Fresh Cherry Dessert Sauce

fresh cherry dessert sauce on ice cream

Fresh Cherry Dessert Sauce for ice cream, cheesecake, and more ~ no cans, no jars, nothing frozen ~ just Mother Nature’s finest, and it takes just minutes to make (ok, you have to pit the cherries, but, come on, that’s fun!)  Spoon it over a scoop of ice cream, use it to top your best homemade cheesecake, or just eat it all by itself with a spoon.

Fresh cherry sauce on vanilla ice cream

Cherry sauce is a simple cooked sauce made with fresh pitted cherries, a little sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch. The result is fruit that has gone from fresh and delicious to va-va-VOOM.

It’s that time of year and I’m getting dizzy from all the fresh fruit tumbling into season ~ I recently got a shipment of gorgeous cherries from the NorthWest Cherry Growers, they send me cherries every year right about now which immediately puts me into cherry overdrive. While the California cherry season is just finishing up, the Northwest is just getting started ~ how lucky are we that this great country of ours has such diverse growing regions?

Fresh cherry sauce in a jar

I think this is a good starter cherry recipe because it’s so easy and so versatile. Basically you can turn any dessert into a celebration of summer with a few spoonfuls of this luscious sauce. And I’ve said this before but lightly cooking fruit brings out such intense flavor, this sauce is like fresh cherries on steroids.

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How to make fresh cherry dessert sauce (it takes about 10 minutes):

  • You’ll need a couple of pounds of fresh pitted cherries
  • and a large saucepan

Put the cherries in the pan along with a little water and some sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring the mixture up to a boil.

Once the cherries have started to release their juices and break down just a little bit, you’ll add a little cornstarch and lemon juice. The sauce will thicken into a glossy syrup almost instantly. If for any reason your sauce doesn’t thicken, add more cornstarch.

Use it immediately, or cool it down and refrigerate for later.

How to make fresh cherry dessert sauce without cornstarch ~

  • The best substitute for cornstarch in a cherry sauce is arrowroot flour, used in the same manner as the cornstarch. This will give you the same glossy finish to your sauce.
  • Flour is not a good choice because it can make your sauce matte and gummy.

a bowl of pitted cherries

Fresh cherries desserts have always been the height of luxury, and that’s because each and every cherry has to be pitted before it can be used. Pitting cherries can be enjoyable or it can be laborious, depending on your frame of mind. If you’ve got the right attitude you can make family fun out of it.

pitting fresh cherries with a cherry pitter

How to pit cherries like a pro ~

  • As long as there have been cherries there have been people dreaming up ways to pit them. Your best bet is to buy an inexpensive cherry pitter. On second thought, buy more than one so you can have help and make super quick work of the job. It’s a simple gadget that does the trick quickly and easily. Here’s a link to the one I use and recommend.
  • If you do a lot of cherry pitting for jams, preserves, and pies, you might want to consider this cherry pitter, it’s even quicker than the hand-held model.
  • Tip: cherry pitting is messy, do it outside if possible, or over the kitchen sink, and don’t wear your favorite white t-shirt!

cooking fresh cherry sauce

Variations on this cherry dessert sauce ~

  • Make it sugar free with your favorite alternative sweetener, or leave out the sugar entirely, cherries are pretty sweet on their own.
  • Spike it with a shot of brandy, Amaretto, or cherry liqueur.
  • Double the cornstarch for a cherry pie filling, or use Instant Clearjel thickener.
  • Use frozen cherries.
  • Use unsweetened canned or jarred cherries using their juice in place of the water.
  • Use sour cherries with more sugar to taste.

a jar of fresh cherry dessert sauce

I love to bottle my cherries in a large Weck jar for storage. This recipe isn’t meant for canning, but it will last a couple of weeks in the fridge. If your house is anything like mine though, it won’t last that long.

How to use your homemade cherry sauce ~

This is where it gets fun!

A bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with cherry sauce.


fresh cherry dessert sauce on ice cream
4 from 24 votes

Fresh Cherry Sauce

A quick and easy fresh cherry dessert sauce for ice cream, cheesecake, pound cake, or just by itself.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Author Sue Moran


  • 2 lbs fresh pitted cherries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar more if you like it sweeter
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp almond or vanilla extract optional


  • Put the cherries, water, and sugar in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a full boil over medium high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook for a few minutes while the cherries start to release their juices.
  • Stir the cornstarch together with the lemon juice and add to the pan. Continue to stir and cook until the sauce has thickened and is glossy, this will only take a minute or two. Remove from the heat and stir in the extract.
  • Let the sauce cool, then put into jars or an airtight container and refrigerate until needed. You can use it cold, room temperature, or warmed up.
  • Makes 1 and 1/2 quarts.

