Smoked Cherry Crisp With Pecan Topping

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This smoked Cherry Crisp with Roasted Pecan Topping is a messy dessert, but ohh so delicious. You need a big spoon to eat it and for sure a napkin to wipe off the crumbs and cherry juice. Please don’t use your sleeve, it will get stained. Sweet lightly tart cherries and crumbly, buttery golden brown topping all with a smokey note create an irresistible dessert. New take on the old and loved classic – this recipe is absolutely delicious.

Skip the cherry pie filling and dry cake mix – we’re doing this the old fashioned way!

baked cherry crisp shown in a serving dish; light background

It takes an hour or so

This Cherry Crisp can be whipped out in an hour or so, but it tastes best after it sits for a while. If you can make it a day ahead it would be best. Easy to warm up will taste freshly made and wow your guests.

Why you will love Smoked Cherry Crisp

  • Easy to prepare, only few ingredients and little over one hour
  • Perfect summer or winter treat
  • Great to use extra cherries
  • Texture and flavor, sweet, soft cherries and crumbly, buttery topping
  • Many serving ideas: with ice cream, whipped topping, yogurt,  
  • Easily customizable to your diet or taste preferences: adjust sweetness, spices, add nuts, raisins, 
  • Tastes like pie filling but better and without all the extra pie crust – making it an easy dessert for anyone watching their carbs.

Ingredients, Variations and Substitutions 

For the filling

Fresh cherries – Choose ripe, plump cherries for the ultimate burst of flavor. You can also use frozen if fresh cherries aren’t available. If using canned cherries, ensure they’re well-drained. If cherries are not in season, you can use other fruits like berries, or a combination of fruits.

Honey – adds natural sweetness and complexity to the cherry filling. It pairs wonderfully with the tartness of the cherries. Maple syrup or agave nectar can be used as alternatives to honey.

Lemon Juice and zest – add a tangy brightness and citrusy flavor to the filling, balancing the sweetness of the cherries and honey. Lime juice and zest can be used instead of lemon for a slightly different citrus flavor profile.

Vanilla – add depth and warmth to the cherry filling, enhancing its overall flavor. Vanilla bean paste or almond extract can be used as alternatives for a different flavor twist.

For the crumb topping

Almond flour – provides a nutty flavor and a delicate texture to the crumb topping. It’s also a gluten-free alternative to traditional flour. If you prefer, you can use all-purpose flour or a gluten-free flour blend in place of almond flour. Oats can also be used for the topping.

Pecans – Roasted pecans add a rich, toasty flavor and crunchy texture to the crumb topping, complementing the sweetness of the cherries. Walnuts or almonds can be used instead of pecans for a different nutty flavor.

Sugar – adds a touch of sweetness to the topping. Brown sugar can be used instead of white sugar for a richer flavor. 

Cinnamon – provides warm, aromatic notes that pair beautifully with the cherries. You can add a pinch of nutmeg or cardamom for additional spice.

Butter – Cold unsalted butter is essential for creating a crumbly texture in the topping. It should be cut into small pieces and worked into the dry ingredients until crumbly. If you prefer, you can use margarine or coconut oil as alternatives to butter for a dairy-free option.

How to pick the best cherries for this Crisp

When making cherry crisp, it’s best to use sweet cherries rather than sour cherries. Sweet cherries, with their juicy and flavorful flesh, provide a wonderful balance of sweetness and tartness when baked. Some popular varieties of sweet cherries that are excellent for making cherry crisp include:

  • Bing Cherries: are known for their deep red color, firm texture, and sweet flavor. They are widely available at the stores and work exceptionally well in desserts.
  • Rainier Cherries: have a distinctive yellow to pinkish-red skin and a sweet, delicate flavor. They add a beautiful color contrast and a unique sweetness to the dessert.
  • Lapins Cherries: are large, dark red cherries with a rich, sweet flavor. They have a firm texture and hold up well when baked, 
  • Sweetheart Cherries: heart-shaped with a deep red color and a sweet, juicy taste. They are known for their firm texture and intense sweetness.

