Buttery Brown Sugar Cherry Crisp

updated Jun 6, 2022
Cherry Crisp Recipe

Jammy sweet cherries bubble and bake under a blanket of lemon and brown sugar crispy oat topping.


Prep12 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook35 minutes to 40 minutes

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Credit: Kelli Foster

Blink and peak cherry season will have come and gone. Before that time comes, make sure you are ready with recipes to savor the sweet summer fruit. On my must-make list this year are a lattice-topped cherry pie, crispy chicken thighs with fresh cherry salsa, a halloumi salad with peaches, cherries, and arugula, and, of course, cherry crisp.

Crisps, crumbles, and cobblers are all variations on baked fruit with a sweet topping. This topping is a combination of old-fashioned rolled oats, all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour blends work well here too), a generous pour of vanilla extract, rich brown sugar, lemon zest, and melted butter. It’s the only crisp topping you’ll ever need.

Do You Use Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Cherries for Cherry Crisp?

Fresh sweet cherries are sweet and jammy, so when they are in season, there’s no better alternative. Pitting fresh cherries is a labor of love, but add a cherry pitter to your culinary toolkit, and you’ll never look back.

Has cherry season already passed you by? That’s okay. Instead of pulling a can of syrupy cherries from the grocer’s shelf, opt for a bag of frozen cherries. Not only are these cherries already pitted, but they are also closer in flavor to their freshly picked kin than anything you will find in a can.

Does Crisp Topping Keep Well?

Stash the mixed topping in the fridge while you prep the fruit to give the butter time to harden for its desired coarse, clumpy texture. The crisp topping can also be made in advance and frozen for up to three months, so go ahead and make a double batch while you’re at it.

How To Store Cherry Crisp

Baked fruit plus oatmeal passes for both breakfast and dessert in my household.

  • Room temperature for 1 day. Keep baked cherry crisp on the counter, covered loosely at room temperature, for the day it is baked.
  • Refrigerate for longer storage. If you’ve managed to avoid nibbling the entire sweet crisp topping, move the leftovers to the refrigerator. Reheat in a low oven until the fruit is warm and topping is crisp again.

Cherry Crisp Recipe

Jammy sweet cherries bubble and bake under a blanket of lemon and brown sugar crispy oat topping.

Prep time 12 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook time 35 minutes to 40 minutes

Serves 6

Nutritional Info


For the crisp topping:

  • 12 tablespoons

    unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish

  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 1 1/2 cups

    old-fashioned rolled oats

  • 3/4 cup

    all-purpose flour or gluten-free all purpose flour blend

  • 1/2 cup

    packed light brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the filling:

  • 2 pounds

    fresh (or frozen unthawed) sweet cherries (about 6 cups)

  • 1/2 cup

    packed light brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup


  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract


  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Coat a 2-quart or 11x7-inch baking dish with butter.

  2. Make the crisp topping: Cut 12 tablespoons unsalted butter into tablespoon-sized pieces and place in a medium bowl. Microwave in 20-second bursts until mostly melted, 40 to 50 seconds total (it will melt completely as it sits). Set aside to cool slightly. (Alternatively, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.)

  3. Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon into a large bowl (about 1 tablespoon). Reserve the zested lemon for the filling. Add 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour blend, 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt to the bowl and stir to combine. Pour in the melted butter and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 5 minutes or until ready to use, the topping will harden when chilled.

  4. Make the filling: Stem and pit 2 pounds sweet cherries if needed. Cut half of the cherries in half. Place all the cherries, 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar, 1/4 cup cornstarch, 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Juice the zested lemon until you have 1 tablespoon juice, then add to the bowl. Stir to combine.

  5. Transfer the cherry filling to the baking dish and spread into an even layer. Break the topping into large clumps with your fingers and scatter over the filling in an even layer.

  6. Bake until the crisp topping is golden-brown and the filling is bubbling, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The crisp topping can be made up to 3 months in advance and frozen in an airtight container. Topping does not need to be thawed before use.

Storage: Cover and refrigerate leftover crisp for up to 3 days. Serve cold or gently rewarm in a 300ºF oven for 20 minutes before serving.