For The Best Cherry Pie Filling, Is It Better To Use Canned Or Frozen Fruit?

Whatever the occasion, serving a homemade cherry pie is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. A 2022 survey done by Instacart analyzed the most popular pies in the United States and determined that it was the number one pick, with 11 midwestern states claiming the tart dessert as their absolute favorite. It's a relatively easy dessert to throw together: Besides your favorite pie crust recipe, you don't need much more than some sugar, a little vanilla extract, and, of course, cherries. But choosing the right cherries for your pie can be more complicated than you'd think. Canned cherry pie filling is an easy option requiring very few additional ingredients, but is it the tastiest option? Would it be more beneficial to sacrifice a little time and use frozen cherries, adding a fresher element to your cherry pie?

While ultimately it is up to personal taste and preferred baking process, many pie lovers would agree that when you have the opportunity to use natural, undoctored fruit, do it — even if that fruit comes from the freezer section. Canned filling may be a time saver, but what you save in time, you may end up sacrificing in flavor, texture, and nutrition.

Next time you're making cherry pie, don't skip past the frozen fruit aisle

While canned cherry filling is a time saver, it may come with an aftertaste that you didn't anticipate. Some cherry pie lovers claim that the canned stuff has a metallic taste, and most prefer a fresher cherry filling to this highly processed and pre-spiced version. Of course, there will always be those who enjoy the easy process of pouring the ready-made filling into a crust and calling it a day, but the extra-soupy consistency and added preservatives aren't exactly ideal. Even whole, pitted cherries from a can often sit in dye-tinted heavy syrup, which can taste artificial and saccharine.

For many bakers, frozen fruit is the ideal option for baking. While freshly pitted and de-stemmed cherries might seem like the best choice for a homemade taste, frozen cherries can actually make pies more succulent. Fresh cherries require a longer prep process before they are ready for pie filling, but frozen cherries don't require any additional steps. Simply leave the bag out to thaw until the fruit reaches room temperature and you're ready to make your filling. The final result is a deliciously juicy cherry pie filling reminiscent of preserves, one that you would never know was made with fruit that was once sitting in the freezer. Additionally, a bag of frozen cherries is more cost-effective than fresh produce, but without the risk of the can's unpalatable flavors.

Elevate canned cherries with these baking hacks

If canned cherry filling is all you have access to and you need to whip up a cherry pie on short notice, there are still ways to elevate the mixture and have your guests guessing if it was made from scratch. If your canned filling tastes too sour, consider sweetening it with natural sweeteners like honey or cherry jam. These will bring a more robust flavor profile than simply adding plain white sugar. If you're going for more of a tart cherry flavor, try adding citrus like lemon juice, orange zest, or even slices of lime to boost the tanginess in each bite. Your guests will definitely notice the vibrant flavors, even if they might not be able to pinpoint exactly what brought your pie filling to the next level.

You may not have fresh cherries, but if you find any other berries hanging out in your fridge, you could switch gears slightly and make a mixed berry pie with cherry filling as the base. Meanwhile, if things go really awry and you don't have the ingredients for a crust, you can always transform your cherry pie plans into a three-ingredient tart cherry dump cake featuring those reliable canned cherries. With convenience foods like prepackaged cherries on hand, a great dessert is never too far away.