Top Tips for making best tasting Cherry Crisp

  • Choose the Right Cherries:
    • Opt for fresh, sweet cherries when possible. You can also use frozen or canned cherries in a pinch
  • Add Flavor Enhancements:
    • a splash of vanilla, almond extract or a pinch of ground cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom can nicely elevate the flavor.
  • Don’t Forget Nuts:
    • For added crunch and flavor, consider incorporating chopped nuts like almonds or pecans into the crisp topping.
  • Avoid overcooking:
    • While there are worse things in life than dry cherry crisp, be sure to avoid overcooking your cherry crips. Remember, if you do, consider adding a couple tablespoons of melted butter or vanilla ice cream, after you’ve removed from the oven.

Equipment you will need:

  • Pellet smoker, or oven
  • Baking dish, round or square 9×9
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Medium bowl
  • Spoon for mixing
  • Small knife or cherry pitter
  • Chef’s knife
  • Cutting board
  • Small frying pan or cast iron skillet
  • Pastry cutter
  • Zester and hand juicer

Step by step instructions for the smoker:

Prepare the filling

  • Start by washing and sorting the cherries. Remove any bruised, damaged ones. Using a small knife or cherry pitter remove the pits. 
  • In a large bowl, combine the pitted cherries, honey, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and lemon zest (if using). Toss until the cherries are evenly coated with the mixture. Additionally you can use 1 tbsp of cornstarch.

  • Preheat your smoker to 375F.
  • Sweet flavored wood pellets are best to use when making this crisp. I would recommend: Cherrywood, Applewood, Pecan, Maple or Alder. Click HERE to read more about wood pellets.
  • Grease a 9×9-inch baking dish or round pie dish
  • Prepare the pecans. Chop them finely and roast lightly on a cast iron pan. Set aside to cool.

Prepare the crumb topping. 

  • In a separate bowl, mix together the almond flour, chopped – roasted pecans, sugar, and ground cinnamon.
  • Add the cold butter pieces to the flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Be careful not to overmix.

Assemble the Cherry Crisp

  • Transfer the pie filling to the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Spread evenly.
  • Sprinkle the crumb topping over the cherry filling, covering it completely.
  • Place the baking dish in the preheated smoker and bake for 40 – 50 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbling around the edges.
  • Remove the cherry crisp from the smoker and let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

Oven instructions

  • Prepare and assemble the Cherry Crisp as per the instructions for the smoker
  • Preheat your oven to 350 F
  • Bake the crisp in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbly
  • Remove and set aside to cool. 

Mistakes to avoid when making Cherry Crisp:

  • Using the wrong type of cherries – using sour cherries instead of sweet cherries can result in a tart and overly acidic filling. 
  • Not thoroughly pitting the cherries – failing to remove all the pits from the cherries can lead to an unpleasant surprise when biting into the crisp. 
  • Adding too much liquid to the filling – can make it overly watery and affect the texture of the crisp. Stick to the recommended amounts of liquid in the recipe.
  • Using Warm Butter for the Topping: The butter for the topping should be cold, not softened or melted. Using warm butter can result in a greasy, clumpy topping instead of a light and crispy one. Only add melted butter after the cherry crisp is full cooked and removed from the oven.
  • Overmixing the Topping: When making the crumb topping, avoid overmixing the ingredients. Overmixing can cause the butter to melt too quickly and result in a dense, doughy topping instead of a light and crumbly one.
  • Not Allowing the Crisp to Cool Before Serving: Allowing the cherry crisp to cool slightly before serving helps to set the filling and topping, making it easier to slice and serve. Cutting into the crisp too soon can cause it to fall apart.
  • Underbaking or Overbaking – pay attention to the baking time specified in the recipe and check the crisp periodically to ensure it’s baked to perfection. Underbaking can result in a soggy topping, while overbaking can lead to a dry and hard texture. If you overbake your cherry crisp, add a couple tablespoons of melted butter.
baked cherry crisp shown in a serving dish, light background, two spoons

Cornstarch or no cornstarch:

Whether or not to use cornstarch in cherry crisp or other crumbles and pies is a matter of personal preference. What is the role of cornstarch:

  • Thickening the Filling – it helps to absorb excess liquid from the cherries as they cook, resulting in a thicker and more cohesive filling. 
  • Enhancing the Texture – it contributes to the overall texture of the cherry filling, giving it a smoother and more velvety consistency

Tip: If you choose to omit cornstarch: 

  • you may need to adjust the baking time slightly to allow for the extra moisture in the filling to evaporate during the smoking process. 
  • consider reducing the amount of liquid ingredients in the filling (such as lemon juice) to help mitigate any excess liquid.

