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Fresh Sweet Cherry Sauce

I have been reveling in summer’s bounty of fresh fruit…blueberries, peaches, cherries, etc. I buy organic, and it’s not always as plentiful as it is right now. So, I’m taking advantage of all the beautiful organic cherries and making a Fresh Sweet Cherry Sauce.

Fresh Sweet Cherry Sauce poured over ice cream from

You know how much I love 10 minute Buttermilk Caramel Sauce and Chewy Hot Fudge Sauce. Homemade sauces are easy to make. They taste so much better than much of what you’d buy at the store.

The first time I made a Fresh Sweet Cherry Sauce, it was on a whim while I was vacationing with a friend in Big Sur.

First, OMG, Big Sur! Absolutely breathtaking! I don’t know why it took me so long to spend time exploring the coast of California. (I think it had something to do with my 70 hour work weeks.)

Cherries spilling out of a bowl for Fresh Sweet Cherry Sauce from

Sure, I went to California often enough, but those trips were generally for work or work related activities. Most of that work was pretty much centered around the LA area.

My team and I spent our time either visiting specific vendors and suppliers, going to fashion week, shopping stores for trends…You know, all the typical merchant and product development stuff.

So, going to a different part of  California…for fun…was a welcome treat. Actually, that description doesn’t do it justice. Not by a mile. It was a breathtaking and awe inspiring trip.

Top view of Fresh Sweet Cherry Sauce in a ball jar from

I won’t go into the details of my trip or this post will be 10,000 words long before I even get to talking about the cherry sauce. All I can say is, if you want a real break from the chaos of everyday life, Big Sur is a perfect choice.

Oh, and it might help to drop your phone (the highest stress day of the trip) and render it completely useless while you’re there so you can completely unplug. #prosandcons

Ladling Fresh Sweet Cherry Sauce from a ball jar from

We ate out some nights, and some nights we ate in. Big Sur isn’t teeming with restaurants and grocery stores at every corner. Actually, there are no “corners.” It’s just one really, really long road. So, it’s more than a quick trip to get anywhere. It’s a gorgeous trip, but a significant trip nonetheless.

A closeup ladling of Fresh Sweet Cherry Sauce from

So we made sure to stock up at a Whole Foods in Monterey before we headed down to the property where we would be staying. One of the things I picked up…was cherries.

We enjoyed the cherries fresh, but apparently, the novelty had worn off because soon, they were getting pushed aside for other things.

I was working in a fairly well equipped kitchen so I decided to make a sauce out of the cherries, one that we could use as easily for pancakes as we could for pork chops.

Fresh cherries halved in a bowl to make Fresh Sweet Cherry Sauce from

First up, was pitting the cherries. I didn’t have a cherry pitter then and I don’t have one at home either. I keep looking at them, but even though I have a large kitchen, I always think twice before buying a tool that I may not use often.

If you need to pit a lot of cherries, it’s a good idea to get one. Me? I’m still doing it by hand. I’ve tried all the hacks, but the easiest way for me is this…Use a paring knife to cut all the way around the cherry vertically through the stem end.

For extra safety, I keep the cherry on the cutting board and just roll it as I cut it, letting my knife stop when it hits the pit. I leave the cherry intact, but make sure I’ve cut all the cherries before moving on to the next step.

Fresh cherries halved and in a pot with lemon zest to make Fresh Sweet Cherry Sauce from

I didn’t have this option in Big Sur, but at home, I don some disposable gloves and then just pull the cherries apart with my thumbs and remove the pits.

This part goes very quickly. The cherries should pull apart fairly cleanly if you’ve made good cuts. Then just pop out the pits. You’ll be left with a bow full of pitted cherry halves.

I realize this might be a little tedious, and I’m not a huge fan of tedious work, but it really doesn’t take long. Consider it a moment of zen :) And if you can’t buy into the zen idea, then get a cherry pitter or buy a bag of frozen pitted cherries. Do what works for you.

Fresh cherry sauce to make Fresh Sweet Cherry Sauce from

Once you have your cherries pitted, there’s very little left to do. Time to put them in a sauce pan and add sugar and flavor.

At it’s most basic, you can really just use cherries, sugar, water and some cornstarch to thicken it. However, I love the addition of citrus, be it orange, lemon or lime.

When I made this sauce in Big Sur, I used a fresh orange. At home, I happened to have a lemon on hand, so I went with that.

Balsamic vinegar is a wonderful addition, but it has to be a good quality that’s been aged. Use the kind you would drizzle on fresh fruit, not one that is super acidic. It adds a mild tangy edge that’s as good on ice cream as it is on pork or chicken.

A closeup top view of Fresh Sweet Cherry Sauce in a ball jar with ladle from

You can also add a little extract, almond or vanilla work well here. You really can make it your own.

