This stovetop fruit pie filling is easy as can be to make with whatever fruit you happen to have on hand or is in season along with sugar, cornstarch, orange zest, nutmeg, and lemon juice.
This stovetop fruit filling is what we rely on year round though especially when fruit is slightly out of season or underripe as the sugar and the cornstarch thickener cover up all manner of sins. We then use it in a blind-baked pie crust or simply atop ice cream or with a dollop of creme fraiche. If you need lots of fruit filling, this basic recipe can be doubled, tripled, or more.–Kate McDermott
☞ Table of Contents
Stovetop Fruit Pie Filling
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 4 cups sliced or chopped fresh or frozen defrosted fruit (see suggestions below)
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar depending on the sweetness of the fruit
- Pinch of salt
- Squeeze of lemon
- Grating of nutmeg
- Grated zest of 1 orange preferably organic, or a splash of orange liqueur
Some Fruit Filling Suggestions
- Strawberries (as in the cobblers above)
- Strawberries and rhubarb cut in 1/2-inch (1.25 cm) pieces
- Blackberries and sliced or chopped peaches
- Gooseberries and red currants
- Strawberries and blueberries
- Cherries and berries
- Raspberries and sliced or chopped nectarines
- Blueberries and sliced or chopped apricots
- In a small bowl, briskly whisk the cornstarch into the water.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the fruit, sugar, salt, lemon, nutmeg, and orange zest.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is broken down, 6 to 10 minutes.
- Add the cornstarch mixture, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring vigorously in a figure-eight pattern, for 2 minutes more. The mixture will thicken to a jelly-like consistency.
- Remove from the heat. Pour the filling into a bowl and let cool at room temperature for 15 minutes.
- Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it against the surface of the filling, transfer to the fridge, and let cool completely, about 40 minutes more. (You can stash this in the fridge for up to 3 days.)
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
With the first glance of this recipe, I was a little worried that the simplicity of the recipe would not make a strong final product. I was very surprised with how quickly the recipe came together and how tasty it ended up.
Once the cornstarch was added to the mixture, it quickly began to boil and thickened right away. It was delicious as a pie filling, and adding less sugar made it pair well with a pie crust, but it would also be delicious as a pancake or ice cream topping as well. It’s a great way to highlight in-season fruit.
I used peaches and blackberries. I used 2 cups of each. At the 6-minute mark, half of the fruit was broken down (most of the peaches were and almost none of the blackberries were). Both fruits would be easily crushed with the back of the spoon at this point. After stirring, there were no chunks left of either fruit. The mixture began thickening almost immediately and could easily coat a spoon. It took on the thickness of a jelly. The recipe made roughly 3 cups of filling, and it filled a pie crust almost perfectly, but was about half a cup low.
This jewel-toned beauty of a filling is the perfect answer to “what’s for dessert?” Serve it on shortcake, as a pie filling, inside crepes, or just warm over ice cream. It’s a real taste of summer (or spring/winter/fall!) and quite handy to have on hand.
I chose to make this filling with some strawberries and blueberries I had in the fridge. I used about 2 cups of each, quartering the strawberries before cooking. When making this again, I would cut the strawberries into smaller pieces to cut down on the cooking time.
I loved the addition of the orange zest and lemon juice as it was a great counterpoint to the sweetness of the sugar and berries and the freshly grated nutmeg added just a hint of spice. My berries took about 10 minutes on medium heat to break down before I added the cornstarch slurry. My slurry was more like a non-Newtonian fluid (very solid) and perhaps could have had just a touch more water added to make dissolving it easier, but it worked as is. It definitely thickened the fruit mixture and once cooled in the fridge gave an almost gelatin- or jam-like consistency to the fruit filling.
The combination of strawberries and blueberries was strikingly beautiful and made a wonderful filling for a pre-baked pie crust. We topped it with some freshly whipped cream and enjoyed this wonderful taste of summer. Next time I’ll try it with other fruits (maybe peaches and strawberries or some of the dewberries growing in my backyard) and perhaps fill some wonderful crepes with it!
The flavor is good and this was easy to use. Having a premade filling mix makes it easy to make a pie later and so I think this is a very useful recipe. I used it for the base part of a fruit crostata plus added some fresh fruit (macerated) on top after it had cooled. I used blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries.
My fruit filling was a lot stiffer than the one in the photo. Generally, this would mean that it doesn’t need to be cooked as long, but because it’s a cornstarch thickener, you need to cook it for 1 to 2 minutes to get the starch taste out. I’d say that I’d need to have cooked the original fruit mixture less (more liquid to start). I cooked it a little longer because the strawberries weren’t broken down in 6 minutes. I would either cut the strawberries more next time or use a little water to get it to the right consistency before the cornstarch slurry.
Summer goes hand in hand with pie. Nothing is better than having a pie filled with freshly picked strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, and rhubarb. Pies were made to be eaten in the summer, but I find that a lot of people are intimidated by making a tasty filling (let alone the pie process in of itself).
