Cherry-Based Sauces and Their Preparation

Cherry sauce, a delightful condiment, can elevate both sweet and savory dishes with its rich and versatile flavor profile.

Whether you’re looking to add a touch of sweetness to meat dishes or enhance the taste of desserts, learning how to prepare cherry sauce is an essential skill for your culinary repertoire.

With its simple ingredients and straightforward preparation process, cherry sauce can be made with either fresh or frozen cherries, ensuring it can be enjoyed year-round.

Fresh cherries being washed, pitted, and simmered with sugar and spices in a saucepan. The thickened, glossy sauce is then strained and cooled

When preparing cherry sauce, the balance of sweetness and tartness is key.

By adjusting the quantity of sugar and lemon juice, you can tailor the sauce to your palate or complement the flavors of the dish you’re serving it with.

The thickening agent, often cornstarch or gelatin, is mixed with water to create a slurry that ensures a smooth consistency without altering the taste of the sauce.

The process typically involves simmering the ingredients together, which not only thickens the sauce but also allows the flavors to meld beautifully.

Types of Cherry Sauces

In the realm of cherry sauces, your choices span from sweet dessert toppings to robust savory accompaniments.

Selecting the right type of cherry and preparation method can greatly influence the flavor and application of the sauce.

Dessert Cherry Sauces

Dessert sauces like Easy Cherry Sauce and Cherry Compote often use sugar, and lemon juice to accentuate the natural sweetness of cherries.

You can prepare an easy cherry sauce by cooking sweet cherries, typically Bing cherries, down with sugar until they form a syrupy texture ideal for drizzling over desserts.

  • Cherry Pie Filling: Unlike a compote, which may retain whole fruit pieces, cherry pie filling is usually thickened to hold its shape in the crust and often made with sour cherries for a balanced tartness.

Savory Cherry Sauces

For savory applications, the sauce may include ingredients like balsamic vinegar or mustard to complement meats and other savory dishes.

  • Cherry Barbecue Sauce: This robust sauce may combine sweet cherries with tangy elements and spices, perfect for grilling.
  • Cherry Reduction: A sauce that pairs well with duck or pork, consisting of reduced cherry juice often infused with aromatic herbs.

Specialty Dietary Cherry Sauces

Your dietary preferences don’t have to limit your enjoyment of cherry sauces.

  • Vegan Cherry Sauce: You can create a delicious cherry sauce without any animal products, using natural thickeners like cornstarch instead of traditional butter.
  • Gluten-Free Cherry Sauce: Ensuring your sauce is gluten-free might involve selecting a gluten-free thickener and verifying all other ingredients are safe for those with gluten sensitivities.

Selection and Preparation of Cherries

When preparing cherry-based sauces, the quality of your cherries is paramount. You need to know how to select the right type of cherries and prepare them properly for your recipe.

Pitting and Chopping Cherries

For any cherry sauce, you’ll start by pitting your cherries.

You can use a cherry pitter to remove the pits efficiently without much waste.

After pitting, chop the cherries if your recipe calls for it.

Smaller pieces will cook down faster and create a more consistent texture in the sauce.

Using Fresh Versus Frozen Cherries

Fresh cherries are ideal for sauces when they are in season. They offer bright flavor and the best texture.

However, frozen cherries can be used as a convenient, year-round alternative.

Thaw your frozen cherries before using them, and note that they may release more water when cooked, which can slightly alter the consistency of your sauce.

Type of CherryPreparation NeededNotes
FreshPit and chopBest in season, bright flavor
FrozenThaw, then pit and chopMay release more water when cooked

Storage of Cherries

If you have leftover cherries after making your sauce, store them properly to maintain their quality.

Keep fresh cherries in a Tupperware container in the refrigerator to extend their freshness for up to a week.

If you want to store them for a longer period, freeze the pitted cherries in a single layer on a baking sheet before transferring them to a freezer bag, keeping them in the freezer where they can last for several months.

Canned cherries are also an option, especially when you require a consistent level of firmness and sweetness.

They are already pitted and can be stored in your pantry until you’re ready to use them; just remember to drain them well before adding to your sauce.

Sauce Preparation Basics

A pot simmers on a stovetop, filled with red cherries and sugar. A wooden spoon stirs the mixture as steam rises

Creating cherry-based sauces involves understanding the precise ingredient ratios, mastering various cooking techniques, and achieving the desired texture and consistency. These are the pillars that ensure your sauce enhances the flavors of your dishes effectively.

Ingredient Ratios

When you prepare a cherry sauce, start by ensuring the correct balance of the core ingredients:

  • Cherries: The main component, either fresh or frozen, should be properly measured, usually starting with a baseline of about 2 cups.
  • Sweeteners: Granulated sugar is typical, and the amount varies depending on the cherries’ tartness, but begin with 1/4 to 1/2 cup.
  • Thickeners: Cornstarch is a common thickener, and a standard ratio is 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to 1 cup of liquid.
  • Liquids: Water is often added, typically 1/2 cup for 2 cups of cherries.
  • Acidity: A splash of lemon juice, about 1 tablespoon, can balance the sweetness.
  • Seasonings: A pinch of salt can enhance the flavors.