Then, there’s the thickener. I use cornstarch. The amount I use in the recipe works well for me and yields a nice sauce, that’s thick, but still has some fluidity.

A closeup ladling of Fresh Sweet Cherry Sauce from

I didn’t want a thick pie filling, I wanted a sauce. That’s one of the reasons you add the additional liquid. If you were making pie filling or my Sugar Cookie Cherry Cobbler, you wouldn’t need that extra liquid.

You can add more or less cornstarch if you want it more or less thick, keeping in mind that it will continue to thicken as it cools. The amount of cornstarch I added in the recipe worked perfectly for me.

It only takes a few minutes on the stove and you’re done. Don’t want to cook it too long or you’ll break down the cherries and they will lose too much texture. I like a little bite left to the cherries.

Just look at the deep, rich color that you get from this Fresh Sweet Cherry Sauce. I love it! Of course, it’s also chock full of fresh cherry flavor.

A closeup top angle of Fresh Sweet Cherry Sauce poured over ice cream from

Use this sauce on top of everything! It’s delicious on top of ice cream, cake, pancakes, waffles, pork chops or grilled chicken.

As you scoop up a ladle full of cherries, it’s clear that this isn’t a sauce that came out of a jar. I chose to top some vanilla ice cream with mine for a classic cherry vanilla combination. It was perfect!

There IS one thing that could have made it better, though…and that’s if I were enjoying it somewhere along…

A shoreline image of Big Sur Califonia from

Highway 1 :)

Fresh Sweet Cherry Sauce. An easy one pan sauce, made with fresh cherries and citrus. Delicious warm or cold on top of sweet or savory dishes!

Fresh Sweet Cherry Sauce

Fresh Sweet Cherry Sauce. An easy one pan sauce, made with fresh cherries and citrus. Delicious warm or cold on top of sweet or savory dishes!


For the sauce:

  • 2 cups pitted sweet cherry halves, (about 1 lb.)
  • 5 Tablespoons sugar
  • zest and juice from one lemon, orange or lime are also good!
  • 1/4 cup water
  • pinch salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

Optional additions, see notes:

  • generous splash of good quality, aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract


  1. Place cherries, sugar, lemon zest and juice, water and a pinch of salt into a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently for 1-2 minutes. You want to soften the cherries, but not over cook them and break them down. Taste and adjust for more sugar, if desired.
  2. Spoon some of the cherry juice from the pan into a small bowl and whisk it with the cornstarch until the cornstarch fully dissolves.
  3. Pour cornstarch mixture back into the pan and stir it into the cherry mixture. boil for another minute or until thickened.
  4. Serve warm, or allow to cool and store covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Sauce will thicken further upon cooling.
  5. See notes for optional additions.


*You can use orange or lime juice and zest instead of the lemon. I actually love it with orange. I just happened to have lemons on hand.

*If you choose to add the balsamic vinegar or the almond extract, stir it in after you remove it from the heat.

*If I'm making this to go over meat, like grilled pork chops, I will add more balsamic vinegar to the mixture. I like to use a good quality aged balsamic. Lesser qualities can be too acidic.

*You can also add almond extract. Use it sparingly so as not to over power the cherry flavor.

*The amount of cornstarch I use varies. For ice cream or savory applications, I use 2 teaspoons because I like a more fluid sauce. If I want a thicker sauce, I'll use 2 1/2 teaspoons or 1 Tablespoon. If you want it to be even thicker, like pie filling, you'll have to add more cornstarch and/or reduce/eliminate the water.

*You can use frozen sweet cherries in place of the fresh.

The Merchant Baker Copyright © 2017

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Saturday 19th of June 2021

Hi Ramona, Loved this recipe! I was looking for something special to top a store bought New York style Cheesecake. This did the trick and was so tasty as well as pretty. I did substitute the 1/4 cup of water with Amaretto though and it made the sauce very decadent!


Tuesday 22nd of June 2021

Hi Jane, I love Amaretto. That substitution is right up my alley. I bet it was delicious! Thanks for sharing :)


Tuesday 3rd of September 2019

Can this be frozen and thawed later?


Wednesday 4th of September 2019

Andrea, yes it can! I would freeze flat in a zip top freezer bag and then thaw in the refrigerator.


Wednesday 7th of August 2019

I’m a bit confused by “2 cups 1 pound” cherries. Does that mean 2 cups PLUS 1 pound? Or 2 cups (same as 1 pound)?


Wednesday 7th of August 2019

Sorry about the confusion, Anne. I revised the recipe to clarify that this is 2 cups of cherries or about 1 pound. Hope that makes helps!


Thursday 3rd of August 2017

Yummm! You speak my language!


Thursday 3rd of August 2017


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