Tangy, sweet and vibrant is the best way to describe this gorgeous fresh cherry sauce. Fresh, plump cherries at their best can be preserved for whenever you want them.

We love this cherry topping for a lovely baked cheesecake, and it’s so good over thick, fluffy pancakes too.

A spoon holding cherry sauce over a saucepan ful of it

With many names such as cherry sauce, cherry compote or cherry topping, this is basically fresh cherries cooked down with a little sugar and lemon juice until they’re soft and swimming in their own thick syrup.

Tools you’ll need

Before you can get started you need to pit the cherries but don’t worry, if you’re cherries are ripe, this is much easier than it sounds.

A white bowl filled with cherries
  • Cherry pitter: this tool is specifically made for pitting cherries and is very handy and makes for a mostly mess-free job.
  • A sharp knife: I actually find it just as easy to pit cherries using a sharp knife. Remove the stem, then cut down until you hit the pit, now roll the cherry as you cut all the way round the pit in a straight line. Twist it apart and pull out the pit. Your hands can get a little stained this way, so some food-safe latex gloves will help.
  • Heavy based saucepan: These are the only type of saucepans I have in my kitchen. They’re great for distributing heat evenly so that whatever is in them cooks evenly without burning. They’ll also last a lifetime and don’t need to be super expensive.
  • Preserving jars: If you’re going to use your cherry sauce within a week, then I love these Weck preserving jars. I prefer to freeze in bags or large ice block molds though so portions are more manageable and there’s no risk of glass cracking.

Ingredients in cherry sauce

All you need is 5 simple ingredients.

Ingredients for cherry sauce on a marble surface
  • Cherries (1): Choose ripe, dark cherries with smooth, tight skins for the best flavour.
  • Water (2): While not absolutely necessary, I like a good amount of syrup in my compote, so I always add a bit of water. The cherries will release their own natural juices as well so you can leave it out if you prefer.
  • Lemon juice (3): Lemon juice adds a slight tang.
  • Sugar (4): Just regular white granulated sugar. You could swap it for natural sweeteners like coconut sugar or rice malt syrup too. Even honey or maple syrup, though they will add their own flavour to the sauce too.
  • Cornflour / cornstarch (5): A little cornflour will help to thicken the syrup to whatever consistency you like whilst also keeping the sauce smooth and cherries plump. If you don’t want to use cornflour, skip the water, then simmer until it reduces to the consistency you want.

How to make it

Such a simple recipe, it takes just 15 minutes of cooking.

4 images showing steps of making cherry sauce in a saucepan
  1. Pit the cherries: See the directions above (photo 1).
  2. Combine the ingredients: Add the cherries, water, sugar and lemon juice to a saucepan (photo 2) and place over low to medium heat.
  3. Cook: Stir while it heat until the sugar dissolves, then let it come to a simmer (photo 3). Continue cooking at a simmer until it’s thick and syrupy and the cherries are soft.
  4. Add the cornflour: Mix the cornflour with a touch of water and pour it in as you’re stirring to thicken the syrup until it’s the consistency you like (photo 4).
A glass jar filled with cherry compote with a gold spoon in it. Sitting on a wooden board

How to alter the consistency

I like a good amount of syrup in this sauce but the consistency can be thinned or thickened as you like it. See my Blueberry Topping post for notes on how to do it.

How to store it

Store your batch of homemade cherry sauce in preserving jars in the fridge for up to a week.

This sauce can also be frozen. Use zip lock bags or large ice cube trays to freeze it in batches that are easily thawed and used up quickly. Once frozen, it will last up to 6 months.

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A gold spoon filled with cherry compote hovering over a jar full of it

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A glass jar filled with cherry compote with a gold spoon in it. Sitting on a wooden board.

Fresh Cherry Sauce (Cherry Compote)

5 from 1 vote
This fresh cherry sauce, also known as cherry compote, is quick and easy and perfect for topping everything from cheesecake to waffles to ice cream.

Ingredients

  • 550 g fresh cherries (1.2 pounds)
  • ¼ cup white granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (note 1)
  • 2-3 teaspoons cornflour (cornstarch)

Equipment

Instructions
 

  • In a medium saucepan, combine the cherries, water, lemon juice and sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn the heat down so the mixture is just simmering.
  • Simmer stirring every so often for about 10 minutes until the cherries have softened and the liquid has tripled.
  • Use a spoon to skim off froth as it’s cooking.
  • Make a slurry using the cornflour and 3 teaspoons of water. Slowly dribble the slurry into the cherries while stirring constantly so that it doesn’t turn lumpy. Do this slowly and stop when you're happy with the thickness. It will thicken a little more on cooling.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

Notes

  1. I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (equal to 4 teaspoons)
  2. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. I love these Weck preserving jars.
  3. Freeze for up to 6 months.
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