This all American cherry pie with crumb topping has fresh cherries, and a buttery crust. It’s a classic that never goes out of style.
While berries and peaches are becoming hard to find as the summer winds down, we can still find sweet cherries until the end of September and there is nothing better than a homemade cherry crumb pie. While a classic cherry pie recipe has a lattice crust on the top, I prefer a crumble like topping.
Most cherry pies are filled with gooey pie filling and not that many cherries, but not this cherry pie recipe. It’s all fruit that is brightened with a splash of bitters and thickened naturally with grated apple and potato starch or corn starch.
The result is a dense pie that shows off the fresh cherries. All that have tried it have claimed it’s the best cherry pie they’ve ever had, including me.
Why you’ll love it
- Fresh cherries in this recipe are worth the effort it takes to pit the cherries.
- The streusel topping is amazing and it takes away some of the extra work of a double crust.
- If you have leftovers and that’s a big if, you won’t get stuck with a soggy crust because you pre-bake this crust.
Fruit pies can be a little finicky because if the fruit is super juicy, it’s hard to get pretty slices. So when it comes to fruit desserts, I’ll go with a peach crumble, or blackberry crisp, or blueberry cobbler. But cherries are a different story. The fruit is firm enough that you can get beautiful pie slices and still preserve the wonderful cherry flavor. No sicky sweet cherry pie filling here, just decadent baked cherries.
Cherries are so sweet and delicious, it’s hard to keep enough around to make them into a pie. Plus you have to pit them. It’s really not that hard even if you don’t have a handy dandy cherry pitter. This pie is so delicious everyone will volunteer to pit the cherries for you.
If you don’t have a cherry pitter, try this cool kitchen hack for pitting cherries without a cherry pitter.
The pie starts with a buttery flaky pre-cooked pie crust. With a lot of fruit pies, the crust will get soggy especially on the bottom. But with this recipe, the crust will stay flaky for a couple of days.
As I was eating the last slice five days later, the crust, while not flaky was still not mushy. It stays flaky for a couple of reasons, first it’s pre-baked so the juice doesn’t soak in as much and second, fresh cherries are not going to release as much juice as peaches or blueberries.
So you have a flaky crust and an amazing filling, what should you put on top, a buttery crumble topping of course. Just flour, butter and sugar, form the topping for the BEST cherry pie you’ll ever have.
What you’ll need
- Cherries – Cherries have a pretty long growing season in the US, starting in April in California and going through September in Washington. Cherries will not ripen off the tree like other fruit so choose cherries that have bright green stems and store them in the refrigerator. Don’t wash them until right before eating as the water will cause them to spoil. There is nothing like a sweet cherry.
- Angostura Bitters – Angostura bitters are an alcoholic mixture of herbs and spice used to enhance the flavor in many popular cocktails like an Old Fashioned and Manhattan. It’s a secret well guarded recipe made by a family in Trinidad. It’s readily available anywhere where wine is sold. Like adding apple brandy to apple pie, the bitters brings out the flavor of the cherries.
- Potato starch – Potato starch is readily available by Bob’s Red Mill in most groceries in the baking section. It’s a resistant starch which means it is not digested. It’s gluten free and has no carbs. I like to use it with fruit because the texture is not as gummy as cornstarch. If you don’t have any, you can substitute an equal amount of cornstarch.
- Apple – You will need a small apple that will be grated and added to the cherries. Apples have natural pectin which helps the pie thicken. Any variety of apple will work.
- Pantry staples – lemon juice, brown sugar, butter, flour and cinnamon.
- Pie crust – Make your own buttery pie crust or buy a store bought one, either way you will need to partially bake it before adding the filling. This will keep it from getting soggy.
How do you make a cherry pie with crumb topping
Make the pie crust before starting the pie as you have to partially bake it and let it cool before adding the filling. The pie crust dough can be made well in advance and kept in the freezer.
Pit the cherries and cut them in half and add a grated apple.
Add lemon juice, brown sugar, potato starch, cinnamon and Angostura bitters and combine.
Pour into the partially baked pie crust.
In a separate bowl combine flour, brown sugar, regular sugar and salt and work the butter into the dry ingredients and place over the cherry filling.
