Tart Cherry Ice Cream: flavor in blossom

I distinctly remember the first time I had cherry ice cream. We were in Sturbridge, Massachusetts for the day, and my mother must have been off in the shops as I was alone with my dad. We stopped at a little ice cream window on a side street and he talked me into ordering Bing cherry ice cream.

I couldn’t get over the size of those deep-dark red cherries. They were nearly the size of quarters, giant slices with ruby centers so red they were nearly black. They weren’t the glaring, artificial red of maraschino cherries; and they were deliciously sweet, with a tart finish. To this day, when I think of the perfect cherry dessert or the perfect cherry flavor, those are the cherries that come to mind. The combination of that tartness with the rich vanilla ice cream was divine.

Over the years I’ve seen many, many versions of cherry-vanilla ice cream, yet I’ve never again seen Bing cherry. Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia is a great cherry ice cream, although still much sweeter than the ice cream I remember from that day. I’d pretty much forgotten about it until we started to carry cherry concentrate. Lo and behold, there was the flavor I remembered!

Dark and thick, the concentrate’s like liquid jewels, with intense cherry flavor. Too strong to drink straight, it’s exquisite in soda water, smoothies, and icings. It makes our Cherry Cupcakes sing, and adds pizazz to our Cherry Berry Crumble.

My first version of the following cherry ice cream recipe included pieces of dried cherries and dark chocolate ganache swirled into the ice cream. It was good, but I really wanted a cherry, cherry, CHERRY ice cream. Like cherry pie in ice cream form. Luckily, version 2.0 hit the sweet spot (pun oh-so-intended), and that’s the one I’m here to share with you.

Onward to Tart Cherry Ice Cream.

In a large measuring cup with a pouring spout combine:
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 cup milk

Whisk in 3/4 cup sugar. Add 1/4 cup Pastry Cream Filling Mix, or instant vanilla pudding mix. Pastry Cream Filling Mix will give you a richer ice cream with a silky smooth mouth feel.

Whisk, whisk, whisk.

Pour in 3/4 cup cherry concentrate.* This is definitely a tart cherry flavor, not a sweet cherry, not a maraschino cherry. It’s got depth of flavor and cherry pucker to it. It’s the ice cream version of old-fashioned tart cherry pie, and its extraordinary.

If you want a milder cherry you can reduce the flavor to as little as 1/3 cup, but I wouldn’t go any less than that, or the ice cream will just taste weak.

*If you don’t have our bottled cherry juice concentrate, check the frozen juice section of your supermarket to see if they have a cherry blend. Use the same amount of thawed concentrate as the cherry concentrate in the recipe. Adjust to taste.

Add 2 teaspoons vanilla. Whisk all the ingredients together and place in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

The colder your ice cream base is, the faster it will freeze, the smoother your ice cream.

Set up your ice cream maker and pour the base in slowly. Freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions.

For our trusty Cuisinart ice cream maker, that’s 20 minutes.

Looks like we’re just about there. The ice cream is thick and creamy. It’s still the consistency of soft serve at this point, but the machine has done its job.

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.  After you take a taste or two (come on, you know you will), scrape the ice cream into a 1-quart container and set in the freezer to ripen. Ripening is the term used for the period of hardening in the freezer after churning. Your ice cream will thank you for it.

Thanks to all you folks who wrote in looking for more ways to use cherry juice concentrate; I hope this recipe fits the bill. For those of you who don’t have the concentrate yet, I hope you’re inspired to give it a try.

I’d love to hear your childhood ice cream memories, cherry or not. Please share in our comments section and spread the joy.

Please make, rate, and review our recipe for Tart Cherry Ice Cream.

Print just the recipe.

MaryJane Robbins

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...


  1. glpruett

    Oh, my–this looks WONDERFUL!!! If I had to pick just one of your products as my favorite (but please don’t make me!), it would be the cherry concentrate. I made the cherry cupcakes with cherry frosting that was published in one of your catalogs, and they were incredible. It was all I could do to keep myself from eating the bowlful of frosting before it ever hit the tops of the cupcakes!!! I also often top plain, non-fat yogurt with a spoonful of the cherry concentrate as a super snack!

    My ice cream story comes not from my childhood, but from my maternal grandfather’s. Born in 1895, he was five years old when he first had ice cream at a county fair in Texas. I remember him telling me that when he first tasted the ice cream, he yelled to his mother, “Come quick–this tastes better than sweet milk, buttermilk, or clabber!” I never asked him just what “clabber” was, but he sure loved his ice cream!!!
    Wow! I think you win the prize for loving the cherry concentrate. Thanks for the yogurt idea. I put the concentrate in my smoothies all the time, but never thought to just drizzle it on the yogurt.
    I love your grampa’s story too. Not sure if it’s what he was describing or not, but clabber is slightly soured milk that used to be used like buttermilk in baking. How delightful that he loved ice cream from such a wonderful experience. Thanks so much for sharing. ~ MaryJane

  2. suellen

    This came just in the nick of time! It’s cherry season in Israel and the kibbutz across the road from where I live is having a cherry festival this Friday. I’ve already gotten 12 pounds of wonderful cherries from them and just finished pitting them all. Can’t wait to try this ice cream…. and the cherry pie.
    Oh you lucky duck you! Color me greencherry pink with envy. ~ MaryJane

  3. eskarp

    I have three cherry trees that produce well with a Moreno scheduled to be planted next year. Please, do you have a recipe to approximate cherry concentrate? I really don’t want to buy it when I’ve got a fifteen foot tall Montmorency Cherry in the yard.