Cooking Techniques

To make the sauce, use a medium saucepan that provides even heat distribution.

  1. Combine Ingredients: Mix your cherries, sugar, and water on medium heat.
  2. Dissolve Sugar: Stir until the sugar fully dissolves.
  3. Thicken Sauce: Add the cornstarch-water slurry to the saucepan and cook until the sauce begins to thicken, which usually takes a few minutes.
  4. Final Touches: Finish with a small amount of butter for a glossy sheen and salt for flavor balance.

Remember to keep a watchful eye during cook time to prevent burning and ensure flavor development.

Texture and Consistency

The key to your sauce’s texture lies in the management of heat and incorporation of the thickening agent.

  • Stirring: Regular stirring prevents lumps from forming and burning on the bottom of the pan.
  • Simmering: After the sauce begins to thicken, reduce the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  • Cooling: Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely, as the sauce will continue to thicken upon cooling.

The total time for preparing the sauce often ranges from 15 to 20 minutes, with prep time taking around 5 minutes and cook time about 10 minutes. Adjust the amount of cornstarch depending on whether you desire a thicker or thinner consistency.

Recipe Specifics

Crafting the perfect cherry sauce involves choosing the right ingredients and cooking methods to complement the intended dish.

Whether you’re aiming to enhance a dessert or a savory plate, homemade cherry sauce can elevate your meal.

Cherry Sauce for Desserts

To create a cherry sauce for desserts such as pie, pancakes, ice cream, waffles, cheesecake, pound cake, pudding, panna cotta, or chocolate cake, start with fresh or frozen cherries.

For a smooth texture, puree the cherries and strain the mixture to remove any skin or chunks.

  • Ingredients:
    • 2 cups cherries, pitted
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • Juice from 1 lemon
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract or almond extract (optional)
  • Method:
    1. Combine cherries, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat.
    2. Cook until cherries soften and release juices, about 5-7 minutes.
    3. For thicker sauce, mix 1 tbsp cornstarch with 2 tbsp water and add to the sauce, cooking until thickened.
    4. Remove from heat, add extract if desired, and cool before serving over your dessert.


  • For extra gloss, finish off the sauce by stirring in a small pat of butter until melted.
  • Serving size is approximately 1/4 cup of sauce per portion, adding delightful flavor and minimal calories.

Cherry Sauce for Savory Dishes

For savory applications, cherry sauce pairs wonderfully with meats like chicken, pork, ham, lamb, or duck. The sauce typically combines cherries with ingredients like red wine, balsamic vinegar, or savory spices to achieve a balance of sweetness and acidity.

  • Ingredients:
    • 2 cups cherries, pitted
    • 1/4 cup red wine or balsamic vinegar
    • 2 tbsp honey or brown sugar
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • A sprig of rosemary or thyme (optional)
  • Method:
    1. In a pan, combine cherries with wine or vinegar, and honey or sugar.
    2. Bring to a simmer, adding salt, pepper, and herbs.
    3. Cook until the sauce reduces by half, about 10 minutes.
    4. Serve warm over your chosen protein.


  • The savory cherry sauce should coat the back of a spoon. Adjust thickness with a cornstarch slurry if needed.
  • Consider deglazing the pan with sauce after cooking meats to incorporate the flavorful fond into the sauce.

Quick and Easy Cherry Sauces

When time is of the essence, a quick and easy cherry sauce can be made. These simplified recipes are perfect for a fruity topping on scones, muffins, or as an addition to a cherry crumble.

  • Ingredients:
    • 2 cups cherries, pitted
    • 1/4 cup sugar or to taste
    • 1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water
  • Method:
    1. Heat cherries and sugar in a pan until the sugar dissolves and cherries release their juice.
    2. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and boil until the sauce thickens, about 1-2 minutes.
    3. Cool slightly before serving over your dessert of choice.


  • To maintain the fruit’s integrity, avoid overcooking the cherries.
  • Personalize the sauce by adding a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg for a warm spice note.

Serving and Pairing Ideas

Cherry-based sauces bring a vibrant burst of flavor that complements various dishes. Here are specific ways you can pair these sauces to elevate your culinary creations.

A chef pours cherry sauce over grilled pork, served with a side of roasted vegetables and a glass of red wine


Cherry sauces are a terrific addition to desserts where their tartness can balance the sweetness:

  • Pies & Cheesecakes: Drizzle cherry sauce over a classic cheesecake or a slice of pie to add a fruit-forward twist.
  • Ice Cream & Waffles: Top vanilla ice cream or freshly baked waffles with a spoonful of warm cherry sauce.
  • Crepes: Fill crepes with cherry sauce and cream for a decadent treat.

Breakfast Items

Amplify your breakfast items with a touch of cherry sauce to start your day with a smile:

  • Pancakes: Pour cherry sauce atop a stack of pancakes as an alternative to maple syrup.
  • Muffins & Scones: Incorporate cherry sauce into your dough before baking, or use it as a glaze for a sweet, tangy finish.

