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Homemade "Maraschino" Cherries (This Time Without Alcohol)

Judging from cartoons, you would think that the iconic cherry was perched on every cupcake.  In actuality, it’s somewhat rare to find a cherry on a cupcake purchased from a modern cupcake shop.  Still, as a cupcake blogger, I feel a duty to the cherry; just as I believe in from-scratch baking, I hold that the cherry on top should be more than a jarred cherry with high fructose corn syrup and red food coloring (especially this time of year when piles of fresh cherries greet me right as I enter my supermarket).

I’ve made homemade maraschino cherries before in the traditional way – by using maraschino liqueur.  They were above-and-beyond better than any maraschino cherry I’d experienced from the jar.  However, they were decidedly not kid-friendly.  Those cherries were like tiny shots of liqueur encased in a piece of fruit.  Today, I’m presenting you with a homemade maraschino cherry for the whole family.

These alcohol-free “maraschino” cherries are made by steeping pitted cherries (I used Rainier cherries) in pomegranate juice, sugar, lemon juice, star anise, and orange peel.  Although no alcohol is involved, these “maraschino” cherries most resemble the fruit that I love to fish out of the bottom of my glass of sangria – sweetened from the sugar and rich in flavor from all the subtle notes of the wine.  These cherries are tart, sweet, surprisingly complex, and incredibly inviting.

How to Make Homemade “Maraschino” Cherries Without Alcohol

My recipe was adapted from a recipe that I found in a NPR story by Kara Newman, sourced from Raising the Bar by Nick Mautone. The original recipe called for grape juice, but I switched it to pomegranate to give it more of a grenadine flavor (if you don’t know that grenadine comes from pomegranate juice, be sure to read my post on homemade grenadine).  I also removed the almond extract (I’m just not a big fan of it) and added orange peel on the wonderful suggestion of my husband.

Products Used for This Recipe

I use and love this saucepan.  It’s the best saucepan I’ve ever owned.

You can store the cherries in any sealed container.  But, it’s always helpful to have some tall mason jars around.

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5 from 1 vote

Homemade "Maraschino" Cherries (This Time Without Alcohol)

I hold that the cherry on top should be more than a jarred cherry with high fructose corn syrup and red food coloring.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword homemade marishino cherries, maraschino cherry recipe
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 16 servings
Calories 71kcal


  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 1/2 fluid ounces lemon juice juice from about 3 lemons
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 whole piece star anise
  • Peel from one large orange
  • 1 pound pitted cherries any kind will do, but I used Rainier cherries


  • In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat, add everything except the cherries.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar has dissolved, stirring periodically.
  • Add the cherries.
  • Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes or until the syrup has a bit of a cherry flavor. (Yes, tasting is part of the recipe. This is the rough part. :)) You don't want to cook the cherries - you just want to bring out some of their flavor.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the entire contents to a bowl (so it doesn't continue cooking).
  • Let cool to room temperature.
  • Transfer to an air-tight container and refrigerate.
  • Wait about three days and then top your cupcakes, shakes, ice cream sodas, sundaes, Shirley Temples, and anything else you can think of with them.


Nutrition Facts
Homemade "Maraschino" Cherries (This Time Without Alcohol)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 71
% Daily Value*
Sodium 2mg0%
Potassium 86mg2%
Carbohydrates 18g6%
Sugar 17g19%
Vitamin A 20IU0%
Vitamin C 4.5mg5%
Calcium 5mg1%
Iron 0.1mg1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Have you tried this recipe?Click here to leave a comment and rating!


I know that you are going to ask me how long the cherries last for.  I don’t have an answer for you.  I intend to use mine up within a couple of weeks.  You’ll see the cupcakes that they topped featured here in the near future.

The Photo

Huge thanks to everyone in the Cupcake Project Facebook community who helped me win a dispute with Jonathan over which photo to use for this post.  If you missed the voting, you can still have a look at the Facebook post to see what the other options were.

