Fresh Cherry Sauce

Who else loves fresh cherries? Cherry season is one of my favorite times of the year and what better way to hold on to such a special time of year than to make a flavorful cherry sauce?!

This Fresh Cherry Sauce is a yummy way to use fresh cherries. Spoon over ice cream, cake, waffles and more! #cherrysaucerecipe #freshcherryrecipes #desserttoppings


Fresh Cherry Sauce is a delicious topping for desserts like ice cream sundaes, poundcake, and more. A great way to use fresh cherries! Here are two things you might not know about me.

ONE. Cherry season means I spend way too much money at the store on cherries because cherry season is short and I try to get in as many as I can, while I can.

TWO. I also love 80’s music. So I can’t eat cherries or make a cherry recipe without singing Warrant’s Cherry Pie in my head. Over. And over. And over again.

Despite my cherry-gobbling tendencies, I do end up making quite a few fresh cherry recipes while humming that 80s tune, and this happens to be one of my favorites.

This Fresh Cherry Sauce is a yummy way to use fresh cherries. Spoon over ice cream, cake, waffles and more! #cherrysaucerecipe #freshcherryrecipes #desserttoppings

Why You’ll Love Fresh Cherry Sauce

If you aren’t a cherry lover, this sauce will help change your opinion about them.

  • Dial-Up Desserts Dessert is delicious on its own, but adding cherry sauce to just about anything sweet really takes it up a notch.
  • Savory – This sauce easily swings to the savory with the addition of a few herbs like rosemary or thyme. Think pork, chicken, or even duck!
  • Wow-Factor – In less than 30 minutes, you can create a homemade sauce that will know your guests or your family’s socks right off.

What is Fresh Cherry Sauce?

This simply sweetened sauce is balanced with the tart taste of lemon juice and sea salt, thickened with cornstarch, and can be made more adult with the addition of a citrus flavor liqueur or brandy.

Cherry sauce is typically considered a topping for desserts. I love adding this to my ice cream sundaes, though you could also serve it with other desserts, like vanilla pound cake.

By adding some sprigs of fresh herbs, this sweet sauce quickly leans toward the savory side of things. It is perfect for topping pork chops, duck breast, or even chicken!

This Fresh Cherry Sauce is a yummy way to use fresh cherries. Spoon over ice cream, cake, waffles and more! #cherrysaucerecipe #freshcherryrecipes #desserttoppings

Let’s Talk Fresh Cherries

Cherries are quite the treat. The fresh varieties are only available once a year and in the US that window is typically in June. Because they are a relatively difficult tree to care for and because they only grow in certain climates, adds to their allure.

This fruit is great for a whole host of recipes from sauces, to baked goods, to slaws. And that doesn’t even count enjoying them as is!

Types of Cherries:

  • Bing Cherries – These are the ones you will see most often and have a deep crimson hue. Flavorwise they are firm, juicy, and sweet. Shaped like a heart, you will find these fresh in the groceries stores in the summer and in the frozen food aisle all year long.
  • Ranier Cherries – With quite possibly the shortest growing season of them all, these red and yellow cherries have thin skin and a creamy interior. They are most often the sweetest and tend to be quite pricey. Just ask my sister, she throws financial caution to the wind when they go into season.
  • Chelan Cherries – Aka black cherries, these are the ones that will go into season first. Known for their dark skin and sweet mild cherry flavor.
  • Sour Cherries – Too many varieties here to go into, but Montmorency, Morello, and Balaton are some of the names you will see. Sour cherries are typically smaller in size and vary from sweet and tart to pucker-inducing.
  • Evans Cherries– We’ve recently had a reader use Evans cherries and these, being smaller and having less water content, lend to a bright poppy color, but also less cook time. They are tart and perfect for baking.
This Fresh Cherry Sauce is a yummy way to use fresh cherries. Spoon over ice cream, cake, waffles and more! #cherrysaucerecipe #freshcherryrecipes #desserttoppings


You don’t need much to create this amazing Fresh Cherry Sauce recipe.

