Bourbon Cherry Crisp

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 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, 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.
  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. 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 insanely good. And if you want a bourbon cherry cobbler, halve the topping recipe that I use for fresh peach cobbler. Also insanely good.

bourbon cherry crisp in individual bowls for serving

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

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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

  • 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.

44 Comments

  1. Hi Sally, might be a silly question – but does the bourbon lose its “alcohol-ness” during baking, like white wine does in risotto? My hubby is a strict non-drinker (which means he’s always the designated driver!), plus my kids love cherry crisp, so would this still be okay for all?

    1. Awesome question. Yes the alcohol bakes out but some of the flavor remains. 🙂

  2. Is there a non alcohol substitute you would recommend?

    1. Hi Paula! See my recipe note for a couple suggestions.

  3. Buffalo Trace is my favorite bourbon to use in desserts and other baking. It’s a little pricier than Jim Beam, but it’s worked in everything I’ve tried it in. Especially chocolate desserts — it makes the most incredible bourbon fudge.

    1. I’ll have to try that one! Thanks so much for the suggestion.

  4. Michelle Meyer says:

    We have 5 kids, could I double and use a 9×13 pan? Recently made your chocolate zucchini cake and it was a hit! (and was completely gone by next morning).
    I have also enjoyed your monthly baking challenges (and so has the family 🙂

    1. Hi Michelle! I would double or 1.5x the recipe for the 9×13 pan. Thank you so much for participating in the monthly baking challenges! I have July’s scheduled for next week.

  5. Hi Sally! I made the Bourbon Cherry Crisp last night and it was hit! So I’m making another for the 4th. Thank you for all you do!!

  6. This is beautiful and looks delicious! As I am more apt to make cookies or bars over something like this, I suspect this would translate well into your oatmeal cookies…maybe dried cherries soaked in bourbon and then added to the cookie dough? Perhaps some chopped dark chocolate in there to finish it off properly? Hmmmm…I make treats for our vet’s office every week and they told me they act like foodies trying to figure out what I put into my desserts….this actually might stump them! 🙂

    1. That sounds like it would be amazing! Let me know if you try it, Christine!

  7. I was wondering if I could make this cherry crisp with almond extract instead of the bourbon. I just like the flavor better. How much almond extract would you use?

    1. Hi Karolyn! You can leave out the bourbon and add 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of almond extract instead. Taste, then add more if you want. 🙂

  8. Fillmore containers have a plunger cherry pitter that fits on top of a canning jar. I just got mine and am eager to use it. Your crisp is the ticket. Watch the video on their website.

  9. I used all bing cherries – big and ripe and lushly sweet. I did not add any sugar to my cherries since the fruit was already plenty naturally sweet. I found the fruit gelled up too much. I wish I would have had some juiciness after baking, like your photo shows (maybe less cornstarch next time?). I also found the topping too sweet; next time I will cut back on the brown sugar. LOVED the addition of slivered almonds; the crunch was great! I like my crisps to have a tart-sweet combination; perhaps I will try adding some sour cherries (I shouldn’t be complaining cuz we have access to such amazing Pacific Northwest cherries!!!). Pls feel free to share any other tips Sally. Thank you

    1. Hi Faye! Perhaps too much cornstarch. I’m surprised they thickened so much without any sugar in the filling! Jealous of your fresh PNW cherries 🙂

  10. Hi Sally,
    I made this tonight but used the topping from your suggestion with “Brown Butter/ Blueberry Peach”.
    The cherries turned beutfully, but the topping wasn’t coming, together as “crisp”. It seemed sandy/dry, at 40 min. then 45. I left it in another 5 min, took it out and added a few drops of butter, and tented with foil and left it in another 12 minutes. It was ok taste wise( topping), but not nearly as successful as your brown sugar peach crumble pie; I made 2 weeks ago. (I followed directions carefully, and the butter was well chilled).
    I have made at least 7 of your recipes, and my oven times are within a minute or two of suggested times. I weigh the ingredients, so am not sure why this happened. Perhaps you have an idea?
    Guess I’ll stick with what topping worked previously,eg.,the peach pie.

    BTW: I have all 3 of your books, and MAJOR, MAJOR success with fudge brownies in your Sprinkle video.

    Thanks for your site, and all of your detailed directions. I very much appreciate what you have done, so thank you!

    1. Hi Carol! Thank you for the very sweet comment and all the support with my cookbooks and Sprinkled series 🙂

      I’m so sorry you had trouble with the crisp topping. Did it seem sandy/dry before going into the oven? I wonder if there just wasn’t enough butter in the brown butter topping for you. Perhaps the butter reduced down too much on the stove as you were browning? If you try again, add another 2 Tablespoons of butter.

  11. I just made this for friends for a weekend away it was so easy and hassle free, despite that I’m not in my kitchen! And the cherry on the cake, everyone loved it! Thanks so much!

  12. I made this tonight. I’m pretty sure this might be my favorite dessert! I didn’t have bourbon and forgot to add lemon or orange juice but I did think to put in a bit of almond extract. Delicious!!!!

