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Cherry Pie

A cherry pie with a slice cut out.
Photo by Isa Zapata, Food Styling by Liberty Fennell
  • Active Time

    1 hour

  • Total Time

    8 hours

Once you learn how to make cherry pie, you won’t believe you ever spent time and hard-earned cash on store-bought iterations. Sure, pitting fresh cherries and rolling out homemade pie crust requires more effort than a trip to the supermarket, but the juicy, buttery results are so worth it. 

This homemade cherry pie recipe uses a combination of cornstarch and tapioca to thicken the cherries’ juices. The duo works in tandem to create a perfectly set cherry pie filling that is never gloppy. It also gets a dose of vanilla and cinnamon for nuanced flavor, but here you can play around: Add ¼ tsp. almond extract, orange flower water, cardamom, or allspice to give your pie an extra nudge if desired. 

It’s critical to use sour cherries (also called tart cherries) here, but if you’re baking outside of cherry season or don’t own a cherry pitter, you can use frozen cherries. Steer clear of sweet cherries, canned cherries, or premade cherry pie filling, which can lead to soggy, saccharine fruit pies. 

Our go-to pie crust recipe is an all-purpose, all-butter variation. This one uses a little shortening and a technique called fraisage (smearing portions of dough against the work surface) for an extra-tender, extra-flaky crust. Instead of egg wash, the top of the pie is glossed with whole milk for a matte appearance. Dusted with a little granulated sugar, the golden brown crust glistens around the bubbling red filling.

Serve slices warm or at room temperature, and don’t forget to add a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


Makes 1 (9-inch) pie


2½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ sticks (6 oz.) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
¼ cup (2 oz.) cold vegetable shortening (preferably trans-fat-free)
½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt
5 Tbsp. ice water, plus more
1 Tbsp. sugar

Cherry pie filling:

3 Tbsp. quick-cooking tapioca
1 vanilla bean or 1½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. Diamond Crystal or Morton kosher salt
1¼ cups plus 1 Tbsp. sugar (divided)
2 lb. fresh or frozen (not thawed) pitted sour cherries (about 6 cups)
Whole milk for brushing
Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

Special Equipment:

Electric coffee or spice grinder; a pastry or bench scraper
  1. Pastry:

    Step 1

    Blend 2½ cups all-purpose flour, 1½ sticks (6 oz.) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes, ¼ cup (2 oz.) cold vegetable shortening (preferably trans-fat-free), and ½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt in a medium bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps. Drizzle 5 Tbsp. ice water evenly over mixture and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated.

    Step 2

    Squeeze a small handful of pie dough: If it doesn't hold together, add more ice water, 1 Tbsp. at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated. Do not overwork, or pastry will be tough.

    Step 3

    Turn pie dough out onto a work surface and divide into 8 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather all pie dough together with pastry scraper. Divide pie dough with one half slightly larger, then form each piece into a ball and flatten each into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

  2. Cherry pie filling and assembly:

    Step 4

    Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle and put a large baking sheet on rack.

    Step 5

    Finely grind 3 Tbsp. quick-cooking tapioca in grinder.

    Step 6

    Split 1 vanilla bean (if using) lengthwise and scrape seeds into a large bowl with a small knife. Whisk in ground tapioca, 2 Tbsp. cornstarch, ½ tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp. Diamond Crystal or Morton kosher salt, and 1¼ cups sugar. Add 2 lb. fresh or frozen (not thawed) pitted sour cherries and 1½ tsp. pure vanilla extract (if using) and toss well. Let stand 30 minutes.

    Step 7

    Roll out larger piece of pie dough (keep remaining piece chilled) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 14-inch round. Fit bottom crust into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim any excess dough to leave a ½-inch overhang. Chill shell while rolling out top crust.

    Step 8

    Roll out remaining pie dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round.

    Step 9

    Toss cherries well again, then add to shell and cover with top crust. Press edges of crust together, then trim, leaving a ½-inch overhang. Fold overhang underneath, then crimp decoratively and brush top crust with whole milk. Cut out 5 (1- by 1/2 -inch) teardrop-shaped steam vents 1 inch from center and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. sugar.

    Step 10

    Bake pie on preheated baking sheet 30 minutes, then cover edge with a pie shield or foil and reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Continue to bake until crust is deep golden and filling is bubbling in center, 50 minutes to 1 hour more. Transfer pie to a rack to cool completely, 3 to 4 hours. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

    Editor’s note: This recipe was first printed in the July 2007 issue of ‘Gourmet.’ Head this way for more of our best fruit pie recipes →

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  • I reviewed this once before but forgot to comment about the method of thickening. I love the combination of the tapioca and cornstarch. Tapioca alone can get too gummy if the fruit doesn't release enough juice. The corn starch combined with the tapioca does make for a softer, silkier thickening with the perfect holding power, so it doesn't get runny. I've adapted this for blueberry and other juicy fruit pies, too.

    • Susan L

    • San Jose, CA

    • 8/23/2022

  • Made this for a 4th of July celebration. Followed other reviewers suggestion to cut sugar in half if using sweet cherries--not a good idea. The overall flavor was just OK, but too bland for my taste. The filling needs the tartness of sour cherries, and adding lemon juice is not an option when using tapioca and cornstarch as thickening agents. Next time I will hunt down sour cherries, or make a different pie. The pie I made looked beautiful, the crust recipe was nice (could use a bit more salt imho), the cherry filling firmed up nicely so the pie was easy to cut up without filling running all over. (Allow pie to cool several hours for this result.) I'll make this again, but gotta have those tart cherries!