  • Fresh Cherries – Pictured in this recipe are Bing Cherries. Look for the ones with the darkest and deepest red color, those are likely the most ripe. Purchasing a cherry pitter will also help make pitting and stemming 3 cups of fresh cherries a breeze. Fresh is best but frozen will do in a pinch. Just be sure they are thawed completely.
  • Sugar – They might be sweet on their own, but the sugar will mix with the juices of the cherries to help create a rich sauce. It will also help brighten their natural sweetness and flavor.
  • Lemon Juice – I tend to have lemons laying around and prefer to use fresh lemon juice because it has a much brighter flavor than the bottled variety. Both however will work just fine.
  • Fine Sea Salt – The fine granules will dissolve easily in the sauce and help tone down the sweetness of the sauce so it isn’t cloying or too over-the-top sugary.
  • Cornstarch – This powder derived from corn kernels helps to thicken the sauce quickly and gives it a luxurious texture. If you want to make this cherry sauce recipe without cornstarch, you can substitute arrowroot in the same amount.
  • Grand Marnier or Brandy – Using either of these is absolutely optional, but wow they give this sauce some kick. The Grand Marnier will lend a slightly orange flavor while the brandy will give the sauce a different depth and sweetness. ***The alcohol will not have time to burn off, so this is not appropriate to serve to children, non-drinkers, or women who are pregnant.

How to Make Fresh Cherry Sauce

With a handful of ingredients and 15 minutes of stirring, you will be ready to sauce things up!

  1. Get everything into the saucepan. Everything goes into a pot all at once for ease. The type of saucepan is key because sugar tends to burn easily and quickly. Heavy-bottomed sauce pans hold heat well and hold even heat well which means you are less likely to get hot spots or burn things.
  2. Simmer & stir. Keep things moving around. This helps to get an even mix but also helps the heat activate the cornstarch which works to thicken the sauce.
  3. Take off the heat. The sauce is done!
  4. Optional: add the liquor. Friendly reminder, if you are doing this step, the alcohol will not burn off.

Variations on Fresh Cherry Sauce

Not too many options here, but there are few things you can do.

  • Type of Cherry – Try working with other varieties of cherries. Be mindful that sugar may need to be dialed up or dialed back based on what you are using. Have fun and let your taste buds guide you!
  • Alcohol – If you don’t have Grand Marnier floating around, you can try this recipe with Cointreau or any other type of triple sec (also orange flavored).
  • Thickening Agent – Arrowroot in the same measurement works just as well as cornstarch as this sauce’s thickener.

Storing & Freezing

Make-Ahead: You can make this recipe up to 3 days ahead of when you plan to serve it. Once cooked, allow it to come to room temperature and store it in an air-tight container.

Storing: Store the Fresh Cherry Sauce in an air-tight container for up to 3 days after it was made.

Re-heating: Put the sauce in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and baby sit it until gently warmed through. You can also warm it in the microwave until it is warm. Be careful not to overheat as the sugar can easily burn hands and roofs of mouths!

Freezing: Store the Fresh Cherry Sauce in an air-tight container, freezer-safe container for 4-6 months.

Questions About Fresh Cherry Sauce

What are the benefits of eating cherries?

Aside from sheer joy, cherries boast fiber, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. They are also relatively low in calories assuming you eat them in moderation and not pounds at a time.

Can I use canned cherries instead of fresh?

Canned cherries are great for a variety of uses especially baking! That said, I would not use them in this recipe. Fresh or frozen cherries will work best.

What is cherry sauce made of?

At its core, cherry sauce is made of fresh cherries cooked down with sugar and lemon juice until they are soft and swimmming aroud in their own goodness. I like to balance my fresh cherry sauce with a pinch of salt, cornstarch to ensure a velvety texture, and sometimes a little bit of booze for some kick.

