Overhead of fresh, pitted cherries on a baking sheet.

Have a bunch of cherries to pit? No worries, we’ve got you covered with the easiest ways to get the job done—including a method for how to pit cherries without a cherry pitter.

Cherries are my hands-down favorite fruit! I love almost everything about them. The thing that is keeping them from being absolutely perfect? Those pesky cherry pits!

It’s not a huge deal to pop the pits out while you’re eating them fresh, but if you’re looking to pit a whole boatload of cherries for pies, jam, or other uses, it can get quite tedious. No worries! We’ve got you covered with four different methods for getting those pesky pits out—including a couple of ideas that don’t require any special equipment. Let’s get pitting!

Overhead of white baking sheet filled with single layer of fresh cherries.

Do you have to pit cherries before cooking?

Unfortunately, yes, you have to remove the pits before cooking (and eating) cherries. Cherry pits are tooth-breakingly hard and actually poisonous! Cherry pits—and the pits of other stone fruits like plums and peaches—contain cyanide, which in certain doses can be lethal.

Don’t stress too much if you accidentally swallow a cherry pit whole though. Small unintentional ingestions of whole pits generally do not cause harm. Just don’t make a habit of it! So let’s make sure we get those cherries pitted.

Close view of fresh, sweet cherries overflowing from a turquoise bowl.

How do you use a cherry pitter?

The first way we recommend pitting cherries is with a tool that is made specifically for this job— a cherry pitter. This is one of those kitchen tasks where the right tool really does make the task much easier. If you plan on pitting large batches of cherries regularly (like say, you have your own cherry tree), a cherry pitter is a worthwhile investment.

Close up of hand holding mason jar push button cherry pitter.

There are multiple types of cherry pitters. The one I have used for years screws onto the top of a canning jar to collect the pits. I grabbed it for $5 at a cherry orchard on vacation in Wisconsin one year. The method for using all cherry pitters is roughly the same:

  1. Remove the stem from the cherry (or cherries, some pitters do more than one cherry at at a time).
  2. Place the cherry, stem side up, in the cherry pitter. It’s important for the stem hole of the cherry to line up with the pusher.
  3. Plunge or press the cherry pitter down to force the pit out the bottom of the cherry.

GIF showing how to pit cherries using a mason jar push button cherry pitter.

How do you pit fresh cherries without a cherry pitter?

No cherry pitter? No worries! You’ve got options to make the job easier—all using items you probably already have in your kitchen. You can:

  • Pit cherries with a sharp knife
  • Pit cherries with a metal straw or chopstick
  • Pit cherries using a pastry tip

Wholefully Protip

For all of our methods of cherry pitting (that aren’t a cherry pitter), we recommend making a small “X” in the bottom of the cherry with a sharp knife to make it easier to pop the pit out the bottom.

Close view of a hand holding a single cherry with an X cut into the bottom of the fruit.

How do you pit cherries with a knife?

It’s almost impossible to pit a cherry with a knife and leave it whole, unfortunately. So if a whole cherry is important to you, you’ll want to try one of the other methods listed below. To pit a cherry with a knife:

  1. Remove the stem.
  2. Slice the cherry in half.
  3. Use the point of the knife or your fingernail to pop out the cherry pit and discard.

Close-up of fresh, pitted cherries in a single layer on a baking sheet.

How do you pit cherries with a pastry tip?

I think using a pastry tip/piping tip is the easiest way to pit cherries if you don’t have a cherry pitter handy. You’ll want to grab a tall, narrow pastry tip with a round opening instead of a fluted or star tip. I’ve had good luck using any of the Wilton single digit tips—in these photos, I’m using a Wilton #5 tip.

Wholefully Protip

The narrower your pastry tip, the less chance you have of splitting the cherry in half.

Here’s how you pit cherries with a piping tip:

  1. Remove the stem.
  2. Slice a small “X” in the bottom of the cherry with a sharp knife.
  3. Place the pastry tip on a flat surface.
  4. Place the “X” end of the cherry on the point of the pastry tip. Push firmly until the pit pops out.

GIF showing how to pit cherries using a metal plain round pastry tip.

How do you pit cherries with a straw or chopstick?

This method is similar to the above pastry tip method, but if you don’t have a piping tip around, you can do it with a stainless steel straw or a chopstick:

  1. Remove the stem.
  2. Slice a small “X” in the bottom of the cherry with a sharp knife.
  3. Place the “X” end of the cherry on the end of the straw or chopstick. Push firmly until the pit pops out.

GIF showing how to pit cherries with metal straw.

How do you keep cherries from turning brown?

Tart or sour cherries, in particular, tend to oxidize and go brown when exposed to air or when they go through a freezing process. To prevent this, after pitting, treat cherries using a fruit protector solution like Ball® Canning Fruit Fresh.

Mason jar push button cherry pitter with a cherry on it ready to be pitted, next to a bowl of fresh, sweet cherries.

How do you use pitted cherries?

Now that you have a beautiful pile of pitted cherries, what amazing recipe creation are you going to make with them? Here are some ideas:

  • Freeze your cherries. Once they are pitted, make sure you learn how to freeze cherries to keep them on hand all year long.
  • Tart Cherry Smoothie Bowls. Blend up your cherries into these Smoothie Bowls for a light summertime breakfast.
  • Overnight Oats. Top your favorite overnight oats recipe with piles of fresh cherries for a burst of fruit flavor!
  • Green juice. Drop some cherries into one of our reader favorite juicing recipes for some added nutrition and amazing cherry flavor.
  • Cherry smoothies. Whip yourself up a delicious cherry smoothie using one of our simple smoothie base recipes.
  • Mixed Berry Agave Jam. Our naturally-sweetened jam calls for berries, but cherries are an excellent addition! You can use fresh or frozen pitted cherries.

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  1. The instructions say to put the X end of the cherry on the tool but the images/GIFs show the opposite. I’m going to try this based on the images since I can see how that works

    1. Hi Jenna! Thank you for pointing this out! The images are correct. We’ll update the written instructions to be clearer. =)

  2. First, cherry pits are not poisonous and do not contain cyanide. They have a chemical called amygdalin which is not toxic. It is only once the pit is consumed that the amygdalin converts to cyanide. Second, cooking actually breaks down the amygdalin in cherry pits. Many cooks in France, Italy, and Eastern Europe leave the pits in cherries when they cook with them. You can make a tasty (and nontoxic) cherry pit syrup out of the cooked pits. You should consider updating this article.