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bourbon cherry crisp with ice cream on top

To showcase cherries in their prime, I try to make at least 1 cherry dessert each summer. Cherry pie with my favorite flaky pie crust is typically my default.

bourbon cherry crisp with ice cream on top

But this year I had a hard time deciding on a cherry dessert, so I asked you in my latest recipe testing post which you prefer: (1) streusel-topped crisp or (2) biscuit-topped cobbler. The results were pretty even, but the majority swayed toward crisp. There’s a lot of love out there for cobbler (and traditional pie crust, of course!), but nothing can live up to heaps of oatmeal streusel. Biscuits will never be streusel.

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MORE CHERRY DESSERTS

bourbon cherry crisp

BEHIND THE RECIPE

Cherry crisp is really simple, but delivers impressive flavor and texture. Here’s why cherry crisp is so easy:

  1. No need to mess with pie dough: no rolling anything out, waiting for it to chill, or stressing over a pie dough cracking. That’s another reason why we love strawberry crisp and apple crisp too!
  2. You only need 2 bowls: 1 for fruit, 1 for topping. Mix both components separately then layer into a dish and bake.
  3. No need to wait for the dessert to cool down before eating. Serve, eat, enjoy warm. Most definitely with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.
  4. Quick. Done and on the table in an hour.

What may take you the most time is pitting those cherries. Pitting cherries is the pits. You’ll save a lot of time and headache using a cherry pitter. I only pull mine out once or twice a year and whenever I clean out my gizmos and gadgets drawer (the official name), I ask myself if I really need this thing? And then I remember spending about 12 hours pitting cherries a few years ago for 1 pie and realized that cherry pitters, while only used a handful of times, is LITERALLY THE BEST INVENTION. And guess what? If you want to avoid all that, use frozen cherries instead. See my recipe note about substituting.

WHICH CHERRIES?

Use your favorite cherry variety. I chose a mix of rainier cherries and dark sweet cherries. You can use all rainier or all dark sweet– or if you opt for sour cherries, add a little extra sugar. See my recipe note below.

fresh cherries in a glass bowl

THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT YOUR CHERRY DESSERTS HAVE BEEN MISSING

Now I’m not much of a bourbon drinker, but I know that cherries and bourbon are a dynamite flavor pairing. I tossed a little into the filling and as I tasted my first spoonful, I knew exactly what all of my cherry desserts have been missing. Bourbon. You don’t need much– just a splash. But those couple tablespoons will catapult your cherry crisp from “great” to “I’m eating this entire cherry crisp and I’m not sharing.”

When I first tested this recipe, I tried reducing the bourbon down before using in the filling, but I found that step was unnecessary. When I tried the recipe with a simple pour of bourbon straight from the bottle, it was awesome. And obviously easier since it saves a step.

You won’t feel tipsy after eating a serving, though I’m sure you won’t feel like roses if you down the entire dessert. Like with my bourbon sweet potato pie, you can tell something unique is baked in, but the booze doesn’t overpower anything else.

WHICH BOURBON?

Since the bourbon is being used in a recipe and you only need a couple Tablespoons, no need to purchase the really fancy stuff. Any middle of the road bourbon is great. I used Jim Beam.

pouring bourbon into cherry crisp filling
cherry filling in a glass bowl

STREUSEL TOPPING

Nothing but basics come together to make the streusel topping so not only does it taste dreamy, it’s both easy and convenient. You need the same ingredients we use for apple crisp— brown sugar, oats, butter, cinnamon, and flour. I added sliced almonds for some added crunch, but you can skip them for a nut-free dessert. I went back and forth about adding cinnamon, but quickly came to my senses because oatmeal desserts are nothing without cinnamon and cinnamon makes everything taste like grandma’s baking. So, cinnamon is a non-negotiable.

The streusel topping is what I use for blueberry crumble pie. The trick with this crumble topping— so that it doesn’t melt and lose a lot of texture– is to use very cold butter, just like with pie crust and homemade biscuits. Mix brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together then cut in cubed and cold butter. I add the oats last because I don’t want them to break down when I cut the butter in. Whole oats  = more of the texture we crave.

oatmeal streusel topping in a glass bowl

And if you want an upgraded bourbon cherry crisp, use the brown butter streusel topping from my blueberry peach crisp. It’s so very good. And if you want a bourbon cherry cobbler, halve the topping recipe that I use for fresh peach cobbler. Also so very good.

bourbon cherry crisp in individual bowls for serving

PS: Any size close to a 9-inch baking dish works for this recipe.