You may like these other easy cherry recipes:

spoon of cherry jam

Sweet Cherry Jam Recipe

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or learning how to make homemade jam, this cherry jam recipe is easy and addictive. With canning instructions included you can whip up a batch and be enjoying a vanilla infused sweet cherry jam in 45 minutes.
See The Recipe!
Balsamic Cherry Ham Glaze is an easy ham glaze for your Christmas ham or any baked ham throughout the year. Tart cherries, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar lend bold flavors. #hamglaze #christmasham #hamrecipe

Balsamic Cherry Ham Glaze Recipe

Balsamic Cherry Ham Glaze is an easy ham glaze for your Christmas ham or any baked ham throughout the year. Tart cherries, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar lend bold flavors.
See The Recipe!

Tools for making Fresh Cherry Sauce:

Cherry Pitter– I used to think this was an excessive gadget I didn’t need. I was wrong.

Heavy Bottom Sauce Pan– this will be one of your most used kitchen tools. Having something that is heavy bottom will distribute heat better and prevent burning whether you are using an electric or gas range.

This Fresh Cherry Sauce is a yummy way to use fresh cherries. Spoon over ice cream, cake, waffles and more! #cherrysaucerecipe #freshcherryrecipes #desserttoppings
This Fresh Cherry Sauce is a yummy way to use fresh cherries. Spoon over ice cream, cake, waffles and more! #cherrysaucerecipe #freshcherryrecipes #desserttoppings

Fresh Cherry Sauce

4.38 from 37 votes
This Fresh Cherry Sauce is a yummy way to use fresh cherries. Spoon over ice cream, cake, waffles and more! 
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6



  • Heat the cherries, sugar, lemon juice, fine sea salt and cornstarch in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat.
  • Continue to simmer and stir until sauce starts to thicken and becomes sticky, this can vary greatly depending on the type of cherry and the water content. When the sauce is thick and sticks to the spoon, it is done. If it gets too thick, add a small amount of water or cherry liqueur to thin it out. Aim for at least 3 minutes to allow sugar to dissolve. This process can take 3-15 minutes.
  • Remove the cherry sauce from the heat.
  • If adding liqueur, stir in now.
  • If you try this recipe, make sure to come back and let us know how you enjoyed it in the comments or star ratings.


*You can also use frozen cherries, but it may take slightly longer to simmer down to a sticky sauce. **Two tablespoons arrowroot can be substituted for cornstarch. 
Depending on the type of cherry used and the power of your range, the cook time can vary from only 3 minutes to 15 minutes. 


Calories: 159 kcal, Carbohydrates: 38 g, Sodium: 49 mg, Potassium: 167 mg, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 33 g, Vitamin A: 50 IU, Vitamin C: 6.3 mg, Calcium: 10 mg, Iron: 0.3 mg
Author: Chef Jessica Anne
Calories: 159
Course: Dessert, Sauce
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cherry sauce, dessert topping, fresh cherry recipes
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
This Fresh Cherry Sauce is a yummy way to use fresh cherries. Spoon over ice cream, cake, waffles and more! #cherrysaucerecipe #freshcherryrecipes #desserttoppings
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Chef Jessica Anne Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal, Mashed and more!

Read More About Jessica

4.38 from 37 votes (25 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating

Questions and Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    Thank you! I found this recipe to work great — without the cornstarch. It thickened perfectly after ten minutes or so, then more so, after cooling.
    My friend will be very happy to receive this, as it was mentioned his favorite ice cream place no longer serves cherry topping.

    1. Hi Nancy! You can use a cherry pitter (small handheld device you can get at most grocery stores) or you can use a paring knife, cutting around the pit. They should come out pretty easy!

  2. 5 stars
    Okay, I’ve got to be honest, I’ve never made anything with cherries before! I love them, but I usually just eat them right out of the bag! I’m inspired, going to try this yummy sauce!

  3. 5 stars
    I’m obsessed with fresh cherries too and this sauce looks amazing! Such a beautiful color 🙂

  4. 5 stars
    I love cherries too but my husband loves them just as much as you do! if i could buy cherries all the time he would be the happiest man alive. lol but seriously, this cherry sauce sounds amazing! and i just made a pound cake and have vanilla ice cream in the freezer so what better to top it with than this yummy cherry sauce. bye, i’m running out to get some more cherries!

  5. 5 stars
    I LOVE cherry season! It is short and sweet. I am going to make this recipe next week for my moms birthday. thanks so much!!!