Preheat a baking sheet in the oven and place the pie on the hot baking sheet and bake for about 50 minutes, covering the crust with aluminum foil if it begins to get too brown. Let the pie cool for 2 hours before serving.
- If you don’t have bitters, you have a couple of choices. You can use some fresh lemon zest or almond extract.
- Let the pie rest about 2 hours after it bakes before cutting into it.
How do you serve a sweet cherry pie
Be prepared for the best homemade cherry pie you’ve ever had! Serve it warm, room temperature or cold right out of the fridge.
- This pie is even better with a little vanilla ice cream.
- Homemade whipped cream on top is perfect.
FAQs and tips
If you don’t have a cherry pitter, there are two alternatives. You can put the cherry on the top of a wine bottle and use a chopstick to push the pit into the bottle or you can use a metal straw to push the pit out. Both will work in a pinch but an inexpensive cherry pitter is worth it if you love cherries.
You can store pie crust dough in the refrigerator for a couple of days or several months in the freezer.
Frozen cherries will have more liquid than fresh, so let them thaw and drain the liquid before using them. The pie will not need to cook as long if using frozen cherries.
You can use an equal amount of cornstarch for potato starch.
For fruit pies, it makes a sauce that is less gummy than cornstarch. It is also gluten free and is a resistant starch so it can be used in low carb and keto diets.
There’s no difference between a streusel and a crumble; both are toppings made of butter, flour and sugar.
There are a lot of fun ways to put the bitters to use. Here’s an article with a list of ways, including adding a few drops to homemade whipped cream.
If you love cherries, then check out these recipes
Can’t get enough pie, try some of these
I adapted this recipe from Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book. They have a bakery in Brooklyn that I can’t wait to try when I’m in NY next. If you’re in the area and don’t want to pit your own cherries, you can pick up an entire pie to take home. I’m so jealous, all of the pies on their website look amazing.
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Cherry Pie with Crumb Topping
- 1 small apple peeled and grated
- 5 cups cherries pitted and halved
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons potato starch
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 cup flour
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 4 teaspoons sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons butter cut into 1 inch cubes
- 2 ½ cups flour
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 20 tablespoons butter 1 ½ sticks chilled
- 1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cups ice cold water
- In a food processor, add flour, sugar and salt and pulse to combine. Add butter, cut into 1 inch pieces, and pulse until it looks like coarse meal with no large chunks remaining. Add vinegar and water and pulse until the dough starts to come together. Place on floured surface and knead until all flour is incorporated, it won’t be smooth. Divide in half and pat into two flat disks about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Partially pre-bake one pie crust. To partially bake the pie crust place it in the pie pan, crimp the edges and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Remove and prick the sides and bottom with a fork. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes. Line with 2 pieces of aluminum foil covering the edges and add pie weights. Preheat the oven to 425º and place a baking sheet in the oven. Once preheated, add the crust to the hot baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes until the edges are set but not browned. Remove the pie weights and bake for an additional 3 minutes. Once cool, refrigerate until ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 425º. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack.
- Combine flour, brown sugar, white sugar and salt. Add butter pieces and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingers until it is chunky. Chill until ready to use.
- Peel and shred an apple on the large holes of a box grater. Add to a large bowl with pitted and cut cherries, lemon juice, brown sugar, potato starch, cinnamon and bitters. Mix together and pour into the cold pie crust.
- Sprinkle streusel over the cherry mixture and place the pie on the hot baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes on the lower rack of the oven then reduce the temperature to 375º and move the pie to the middle rack. Continue to bake until the juices are bubbling, about 30 minutes. If the crust and streusel are brown, loosely cover with aluminum foil for the rest of the cooking time. The top and crust should be golden brown.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- If you don’t have a cherry pitter, use a wine bottle and a chopstick. Place the cherry on the top of the wine bottle and push the pit into the bottle with the chopstick.
- You can use frozen cherries, thaw, drain and you may be able to reduce the cooking time.
- You can use corn starch instead of potato starch.
- If you don’t have bitters, you have a couple of choices. You can use some fresh lemon zest or use vanilla extract or almond extract.
- Let the pie rest about 2 hours after it bakes before cutting into it.