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How to make cherry hand pies from scratch

Cherry hand pies are the perfect, portable summer treat. Pack them in lunches, take them to potluck dinners, freeze them for the cold months when you need a burst of summer. These mini pies are made from scratch using sweet, not sour, cherries. They are a hand held remake of a classic childhood treat.

I’ll give you variations and substitutions where I can, plus helpful tips and tricks for success. Read on for this info as well as the recipe. If you’d like to skip straight to the recipe, use the jump to recipe button at the top of the post.

You may also be interested in my fresh cherry scones and my cherry chutney recipes. For ease of browsing, you can find all of my cherry recipes in one place.

cherry hand pies with fresh cherries
Fresh Cherry Hand Pies

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Why you should make this recipe

  • Great for gatherings – This recipe make 2 and a half dozen cherry hand pies.
  • Perfect for summer holidays – From Memorial Day though Labor Day, you can celebrate all of the red, white and blue holidays with these treats.
  • Versatile – You can make these little pies as big or as small as you like.

Cherry Hand Pies

Do you remember your favorite childhood treat? Mine was Hostess cherry pies. Cloyingly sweet cherry pie filling encased in a lackluster pastry shell coated with a cavity-inducing glaze of white icing.

Cherry hand pies cooling on a metal rack.

To think of eating one now does absolutely nothing for me, but the 10 year old version of me would happy devour that sugar bomb.

This homemade version made from scratch is a much better option.

Ingredients

You’ll need some pantry basics and about a pound and a half of cherries to make them.

Cherry mini pies with coarse sugar on top.
  • Flour – Provides structure for the dough. You can’t have a crust without it.
  • Lemon – We’ll use the zest in the crust and the juice in the filling.
  • Sugar – Regular granulated sugar sweetens both the crust and the filling.
  • Buttermilk – Provides moisture and makes a tender crust.
  • Salt – All baked goods need salt.
  • Butter – Cold, unsalted butter for the crust.
  • Egg – Used for the egg wash to seal the pies and brush the tops.
  • Cherries – The base of the filling. I used sweet Bing cherries.
  • Cornstarch – This helps to thicken the cherry filling.

Handheld cherry pies 

Mini cherry pies with fresh cherries.

These portable packages would also be a perfect addition to a picnic basket or a summer gathering. Just stack them up on a plate and let people help themselves. No need for utensils, plates or clean-up, which in my opinion is the best thing about these hand pies.

They are little pockets of goodness. Everyone went wild for these cherry hand pies. They disappeared before I got a chance to snag one for myself. 

Cherry hand pies with fresh cherries in the background.

How to Make Cherry Hand Pies

The first thing we have to do is make the dough for the crust. This will need to chill in the refrigerator for a bit, so it is the first step.

Make the dough

Slice the COLD butter. This is important. The butter must be cold, if it gets too warm, put it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up again.
Zest your lemons and measure out the flour, then combine everything in a medium bowl.

Collage of how to make dough.

Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until the pieces of butter are the size of a pea.

Make the filling

Step one in this is pitting cherries. It’s not too laborious, if you have a cherry pitter. I highly recommend getting one if you don’t own one. You can also use it for olives, so it does double duty.

Once you have the cherries pitted, chop them up and put them in a small pot to make your filling. 

Step by step photos of making cherry filling.

Roll out dough and assemble pies

You ‘ll need a rolling pin for this bit and my maple rolling dowel is the one I reach for. It works perfectly for rolling out crust and keeping everything even. You have to decide how big you want to make your hand pies. Choose a cutter of the appropriate size and cut out the dough. Make sure you have an even number – you’ll need 2 pieces per pie.

Step by step photos demonstrating making hand pies with cherry filling.

I made 2 different sizes so you could see the difference. It is only a slight difference in size, but it will change the number of pies you get out of the dough.

Also, keep in mind that the dough shrinks a little while it is baking, so the pies will be just a smidge smaller after baking.

Showing the differences of two different sizes of ring mold.

If you have kids who like to help in the kitchen, this is a great recipe to make with them. They can help you spoon the filling onto the dough discs, help with egg washing or sprinkling the tops with sugar.

Cherry hand pies FAQ’s

How long do they stay fresh?

I wouldn’t store them for more than a couple of days at room temperature. To extend the life of these treats, I’d recommend storing in the refrigerator. Because they do not contain preservatives, they will mold if stored at room temperature for an extended time, especially in the summer months.

Can I freeze them?

Yes! They freeze beautifully. Wrap tightly in plastic and store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Can I make them ahead?

Yep! You can make the dough and the filling ahead of time, then roll out the dough and assemble the cherry hand pies when you are ready to bake.

Cherry pie with bowl of cherries and plate of hand pies in background.
delicious cherry hand pies are perfect for summer potlucks

Variations and substitutions

If you are a blueberry fan, check out my blueberry mini pies.

You could also use a mixture of berries with the cherries, as long as it equals the same amount in the recipe.

Helpful tools and equipment

Round Cutters to cut out dough circles
Fluted edge cutters are also a good thing to have
Microplane to zest lemons
Pastry brush for egg wash

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Image of pies for Pinterest.

Your shares help this site to grow and I appreciate it so much. Do you know someone who would like this? I’d love it if you would share it on Facebook or pin it to your favorite recipe board.

Yield: 30

Cherry Hand Pies

Overhead shot of cherry hand pies with fresh cherries in between them.

Your favorite childhood fruit pie gets a mini make-over with these cherry hand pies.

Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients

For the Crust

  • 3 3/4 cups 470 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 12 ounces unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small pieces (3 sticks)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk

For the Egg Wash

  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water.
  • If you want to dust the top with sugar, you will also need sanding sugar or any coarse sugar.
  • prepare egg wash, get out the pastry brush & set aside.

For the Cherry Filling

  • 3 cups pitted cherries, roughly chopped (about 1 1/2 pounds whole cherries)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch
  • juice of half a lemon

Instructions

Make the dough

  1. Whisk together flour, zest, sugar and salt in the bottom of a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of tiny peas.
  2. Gently stir in 3/4 cup buttermilk with a rubber spatula, mixing it until a bit of a mass forms, then knead it two or three times to form a ball.
  3. If it doesn’t come together, add remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it does, then gently knead again. (I had to add all of the remaining 1/4 cup)
  4. Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten into a disc. Chill in fridge for at least an hour or up to two days. (Life got in the way & mine was in there for 3 days... It was fine)

Make the Filling

  1. Combine the cherries, sugar and salt in a medium pot over medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Increase heat slightly to bring to a simmer for 5 more minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in a few teaspoons of the cherry juice from the pot and stir until smooth.
  4. Pour the cornstarch mixture back into the pot and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened (about 6 to 8 more minutes). Turn off heat and add lemon juice. Stir to combine.
  5. Transfer to a non-metal bowl and allow to cool.

Assembly Line

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Generously flour the counter top, then unwrap one of your disks of dough. Gently begin rolling it out, starting from the center and pushing outward. The dough will be pretty firm when you begin, so be patient, but it will warm quickly... so not too patient!
  3. Keep rolling from the center out, turning the dough as you go, until it is about 1/8 inch thick. If the butter in the dough begins to get too warm and it starts to stick to the pin or gets goopy, slide it onto a baking sheet and put it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up again.
  4. Once dough is rolled out, cut out with a 2 1/2 - 3 inch cutter, whatever shape you have, or use a knife and cut into squares. I only had a round cutter of the appropriate size, so that's what I used.
  5. Lightly brush half of your circles or squares with the egg wash, taking care to get the edges, cut vents in the center of the other half of your circles/squares. Place 1 rounded teaspoon of filling in the center of the egg washed halves and top with the vented pieces. (don't overfill!) Seal with your fingertips or press with a fork along the edges.
  6. Brush with the egg wash on top and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Chill in refrigerator before baking if dough begins to get mushy. Repeat with remaining disk of dough, filling, etc.
  7. Place on baking sheet 1 - 2 inches apart and bake for 15 - 18 minutes until golden and puffed.
  8. Cool on wire rack.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

30

Serving Size:

1 hand pie

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 183Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 38mgSodium: 156mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 1gSugar: 7gProtein: 3g

Nutrition was calculated using a third party company and is intended only as a guideline.

Did you make this recipe?

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Thanks for stopping by! Have a delicious day 🙂

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Questions? Send me an email, I’m happy to help. I’d love to send you weekly tips and recipes, so you can get updates about what’s happening in the kitchen!

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13 Comments

    1. Thanks Becca! I have to look at the “comment” box and see the difference between posting it to FB and just commenting on the blog! Thank you for pointing that little tidbit out to me!

  1. Hello! Can I make the filling the day before? or will that change the consistency? Thank you! I’ve got my dough in the fridge and plan to serve them tomorrow! Also, as it is still technically winter, the only cherries I could find was a can of pitted dark cherries in a sugar syrup. I was planning to rinse them and use those. Should I change the amount of sugar in your recipe? Thank you!

    1. Hi Lauren! I would definitely rinse the sugar syrup off, or at least drain them really well. I’ve made them with frozen cherries before, but never canned cherries. It should be fine, but you might want to cut the sugar just a bit to offset the syrup. Even if you rinse the cherries, they have been sitting in sugar syrup, so they’ll be sweeter than fresh cherries. Please let me know how they turn out! (I’d love the feedback on using canned cherries, as I’m sure that might be all some people can find any time of the year in certain areas.) Thank you!! 🙂

      1. Thank you for getting back to me so fast! I was not sure what to expect! I was kind of under a time crunch so I actually looked at the can and they had a website with recipes so I checked it out. They have a cherry pie filling recipe. But I did mix it with yours a bit and basically blended the two! But the canned cherries were fine! They actually weren’t overly sweet! So I think your amount of sugar would work fine! And they came already pitted! So that was a bonus! The brand I found was Oregon Fruit Products. Good to know there are ways to have cherries all year round! Thank you again for getting back to me so soon!

  2. Hello! I would like to make this recipe but the cherries are not quite in season yet. You mentioned in an earlier comment that you have used frozen cherries before. How have you adjusted this recipe if using frozen? Thanks!

    1. Hi Valerie! You don’t need to adjust the recipe, just make sure that the frozen cherries are thawed and drained really well. Sometimes frozen fruit can get a bit soggy after it’s thawed. Let me know how they turn out! 🙂

      1. Thank you so much for your SPEEDY response! My 2 and 4 year old sons just earned a reward after filling a jar for their positive behavior. My 4 year old wants to celebrate by making cherry pie! Haha! Your recipe looks perfect to be able to bake with them!

        1. Oh my gosh! How great is that?! I hope you all love these little cherry pies! Please let me know how they turn out! And hooray for the little ones!! 🙂

    1. Hi Sharon, I made the recipe with sweet cherries. Sour cherries aren’t as readily available everywhere, but if you have access to them and want to give it a go, go for it 🙂

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