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Homemade maraschino cherries are a much healthier version of the pretty red cherries you can buy at the store. Use homemade maraschino cherries in your favorite cocktail, on top of ice cream sundaes, or to top your favorite desserts.
Store-bought maraschino cherries are heavily processed. They are bleached in a mixture containing calcium chloride and sulfur dioxide, which removes the natural red color and the natural cherry flavor. The cherries are then brined in a sugary syrup and injected with red dye.
You can use any kind of cherry that you like in this recipe. I have a Stella cherry tree in my garden that produces a beautiful bright red sweet cherry that I used in this recipe. Bing, Rainier, or even pie cherries will work. You can leave the stems on or remove them when you pit the cherries.
I made this recipe using Grenadine because that’s what I had on hand, but you can use cherry, pomegranate, or red grape juice instead if you wish.
Combine all of the ingredients except for the cherries in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar. You will be creating a simple syrup for the cherries to soak in. Turn the burner off and add the cherries, pressing them down to submerge them.
Allow the mixture to cool, then transfer the cooked cherries to a container with a tight-fitting lid or a clean quart-size jar. You can use them in drinks or on desserts as soon as they cool, but they get better when they are allowed to rest for a couple of days. The longer the cherries soak in the juice before you use them, the more flavorful they will become. The cherries can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks or frozen for long-term storage.
The following recipe is a non-alcohol version, but you can most certainly add cherry brandy or cherry liqueur if you wish (such as Luxardo®). I would start with a 1/2 cup, you can always add more to your taste. Add the alcohol when you add the cherries so the alcohol doesn’t cook-off.
Homemade Maraschino Cherries
- 1 pound fresh cherries; pitted - approximately 3 cups (any variety)
- ½ cup Grenadine, cherry, pomegranate, or red grape juice
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- ⅓ cup lemon juice
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Use a cherry pitter to remove the cherry pits and set cherries aside.
- In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat, add everything except the cherries and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer, stir until sugar dissolves completely, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the cherries, let cool. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.