A simple, 5-ingredient easy cherry sauce you can use for cheesecake, ice cream, pancakes, waffles, and more! This recipe is made from frozen cherries, so you can make it year-round when fresh cherries are not available. It can also be made with fresh cherries if you prefer, all the details are below.
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There are so many ways to top desserts, like with ice cream or coconut whip but another delicious option is fruit sauces (like my raspberry sauce, peach sauce, strawberry sauce, blueberry compote and my lemon curd).
One of my favourite fruit sauces for desserts is homemade cherry sauce (also referred to as cherry compote), and you may be surprised to see how easy it is to make from scratch.
This recipe isn't going to result in a very sweet cherry sauce and that's deliberate because it's presumably going to be served over a sweet dessert.
A sauce that's not overly sweet will provide a nice contrast, however, if you prefer a sweeter sauce, feel free to adjust the sugar measurement.
Ingredients You'll Need
This dessert sauce is naturally vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, wheat-free, and egg-free and all you need is FIVE simple ingredients: frozen cherries, water, cornstarch (or arrowroot starch), fresh lemon juice, and sugar.
Cherries - I always use "dark sweet" frozen cherries when I make my cherry sauce because they're cheaper, they're already pitted, and they're easy to find ALL year. However, you can use fresh cherries instead with a few small changes to the recipe, details are below.
Cornstarch - If you can't use or don't like using cornstarch, it's definitely possible to make cherry sauce without cornstarch. Instead of using cornstarch, swap it out for arrowroot starch. Note that if cornstarch or arrowroot starch is not used in the recipe, it will not get thick and will be very watery.
Sugar - The amount of sugar you use will vary based on how sweet your cherries are. Even though frozen cherries are labelled "sweet" they aren't as sweet as fresh cherries and the sweetness can vary between brands and batches. You can start out with a smaller amount than what the recipe calls for and build up the sweetness from there. I have not tried making this recipe with any other sweeteners.
How to Make It
(Note: I’ve outlined the step-by-step on how to make this recipe here, but find the full recipe, ingredients, and directions at the end of this post.)
It doesn't take long and it's not complicated to make this sauce, all it takes one pot and four simple steps. Once done, you'll have the perfect cherry dessert topping for all of your desserts!
Follow along with the pictures and steps below.
1. Start by whisking the water, cornstarch, lemon juice and sugar together in a medium-sized saucepan until everything has blended together and there are no lumps of cornstarch.
2. Next, over medium-high heat, continue whisking the mixture until it has thickened slightly.
3. Add the cherries and give everything a few stirs until the cherries and the water mixture have blended well. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the sauce has thickened.
4. Remove the pot from the stove and allow the sauce to fully cool. It will get a little thicker as it sits.
Almond extract and cherries make the perfect pair, so feel free to add a small amount (¼ - ½ teaspoon) to the finished sauce. Vanilla extract can also be added if you'd like.
How to Use It
Cherry dessert sauce is the best topping for cheesecake (in my opinion!) but there are so many other ways it can be enjoyed.
Once it has fully cooled (or while it's still slightly warm), it can be used to top so many desserts and breakfast items, here are just a few ideas:
- Ice Cream
- Chocolate Mousse
- Vanilla Pudding
- Pound Cake
- Cakes and Cupcakes
- Oatmeal (like flax oatmeal or blueberry oatmeal), baked oatmeal, overnight oats
And try to resist eating it straight from a spoon 🙂
Make it with Fresh Cherries
As you already know, my preference is to make cherry sauce with frozen cherries, but if you'd like to make it with fresh cherries, you can do that by making a few small adjustments to the recipe.
You'll need to make sure you start with pitted cherries and use a little less water and less sugar since fresh cherries are sweeter than frozen. The simmer time will also need to be reduced slightly. Full details are in the recipe below.
Once the sauce has cooled, place the covered jar in the refrigerator where it will keep for 5-7 days. When you're ready to serve it, bring it back up to room temperature, warm it up slightly, or serve it cold.
I have not tried freezing it because recipes with cornstarch typically do not freeze well, the texture of liquid recipes with cornstarch such as stews, soups, and sauces usually change after they have thawed.
Yes, but you'll just need to adjust the sugar in the recipe to suit your taste.
Yes, they can be used, but to be clear, we're talking about preserved cherries using the canning method, NOT any type of canned cherries bought at the grocery store. Since canned cherries are preserved in a sweet liquid, you can use the liquid as the water in the recipe. You can omit the sugar entirely if the canning liquid is sweet enough or just use a small amount to suit your taste. The simmer time will also need to be reduced by a few minutes.
I have not tried making this recipe without sugar, frozen cherries are not very sweet on their own, so I find that it always needs a little added sugar, however, if you're using canned or fresh cherries, you can experiment with the sugar and even leave it out if they're sweet enough. I have not tried making this recipe with any alternative sugars.
Frozen cherries can be just as delicious as fresh, BUT they're not as sweet and bright in flavour as fresh cherries. Frozen cherries are great to use in recipes (like this one!) because they're already pitted (saves time), they're available all year (saves frustration finding them), and they're cheaper (saves money!).
The recipe as-is will not work as a pie filling. It's not thick enough and it won't be enough for a full pie. I will be doing some experimenting in the weeks to come and will update this recipe with how to modify it so it will work as a vegan cherry pie filling.
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If You Make This Recipe...
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And If You Like This Recipe...
You may also like these desserts that are all perfect for topping (or filling!) with this cherry sauce:
- Buckwheat Pancakes
- Vegan Gluten-Free Waffles
- Chocolate Cupcakes
- Lime Cheesecake
- Lemon Cheesecake
- Key Lime Cups
- Chocolate Tart
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Easy Cherry Sauce
- Add water, sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice to a small pot. Whisk until no cornstarch lumps remain.
- Place pot over medium heat and whisk mixture continuously until it starts to thicken, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add frozen cherries and stir. When mixture starts to bubble, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally so the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Continue simmering until the sauce has thickened and looks glossy.
- After the time has passed, remove the pot from the stove and allow the sauce to cool completely in the pot.
- Once cooled, place the cherry sauce in a jar, cover, and refrigerate.
- Please read the helpful info above and below before making this recipe to ensure success.
- This recipe makes 2 cups of cherry sauce.
- The sauce will thicken more as it cools and will thicken even more after being refrigerated.
- I use unsweetened dark sweet pitted frozen cherries for this recipe.
- Arrowroot starch can be used instead of cornstarch.
- To Make with Fresh Cherries: Remove all pits, and use only ⅓ cup of water and start with less sugar. The amount you add will depend on the sweetness of your cherries. Reduce simmer time by a minute or two.
- Store leftover sauce in an airtight jar or container, in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.
- Nutrition info is based on 1 serving (2 tablespoons) and on the recipe made as written using 5 tablespoons of sugar. Nutrition info is only to be used as a rough guide. Click to learn how nutrition info is calculated on this website.