Cook's notes

If for any reason your sauce doesn't thicken up enough, add more dissolved cornstarch and heat back to a boil.
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

Still craving cherries?


Whitefish with Cherry Salsa

Serve your grilled fish or shrimp with a killer delicious spicy cherry salsa!

whitefish fillets topped with cherry salsa on a baking sheet with lemons


Sour Cherry Almond Bars

Cherry and almond are a match made in heaven.

cherry almond bars, sliced


Cherry Lemonade Popsicles 

A whole other way to enjoy fresh cherries!

Cherry Lemonade Bars --- one of the joys of summer! |

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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    July 8, 2021 at 6:10 am

    5 stars
    So good on bbq ribs!

  • Reply
    January 22, 2021 at 3:58 pm

    5 stars
    Amazing! I just made it right now for a chocolate pound cake & Italian cream trifle. But I used frozen cherries instead of fresh….it’s snowing right now lol.
    Thank you for your delicious recipe!

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      January 22, 2021 at 5:35 pm

      I love the thought of making cherry sauce while it snows!

  • Reply
    August 20, 2020 at 11:29 am

    5 stars
    I make this recipe all the time, but have only used fresh cherries. I’ll be trying frozen soon. I finally used it as a “dessert” sauce the last time. I poured it over my husband’s chocolate ice cream. He loved it!! I usually have it for breakfast over yogurt with slivered almonds on top. I save the juice to make fresh cherry sodas by just adding club soda to it.

  • Reply
    July 3, 2020 at 9:24 am

    Can this recipe be canned in a hot water bath or pressure cooker for long-term storage?

  • Reply
    July 25, 2019 at 9:29 am

    I love cherries and can’t wait to try your recipe. I just recently froze a few bags of fresh pitted cherries, should I defrost them before making your recipe?

    • Reply
      July 25, 2019 at 9:38 am

      You can do it either way, but in this case it might be easier to defrost them. Keep any juices that accumulate. You could also just put the frozen berries in the sauce pan and heat more gently to defrost them first.

  • Reply
    July 24, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    How lovely. Our cherry season is very short – more of a Christmas treat and they never get really down in price so they get eaten rather than cooked. I use frozen cherries (which are imported) for cooking and they are a good product too.
    Cherry sauce or syrup makes anything into a 5 star dish!! Not keen on using Strawberries or Cherries for jam as they lose their lovely fresh flavour and become quite bland. For me anyway!

    • Reply
      July 24, 2019 at 6:34 pm

      Yes, I think maybe most people would make this with frozen cherries, so much more practical 🙂

  • Reply
    July 24, 2019 at 12:12 pm

    I use a plastic straw…. a heavy not disposable straw……And just stick it in the stem end and push the pit through. Easy and cheap and most of us have at least a few in our house.
    Love cherries!!! Have bags in my frig right now…2 bags of big black bings and 2 bags Ranier.

    • Reply
      July 24, 2019 at 1:03 pm

      Well that sounds simple enough!

  • Reply
    Phyllis Bergst
    July 24, 2019 at 9:56 am

    Will be making this Saturday after a visit to my farmer’s market. How long can you store in refirgerator?

    • Reply
      July 24, 2019 at 10:29 am

      A pretty good while, I’ve had mine for a week and it’s still fine. I bet you could also freeze it.

  • Reply
    John / Kitchen Riffs
    July 24, 2019 at 7:38 am

    I’m always up for some va-va-VOOM in my life, so this sauce is for me! 🙂 Looks really wonderful — thanks.

    • Reply
      July 24, 2019 at 7:46 am

      Don’t we all 😉

  • Reply
    July 24, 2019 at 6:15 am

    LOVE cherries…this sauce is so versatile. I love the idea of giving it a spike with brandy, then pouring it warm over vanilla ice cream. YUM.

    • Reply
      July 24, 2019 at 7:34 am

      It can turn a bowl of yogurt into a five star dessert!

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