This Cherry Pie made with frozen sweet cherries is the perfect pie to make any time of year. Frozen sweet dark cherries are paired with lemon and tart cherry juice and accented with almond extract to boost the cherry pie flavor, then baked to perfection inside a flaky lattice crust.
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Cherry pie conjures quintessential Americana (okay, that and Apple Pie...and Chocolate Cream Pie...and I could keep going but I won't). Sour Cherry Pie often gets all the accolades, but I'm here to argue that Sweet Cherry Pie is just as delicious, nuanced, and lovely. My version harnesses the convenience of frozen cherries for their year-round availability and because they're already pitted. Truly, I hate pitting fruit.
Because frozen dark cherries are naturally sweet, this pie uses less added sugar than its sour counterpart (similar to these Cherry Turnovers, which use sweet cherries, compared to these Sour Cherry Hand Pies). Tart cherry juice and a fresh squeeze of lemon are added to balance out the sweetness, and a splash of almond extract amps up the cherry-ness of the pie.
Can we also talk about the consistency of the filling? I feel like many people struggle with getting cherry filling to thicken properly, but this recipe uses my favorite pie thickener to achieve the perfect texture. And finally, that perfectly-balanced filling is baked up in an amazing butter flaky pie crust. This pie is simply perfection, destined to win blue ribbons.
So, let's get to making it, shall we? The article below is jam-packed full of useful information. You can jump around using the menu below, or skip to the end of the article for the full recipe.
Ingredients Needed and Substitutions
Here is a brief overview of the ingredients needed for this recipe. The full recipe with quantities is listed below this text in the recipe card.
- frozen sweet dark cherries (This recipe was developed using frozen cherries that are available year-round in the grocery store. They're typically flash-frozen and of good quality, and they're already pitted. A win-win in my book!)
- tart cherry juice (Because this recipe uses readily-available sweet cherries, it needs some tartness to even out the flavor. Using store-bought tart cherry juice not only brings that balance, but it also enhances the cherry flavor. If you don't want to purchase the cherry juice, you can go ahead and use and equal amount of orange juice. It will slightly change the flavor, but not negatively.)
- almond extract (You won't necessarily be able to pick out this flavor in the pie, but it helps make the cherry flavor shine through.)
- quick-cooking tapioca (This is my preferred thickening agent, especially given that this a juicy pie from the frozen cherries and added cherry juice. I'll talk about this more below.)
- granulated sugar
- lemon juice (Adds another layer of flavor balance to the pie.)
- butter (Dotting the pie with butter before baking makes the filling luxurious, but this is very optional.)
What Type of Thickener to Use
The best type of thickener for this pie is quick-cooking tapioca, which is also known as instant tapioca or Minute tapioca. Quick-cooking tapioca is made from the cassava plant, as are tapioca pearls and starch, but it is processed into small granules that cook quickly.
Quick-cooking tapioca thickens this pie by absorbing the juicy cherry filling into the granules, creating a thick, clear gel. If you look closely in the filling, you may see very tiny beads of tapioca, but it's not something you will taste or notice unless you are looking for it.
Unlike other thickeners such as cornstarch or flour, quick-cooking tapioca creates a perfectly thickened consistency without making the filling cloudy or gummy. It allows the clean and bright cherry flavor to shine through.
You can find quick-cooking tapioca in all major grocery stores, usually in the baking aisle near the cornstarch.
Tips for Working with Quick-Cooking Tapioca
- Make sure to let the tapioca granules sit with the cherry juice to allow them to hydrate. Stir up your filling a few times while it is sitting to ensure that all the granules are evenly hydrated.
- Exposed tapioca granules can harden in the heat of the oven, so make sure you aren't leaving too much fruit filling exposed if you are doing a lattice or other decorative design for the top crust.
- For the tapioca granules in the pie filling to activate fully, the pie must be nearly completely cooled. This doesn't mean you can’t dive right into this pie warm--you can--it just might be a bit runny. The filling will thicken up more once it cools.