More Summer Dessert Recipes

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bourbon cherry crisp with ice cream on top

Bourbon Cherry Crisp

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: serves 8
  • Category: Pies and Crisps
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This buttery bourbon cherry crisp combines sweet bourbon infused dark cherries with brown sugar cinnamon oatmeal streusel. Toasted almonds add a little crunch while vanilla ice cream adds a lovely contrast to the warm cherry filling.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 5 cups halved pitted cherries*
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons (21gcornstarch
  • 23 Tablespoons (30-45ml) bourbon*
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Topping

  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons (46g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 Tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, very cold and cubed
  • 2/3 cup (50g) old-fashioned whole rolled oats
  • optional: handful of slivered/chopped/sliced almonds

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Lightly grease a 9-inch (or similar size) round or square baking dish.
  2. Mix all of the filling ingredients together in a large bowl, then spread into the baking dish.
  3. Make the topping: Whisk the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or fork until the mixture is crumbly. See photo above for a visual. Fold in the oats and almonds. Sprinkle over filling.
  4. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the fruit juices are bubbling around the edges. Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack, and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving warm. You can also serve room temperature or cold.
  5. Cover leftovers and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Baked crisp freezes well for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then warm in a 350°F (177°C) for 20 minutes or until heated through. I do not suggest preparing the crisp and storing it, unbaked, in the refrigerator because the topping will get soggy. You can prepare and assemble the crisp through step 3 and freeze for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then continue with step 4.
  2. Special Tools: Cherry Pitter | Glass Mixing Bowls | Pastry CutterRamekins | Pie Dish
  3. Cherries: You need about 1.5 lbs of cherries. You can use any variety– I use a combination of dark sweet and rainier. If using sour cherries, increase sugar to 3/4 depending how sweet you like it. You can use frozen cherries. Thaw and blot them with a paper towel before using.
  4. Bourbon: I’m not much of a bourbon connoisseur. Since the bourbon is being used in a recipe and you only need a couple Tablespoons, no need to purchase the fancy stuff. I used Jim Beam. I tested the recipe with 2 Tablespoons and 3 Tablespoons. Anywhere around either amount is great. If you’d rather skip the alcohol, use 2 Tablespoons of orange juice or 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice instead.

Keywords: bourbon cherry crisp

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Looking forward to trying this recipe. I canned some cherries earlier this season with bourbon (1st time). Any thoughts on how to proceed?

    1. Hi Maria, When you canned the cherries did you add sugar? If so, you may want to adjust the sugar in the filling accordingly. Drain the cherries before using too. Since they’re canned, they’re softer– reducing the bake time would be helpful too. Enjoy!

    1. Hi Brittney, We haven’t tested it but you should be able to replace both the lemon juice and almond extract for the same amount of bourbon (we would still use the vanilla extract). Let us know if you give it a try!

  2. I made this for the first time over the weekend at hubby’s request for something ‘slightly lighter’ than a pie. It was an absolute 5-star hit and I felt a little guilty at how easy it was! I used frozen cherries this time but ordered a cherry pitter this morning; I’m sure I’ll need it for Spring / Summer and more of your yummy recipes!

    As always, thank you Sally, for the attention to detail with instructions and pictures. I also LOVE that you include make ahead tips and alternatives.

    You are always my go-to site for guaranteed delicious recipes.

  3. If using frozen cherries, do I thaw them then measure or measure then thaw and blot?

    1. Hi Sherry, it won’t make a huge difference either way. You can thaw, then measure – enjoy!

  4. I can’t wait to try this recipe but don’t have bourbon. How do you think it would work with amaretto?

    1. If you love the almond flavor from amaretto, then that should work great here! Let us know how it turns out, JoJo.

  5. I have everything to make this delicious-sounding dessert except whole oats. I do have quick oats; would it make that much of a difference, do you think? I would definitely use some slivered almonds which would help with the contrasting textures. Thanks for any help!

    1. Hi Janet, quick oats will work in a pinch here.

    1. Hi Anna, We would double or 1.5x the recipe for the 9×13 pan.

  6. Delicious – times a zillion!! So so so good and so easy. (Well, probably easier if you use frozen cherries. I made a double batch and that’s a lot of cherries to pit) Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream? Oh my goodness!!!! Sally is my absolute go-to for all entertaining and treats. Thank you so much!

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