How Long Do Cherries Last and How to Tell They’re Bad?

Here’s everything you need to know about the storage, shelf life, and spoilage of cherries. Learn how long cherries last, how to tell if they’re bad, and whether you need to refrigerate them.

Bought way too much cherries at the farmer’s market and wondering how long cherries are good for?

Or maybe yours sit in storage for a couple of days already, and you’re wondering how to tell if a cherry is bad?

If you need a quick primer on cherries, this article is exactly what you’re looking for. Let’s jump right in.

Cherries in hand

Table of Contents

How Long Do Cherries Last?

CountertopFridge
Cherries1 – 2 days5 – 7 days

Fresh cherries are perishable and last only 1 to 2 days at room temperature on the counter and 5 to 7 days in the fridge. If you don’t plan on finishing your cherries within a few days, you can preserve them for later by freezing or making jam.

Storage time depends on the quality of the cherries, how long and how they were stored before you bought them, and so on. So if you pick fresh cherries from a cherry orchard, they’re much more likely to last those seven, maybe even ten days, than ones you buy in the supermarket on clearance.

And if you buy over-ripe cherries that are soft, wrinkled, or even leaking, they’ll keep for only a day or so until they’re no longer good to eat.

When it comes to storage times, 1 to 2 days on the counter is all you get until cherries lose their firmness and start growing soft spots. And that’s why refrigeration is the suggested storage method.

If you keep cherries in the fridge, it’s best to use them within five days, but they should last for up to 7 days if they are fresh.

(We cover the how in the storage section.)

Now, if the mentioned storage periods aren’t long enough for your needs, or you have a metric ton of cherries on hand, there are a couple of preservation methods worth considering.

The first one is freezing, and you can read more about it in this section. Others include making cherry jam or cherry jelly. Both are great options if you’re into homemade preserves.

Bunch of cherries

How to Tell if Cherries Are Bad?

Signs that your cherries are spoiled include:

  • The fruits are super soft, mushy, or leaky. Fresh cherries are fairly firm (depending on the variety), so if yours are completely soft, shriveled, or have large soft spots, they’re gone. A bit of softness is okay, of course.
  • There’s mold. Any sign of mold means the fruit is done. Cherries usually spoil from the stem, so that’s the first place to check.
  • Cherries are infested. Whenever you buy cherries, open up a few ones and check for white worms inside. If you find any, it’s probably best to open each cherry before eating it. Unless, of course, you like to eat some additional protein with your cherries.
  • Sour or moldy smell. If your bunch of cherries has started giving off a “funny” aroma, they’re probably no longer safe to eat. Err on the side of caution and toss them.
Bug in cherry
An unexpected visitor in one of my cherries

Other than that, if you feel like anything else about yours is off, assume they’re bad cherries. Trust your gut and get rid of them.

Now, the most common reason one has to discard cherries is quality deterioration.

Cherries start off plump and firm and gradually soften and become wrinkly. The process takes a couple of days if you refrigerate them, and it’s up to you at which point you toss them for quality reasons.

If your cherries are a bit soft and you no longer enjoy snacking on them, use them in a recipe. A cherry jam, cherry pie (here’s a recipe), or a barbecue sauce will all work out perfectly fine, even if you use less-than-perfect cherries.

How To Store Cherries

Store unwashed cherries with their stems on in a shallow container that allows air circulation. Stored this way, cherries should keep for one to two days on the counter or up to a week in the fridge. If you want them to last longer, you can freeze them.

When storing cherries, there are a couple of things to remember:

  • Leave the stems on. Remove them only before using or eating the fruit. If you remove them sooner, the flesh gets access to fresh air, which can result in mold growth after a couple of days.
  • Avoid washing. Keeping the cherries unwashed and washing them right before use is the way to go. If you need to wash them before refrigeration, dry them thoroughly to avoid mold growth. By thoroughly, I mean letting them sit on a towel for at least 30 minutes, followed by removing the remaining moisture with paper towels.
  • Store them away from smelly products. The easiest option is to use the crisper drawer, which is usually free from stinky foods.
  • Don’t squish them. Use a shallow container so that the weight of the cherries on top doesn’t crush those below.

As you can tell, these storage practices are quite similar to those of strawberries (here’s how long strawberries last).

Cherries that you bring home or pick are ripe and ready for consumption. You only need to decide whether you leave them on the counter or refrigerate them.

Cherries in a ventilated bag
Cherries in a ventilated bag

Do Cherries Need to Be Refrigerated?

Cherries don’t require refrigeration, but if you leave them at room temperature, they lose quality quickly and last only a day or two. Transferring them to the fridge prolongs the storage period to up to a week, and that’s why refrigerating cherries is highly recommended.

If you’re leaving cherries on the countertop (e.g., to snack on during the day), make sure they don’t sit in direct sunlight or near any sources of heat.

When it comes to refrigeration, you can either place them in the crisper drawer or on a fridge shelf. There’s not that much of a difference, as long as they don’t sit near any smelly foods.

Last, let’s talk about freezing cherries.

Cherries in a half-open container
Cherries in a half-open container – don’t seal it to allow for airflow

How To Freeze Cherries

There are a few ways to freeze cherries. Several of them, like sugar pack or syrup pack, require a bit more hands-on time. If you’d like to read more about these, visit the Michigan State University site for more details.

Below, I’m going to cover the easiest method, which is freezing whole cherries. It takes only a couple of minutes, so you should be able to do it even if it’s late in the evening and you really don’t feel like it. Here’s how it goes:

  1. Prep the cherries. Remove the stems, then wash and dry the fruit thoroughly. Pit the cherries if you like, so you don’t have to do that after thawing.
  2. Flash freeze the fruit. Lay the cherries out in a single layer on a baking sheet, in a way they don’t touch one another. Then put the baking sheet into the freezer for a couple of hours. I usually do it overnight.
  3. Transfer the frozen fruit into an airtight container or freezer bag. Add a label with name and date if you like, and throw it back in the freezer.

When it comes to thawing, the simplest way to go about it is to leave the fruit in the fridge overnight. If you’re short on time, put them in a freezer bag and into lukewarm water. That will speed things up, but the whole process will still take at least 2 hours.

One thing to note is that thawed cherries will have a slightly altered texture. They might not be that delicious to eat on their own, but they should work just fine in jams, jellies, pies, smoothies, and similar dishes.

Halved cherry
Always halve your cherries if you don’t want to eat some extra proteins

Cherries Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary

Thank you for reading this short guide on cherries. Let’s briefly recap what we’ve covered above:

  • How long do cherries last? Fresh cherries keep 1 to 2 days on the counter or 5 to 7 days in the fridge. If that’s not enough, you can freeze them or make jam.
  • How to tell if cherries are bad? Toss cherries that are moldy, mushy, seeping, worm-infested, or give off a sour smell. Slightly soft cherries are okay to eat, or you can use them in cooking and baking.
  • Should cherries be refrigerated? While refrigerating cherries isn’t a necessity, it’s highly recommended. It extends their storage time from 1 to 2 days at room temperature to a week in the fridge. Unless you’re going to eat the cherries within a day of buying or picking, refrigerate them.