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27 comments on “Homemade "Maraschino" Cherries (This Time Without Alcohol)”

  1. my husband LOVES cherries. It’s a very unhealthy obsession. He would love me forever if I made these!

  2. So refreshing! Thank you for this!
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  3. Oh my goodness … I was just looking for a homemade maraschino cherry recipe that didn’t use alcohol so my nephews could eat them … it’s like you knew I needed you to post this, Stef!

    Seriously, thanks for this great recipe … you are always thinking outside the box, and we get to reap the benefits!

    Can’t wait to try these!

  4. ok…. This I have to try. Looks a bit labor intensive, but I think I can do it. Thanks so much!

  5. jamessays:

    It does look like a bit of work but I bet these cherries taste amazing. I never seen this blog before and glad I found it on Grubodex.com

  6. myfudosays:

    Pretty cherries on top of cupcakes are always a sight to behold. So imagine the wailing when you tell your toddler she can have the cupcakes but not the cherries on top. I am excited to try this recipe.
    How long can the cherries last this way, by the way?

  7. Katiesays:

    Great recipe! I live in Sweden right now and can’t find maraschino cherries here. Now I’ll be able to make my own! Thanks for the recipe.

  8. GREAT idea!!! My (normally real food sis-in-law) just fell in love with a summer cocktail using these cherries. These will definitely be her next gift! Thank you so much for sharing!!!!

  9. What an ingenious recipe, especially since it uses such friendly and easily available ingredients. I have a sink full of Washington state cherries, looking for a couple of culinary options. Thanks for providing one.

  10. Wonderful recipe..so many uses for these.. and it’s cherry season! thanks

  11. I’m dying to try these but have never pitted cherries before. Any tips on doing it and keeping the stems on? (All the online how-tos remove the stem and go in that way)

  12. Awesome! Will have to try this out soon! Beautiful photo’s as well! Thanks for sharing! ~Donika

  13. Mistysays:

    Can you use a sugar sub? I have a friend who has to watch is sugar and really loves cherries!

  14. Rebeccasays:

    I love this idea. As someone who loves to make the homemade versions of over-processed foods, this is right up my alley. Now, if only cherry season was in full swing.

  15. Cindy Mckenziesays:

    I just made your recipe with a couple of changes. I forgot the pomegranate juice ( of course) and I couldn’t find star anise. So I used red wine (merlot) and cloves. It’s delicious!! You are right- it won’t last long.

  16. kdsays:

    Due to the sugar content AND the addition of the lemon as well as the salt. I would venture to guess that this maraschino cherry recipe could be water bath canned to last up to one year. Yep… just looked up a recipe that is very similar. To water bath can this… boil the cheries in the liquid. Let stand 24 hours in the liquid in the fridge. Strain cherries out and reheat the liquid to boiling point. Then pack sterilized jars with the cherries and pour the boiling liquid over the cherries leaving 1/2 inch head space. Then water bath can with 1 inch of boiling water over the sealed jars for 20 min. And there you have it. These will last a year that way. Excellent recipe. I am excited to add a new item to my canning repertoire. Never did maraschino cherries before. Just yet another thing a person can make homemade! yay!

  17. Beckysays:

    Think you could do this with pie cherries?

  18. Marysays:

    My daughter has an allergy to Red Dye #40 and was just asking me why Maraschino cherries had to have Red 40 in them since she loves those cherries so much. I just showed her this recipe and she is absolutely thrilled! Can’t wait to make these for her. I’m also going to do a bit of research and see if I can figure out how to can them so we can enjoy them year round, and not just during cherry season. Thank you!

  19. Cameronsays:

    Just made both recipes here (alcohol and no alcohol). Great in an Old Fashioned! What can you do with the leftover juice once the cherries are all gone?

  20. Debbie Crosssays:

    What else can I use if I can’t findwhole star anise?

  21. amandasays:

    Did you figure out how long these keep for :)

  22. Jeanninesays:

    What about the pits? You can’t est them as is with the stone still in them.

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