Homemade Maraschino Cherries

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Homemade maraschino cherries are easy to make, so tasty, and much better for you than store-bought ones. Use maraschino cherries to top ice cream sundaes, cupcakes, or as the perfect cocktail cherries!

Jar of Maraschino Cherries

What Are Maraschino Cherries?

When most people think of maraschino cherries, they think of the store-bought versiondyed-red cherries that are super sweet from soaking in a sugar syrup. However, maraschino cherries can be easily made at home by steeping fresh cherries in either alcohol or juice.

Cupcakes topped with maraschino cherries
These cherries are used in many ways:

How Are Maraschino Cherries Made?

The way that the cherries were traditionally made differs from both the process used to make store-bought maraschino cherries as well as the more modern, kid-friendly way of making them.

Classic Cocktail Cherries

Traditionally, Croatian locals preserved Marasca cherries by pickling them and storing them in a liqueur also made from these cherries. These came to be known as maraschino cherries.

The modern, homemade version is frequently called Luxardo cherries. These are made by boiling fresh sweet cherries with maraschino liqueur, a clear, relatively dry liqueur made from these sour Marasca cherries.

Bottle of Luxardo Maraschino LiquerThese cherries taste like tiny shots of liqueur encased in a piece of fruit.

Store-Bought Maraschino Cherries

The process for making commercial maraschino cherries may turn your stomach.

According to Buzzfeed’s maraschino cherry exposé:

At the processing center, the cherries are bleached in a solution of calcium chloride and sulfur dioxide until they turn yellow. Next, they’re marinated in huge vats of high fructose corn syrup and Red #4.

Of course, this varies by brand. There are plenty of quality store-bought options. For example, Tillen Farms makes one that is free from dyes, corn syrup, artificial colors, and flavors. I suggest reading the ingredients before you make a purchase of any store-bought maraschinos.

Maraschino Cherries from Tillen Farms

Photo from Amazon

Homemade Kid-Friend Maraschino Cherries

This alcohol-free version is made by steeping pitted cherries in juice and spices. I use pomegranate juice, sugar, lemon juice, star anise, and orange peel.

These maraschino cherries are tart, sweet, surprisingly complex, and incredibly inviting.

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 didn’t know that grenadine comes from pomegranate juice, be sure to read my post on homemade grenadine!)

Which Type of Cherries Work Best?

If you want to be really technical about it, maraschino cherries should be made with Marasca cherries. It’s the cherry that was traditionally used and the one used to create maraschino liqueur.

However, most of us don’t have access to that type of cherry, and really, any cherry will do. When selecting cherries:

  • Look for cherries that are really red. You can always add food coloring, but why not try to find cherries that are naturally nice and red?
  • Find cherries with long stems. These cherries make a visual statement when you serve them – and they don’t look nearly as nice if the stems are missing or stubby.
  • Only buy fresh cherries. This is also about the stems as they are always removed on frozen cherries.

I typically use Rainier cherries.

The cherries must be pitted. If you don’t own a cherry pitter, you will definitely want to invest in one. I like the pitters that can pit a bunch of cherries at a time.

How Long Do Maraschino Cherries Last

Both the cocktail cherries and the kid-friendly cherries get better with time. You can eat them right away, but after a few days, the flavors will seep into the cherries a bit more.

Homemade boozy cocktail cherries have a long shelf life because of the alcohol content. I leave those in the fridge for up to a month.

My kid-friendly maraschino cherry recipe lasts for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

Jar of Maraschino Cherries on the table
Commercial maraschino cherries last basically forever. I’ve never had one go bad, and I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve had a jar in my fridge for over five years!

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Jar of Maraschino Cherries
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5 from 5 votes

Homemade Maraschino Cherries

Homemade maraschino cherries are easy to make, so tasty, and much better for you than store-bought ones. Use them to top ice cream sundaes, cupcakes, or as the perfect cocktail cherries!
Course Condiments, Dessert, Drinks
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 16 servings
Calories 72kcal
Author Stefani

Ingredients

  • 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 salt
  • 1 whole star anise
  • peel from one large orange
  • 1 pound fresh cherries any kind will do, but I use Rainier cherries

Instructions

  • Remove cherry pits using a cherry pitter.
  • 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 airtight 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. The cherries last for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

Video

Notes

The recipe above is for the kid-friendly cherries. Follow the instructions in my post on Luxardo cherries if you are interested in making the alcoholic version.

Nutrition

Calories: 72kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 2mg | Potassium: 86mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 18IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 5mg | Iron: 1mg
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27 comments on “Homemade Maraschino Cherries”

  1. Jeanninesays:

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

  2. amandasays:

    Did you figure out how long these keep for :)

  3. Debbie Crosssays:

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

  4. 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?

  5. 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!

  6. Beckysays:

    Think you could do this with pie cherries?

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Mistysays:

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

  11. Donika@momwhats4dinnersays:

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

  12. Pigtail Goddesssays:

    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)

  13. Janet Rudolphsays:

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

  14. tom @ tall clover farmsays:

    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.

  15. HealthnutFoodiesays:

    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!!!!

  16. 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.

  17. 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?
    Thanks!

  18. 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

  19. Karyn - Pint Sized Bakersays:

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

  20. Kimberlysays:

    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!

  21. heronkadysays:

    So refreshing! Thank you for this!
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  22. whirl + whisksays:

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

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