This filling is a sure-fire way to make a great pie filling using whatever summer fruits you have on hand and allowing the baker to choose how sweet they would want it based on the sweetness of the fruits. This recipe is foolproof and quick. It has the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity that would compliment almost any crust, ice cream or custard that it would be served with.
The filling thickened almost immediately after I put the cornstarch in. I didn’t need to bring it to a boil for it to be thickened at all. I did use the figure-eight stirring pattern and it thickened pretty significantly quickly.
I put my filling in the fridge a few minutes after I transferred it into a bowl and left it in the fridge for about 80 minutes. The filling was still warm in the middle but was cool enough to fill the pie crust. I ended up with enough filling for a 9-inch pie.
This is an excellent template for a cooked fruit pie filling, that can be customized to your taste and whatever fruit you have on hand. I made two fillings, one strawberry and blueberry, and one nectarine and blackberry. Both were delicious.
I decided to use the booze option instead the orange zest, adding a little bit of kirsch to the strawberry/blueberry filling and a bit of Cointreau to the nectarine/blackberry one. I went with the lower amount of sugar in the recipe, which I found to be just right. The recipe cooked up as promised, with the one exception being that the nectarine/blackberry filling took a few minutes longer to cook than the strawberry did, about 10 minutes total, whereas the strawberry/blueberry filling took the 6 minutes specified in the recipe. I used my filling for fruit hand pies rather than a large pie. Because hand pies only take a couple tablespoons of filling, I had a lot left over.
You may be wondering if this recipe would be suitable for canning, and the answer is no. Cornstarch-based fillings do not perform well canning, and can pose a safety issue as well. If you want to can a pie filling, find a well-tested recipe that uses Clear Jel. What you can do, however, is freeze this filling. So fear not if you have excess, or don’t want to make a pie right away. You can freeze the filling on its own, or already into a pie. I recommend that the pie be frozen uncooked for best results.
If you want a delicious and easy fruit filling recipe, then this is the recipe for you! This was my first time making a stove-top fruit filling and it was a huge hit in my home!
For my fruit filling, I used 2 cups of blueberries and 2 cups of raspberries. The combination of the blueberries and raspberries mixed with a hint (1/8 tsp) of ground nutmeg and the grated orange zest created such a deep, intense, beautiful sweet and tart flavor. I only used 1/2 cup of granulated sugar since I had the sweetness from the raspberries and it was the perfect amount of sweetness. Feel free to modify the amount of granulated sugar in the recipe to adjust the level of sweetness to your liking.
The grated orange zest gave the fruit filling a mild pop of citrus flavor which really brought out the flavors from the fruit combination.
I also love how versatile this recipe is. You can use any combination of fruit filling of your choice and alternate fruit fillings based on seasonal ingredients available. The combinations are endless. Whether used as a fruit filling for a baked pie or eaten right out of a glass mason jar with some crackers as a snack, this recipe is so flavorful and will be a party in your palate!
For those of us who fear the fruit pie and its inherent thickening tragedies, this stove-top fruit filling is like an insurance policy: you know straight-away that you’ll have just the right consistency and all of your efforts to blind-bake a crust won’t be wasted by some uncooperative filling that oozes right out during baking or later when slicing the pie to share. (Been there. Done that.)
I loved that the method is quick, easy, and graciously accommodating of all kinds of fruit choices. It does take some courage to estimate the best amount of sugar to add to your fruit, as well as the measures of lemon juice, nutmeg, and orange juice or liqueur (which are all listed vaguely in the ingredients), but on the flip side, there’s freedom in being able to adjust the sweet-tart ratios to your own liking. The filling cooked up to just the right gentle thickness and tasted fresh and bright. I froze mine after cooling to save for the next time we need a pie fix. (Read: Tomorrow!)
I used 4 cups of pitted dark red cherries from a backyard cherry tree and the full 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar, as my cherries were a bit tart. I used 1/2 of a small lemon for the “squeeze of lemon” and 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier.
This recipe was easy-as-pie! (Pun intended.) I love this type of recipe because it gives you a base recipe that can be used time and time again, but it also allows you the flexibility to use whatever fruit and flavor pairings you have on hand.
I had some frozen blueberries and strawberries on hand which I paired with a splash of creme de cassis. My fruit filling went into a nice whole wheat pie crust with a lattice top. Such a gorgeous pie thanks to the rich ruby colors of the fruits. I only used 1/2 cup of sugar (I like to rely on the natural sweetness of fruit in these types of pies) and yes, after adding the 1/4 cup of cornstarch, bringing the mixture to a boil, and cooking for 2 minutes it was significantly thickened and bubbly.
The fruit mixture cooks down well, and I got enough filling to fill my 9-inch pie crust nicely.
This is definitely a dessert recipe to tuck into your recipe folder; I can see using the cooked fruit filling with ice cream, ricotta or even a topping for a panna cotta as well.
Originally published October 09, 2020