    • caroldg

    • Chico, CA

    • 7/5/2019

  • If I could give this more forks, I would! This recipe is amazing. I loved the use of 3 different types of cherries, and the tart sweetness. I didn't change a single thing about the filling (I used my own pie crust recipe) and loved it!!

    • bwsteele

    • San Francisco

    • 12/5/2017

  • Wow. We have a tart cherry tree, so I've made lots of pies from it, but this is the best recipe by far. I made it from previously frozen cherries, and this recipe solved the problem of too much juice that I've had in the past. Plus the crust recipe is amazing: even the leftover pie stayed flakey after sitting in the refrigerator. This will be my go-to recipe for now on!

    • judyross

    • 12/21/2015

  • Made this pie for mother's day. I used fresh cherries from the local market and per recommendation i used 1/2 the sugar. Personally i found the directions to the crust technique very confusing but I looked up the technique on YouTube and found a video of a woman doing the same kind of crust. I also opted out of the cinnamon per recommendations. I also added 1/4 t of almond extract per recommendation. I admit the crust is devine! I froze my butter and crisco also per recommendation. The crust did not come out pretty, but it tastes amazing. Also, per a lot of complaints about the cherries being runny, I dashed in some Guar Gum to my mixture. Came out just perfect. Not too runny. Not too globby.

    • ajmoore20

    • LA, CA

    • 5/11/2015

  • Wish I had read reviews first. I think the juice from my cherries is going to make this very runny. Still in the oven. Next time, I will do the juice reduction. Very easy to make a foil ring. You just need to fold several pieces together.

    • cynthiafichtner

    • 7/19/2014

  • Any recipe that says to put foil around the edges after cooking for 30 minutes is quite suspect as this is basically impossible to do and actually get the pie back in the often with the foil still on. Also, the time for cooking is too long. 90 minutes for pie will wind up burning the hell out of the pie.

    • jlstiles

    • 6/30/2014

  • Great pie. Made my own tried and true crust recipe. Used frozen sweet cherries (can't find sour here) so cut the sugar by half. Nothing to rave about, but very satisfactory.

    • kangaroo324

    • Arkansas and Australia

    • 5/18/2013

  • Oops, I meant I used 2 tlbs kirsch! And next time I would use just a bit less.

    • Traunza

    • Albany, CA

    • 8/1/2010

  • Absolutely delicious. Took a few other reviewers' suggestions and left out the cinnamon. Added 1/4 cup kirsch and 1/4 tsp almond extract. Used bing cherries so only used 1/2 cup sugar, which was plenty. Needed almost 10 tlbs of water for the crust though, and had to bake it in the lower half of my oven to prevent burning. A winning recipe!

    • Traunza

    • Albany, CA

    • 8/1/2010

  • Excellent recipe! The smearing method for making the dough is now my go-to trick for really flaky crusts and pastries. Thank you gourmet! Here are my suggestions on how to make this pie even better: -use local cherries if you can, they will taste much better! -pit cherries ahead of time, and let set for hours, or overnight if possible. This will allow the liquid to seep from the fruit, so that you can reduce it and reintroduce it into the filling in a concentrated form, resulting in a fruity and not runny pie! -How to reduce the cherry liquid: after pitting all cherries, press fruit with hands, and drain all liquid possible, squeezing fruit to drain. Heat fruit liquid on low, increasing heat until it simmers. Maintain low simmer, and stir occasionally, until liquid is thick, and about 1/4 of its original volume. Mix with ground tapioca, and let the tapioca absorb the liquid before mixing this tapioca/reduced liquid mixture into the fruit and sugar filling. -use the classic almond extract in addition to the vanilla. The round tones in the almond extract complement the acrid cherry flavors! -seal the bottom crust with brushed egg white, and bake pie on very bottom rack for a crispy bottom crust. The last time I made this pie, I was a bit short on cherries, so I mixed in raspberries, strawberries and blueberries as well. I made the syrup reduction with the combined juices of all the fruits, and kept most of the reduction for pancake syrup, because the pie was already plenty flavorful. Fruit-juice cast-offs make for great pancakes, and tasty home-made flavored sodas (when added to seltzer water). Yum!

    • hsitar

    • Northampton, MA

    • 7/18/2010

  • Delicious. Used sweet black cherries, so decreased sugar to 1/2c. The pastry was excellent -- this was the first time I used the "smear" method, and I will be using this instead of my regular pastry recipe! The only thing that prevented this pie from making 4 forks was the cinnamon. I really expected to love it, but we found that it obscured the taste of the cherries. The pie disappeared quickly and we enjoyed it, but I definitely would omit the cinnamon next time.

    • Trixie

    • BC, Canada

    • 7/18/2010

  • Amazing! The cinnamon adds a wonderful touch! If you don't like this pie, you're doing something wrong!!!

    • Spicelover103

    • Baltimore, MD

    • 4/17/2010

  • I was very disappointed by the results of this recipe. The crust was just okay in general. I did not like how the top crust got so crisp from the sugar sprinkled on it. The main disappointment was with the filling. There was NO juicy syrup at all...just plain fruit. I would not make it again.

    • mare722

    • TX

    • 1/12/2010

  • Excellent pie. My pie pan was in use, so I used a French tart pan (with removable bottom)and it worked out just fine. Since the pan is shallow, next time I would cut back on the tapioca and sugar. I'm adding this to my recipe binder. I did cut back on the cinnamon to about a 1/4t. Crust will replace my usual pie dough recipes, I had forgotten how tender a crust a Pate Brisee makes. To answer the question of one reviewer about the why the crust is so tender and flakey...smearing the dough forms long layers of fats (butter and shortening) and flour that puff when baked (aka mock puff pastry). Enjoy!

    • Anonymous

    • Danville, CA

    • 11/27/2009

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