  13. Valerie Ratliff says:

    Do you think the cherry mixture would work as a cheesecake topping? If not, what changes would you make to make it work as a cheesecake topping?

    1. Yes, absolutely!

  14. Delicious! I made this tonight with sour cherries from the trees in my yard. It turnedout so well! I baked them in small ramekins for individual servings and it worked great. Thanks for another awesome recipe!!

  15. Do you know if I can make this with trader Joe’s dark morello cherries? Assuming I’d drain the syrup? Or if I don’t have fresh cherries, just use the frozen, as suggested? Thanks!

    1. Hi Melissa! I can’t see why those cherries wouldn’t work.

  16. Hi Sally! Can you prep everything, including the crisp topping, and store in freezer unbaked? Or do you recommend freezing the crisp after baking?

    1. Hi Janine! Best way to freeze is to 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.

  17. Another great recipe, Sally!! Made this for a fun summer dinner with friends tonight. Everyone enjoyed it and I can’t wait to dig into the leftovers tomorrow. And you are right, the cherry pitter is a lifesaver.

  18. Mary Harrington says:

    The first time I made this it turned out too soupy/too much liquid on the bottom. So next time I cooked the sugar cornstarch and cherries on the stovetop first to thicken then topped with oatmeal and baked. Turned out much better and pieces held together.

  19. It’s a good recipe but honestly I prefer tart cherries to sweet cherries for baking. Maybe next time I will try it with some lemon juice/zest for tartness. Also, I find if you use instant tapioca or tapioca flour (starch) for acidic fruits like cherries and berries, it is not as runny.

    1. Great tip with the tapioca flour, Robin! And you can certainly make this with tart cherries – or even a mix of both for more depth of flavor!

  20. Hi Sally~ This is my first time to your site. I was specifically looking for black cherry crisp recipes and yours caught my eye. However, I wanted to use Oregon Specialty Foods canned black cherries. Would you be able to offer substitution advice (i.e., drained fruit or not, quantity) and include tapioca measure?

    1. Hi Debbi! I believe those black cherries are sweetened, correct? 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!

  21. Hubby said best dessert ever made (and that’s saying a lot because of the clean plate club). Minor tweaks: used good bourbon, after mixing in cornstarch and 1/2 the sugar per recipe, I strained to get excess liquid out, added several sprinkles of ground cardamom to both the fruit and topping bowls. Unbelievable result – no need for ice cream, just a big spoon and second helpings.

    1. DENEEN COOK says:

      There’s ALWAYS a need for ice cream 😉

  22. Quick & Delicious. The only substitutions I made were: I used raw sugar and instead of bourbon, I chose Southern Comfort. In my opinion it’s a little smoother. Also added finely chopped pecans to the topping. Next will peaches. Thanks for an outstanding, easy recipe

  23. If this tastes anywhere as good as it looks, our dinner guests this evening will stay overnight for leftovers at breakfast! I defrosted whole cherries that I pitted and as other reviewers, cooked my sugar, cornstarch and bourbon (good Kentucky sour mash) in a saucepan a few moments to thicken it. It worked perfectly. I cannot wait to try this with vanilla bean ice cream in a few hours. I wish I could post the photograph I took as soon as it came out of the oven. As further evidence of what’s to come, a heavenly almond/cherry aroma gobsmacked me silly!

  24. Maggie Medjuck says:

    This is now in my Top 3 “Sally’s” Desserts- it is so good! My tweeks: I love sour cherries, so used 2 jars (4 cups); omitted bourbon and added 1 cup of the cherry juice (from the jars) to the sugar and corn starch mix; cooked that on the stove till thickened; added 1/2 tspn almond extract with the vanilla (so good); added cherries to mixture, then poured into pan. The topping is perfect, which is why I keep using it.
    This is the best cherry crisp I’ve ever had, and now I can’t stop sneaking into the kitchen for little bites!

  25. Hi Sally! Could you possibly use tinned cherries for this?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Michelle, Tinned cherries are usually sweetened, 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!

  26. Made this with frozen cherries. Wow, so delicious, and the addition of bourbon is spot on. Adds a level of sophistication and cuts through sweetness.

    I used frozen cherries, which are extra juicy, so I followed the recommendation of other bakers and cooked the cherry mixture a bit on the stovetop to thicken.

  27. Another successful recipe! I used 3T of bourbon, so it’s bourbony delicious. Crunchy topping is perfect!

  28. Shelley Bachand says:

    Only substitutes I made were brown sugar in the cherries instead of white (only cuz I was not aware I had no white sugar in the house), and no bourbon. It still turned out wonderful!

  29. Susan Rowley says:

    We are bourbon drinkers, but I should have reduced the amount. After making several jars of maraschino cherries this year (with Luxardo and bourbon), this dessert has a stronger alcohol taste in comparison. The juices didn’t set up even after cooling to room temp. I made this with Rainer cherries. I’ve had wonderful success with your other delicious desserts! The suggestions about cooking cherries and thickener together first might help.

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