Take advantage of cherry season and make this super simple, super versatile easy cherry compote with fresh cherries. You will put this on EVERYTHING from ice cream to cheesecake to waffles, and even just eat it with a spoon. The perfect way to make your cherries go the extra mile this season, or to preserve their goodness when they are out of season, this is one fruit sauce recipe you're definitely going to want to hold on to.
Compotes and their relative coulis, are one of the easiest ways to make the most of the fresh and vibrant produce of summer, all of which seems to be too short a season. There is so many ways to use them. In fact, as I type this, I am sitting here with a strawberry lemonade that I made with my strawberry coulis recipe.
Compotes differ from coulis a bit in that they are not pureed totally smooth. This cherry compote is pureed a bit with an immersion blender to leave it slightly chunky, but overall smooth enough to use in cocktails or as a topping for a cheesecake.
What is a compote?
A compote is simply a fruit sauce that has small (or large) chunky bits of the fruit in it. It is not pureed totally smooth, like its counterpart a coulis. The fruit is cooked down in its own juices with a bit of sugar, some lemon juice and a touch of water, until it has reduced to a tick, chunky syrup.
Homemade compotes can be as chunky as you want them. I like to puree for a few seconds with an immersion blender to be just slightly chunky. This makes them great to top cheesecakes, blend into milk shakes or add to yogurt or oatmeal for breakfast.
You definitely do not have to puree them at all, and can leave them totally chunky. This is a great topping for waffles or to use cakes.
How to choose the best cherries
Cherry season is pretty much June and July, at least in the midwest. You can certainly get them through August (Northwest cherries are available all the way through August, even here, in Chicago). For this cherry compote recipe, I use sweet cherries (Bing, Rainier or Lambert). When choosing sweet cherries you want to look for deep red and shiny cherries that are firm and unbruised.
While I don't use sour cherries in this recipe, you certainly could make this a sour cherry compote, you would just want to add more sugar.
Sweet cherries can be washed and stored on your counter for a day or two, after that you can store them in the fridge a week or so.
Cherry compote is all about the cherries. You want it to taste like cherries and nothing else. Here are the few ingredients you need to make this:
- Fresh cherries. You can use Bing, Rainier, black or any other kind of sweet cherries. I use fresh cherries that I pit myself, but you can most certainly use frozen cherries for this recipe, and they are already pitted.
- Sugar. Note - if you are making this with sour cherries, you will need to increase the sugar a bit. I would say use ½ cup of sugar for sour cherries
- Lemon juice. This will help to create balance against the sweetness of the cherries. Note - if using sour cherries, you will have to adjust the lemon juice. Sour cherries are more acidic
How to pit cherries
Nobody wants to eat a cherry pits, and you especially don't want pits in your compote. Pitting cherries is incredibly easy with the proper tool (see picture below). If you don't have a cherry pitter, you can easily pit them with a skewer, chopstick or dowel.
With three ingredients and a saucepan you can make homemade cherry compote in just minutes. Everything goes into the saucepan and cooked over medium heat for about 10 minutes until the cherries give off all the juices and the liquid reduces to a thick syrup.
Ingredient swaps and variations
There's always ways to adapt and adjust something as easy as this cherry compote. Here is a few ideas:
- Use frozen cherries. Frozen cherries means you can make this anytime of the year.
- Add different berries. Make this a mixed berry compote by adding blueberries or raspberries (or both).
- Swap out the lemon juice and use balsamic vinegar for depth of flavor. Balsamic pairs really well with cherries.
- Add vanilla extract after cooking while the cherry compote is cooling.
What to do with cherry compote
While eating this on its own with a spoon immediately comes to mind because it is that good, I do have other great suggestions for how to serve cherry compote.
- Use as a topping on a cheesecake
- Warm up and serve as a sauce with a cheesecake or a cake. Cherry and chocolate go great together and this is a fabulous compote to serve with a flourless chocolate cake.
- Top waffles or pancakes with it instead of syrup.
- Serve chilled on top of yogurt with some granola or use this on my baked oatmeal recipe instead of blueberry compote.
- Make a cherry sundae with your favorite ice cream.
- Make a cherry milkshake by adding the compote to vanilla ice cream and milk.
- Make my chocolate cherry smoothie with it!
It is important not to overcook the cherry compote. You want to cook it down enough that the cherries release all their juices and the juices thicken a bit to be a syrup, but you don't want to burn it or end up with no liquid at all.
Other summer fruit recipes you'll love
So many gorgeous fruits are coming into peak season in summer and here are some other recipes I am sure you'll love.
- cherry pitter
- Immersion blender
- 1 lb sweet cherries pitted
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon water
- Place all the ingredients in a sturdy saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the cherries give off all of their juices, about 10 minutes. Continue to cook over medium heat 5-10 minutes more until the liquid had reduced to a thick syrup.
- Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm in the saucepan. Lightly chop/puree the cherries into the syrup using an immersion blender (or food processor or blender) if desired for a slightly smoother consistency.
Compote can be served warm, reheat in a saucepan on the stove until warm.