Cherry Compote

Have cherries on hand? Whip up this simple cherry compote to elevate your pancakes, ice cream, or any dessert needing a fruity touch!

Bavarian cream topped with cherry compote

Recipe At a Glance

Cherry compote is a delightful fruit syrup made from whole pitted cherries. To create this sweet treat, cherries are gently simmered with sugar and a splash of water. As the fruit breaks down and water evaporates, the mixture thickens into a rich sauce.

This recipe is a go-to for adding a burst of cherry flavor to pancakes, ice cream, or as a refined topping on your cheesecake.

The process is straightforward, allowing you to easily customize the thickness by varying the cooking time. While the cherries simmer, a quick stir every few minutes is all that’s needed. This leaves you plenty of time to whip up a dessert or tidy up the kitchen.

If you’re making this cherry compote for the first time, please read the ingredients notes, step-by-step instructions, and tips. If you’re familiar with the recipe, feel free to jump to the recipe card.

Ingredients Notes and Substitutes

Cherry compote ingredients
  • Cherries: You can use fresh, frozen, or canned cherries. I prefer frozen since they are picked and frozen at peak season, and are conveniently available year-round. Plus, they require no washing or pitting, so they’re ready to use right from the bag.
  • Sugar: Standard white sugar works well, but if you prefer something less refined, stevia or other neutral sugar substitutes are acceptable. For a twist, try maple syrup or honey, which will impart a unique flavor.
  • Lemon juice: A dash of lemon juice not only adds a slight tartness but also enhances the cherries’ flavor. Fresh lemon juice is recommended for the best taste.

How to Make Cherry Compote

  1. Prep Cherries: Wash and pit fresh cherries; for canned cherries, simply drain the water. Frozen cherries are ready to use as is.
  2. Cook: Combine the cherries, sugar, and a few teaspoons of water (so the cherries don’t burn) in a saucepan and heat over medium. After a few minutes, as the cherries release their juices, you can increase the heat to medium-high. Continuously stir every few minutes to prevent any sticking or burning.
  1. Monitor: Cook for about 12-18 minutes until the cherries are tender and the juices have been released. Keep an eye on the texture; remember that the syrup will naturally thicken as it cools due to the evaporation and pectins in the cherries. Remove from heat when the compote is slightly runnier than desired—it will thicken upon cooling.
  1. Lemon Juice: Once taken off the heat, stir in the lemon juice.
  2. Taste Test: Adjust the sweetness or tartness with additional sugar or lemon juice if needed.
  3. Use or Cool: Use the compote warm, or let it cool before storing in a glass jar or container.

Adjusting Flavor

While this recipe starts with basic ingredients, there’s ample room to tailor the flavors to your taste and what’s available in your pantry. Here are some enhancements you might consider:

  • Vanilla Extract: A touch of vanilla extract can amplify the natural fruitiness of the cherries. Add about half a teaspoon just before removing the compote from the heat.
  • Cherry Liqueur: For a richer taste and an extra zing, stir in a teaspoon or two of cherry liqueur after cooking.
  • Spices: Introducing spices like a cinnamon stick, star anise, a piece of nutmeg, or a clove can elevate the compote’s flavor profile. Add your chosen spice at the beginning of cooking to allow ample time for the flavors to infuse, and remember to remove it before serving.
 Sweet cherry compote on bavarian cream


Here are a few tips to enhance your compote-making experience, especially if you’re a beginner:

  • Skim the Foam: During cooking, foam will form on the surface of the compote. Skimming it off with a tablespoon or small mesh strainer can enhance the clarity and flavor of your compote. Focus on removing larger clumps of foam and don’t worry too much about the smaller bits.
  • Use a Wide Pot: Opt for a saucepan or pot with a broad base. A larger surface area facilitates quicker cooking and reduction of the compote.
  • Adjust Consistency: Consider the desired consistency of your compote based on its intended use. Whether you need it thin and pourable, thick like jam, or somewhere in between, adjust the cooking duration to achieve the perfect texture.
  • Stop Before It’s Perfect: Remember, the compote will thicken as it cools. Remove it from heat when it’s still slightly more fluid than your ideal consistency.
  • Cornstarch to the Rescue: If the compote is thinner than you’d like but you don’t want to reduce it any further, a cornstarch slurry can help. Mix 1 teaspoon of cornstarch with 1 teaspoon of water to form a slurry, then stir this into the simmering compote. Repeat if needed to achieve the thickness you’re looking for.
A spoonful of cherry compote
A spoonful of sweet cherry compote


Here are a couple of ideas on how to use cherry compote:

  • Dessert Topping: Elevate desserts like ice cream, cheesecake, yogurt, pancakes, or waffles with a dollop of cherry compote. It pairs beautifully as a topping for both chocolate and vanilla Bavarian cream, as showcased in the photos within this guide.
  • With Baked Goods: Cherry compote makes a delightful addition to pastries, cakes, and tarts. Use it as a filling for crepes, turnovers, or layered within parfaits.
  • Breakfast Boost: Stir the compote into oatmeal or porridge, or spread it over morning toast or bagels topped with cream cheese for a flavorful start to your day.
Homemade cherry compote for dessert topping
Two-flavor Bavarian cream dessert with a sweet cherry compote topping


Cherry compote can sit in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, tightly sealed.

Bavarian cream topped with cherry compote

Cherry Compote

Have cherries on hand? Whip up this simple cherry compote to elevate your pancakes, ice cream, or any dessert needing a fruity touch!
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Keyword: Cherries, Cherry Compote, Compote
Servings: 0.75 cups compote


  • 1 lb pitted cherries ~450g
  • 4 tablespoons sugar ~50g
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice


  • Prep Cherries: Wash and pit fresh cherries, drain canned cherries, or use frozen cherries directly.
  • Cook: In a saucepan, mix cherries with sugar and a bit of water and cook over medium heat. Increase to medium-high as cherries begin to juice up, stirring frequently.
  • Monitor: Continue cooking for 12-18 minutes until cherries soften. The syrup will thicken on cooling, so remove from heat when slightly thinner than desired.
  • Add Lemon Juice: Stir in lemon juice after removing from heat.
  • Taste and Adjust: Taste the compote and adjust sweetness or tartness by adding more sugar or lemon juice if necessary.
  • Use or Store: Use the compote warm or let it cool and store in a jar for later use.


– If you’re cooking a big batch of cherries, getting it to your desired consistency might take 30+ minutes.
– Depending on how long you cook the cherries, the recipe will yield between 2/3 and 1 cup of compote.
– This recipe uses a fairly low amount of sugar, resulting a cherry compote that’s fairly tart. Add more if needed.
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