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Can I use frozen cherries instead of fresh?

Quick Answer

Yes, you can use frozen cherries in place of fresh cherries in most recipes. Frozen cherries are picked and frozen at peak ripeness, so they can often be a better option than fresh cherries that may have been picked early and shipped long distances. The main differences are that frozen cherries are slightly softer in texture and impart less fresh cherry flavor compared to fresh. Adjust any additional liquids in the recipe since frozen cherries release liquid as they thaw.

Frozen vs. Fresh Cherries

There are a few key differences between fresh and frozen cherries that are good to keep in mind when substituting one for the other:

  • Texture – Frozen cherries tend to be softer and lose some of their firmness during freezing and thawing. Fresh cherries have an intact, firmer texture.
  • Flavor – While still tasty, frozen cherries typically have a slightly milder cherry flavor than fresh. The flavor compounds start to break down during freezing.
  • Juiciness – Frozen cherries release some liquid when thawing, so recipes may need slight adjustments to account for the extra liquid.
  • Color – The color of frozen cherries may be slightly duller with some discoloration compared to vibrant fresh cherries.

However, frozen cherries are still high quality and have a very good cherry flavor when thawed. The trade-offs are reasonable when fresh cherries are out of season or difficult to find.

Are Frozen Cherries Already Sweetened?

Frozen cherries sold in bags are typically unsweetened without any added sugars. You’ll need to use your normal amounts of sugar in recipes.

However, you can also purchase frozen cherries packed in syrup, which have added sugar in the liquid. Use these only when a recipe calls for fruit packed in syrup, not for recipes using plain unsweetened cherries.

Always check the package since some brands do sell frozen cherries with added sugar even without syrup. Look at the ingredient list for sources of added sugars like sucrose, corn syrup, etc.

Substituting Frozen for Fresh Cherries

When substituting frozen cherries in baked goods, desserts, salads and more, keep these guidelines in mind:


  • Use the same measured amount of frozen cherries as you would fresh. A cup of frozen cherries is considered equivalent to a cup of fresh.
  • No need to thaw first – you can use frozen cherries straight from the freezer unless a recipe says otherwise.

Liquid content:

  • Reduce other liquids in the recipe by 2-3 Tablespoons per cup of frozen cherries to account for the liquid released as they thaw.
  • For items like pies or cobblers, you may want to drain any excess liquid from the thawed cherries before baking to prevent pooling juice.


  • Taste the thawed cherries and adjust sugar or other sweet ingredients as needed to your desired taste.
  • Their flavor may be slightly less intense than fresh.


  • Expect thawed cherries to be softer than fresh. This works well for recipes like smoothies, compotes, or oatmeal.
  • For baking, you may want to reduce bake times by a few minutes since they won’t hold their shape as well.


  • Thawed frozen cherries may exude more colored juice, which can dye batters or doughs.
  • Their color may also be somewhat duller when thawed compared to fresh.

Let’s look at how you would substitute in some specific cases:


For baked goods like pies, cakes, muffins, etc., use thawed frozen cherries in place of fresh. Reduce any other liquids by about 2-3 Tablespoons per cup of cherries. Taste for sweetness and add sugar as needed. Reduce bake times by 5-10 minutes since the cherries will be softer. Expect potential discoloration of batters.

Pancakes & Waffles

Use thawed frozen cherries in pancake or waffle batter in place of fresh cherries. You may want to drain any excess liquid from the cherries first. The batter may take on more red color. Cook pancakes a little less time since the cherries will be softer.

Yogurt & Oatmeal

Frozen cherries work beautifully in yogurt bowls, oatmeal, or cereal. Use them straight from frozen or thaw first if you want softer texture. Their soft texture and sweet flavor pair nicely with dairy and grains. No need to drain excess liquid here.


Thaw frozen cherries before using in fruit salads. Drain any excess liquid before tossing with other ingredients. Their softer texture works well in salads without seeming as firm or crunchy as fresh cherries. Adjust dressing as needed to coat since they will exude more juice.


For smoothies and shakes, frozen cherries work wonderfully right out of the bag. No need to thaw. Use the same amount you would use of fresh cherries. The frozen cherries help thicken and chill the smoothie perfectly.

Compotes & Sauces

Frozen cherries are ideal for compotes, sauces, chutneys and other wet preparations. Use them straight from frozen or thaw first. Extract any pits if desired. Cook and season the fruit as directed in the recipe. The softened texture will break down beautifully.

Cherry Varieties for Freezing

The most common types of cherries you’ll find frozen:

  • Sweet cherries – Usually the Bing or Rainier varieties. These have the signature sweet cherry flavor and make great additions to desserts.
  • Sour/tart cherries – Often the Montmorency variety. They have a tarter, more intense cherry punch and hold their shape better when cooked.
  • Dark sweet cherries – Varieties like Queen Anne and Brooks. Deeper color and richer flavor compared to regular sweet cherries.

Any of these varieties work well frozen and can be used for baking, sauces, eating plain, or adding to drinks and yogurt. Pick your favorite!

Table 1: Common Cherry Varieties for Freezing

Type Characteristics Best Uses
Sweet (Bing, Rainier) Sweet, delicate flavor
Light red color
Eating plain, desserts, salads
Sour/Tart (Montmorency) Tart, tangy, robust flavor
Deep red color
Pies, jams, sauces
Dark Sweet (Queen Anne, Brooks) Very sweet, rich flavor
Nearly black when ripe
Great for all uses

Tips for Freezing Cherries at Home

Want to freeze fresh cherries yourself at home? Here are some tips for best quality frozen cherries:

  • Select ripe, unblemished cherries at their peak.
  • Gently wash and completely dry the cherries.
  • Remove stems, pits, and any bruises or bad spots.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
  • Spread cherries in a single layer on the sheet without touching.
  • Freeze overnight until completely hard.
  • Transfer to freezer bags or airtight containers.
  • Remove as much air as possible and seal.
  • Label with content and date. Use within 10-12 months.

Proper freezing helps retain the cherries’ color, flavor, and nutrition better. Enhance the flavor by tossing them with a little lemon juice and vitamin C powder before freezing.


Frozen cherries are perfectly suitable substitutes for fresh cherries in most recipes. While frozen cherries have some differences like softer texture and milder flavor, they can be adapted to work for baking, salads, sauces, smoothies and more. Just account for extra liquid released from thawed cherries, and adjust sugar and cook times as needed. With so many high quality frozen varieties available, you can enjoy delicious cherries anytime.