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 and it was actually a Sally’s Baking Challenge recipe!

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 and on Instagram 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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bourbon cherry crisp


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!
  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. 🙂


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


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.


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


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 with ice cream on top

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


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.


  • 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


  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons (50g) 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


  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.


  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.


  1. I love making crisp at home and this one looks and sounds so delicious! Nothing beats good cherry desserts – simply delicious and perfect for the summer!

    1. I agree!! Crisps are perfect for summer 🙂

  2. Lisa | Tiny Kitchen Capers says:

    My husband absolutely loves cherry pie as much as I hate making pie crust! This is a must try! Printing and pinning for later, thanks!

    1. Hope you both enjoy!

  3. Brittany Audra @ Audra's Appetite says:

    So glad you went with the crisp topping! I love crisps more than pies, plus they are easier! I’ve actually never paired bourbon with cherries before…but I can’t wait to try! I can’t wait to buy fresh summer cherries to make this 🙂

    1. I hope you love it!

  4. 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. 🙂

  5. Karen Cooperstein says:

    Aww Sally this is Perfect timing! My darling injured himself and is having hip replacement tomorrow. Cherries are his absolutely favorite. I get bonus points whenever I make him cherry pie. But this twist is splendid and is now his pick dessert tonight! He said thank you SALLY ♥️

    1. Oh my gosh! Sending best wishes for a speedy recovery – I hope you both enjoy this!!

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

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

  7. Brooke Butler says:

    Hi Sally! I love your recipe roundups that you do for holidays – can you do one for the 4th of July? I am trying to decide what dessert I should make and need some good recipes to choose from. Thanks!

    1. Hi Brooke! I’m so happy you enjoy my round-ups! I don’t have one planned for 4th of July, but my Memorial Day weekend round-up of recipes would be a great resource!

  8. Sally, perfect timing! My husband brought 2 pounds of cherries home yesterday. I was thinking your pastry hand pies but this is too tempting, yum. Although I voted cobbler, crisp is a winner too. Thanks. Also, can’t believe Noelle is 9 months old, where did that time go??

    1. Would love to know if you give this crisp a try, Lynne! And I know, time is flying by. Cannot believe she’ll be 1 soon.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Paige Flamm says:

    This is begging to be made on the Fourth of July!


  12. We moved last year away from Berrien County (St. Joseph) area in Southwest Michigan along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Although it’s not as known for cherries as the Traverse City area is, all round us there were strawberries, blueberries, red and golden and black raspberries, blackberries, cherries, apples, and grapes. And fresh local asparagus sometimes just $2 a pound!! You could go pick your own cherries or buy prepicked, and the orchard would pit them for you! I made some great jams, pies and crisps there. Also, there’s no cherry pie like a Michigan sour cherry pie! Another perk of living there was that you could buy bulk pitted frozen cherries year round at the local grocery stores. I have 3 girls, the youngest just a smidge older than yours. Isn’t it fun to watch them grow? Enjoy!

    1. Sounds like a dream, especially the fresh house-made jams and pies. And the pre-pitted cherries too! I bet you miss it!

    2. Hmmm, all that fresh fruit almost makes me want to move to Michigan.

  13. Nicolas Hortense says:

    Mmmmm this recipe makes me wish it was cheat day today (:

  14. 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!!

  15. Sally, What type of cake turntable do you use to decorate cakes?

    1. Hi Katie! I use and love this Wilton cake turner.

  16. Albert Bevia says:

    Another grand recipe Sally, this looks so delicious and so easy to put together, and that link for the cherry pitter looks like the perfect tool!!!

  17. 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!

  18. 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. 🙂

  19. 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.

  20. 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 🙂

  21. 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.

  22. Ashley | Wanderzest says:

    I love cherry desserts! This one looks so good!! 🙂 Also, I feel like a nerd for knowing this, but is that the quiche dish from Joanna Gaine’s collection? I just bought it on clearance and it’s so beautiful! It looks perfect with your cherry crisp!

    1. Not a nerd!!!! Yes, you’re right! It’s from Target, their Hearth & Hand line.

  23. 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!

    1. I’m so happy you tried the recipe and loved it! Thanks for the positive feedback 🙂

  24. 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!!!!

  25. This would be good with peaches, too!

  26. 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!

  27. 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!!

    1. Such a fun individual dessert!

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

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