    Hi there,
    I don’t have a recipe for making cherry concentrate from scratch, sorry. The bottle that we sell says there are 1000 cherries per bottle, so that’s pretty strong. Perhaps if you simmer fresh cherries in a little cherry juice until it is well reduced, that would work well. Let us know if you try it! ~ MaryJane

  4. LAN128

    The looks delicious! I can’t wait to try this recipe and add some cherries and dark chocolate to it!
    Hi LAN,
    That was one version we did test, and it was fantastic! Have fun. ~ MaryJane

  5. "Robin in TX"

    This sounds sooooo good! I think I would love to add the actual cherries to the finished product…I have tried that with strawberries, but they always come out either too hard to eat or too mushy. Any suggestions on how to add fruit to your ice cream?

    I do have a childhood ice cream memory…it was a hot summer Sunday after church and mom took us kids to the drug store. We each got a nickel to get an ice cream cone…hand dipped, of course! I chose a new flavor for that month called Peanut Cluster. It was a Carnation ice cream that was a really rich vanilla with actual pieces of peanut cluster candy all through it. Chunks of milk chocolate with peanuts…oh my, was it ever good! They only had that it for that one month and I never saw it again…but, boy!!! do I remember that flavor!!!
    That peanut ice cream sounds amazing! One more thing we’ll have to put on the wish list.
    For freezing fruit, it is a bit tricky as the water content in them tends to freeze solid and makes hard little bits of ice. Some folks recommend soaking the fruit in a little liquor to help keep it from freezing solid. Sugaring the fruit is another hint I’ve heard of, but haven’t tried.
    If you have a local homemade ice cream stand, it would be worth a try to ask how they treat their fruit. Plus, you get to go have ice cream! ~ MaryJane

  6. angela25

    Yummy! This just may be the recipe that converts my die-hard homemade vanilla-loving mom. Can you substitute the heavy cream with something healthier? Like whole milk?
    I would use half milk and half cream to start. The texture of the ice cream will change with a decrease in fat, so if you start slow you can adjust according to your tastes. ~Amy

  7. "Paul from Ohio"

    Looks like it’s bleeding cherry juice! Toooo awesome. I don’t personally care to eat whole cherries, but in pie, and even better in ice cream……….oh yeah. Question: if one used the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker you folks sell, does the resulting ice cream taste “icy”? Rather than creamy smooth wonderful like a premium ice cream. Ask because I read in a recent issue of….that it does.
    Hi Paul,
    I’ve used the Cuisinart both here and at home for 5 years now and I love the ice cream that comes out of it. In my experience, it only gets icy if I go too low in fat content, or if I don’t use very cold base to start with. I think pastry cream filling or adding dried whole milk helps with that texture issue too. Hope this helps! ~ MaryJane

  8. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez - Petrópolis, RJ- BRAZIL

    Dear Mary Jane
    Here in my city, Petrópolis we have a lot of delicious gastronomic treats. Two of them are found in one small ´delicatessen`named LEITERIA BRASIL. Ar that dairy shop, we have an enthusiastic man that produces the best fresh heavy cream I’ve tasted in all my life. Here in Brazil, with the modernization of country it´s now difficult to find fresh heavy cream to buy. We only have small bags of cream that brands such Nestlé fill the shelves at corners markets. But that old man, of his 68´s, made daily this best fresh cream since 1950. And the quality is superb. The other precious treat he produces at that Dairy Shop, is a delicious creamy cheese sorbet. People come from all the cities around and city districts just to taste that delicious creamy handcrafted sorbet. I´m now a local member of Slow Food Rio de Janeiro´s Convivium. And at my new bakery I´ll always fight to offer breads, and pastries free of chemical compounds, or any conservatives. This will be a RULE here.
    So, I recommend that you always work with fresh and local products. The final quality of the product is worth any effort.

    Another good notice. In my city, Petrópolis is located the 1st Brazilian Brewer Factory, of BOHEMIA ( http://www.bohemia.com.br/ ) , an AMBEV´s beer brand. This factory, a jewel to Petrópolis citizens had been abandoned for more than 10 years, but now with efforts and support of local municipality will be recovery in a millionaire investiment that will reproduce the originary plant, including a Beer Museum and local Museum of Brewer Traditions. I´m always researching for a nice recipe of beer bread. You have a bread at your recipe´s list, named Cuban Bread and this bread is marvellous, specially if made with black beer and filled with German´s traditional sausages. Hope one day you give a try in that Cuban recipe with Black Beer as liquid ingredient and with baking powder as second fermentative agent with normal instant yeast combined. This is a SUPERB bread one of the best i´ve baked from King Arthur inspirative recipes. Hope u publish step-by-step of Cuban Bread.
    Thanks a LOT!
    I´ll give a try in all these ice-creams and sorbet recipes, but only when winter comes. We are at tropical Brazil but at the end of fall season here, temperatures are falling down, near below zero!!!!
    Hi Ricardo,
    How amazing to have such fresh ingredients at hand, you are so very lucky.
    The beer bread idea definitely sounds intriguing, thanks again for sharing your wonderful ideas! ~ MaryJane

  9. sandra Alicante

    It must be the season, my ice cream machine is churning Caramel Almond frozen yogurt at this very minute! Sour Cherry sounds yummy though..



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