  5. Stir in the sugar, arrowroot powder (or cornstarch), and salt.
  6. Cook about 2 minutes, stirring continuously until it is thickened.
  7. Remove from heat. If you are using it to fill a pie crust for a cherry pie recipe, you can remove the cherry filling from the heat and carefully pour it into a prepared pie crust. After that, add the top crust (if using) and put it in the oven to bake the pie.
  8. If you aren’t using it to bake in a dessert, allow cherry filling to cool. Transfer to glass jar or bowl. Cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days. 

PRO TIP: If the cherry filling is too runny, you can strain some of the cherry juice. Another option is to add a bit more arrowroot powder or cornstarch. However, note the cherry filling will thicken as it rests. Don’t drain too much juice or add too much cornstarch or arrowroot.

What to Make with Cherry Pie Filling

In addition to using it in a cherry pie recipe, there are many ways to use cherry filling. You can bake with it or use it as a cold for ice cream or a warm topping. It reheats well in the microwave or on the stovetop to top such foods as:

  • Crepes
  • Waffles
  • Fluffy pancakes
  • Cherry coffee cake
  • Black forest cake or tart
  • Cherry bars
  • Kolacky 
  • Use to top cheesecake or cherry cheesecake cupcakes
  • Cherry crisp
  • Cherry Danish


What is cherry filling made of?

Cherry filling is made from pitted fresh or frozen cherries. Many people use Montmorency cherries which are semi-sweet and semi-tart. You can also use Bing cherries which are a bit sweeter and easy to find in many grocery stores in the summer months. 

How long does cherry filling last?

Homemade cherry pie filling will last up to five days in the fridge. You can also freeze up to three months in the freezer. However, it won’t have the same consistency as when you use it fresh. It will be more runny.

How do you make cherry pie filling taste better?

Depending on the cherries, some cherry pie fillings can taste tart. You can add granulated sugar (regular white sugar) to the filling a teaspoon at a time. Be sure to mix gently and thoroughly. Allow the flavors to meld for a few minutes to be sure you don’t add too much sugar. 

Does cherry pie filling need to be cooked?

When making a cherry pie filling recipe, you cook the ingredients. It’s fine to eat after that. If you take it out of the refrigerator, it is okay to eat if you are topping waffles or desserts with it, without recooking. The same is true of canned pie filling. You don’t need to cook it. But if you are using the filling to make a cherry pie or other dessert that requires baking, then you should cook or bake it, depending on the recipe.

How do you make a cherry pie filling less runny?

When making cherry pie filling from scratch or using canned and it’s too runny, you can drain the excess juice. If you don’t want to strain the juice, simply add more cornstarch or arrowroot powder. Other options are to sprinkle in a small amount of tapioca pudding. Another option is to add lemon instant pudding which works well with fruit pie fillings.

Does cherry pie filling go bad?

When making homemade cherry pie filling, it will last up to five days covered in the refrigerator. If using canned and not homemade, refer to the expiration date. Once you open the can, you should transfer the leftover contents to another container and refrigerate. If freezing, it will last up to three months. Beware of freezer burn. Also, the consistency will change; it will be more mushy and runny. 

Homemade Pie Filling

I am now in the habit of baking all things from scratch. Why? I learned how premade bakery, desserts, and most all baked goods contain a lot of extra ingredients and preservatives, including palm oil.

We avoid palm oil in foods because my son has a palm oil allergy and palm oil intolerance. It’s easier to make my own desserts without palm oil because it’s very difficult to find them in stores.

While canned cherry filling will likely be okay for him, it contains corn syrup and loads of other ingredients. Making it at home with this simple recipe means I don’t need to rely on canned fillings.

I make a big batch and use it like I do strawberry compote. My family enjoys putting it on waffles and pancakes for a special weekend treat. Of course, I use it when making cherry pie, which includes a homemade pie crust. It’s amazing and a lot easier than you might think. 

Love all things cherry? Try this recipe for cherry preserves.

One way of enjoying cherries more affordably and year round is to buy bags of frozen cherries. They are in the grocery store freezer section, usually near the ice cream and frozen pies. You can also find organic frozen cherries at Costco and other stores. I buy them regularly and eat them as a snack when I want something sweet. 

Buying frozen cherries is an affordable way of enjoying cherries in dessert recipes as well. It’s also a way to make cherry filling in the off-season (which is in the colder months in the United States). 

If you try this homemade cherry pie filling, please leave a note in the Comments to let me know how it tasted and if it was easy to do. Did you use frozen or fresh cherries? How did you serve the filling? Did you make a cherry pie?

Love making pies? Try this recipe for walnut pie.

cherry pie filling

Cherry Pie Filling

Cherry pie filling is easy to make with this fast recipe. You can use fresh or frozen cherries. Using frozen cherries means you don't have to wait for cherry season; you can make it all year.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword cherry pie filling, cherry pie filling recipe, filling for cherry pie, recipe for cherry pie filling
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 2 cups


  • 4 cups cherries fresh, pitted or frozen drained
  • cups sugar
  • ¼ cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest


  • In a large saucepan, combine cherries, water, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
  • Bring cherry mixture to a boil.
  • Lower heat and cook an additional 6 - 8 minutes, until cherries soften.
  • Add in the sugar, arrowroot powder (or cornstarch), and salt. Stir.
  • Cook for 2 minutes. Stir continuously until it is thickened.
  • If using cherry pie filling to make a cherry pie (or other dessert), you can transfer the warm mixture into the pie crust to bake. Otherwise, cool before storing in airtight container in the refrigerator.


If the cherry pie filling is too runny, drain some liquid. Or you can add cornstarch or arrowroot powder a half teaspoon at a time.
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