You’ve found the perfect dessert recipe and it calls for cherries. Heavenly, delicious cherries ! Probably your top 3 fruit, right ? Okay, then what do you do if you just can’t find any ?
If your recipe doomed ? Is there a way to save it ? Are there any substitutes for cherries ?
Well, it turns out there are. Several, actually ! So don’t worry, we’ve got you covered and we’ll tell you all we know about each and every cherry substitute out there. We’ll tell you how to get that beautiful red color too, and we’ll throw in a few extra tips on masking the flavors.
Best cherry substitute
The best cherry substitutes are dried cherries, frozen cherries, canned cherries, cherry preserve or jam, maraschino cherries, Amarena cherries, fresh sour cherries, plums, apricots, nectarines, or any cherry liqueur.
Depending on what you’re making and what you need cherries for, some of these substitutes may work better, or you may need to combine several.
If you’re feeling that the color of your cherry-based dish isn’t as red as you’d like, we’ll also give you a few ideas on how to get it.
Now let’s take a look at all the substitutes and how to use them !
1. Dried, frozen, or canned cherries
If you can’t find fresh cherries, then go for the shelved ones ! We know, it might be a cheap trick, but hey you get the cherry flavor and the actual cherries. Now, this trick won’t work if you’re making a fruit salad or something where you need the cherries to look good.
Both frozen and canned cherries are pale and look, um, unappetizing compared to fresh cherries. Dried cherries will go great in a savory salad, just like you’d use dried cranberries or raisins.
And if all you needed was the cherry juice (maybe moisten a cake ?) then grab some canned cherries and use that.
All three types of cherry will work very well if you’re trying to make a cherry sauce, or incorporate cherries into a cake batter, a cherry filling, what have you.
2. Cherry preserves or jam
If you can’t find a single cherry in the freezer or canned aisle, try the preserves and jams section. It’s already sweetened and the cherries are already cooked and possibly mushed. But it’s real, juicy cherries.
If you’re making a pastry filling or a cherry sauce these work as a base very well. There are recipes that call for cherry jam to be mixed into the batter, usually a type of brownie. If you’re making that. then you’re set !
Oh, these will also work great on top of a cheesecake. If you were planning on using a cherry jelly, why not use cherry jam or preserves instead ?
3. Maraschino cherries
Ah, maraschino cherries ! You definitely know these, they’re the bright red cherries you find on desserts sometimes ! Yes, they’re bright red and you can always just remove the stem, and pop them on a cake. Or in a fruit salad, or whatever you’re making.
These work best in dishes that need you to display cherries on their own, so making a filling out of maraschino cherries is a bit much.
4. Amarena cherries
Amarena cherries are a slightly bitter type of cherry, but it’s always sweetened and comes with the deepest, darkest shade of red possible. You’ll almost always find these bad boys in preserves or jams, or maybe canned. They’re very hard to find on their own, in the fresh produce section.
Still, they provide a whole lot of flavor and they look amazing. They’re the biggest cherries out there, and you’ll almost always find them pitted. So that’s a plus !
Okay, what if for some reason you can’t find sweet cherries in any way, shape, or form ? Then we go to their lesser known, less loved sisters, sour cherries.
Yes, they’re sisters alright. Smaller, very similar in flavor but they absolutely need to be sweetened. They’re sour for a reason, and they may remind you a lot of cranberries.
Whether you get them fresh, canned, jam, frozen, or any other version, remember to sweeten these. They’ll look the same, act the same, have mostly the same flavor, and they might pass for real cherries for those who can’t tell the difference.
6. Prunus fruits like plums, apricots, nectarines
If cherries or sour cherries are off the list, try their cousins. Any fruit that has a large, hard pit inside and is related to cherries. This genus is the Prunus, and includes plums, cherries, sour cherries, nectarines, apricots, peaches, mirabelles, and almonds.
Except for almonds, any of the listed fruits from that genus will work in your recipe. They’re essentially the same thing, but very different in terms of flavor. The only one that may come in close if the plum, especially if you find some beautiful red plums.
The recipe can be tweaked to suit the other fruits, if you’re not very particular about which you use. If your recipe is for Black Forest cake then no, you can’t really use any of these because they’re not cherries.