- Do not use tapioca pearls instead of the quick-cooking tapioca.
Pie Crust Options
This pie tastes best with a homemade buttery pie crust, and I recommend my Flaky Pie Crust recipe, which is linked in the recipe card. Be sure to check out the article above the recipe as it is a super useful guide to making the crust.
If you don't want to make that Super Flaky Pie Crust, there are several other options on this website that would work well:
Whatever pie crust you use, you'll need a top crust and a bottom crust.
Double Crust Vs. Lattice
What type of top crust you choose is a personal preference!
If you want that classic Americana look to your cherry pie, a lattice top will undoubtedly do the trick. Many people are intimidated by making a lattice pie crust, but it’s pretty simple to do if you follow a few easy tips and tricks. Here is a complete Guide to Making a Lattice Pie Crust if you are unfamiliar with the technique.
Aside from being beautiful, a lattice does also serve a purpose! Some pies (especially fruit pies) need to have a way for the built-up steam from the evaporating filling to escape. A lattice pie is essentially built-in ventilation.
However, a full top crust is much easier to put on a pie. All you have to do is roll out pie dough to a 10- or 11-inch circle and place it on top of the pie. Tuck the edges underneath the crust and crimp as desired. Make sure to poke steam holes! Do this after you egg wash, so the steam holes don't get sealed over.
Step-By-Step Recipe Overview
As with most pies, there are a few steps you need to complete to get to the finished product. A lot of these components can be broken down into steps and done days (or weeks) in advance.
Here is a quick visual overview of the steps needed to make this recipe. This is not the actual recipe, which is located at the end of this article and has much greater detail to ensure success.
Step 1: Prepare the pie crust. It's best to do this at least one day ahead of time.
Step 2: Mix together the cherry pie filling. Let the frozen cherry mixture sit for a few minutes so the tapioca can hydrate.
Step 3: Roll out the bottom pie crust and fit it into a 9-inch pie plate.
Step 4: Roll out the top crust, and cut strips to make a lattice, if you're making one (it's optional).
Step 5: Add the filling to the pie crust, and optionally dot with butter.
Step 6: Add the top crust of your choice and crimp the top and bottom crusts together.
There is one main rule to remember when baking a double butter pie crust: the very cold dough should be put in a very hot oven. All-butter pie pastry should be thoroughly chilled before baking and then baked at a high temperature, ideally around 425ºF. See this post about baking a Double Crust Pie for more extensive information.
But here are a few additional helpful tips for this cherry pie:
- Make sure your oven is running at an accurate temperature (a cheap oven thermometer is useful for this)
- To ensure your pie is baked properly, use an instant-read thermometer. For fruit pies, check the internal temperature is above 200ºF. Visually check for golden pastry and a puffed up pie. Look for at least one bubble to check if the filling is ready.
- If you find that your pie is done but the top crust isn't as golden brown as you'd like, move the pie up to the middle rack to cook for about 10 minutes, or until baked to your liking.
Make Ahead Tips
- The pie crust can and should be made a day ahead of time. You can make it up to 2 days ahead, stored in the refrigerator, or up to 3 months stored in the freezer.
- You can roll out the pastry 1 day ahead of time.
- The entire pie can be assembled and frozen before being baked. You can bake it straight from frozen, following this guide: How to Bake a Frozen Pie.
Serving / Storing
The pie must be nearly completely cooled in order for the filling to set up. This does not mean you can’t dive right into this pie warm–you can. It just might be slightly runny. The filling will thicken up more once it cools.
Serve the baked cherry pie at room temperature. It can be served as-is or with a scoop of ice cream.
The pie can be stored fully-baked at room temperature, covered, for 1 day. If you are storing it longer, cover it and place it in a refrigerator.
More Cherry Recipes
More Fruit Pies
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