How to incorporate cornstarch into the Cherry Crisp:

  • After washing and pitting the cherries, place them in a bowl.
  • In a separate small bowl, mix together the desired amount of cornstarch (about 2-3 tbsp) with a tablespoon or two of cold water until it forms a smooth slurry.
  • Pour the cornstarch slurry over the cherries in the bowl.
  • Add the honey, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and lemon zest to the cherries.
  • Toss the cherries gently until they are evenly coated with the cornstarch mixture and other ingredients.
  • Assembly the Cherry Crisp

Best ways to enjoy Cherry Crisp:

  • Parfait – Layer chunks of cherry crisp with Greek yogurt or vanilla yogurt in a glass to create a delicious parfait. 
  • Vanilla Ice Cream Sundae – layer chunks of cherry crisp with scoops of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt in a bowl. Drizzle with caramel sauce or chocolate syrup and top with whipped cream and a cherry for a decadent dessert.
  • Smoothie Bowl – Blend chunks of cherry crisp with milk and a frozen banana to create a thick and creamy smoothie bowl. Top with granola, sliced fresh fruit, shredded coconut for a satisfying breakfast or snack.
  • Pancakes – Top freshly made pancakes with warmed cherry crisp filling for a delightful twist on classic pancakes. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream, melted butter, and/or Greek yogurt.
  • Stuffed French Toast – Spread softened cream cheese on slices of French toast and top with warmed cherry crisp filling and melted better. Sandwich the slices together to create a stuffed French toast. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with a drizzle of maple syrup for an indulgent brunch dish.
  • Oatmeal – Stir chunks of cherry crisp into a bowl of hot oatmeal along with a splash of milk or cream for a hearty and comforting breakfast. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon or chopped nuts for extra flavor and texture.
  • Trifle – Layer cubes of cherry crisp with whipped cream or custard and fresh berries in a trifle dish to create a stunning dessert. Repeat the layers and garnish with shaved chocolate or toasted coconut.

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Storage instructions, reheating

  • Refrigeration:
    • once the Cherry Crisp has cooled down completely, cover it tightly with plastic wrap, aluminum foil or transfer to an airtight container
    • Enjoy within 3-4 days for optimal freshness.
  • Freezing:
    • allow the Cherry Crisp to cool completely and portion it into individual servings
    • wrap them tightly in plastic wrap; alternatively you can place them in an airtight freezer safe containers.
    • for additional protection against freezer burns, you can double wrap the Crisp by placing it in a layer of aluminum foil
    • use within 1-2 months for the best quality and taste.  
  • Thawing Frozen Cherry Crisp: thaw it in the refrigerator overnight or for several hours.  
  • Reheating:
    • Microwave Method –
      • place a portion of cherry crisp on a microwave-safe plate and
      • reheat in 15-30 second increments until heater through
    • Oven Method –
      • preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
      • Transfer the desired portion of Cherry Crisp to an oven-safe dish.
      • Cover the dish with aluminum foil to prevent the topping from burning.
      • Bake for 10-15 minutes until heated through.  
      • remove the foil for the last few minutes of baking to allow the topping to crisp up
  • Note:
    • if the Cherry Crisp has been refrigerated for extended period, it may become slightly soggy. Reheating it in the oven can help revive the crispiness of the topping
    • be cautious not to overheat the crisp, as the topping may become dry or burn

baked cherry crisp shown in a serving dish; wooden background

Cherry Crisp with Roasted Pecan Topping

Sylwia Vaclavek
Sweet, lightly tart cherries, and crumbly, buttery topping, all with a smokey note create an irresistible dessert. New take on old and loved classic.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 8
Calories 269 kcal

Equipment

  • pellet smoker or oven
  • square or round baking dish
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • mixing bowl
  • chef's knife
  • cutting board
  • zester and hand juicer
  • cherry pitter or small knife
  • small pan to roast pecans
  • pastry cutter

Ingredients
  

For the Cherry Filling

  • 4 cups of fresh cherries washed and pitted
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest

For the crumb topping

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • ½ chopped and roasted pecans
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup cold butter

