What are Maraschino Cherries?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Maraschino cherries (pronounced mair uh SKEE noh or mair uh SHEE noh) are a specially prepared type of cherry, a fruit that grows on a tree and has a single pit. The word cherry comes from the name of a Turkish town, Cerasus, and cherries have been known for over 2,000 years.

Maraschino cherries have a pit.
Maraschino cherries have a pit.

There are two basic types of cherries, sweet and sour. Although maraschino cherries can be made from any of the many kinds of cherry, they are usually made with the sweet cherry known as a Royal Ann. Most cherries that are made into maraschinos come from Oregon and Michigan.

Sometimes mint is added to green cherries.
Sometimes mint is added to green cherries.

Maraschino cherries take the first part of their name from the cordial with which it used to be flavored. The cordial is made from the marasca cherry, so a maraschino cherry was originally a cherry flavored with cherry cordial.

Maraschino cherries are often used as decorative items placed in the center of pineapple slices.
Maraschino cherries are often used as decorative items placed in the center of pineapple slices.

Today, the maraschino liqueur is too expensive, and maraschino cherries are produced by being macerated in flavored sugar syrup. Sometimes almond is added for red cherries and mint added for green cherries, but they are not dyed until after the flavoring process is complete.

At one time, the dye used for maraschino cherries was a harmful substance, but the FDA has now banned its use. An experiment in the 1990's worked on the idea of using radish pigment as coloring to create these cherries. And the Eola Cherry Company developed a wider range of colors, including orange, electric blue, and pink. The company was purchased by the Oregon Cherry Growers in 2006.

Traditional uses of maraschino cherries include:

• decorating the center of the pineapple slices in pineapple upside-down cake,
• topping off ice cream sundaes, banana splits, and hot fudge sundaes,
• in fruit salads,
• as a decoration on baked ham,
• as a garnish for a number of alcoholic beverages, for example, whiskey sours, and
• as a cupcake garnish.

You can purchase them with or without stems, depending on your intended use. Although the maraschino cherry undergoes a preservative process, it should be stored in the refrigerator, once the packaging has been opened.

Maraschino cherries may be found in a fruit salad.
Maraschino cherries may be found in a fruit salad.
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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Discussion Comments


Has anyone read how they are made? Sounds like a chemistry lesson: chloride, calcium, yuck! Thank God I don't like them!



Every time you eat a cherry you will wonder if it will either make you sick or kill you! Do you need the stress!

Chuck them!


i just dipped an entire of jar of maraschino cherries in chocolate & then noticed the expiration date on the jar lid was over 3 mos. ago. I tasted one and thought it tasted a little strange. what would the cherries taste like if they had gone bad? do they actually go bad? would they possibly have gone bad just three mos past the expiration date? Should I trash them and start all over?


I am interested in covering cherries with just chocolate - no fondant. Could you tell me how long chocolate covered cherries would last. Want to make them for Christmas.

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