But if your recipe is more lenient or you’re willing to use something else, any of these will work. Aaaand you can also add in the next substitute.
7. Cherry liqueur or extract
Yes, we might bring just a bit of booze into this. Now, cherry liqueur isn’t the strongest but it’s definitely part of some recipes. The upside is you definitely taste the cherries and it’s amazing. The downside is you can’t serve it to kids.
But there’s also cherry extract, which is non-alcoholic. It’s not as easy to find as cherry liqueur, and it may not have the right color, but it’s definitely something to try.
If your recipe doesn’t need you to bring actual cherry texture, just the flavor and maybe some color, then both of these will work very, very well.
How to get that cherry color
Okay, now let’s see about that cherry color. We’re all for natural food coloring, so our options for you will be fruit or veggie based. We do have a worst case scenario one, but we’d rather you look for the other substitutes first.
Keep in mind that if you use the first few cherry substitutes we listed, you can still get a very nice color. But it might be muted, or it might be a little less than you’d want. So we have a few options for you. All of these are a deep red, with no orange hue. When thinned out they turn pink.
If you’d like to add more red, try cranberries. Very similar in taste and texture to dried cherries, these will release a lot of red into the syrup or batter.
To get less liquid and more color, let them simmer for at least half an hour. The color will darken but once you mix it into a frosting or batter, it will turn red.
Ah yes, the savior of anything pink, red, or slightly purple. Yes, there may be a little flavor involved here but the upside is you don’t need much to get a lot of color.
Beets have an amazing capacity to stain absolutely everything, so their color is very strong, and you won’t have to use more than a few pieces to crank up the red
Add red hibiscus flowers
You can always try hibiscus flowers, or a hibiscus tea. Like beets, hibiscus bleeds a lot of color into everything and is one of the most common ways t bulk and add color to tea.
Use a few hibiscus-based teabags, or get yourself hibiscus flowers. Steep in hot water, and make sure it’s concentrated to get a bright color.
It may leave a slightly sour and bitter flavor, but it will blend into the cherry flavor.
Pomegranates, especially the very ripe ones, are just full of red juice. Mash a pomegranate and you’ll get a very flavorful and colorful addition to your cherry recipe.
Use gel food coloring
If all else fails, you’re in a rush or you can’t find anything on the color substitute list, you’re down to gel food coloring. The upside is that it won’t add too much moisture to the batter, so you won’t need to adjust anything.
The downside is that you may be a bitter aftertaste from the food coloring, as reds tend to have a strong taste. Still, if it’s the only thing you can find, go for it.
Spices that go with cherries
Okay, you’ve somehow found a way to substitute cherries and make the color look great. Congrats ! But you’re afraid someone’s gonna notice those aren’t cherries you put in. Or maybe you’re just unhappy with the idea of not using cherries.
That’s okay, we can fix this. One thing to remember when substituting anything, the flavor is more important than all else. And cherries are great but they are only part of the recipe. Most often there’s other things you add to the ingredient list for flavor.
So what are cherries usually paired with ? Let’s see, and maybe if you add these to your ‘fake cherry’ recipe you could even fool your own taste buds !
Chocolate or cocoa
Possibly the most basic combination, but it deserves all the love in the world. Cherries bring out a beautiful earthy and sweet tone in chocolate, so adding some chocolate to your recipe will help.
We recommend using dark chocolate, as dark as you can tolerate it. It’s easier to work with, like ganache or making some nice edible tree bark, and it’s more cherry-like.
You might’ve noticed a beautiful spicy undertone to a lot of cherry pastries. That was cinnamon, but used sparingly. Don’t use it too much or you’ll overpower the cherries.
And vanilla, a warm, sweet flavor that goes so great with cherries ! Whether you sue vanilla extract or vanilla beans is up to you, but we really recommend you try this one.
Read Also:Quince Substitute
Now licorice isn’t the most common add-in, but we’ve see it around. Especially in jellies or cookies, some people like mixing licorice with cherries.
So give them a try, or combine several of these spices, see what you like best. The point is you’ve found a way to substitute cherries and you should be very proud of your end result !