When you want a juicy, fruity dessert made ahead of time, these cherry tarts fit the bill. Just bake the pastry shells, and make the filling. Then assemble when ready to enjoy—so easy!
If you’re like us, you love baking with cherries. Whether a classic cherry pie, crumbly cobbler, or bite-sized cherry tart, the stone fruit is a dessert star. You can use canned, frozen or fresh cherries for most cherry recipes, so they’re perfect to serve any time of year.
Ingredients for Cherry Tarts
- Flour: Good ol’ all-purpose flour is best for this recipe. If you need to steer away from gluten, here are some of our favorite gluten-free flour blends. Most are good as a one-to-one swap.
- Shortening: This classic tart pastry uses shortening, but it’s fine to use a classic butter pie pastry instead. If you’re unsure which fat to use, take a peek at our guide on which makes the best pie crust.
- Cherries: This recipe calls for canned tart cherries, which are generally Montmorency cherries packed in water with no added sugar. If using other types of cherries, opt for a tart or sour variety over sweet. If you only have sweet cherries on hand, reduce the sugar and add a little lemon juice. You can also use fresh or frozen cherries for this cherry filling. If using fresh, here’s a primer on how to pit cherries. If using frozen, you don’t need to thaw them first.
- Almond extract: Almond flavoring and cherries are a match made in fruit-filled heaven. But if you’re not a fan, try using vanilla or omit altogether.
Step 1: Make the dough
In a small bowl, combine the flour and salt. Cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add just enough water until the dough forms a ball. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes to allow the gluten to settle and so it’s easier to roll out.
Editor’s Tip: When making a pastry dough, add water just a little at a time. You can always add more water, but you can’t take it away once it’s been added! If you add too much moisture, the pastry will be too sticky to handle and roll out, and it won’t develop that coveted flakiness as it bakes.
Step 2: Make the tart shells
Preheat the oven to 450°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out eight 5-inch circles. Place each pastry disk over an inverted custard cup on an ungreased 15x10x1-inch baking pan, and flute the edges. Bake the shells for 10 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes. Remove the tart shells from the custard cups, and let them cool completely on wire racks.
Editor’s Tip: Since you’re cutting 5-inch pastry disks, you can use custard cups of any size, even 8-ounce cups. The larger size may result in a slightly flatter tart shell, however. Here’s a standard oven-safe custard cup that’s handy to have in every kitchen.
Step 3: Make the filling
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and cornstarch. Drain the cherries, reserving 1 cup juice, and set cherries aside. Stir the reserved juice into the sugar mixture until smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cook and stir for two minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat, and stir in the cherries, butter, almond extract and, if using, the food coloring. Let the filling cool to room temperature.
Step 4: Fill the tarts
Spoon about 1/4 cup filling into each tart shell. Serve.
Cherry Tart Variations
- Make rustic cherry tarts: If you don’t have custard cups to make the shells, simply make rustic tarts. Spoon the cherry filling onto the middle of each pastry round, then fold and pleat the pastry edges around the fruit. Brush the edges with an egg wash, and bake in a 400° oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven, and cool the cherry tarts on a wire rack.
- Use canned pie filling: Skip making your own cherry filling altogether, and use canned pie filling instead. Omit Step 3 and go right to Step 4. After the tart shells have cooled, spoon cherry pie filling into the shells, and serve.
- Use a different dough: Instead of a dough made with shortening, you can make a classic butter pie pastry for the shells. Fresh or frozen pie crusts are perfectly fine to use, as well. Or use premade tart shells.
How to Store Leftover Cherry Tarts
You can store these cherry tarts in an airtight container for two to three days, or in the fridge for up to one week.
How to Freeze Cherry Tarts
To freeze the cherry tarts, wrap in storage wrap, and store in a freezer-safe container or bag in the freezer for up to one month. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then let them sit on the counter for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
Cherry Tart Tips
Can I make cherry tarts ahead of time?
To make the cherry tarts in advance, make the shells and filling separately a few days in advance, then fill and serve when you’re ready to eat. Assembling right before serving keeps the pastry from getting soggy.
How do you serve cherry tarts?
Serve cherry tarts with a dollop of whipped cream. A small scoop of vanilla ice cream wouldn’t be so bad, either.