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Homemade Maraschino Cherries

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Homemade Maraschino Cherries

These homemade maraschino cherries are better than the store-bought version in every way. Whip up a bunch, while cherries are in season, so you can enjoy them in ice cream sundaes, banana splits and drinks, and give them as gifts throughout the year.

How Maraschino Cherries are Made

Real maraschino cherries are made by soaking sour marasca cherries in maraschino liqueur, but most people associate the name “maraschino cherries” with the neon red cherries that come suspended in sickeningly sweet syrup. To make these over-processed knock-offs, sweet cherries are first soaked in a chemical brine; then, bleached and injected with red dye. The result is a cherry that neither tastes, nor looks, like an actual cherry. Very disappointing.

My recipe for homemade maraschino cherries skips all the chemicals and fake stuff, but it also skips the alcohol. I use simple syrup in place of the cherry liqueur, to keep them kid-friendly, and the results are fantastic. With no chemicals or alcohol competing for attention, you get nothing but pure cherry flavor and color.

What Type of Cherries Should I Use for My Homemade Maraschino Cherries?

If you want your homemade maraschino cherries to have a sweet-tart flavor profile, use sour cherries. If you want them to have a sweet flavor profile, use sweet cherries. You can’t go wrong, either way.

Fresh cherries don’t keep for very long (a week tops), so plan to make your maraschino cherries within a few days of picking or purchase.

Bowl of Pitted Cherries

How to Pit Cherries (With and Without a Pitter)

To make homemade maraschino cherries, you’ll first need to pit a bunch of cherries. I have an OXO cherry pitter that makes quick work of the job, and I highly recommend getting one, if you think you’ll be pitting cherries on a regular basis. Since I grow my own cherries, this was a no-brainer purchase for me, but don’t feel like you have to invest in a new gadget to make this recipe.

A sturdy straw, chopstick or cake decorating tip can also be used to pit cherries. Just insert the end of the straw, chopstick or decorator tip into the stem end of the cherry, and push it through, until the pit comes out the other side. Simple, yet effective.

Whichever method you choose, pitting cherries is messy work, so I recommend wearing an apron or old clothing to protect against spatters.

Homemade Maraschino Cherries Recipe (No Alcohol)

This recipe makes 1 quart (or 2 pints) of maraschino cherries. To make a bigger batch, simply double, triple or quadruple the recipe; it scales beautifully.

Measuring Bowl of Cherries


  • 3 1/2 cups pitted sweet or sour cherries (from approximately 1 1/4 lbs fresh cherries)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup cherry juice or water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

What You Do:

Simple Syrup
Note: I made this batch with straight simple syrup, which is why it’s clear. If you use cherry juice, your simple syrup will be pink.

To make the simple syrup, reserve the juice that drains out of your pitted cherries, and add enough water to bring the measure up to 3/4 cup.

Combine the juice and sugar in a small saucepan, and heat on medium-low, until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes.

Remove from the heat, and stir in the lemon juice and vanilla.

Fill Mason Jars With Pitted Cherries

Fill 1 quart jar or 2 pint jars with cherries, up to the headspace line. Gently press on the cherries to pack them down slightly.

Fill Jars of Pitted Cherries With Simple Syrup

Then, pour simple syrup into the jars, once again stopping at the headspace line.

Screw lids on the jars. Then, refrigerate for at least 3 days, before serving, so the flavor has time to develop.

Your homemade maraschino cherries will keep in the refrigerator for at least a month, and also freeze beautifully. Keep an open jar in the fridge. Then, store the rest in the freezer, until you need them (just be sure to use freezer jars, so they don’t break).

Want to can your homemade maraschino cherries? Here are the current cherry canning recommendations from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

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Homemade Maraschino Cherries

Homemade Maraschino Cherries

These maraschino cherries are packed in simple syrup, rather than cherry liqueur, so they’re alcohol-free and kid-friendly!

  • Total Time: 8 minutes
  • Yield: 1 quart 1x


  • 3 1/2 cups pitted sweet or sour cherries (from approximately 1 1/4 lbs. fresh cherries)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup cherry juice or water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


In a small saucepan, combine the juice and sugar. Heat on medium-low, until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes.

Pack 1 quart jar or 2 pint jars with cherries, stopping at the headspace line. Tap the jars, or press the cherries down gently as you go, to compact them slightly.

Fill the jars with simple syrup, up to the headspace line.

Screw on lids, and refrigerate 3 days, before serving, to allow the flavor to develop.

These homemade maraschino cherries will keep in the fridge for up to a month, and also freeze beautifully (just be sure to use freezer-safe jars). 

To can your maraschino cherries, refer to the current guidelines from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.


  • Use sour cherries, for a sweet-tart flavor profile, or sweet cherries for a sweet flavor profile.
  • After you finish a jar of maraschino cherries, use the syrup to flavor drinks.
  • These make a thoughtful gift. Make a bunch, while cherries are in season.

Keywords: homemade maraschino cherries, maraschino cherries recipe, how to make maraschino cherries, maraschino cherries recipe no alcohol

Flash-Frozen Cherries

Have more cherries than you have time to deal with? Freeze them. Here’s the best way to freeze cherries.

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  1. Thank you for this recipe!! I avoid artificial coloring whenever possible, and the “natural” red dye often used in cherries is often made with beetles. yuck. So needless to say, I’m super excited to try this recipe!
    BTW: I LOVE LOVE LOVE the updated look of your website. And your new photo is gorgeous!!!

    1. Yes, I try to avoid artificial dyes, too, so I’ll be making these maraschino cherries from now on. I’m happy to hear you like the redesigned website. My oldest daughter took that photo for me 🙂

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