Meat Pairings

Cherry sauce’s sweetness and acidity can enhance the flavors of various meats:

  • Chicken & Pork: A cherry glaze pairs wonderfully with roasted chicken or pork, balancing the savory taste with a hint of cherry sweetness.
  • Ham & Lamb: Brush a layer of cherry sauce on ham or lamb during the last minutes of cooking for a caramelized crust.
  • Duck: Serve duck with a side of cherry sauce or glaze to complement its rich flavor.

Storage and Preservation

Cherry-based sauces in jars lined on shelves, surrounded by fresh cherries and cooking utensils

Proper storage is crucial for maintaining the quality and safety of cherry-based sauces. The method you choose—refrigeration, freezing, or canning—depends on how long you intend to keep the sauce.


Your cherry-based sauce should be stored in the refrigerator if you plan to use it within 3-4 days. Place the sauce in a Tupperware container or any airtight container to preserve its freshness. Ensure your refrigerator is set at or below 40°F (4°C) to prevent bacterial growth.


For longer storage, freezing is an excellent option. Cool the sauce thoroughly before transferring it to a freezer-safe container or resealable bag. This method can extend the life of your sauce for several months. To avoid freezer burn, make sure all air is expelled from the bag or the container is sealed tightly.


Canning cherry-based sauce allows for shelf-stable storage without the need for refrigeration or freezing. After preparing the sauce, use a water bath canning method to preserve it. Ensure you have sterilized canning jars and follow specific canning guidelines for acidic foods to ensure the sauce remains safe to consume.

Helpful Tips and Tricks

A chef stirs a bubbling pot of cherry-based sauce, adding sugar and spices. A bowl of fresh cherries sits nearby, ready to be pitted and added to the mixture

When preparing cherry-based sauces, the right techniques can dramatically improve your results. Pay close attention to the methods of pitting cherries, adjusting the sweetness, and achieving the perfect texture to elevate your sauce.

Cherry Pitting

To ensure a smooth preparation process, invest in a cherry pitter to efficiently remove pits. If you don’t have one, a sturdy straw or a paperclip can also do the job—just be prepared for a bit more effort and a slightly messier kitchen.

  • Tip: To avoid cherry juice splatters, pit cherries in a bowl inside the sink.

Adjusting Sweetness Levels

Cherry sauces should have a balanced flavor profile. Start with less sugar and add more to taste. You can also incorporate lemon juice to add brightness and counteract overly sweet notes.

  • Measurements to Start (for 2 cups of cherries):
    • Sugar: Begin with 2 tablespoons
    • Lemon Juice: 1 tablespoon

Creating the Perfect Texture

The texture of your sauce hinges on proper cooking time and the use of cornstarch as a thickening agent. After combining all ingredients, cook your sauce over medium heat until it reaches a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.

IngredientInitial Cook TimeAdditional Time For Thickening
Water & Juices5 minutes3-5 minutes (with cornstarch)
  • Stir regularly to prevent sticking and examine the sauce consistency. It should coat the back of a spoon when ready.

Frequently Asked Questions

A bowl of fresh cherries, a cutting board, a knife, and a pot simmering on the stove with cherry sauce ingredients

In this section, you’ll find detailed answers to some of the most common queries about preparing cherry-based sauces, helping to elevate your dishes with their unique flavors.

How do you make a simple cherry sauce?

For a simple cherry sauce, you need to pit fresh cherries and simmer them with sugar and a bit of lemon juice until the cherries soften and the mixture thickens. It’s an easy process that yields a versatile sauce.

What are the best types of cherries to use for a savory sauce?

Sour cherries, like Montmorency, are excellent for savory sauces due to their tartness. However, if you prefer a milder sauce, sweet varieties like Bing or Rainier can also be used but might require adjusting the sugar content in the recipe.

What are the steps to create a cherry reduction sauce for pork?

To create a cherry reduction sauce for pork, start by cooking pitted cherries in a pan with a splash of balsamic vinegar and broth until the fruits break down. Add a touch of honey or sugar, then reduce the sauce until it thickens to a glaze consistency that pairs perfectly with pork.

Can you provide a recipe for a cherry sauce suitable for pairing with chicken?

For a chicken-compatible cherry sauce, simmer pitted cherries with red wine, chicken broth, rosemary, and a spoonful of sugar. Cook until the cherries are tender and the liquid reduces to a sauce consistency. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper before serving.

Which ingredients are essential for making a traditional cherry sauce?

A traditional cherry sauce typically includes fresh or frozen cherries, sugar, water, and cornstarch to thicken. Lemon juice is often added for a tart contrast, while spices like cinnamon or vanilla can be infused for additional flavor complexity.

What are some tips for matching cherry sauce with different types of meats?

When matching cherry sauce with meat, consider the natural flavors of the meat.

For example, a tart cherry sauce with a balsamic reduction complements the rich flavors of duck. Meanwhile, a sweeter, lightly spiced cherry sauce can bring out the best in milder meats like pork or chicken.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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