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Sour Cherry Crisp

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This sour cherry crisp uses fresh tart cherries and an easy gluten-free vegan topping. It’s the perfect patriotic and easy summer dessert everyone will love!

Baked sour cherry crisp with a serving spoon.

Fourth of July is this weekend.

And while I’m not and never have been one of those people to make foods in the form of anAmerican flag, I whole heartedly support a patriotic cherry pie-esque dessert.

I mean, does it get more Americana than cherry pie?

Personally, I don’t think so.

I know some will argue apple pie holds that title but I’m team cherry.

I can’t answer most “what’s your favorite food” type questions but when it comes to pie, my answer is hands down cherry pie. Every time.

Except, I have zero patience for making real pies from scratch.

Enter this sour cherry crisp.

The lazy (wo)man’s solution to dessert patriotism for this upcoming holiday weekend.

Fresh sour (tart) cherries in a bowl on a cutting board.

SOUR CHERRIES (TART CHERRIES)

Let’s talk about the cherries for this sour cherry crisp.

True cherry pie is made with sour cherries. They’re also called tart cherries.

The two terms can be used interchangeably.

In the past, I’ve usually used the term tart cherry. From tart cherry tea bread to mini tart cherry galettes (closest I’ll get to a homemade pie) and more.

When it comes to pie, however, I think “sour cherry” is more widely used so I’m using that for this sour cherry crisp since my intention was to mimic pie in the first place.

Whatever you call them, sour cherries or tart cherries are a bright red cherry when picked and retain that color when dried, frozen or juiced.

Their intense color makes anything you use them in a gorgeously striking hue like these tart cherry fudge thumbprints or this butternut squash goat cheese dip with tart cherry compote.

As the name suggests, their flavor is more sour and tart than sweet cherries. Not so much as they’ll cause any lip puckering like eating a lemon would but enough to distinguish them from their sweeter cousin.

Usually, this goes unnoticed in a sour cherry pie because so much sugar is added you’d never know!

This sour cherry crisp recipe however keeps the added sugar to a minimum so the wonderful true flavor of the sour cherries shine through.

If you like a little tang and freshness, you’ll love the flavor of this crisp.

Sour cherries also have some pretty impressive health benefits. I’ve written a lot about this in all my tart cherry recipes on here so just search “tart cherry” if you want more info.

This article is great at highlighting the differences between sweet and sour cherries if you want to learn more.

Pitting sour cherries on a cutting board with a cherry pitter.

WHERE TO FIND SOUR CHERRIES

Their season is short and their availability in fresh form can be a bit limited.

The best place to find sour cherries is usually seasonal farmers markets.

I picked up a bunch at mine last week (the end of June in New York). Unfortunately, they’re usually only around for a couple weeks or so.

You can however find frozen sour cherries as well as canned sour cherries in the grocery store. They’re sometimes referred to as “pie cherries”, especially when canned.

If choosing the canned variety, make sure you’re buying sour cherries packed in water and not sour cherry pie filling.

It’s kind of like the difference between buying pumpkin puree vs. pumpkin pie filling.

One is just the fruit, the other is the fruit plus a bunch of sugar and additives. You want the former.

Tart cherries, strawberries and red currants in a bowl with lemon juice, coconut sugar and arrowroot powder to make sour cherry crisp.

PITTING SOUR CHERRIES

Pitting cherries is a chore, there’s no way around it.

That said, it’s a chore made exponentially easier by a kitchen gadget called a cherry pitter.

I pretty much make a rule of no uni-tasking kitchen gadgets in my house.

A cherry pitter, however, is one exception to this self-imposed rule and it’s a very welcomed one.

If you’ve ever tried pitting a pint of cherries with a knife or better yet, the metal straw approach, I know you feel me on this.

So do yourself a favor and if you plan on making this sour cherry crisp or anything with cherries, spend the $14 on a cherry pitter.

Assembling tart cherry crisp in a baking dish.

INGREDIENTS FOR GLUTEN-FREE VEGAN SOUR CHERRY CRISP

For the filling of the crisp, you’ll need the following:

  • pitted sour cherries (tart cherries, pie cherries, whatever you want to call them)
  • fresh lemon juice
  • coconut sugar
  • arrowroot powder

As you’ll see in the pictures, I also used some strawberries and red currants in addition to the sour cherries for the crisp.

I simply didn’t have enough sour cherries to comprise the 4 cups I needed for the recipe so I improvised with other seasonal red berries.

Feel free to do the same if needed but, make sure to use at least 2 cups of sour cherries. Anything less than that and their lovely tart flavor gets drowned out by the other fruit.

For the crisp topping, you’ll need:

  • blanched almond flour
  • sliced almonds
  • sorghum flour (or use oat flour as a substitute)
  • coconut sugar
  • vanilla extract
  • cinnamon
  • cardamom
  • salt
  • coconut oil
Baked tart cherry crisp with a spoonful being scooped out to serve.

HOW TO MAKE SOUR CHERRY CRISP

Start by preheating your oven to 350°F.