Instructions
 

Prepare the Cherry Filling

  • Start by washing and sorting the cherries. Remove any bruised, damaged ones. Using a small knife or cherry pitter remove the pits.
  • In a large bowl, combine the pitted cherries, honey, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and lemon zest (if using). Toss until the cherries are evenly coated with the mixture. Additionally you can use 1 tbsp of cornstarch.
  • Preheat your smoker to 375F.
  • Sweet flavored wood pellets are best to use when making this crisp. I would recommend: cherrywood, applewood, pecan, maple or alder.
  • Grease the baking dish
  • Prepare the pecans. Chop them finely and roast lightly on a cast iron pan. Set aside to cool.

Prepare the crumb topping

  • In a separate bowl, mix together the almond flour, chopped – roasted pecans, sugar, and ground cinnamon.
  • Add the cold butter pieces to the dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Be careful not to overmix.

Assemble the Cherry Crisp

  • Spread the cherry filling evenly in the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
  • Sprinkle the crumb topping over the cherry filling, covering it completely.
  • Place the baking dish in the preheated smoker and bake for 40 – 50 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbling around the edges.
  • Remove the cherry crisp from the smoker and let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

Notes

  • Choose the Right Cherries: opt for fresh, sweet cherries when possible. 
  • Add Flavor Enhancements: a splash of vanilla, almond extract or a pinch of ground cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom can nicely elevate this Cherry Crisp.
  • The butter for the topping should be cold, not softened or melted. Using warm butter can result in a greasy topping instead of crispy one.
  • Allow the Cherry Crisp to cool before serving: it will help to set the filling and topping, making it easier to slice and serve.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 269kcalCarbohydrates: 25gProtein: 4gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.5gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 92mgPotassium: 166mgFiber: 3gSugar: 20gVitamin A: 400IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 45mgIron: 1mg
Keyword cherry, cherry crisp, crisp, dessert
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Did you make this recipe?

Conclusion

So, are you ready to skip the cherry pie filling and cake mix? How do you like this take on the old and favorite dessert? Baking it on the smoker adds an interesting element of outdoors to this delicious dessert.

FAQ about Cherry Crisp

Can I use frozen cherries instead of fresh cherries?

Yes, you can use frozen cherries in cherry crisp. Just make sure to thaw them and drain any excess liquid before using them in the recipe.

Can I use canned cherries for cherry crisp?

Yes, canned cherries can be used in cherry crisp. However, be sure to drain them well before using them in the recipe, as excess liquid can make the filling too watery.

Can I make cherry crisp ahead of time?

Yes, cherry crisp can be made ahead of time. You can prepare the cherry filling and crumb topping separately, store them in the refrigerator, and assemble and bake the crisp when ready to serve.

How should I store leftover cherry crisp?

Leftover cherry crisp should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It can be reheated in the microwave or oven before serving. Click HERE to read more about Storage and Reheating.

Can I freeze cherry crisp?

Yes, cherry crisp can be frozen. Allow it to cool completely, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil or place it in an airtight container before freezing. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.

What can I use instead of almond flour in the topping?

You can use all-purpose flour, gluten-free flour blend or oats instead of almond flour in the topping. The texture and flavor may vary slightly, but it will still be delicious.

How can I make cherry crisp gluten-free?

To make cherry crisp gluten-free, use gluten-free oats, gluten-free flour blend or almond flour in the topping. Ensure that all other ingredients are gluten-free as well.

Can I add other fruits to cherry crisp?

Yes, you can add other fruits like berries, peaches, or apples to cherry crisp for a delicious variation. Just adjust the amount of sugar and spices accordingly.

Do I need to add cornstarch or baking powder?

It is not necessary to add cornstarch and it is personal preference and the desired consistency you wish to achieve. Click HERE to read more about Cornstarch.

Baking powder is not necessary because the streusel topping does not require leavening (from baking powder) to achieve its crumbly texture.

What is the difference between cherry crisp, cherry cobbler, and cherry pie?

While they all are very delicious cherry desserts, they differ in their topping texture, preparation method and presentation. Either one you make you are in for a treat!

Cherry crisp with crunchy topping, cobbler with soft, biscuit-like topper and the pie with a flaky pastry crust. Each one delivers a mouthful of cherry delight.

Which one is your favorite?

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