The crisp can be baked in a pie dish, a baking dish or even a cast iron skillet. So grab one of those and set it aside.

Combine and toss the sour cherries with the fresh lemon juice in a large bowl.

Add the coconut sugar and arrowroot powder to the cherries and stir.

Transfer the mixture into the baking dish.

Make the topping by combining all the ingredients except the coconut oil in another bowl.

Add the softened (but not melted) coconut oil to the ingredients and combine using the tines of a fork or your (clean) fingers until a fine crumble texture results.

Sprinkle the crisp topping on top of the cherries in an even layer making sure to go right up to the edges of the baking dish.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until the cherries are bubbly and the topping has turned golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let the tart cherry crisp rest for at least 10 minutes before serving warm.

The longer it sits, the less liquidy it will be when serving.

SERVING TART CHERRY CRISP

This crisp is best served warm not hot.

As the crisp cools, the filling will gel/congeal a bit. When it first comes out of the oven it will be more loose and liquidy so I do suggest letting it sit for 10-20 minutes at least before serving.

To serve, scoop into bowls and either enjoy it as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some whipped cream or coconut cream on top.

Or, go full out cherry and try a scoop of roasted cherry chocolate chip frozen yogurt!

A serving of sour cherry crumble in a small bowl.

USING CANNED OR FROZEN SOUR CHERRIES FOR THE CRISP

If you can’t find fresh sour cherries and want to use either frozen or canned varieties that will work.

Just make sure that if using canned, you drain the cherries first.

If using frozen, thaw and drain before using.

CAN I USE CHERRY PIE FILLING FOR THIS CRISP?

As I mentioned before, cherry pie filling is already sweetened and usually uses thickeners and additives as well.

You can use pie filling since the cherries are sour cherries but I don’t suggest it.

The outcome will be much sweeter and the added ingredients aren’t ones I usually recommend.

OTHER SUBTITUTIONS

This sour cherry crisp recipe was intended to be vegan and gluten-free so everyone can enjoy it.

But, if you have no need for that, feel free to use all-purpose flour in place of the sorghum (or oat flour).

Coconut oil can be replaced with cold butter as well.

Instead of coconut sugar, granulated sugar or brown sugar will both work.

And, arrowroot powder can be swapped with cornstarch.

There are plenty of ways to customize this crisp to what you have on hand so don’t be afraid to play around with the recipe a bit!

Tart cherry crumble in a serving bowl with a spoon.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SOUR CHERRY CRISP AND SOUR CHERRY CRUMBLE?

This is one of those questions that I sometimes ponder way too much.

It’s sort of like the difference between bread pudding and baked French toast. I discuss that at length in my chocolate strawberry bread pudding recipe.

Crisp, crumble…they’re basically the same, right?

Well, a quick search on the internet tells me almost but not quite.

Both crisps and crumbles contain fresh fruit. But, a crisp apparently uses oats whereas crumbles do not.

Hmm.

If that’s the true definition, maybe this should be called a sour cherry crumble?

My microwave apple crisp uses oats but then there’s my paleo strawberry ginger crisp that doesn’t.

I think time has blurred the lines on the difference between these two terms and just like tart vs. sour when it comes to the cherries, crisp vs. crumble doesn’t matter either.

So, call this sour cherry crisp whatever you want: sour cherry crumble, tart cherry crumble, tart cherry crisp or even just a cherry crisp to keep it simple.

It’s a summer dessert without a limit on names.

No matter what you call it, it’s downright delicious and perfect for any festive celebration of our country’s Independence or just an enjoyable seasonal summer dessert!

MORE SUMMER FRUIT DESSERTS TO TRY:

Gluten-free peach blueberry buckle
Paleo peach shortcake
Peach and cherry quinoa crumble
Grilled peaches with brown sugar pecan crumble

sour cherry crisp

Sour Cherry Crisp

Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

This sour cherry crisp uses fresh tart cherries with an easy gluten-free and vegan topping to create a patriotic and easy summer dessert everyone will love!

Ingredients

For the Filling

  • 4 cups sour (tart) cherries, pitted (*see note)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot powder

For the Topping

  • 1/2 cup blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup sorghum flour (or oat flour)
  • 3 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, softened but not melted

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Place sour cherries in a large bowl. Add lemon juice and toss to combine.
  3. Add the coconut sugar and arrowroot powder to the bowl and stir until well combined. Transfer the mixture into a pie dish, cast iron skillet or baking dish.
  4. Add all the ingredients for the filling except the coconut oil in another bowl. Stir together until well combined.
  5. Add the softened coconut oil to the bowl and work into the mixture with either the tines of a fork or your fingers until a fine crumble consistency results.
  6. Spread the topping over the berries in the baking dish in an even layer.
  7. Bake for 40-45 minutes until cherries are bubbly and crisp topping has turned golden brown.
  8. Remove from the oven and let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Notes

*Use at least 2 cups of sour cherries. The remaining 2 cups can be substituted with other red berries like the strawberries and red currants shown here if you don't have 4 cups of sour cherries.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 249Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 90mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 3gSugar: 11gProtein: 4g

This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.

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