Tart Cherry Lime Granita is an easy frozen summer dessert for beautiful hot days. It makes your taste buds happy and your mouth pucker. Use frozen tart cherries or fresh ones from the farmers market.
It's the middle of summer and it's hotter than ever! Take a break, cool down, and enjoy one of my favorite frozen granita recipes.
If you're looking for how to make granita for the first time, you've come to the right place. My super simple, sour and delicious, lime and cherry frozen granita recipe is a perfect starting point.
This frozen tart cherry granita recipe is a summer dessert staple. I make a big batch and keep it in my freezer for when I'm ready to serve dessert to a crowd. It's such a simple and easy recipe, no special equipment is needed, just your freezer.
Sour cherry season is short, mainly in June and July, making this dessert extra special. I love to serve it as dessert after a barbecue of pool party with my Grilled Shrimp and Zucchini and Lemon Quinoa Chickpea Salad.
What Is Granita?
Originally from Sicily, Italy, granita is a delicious finely shaved ice that is made with a base of fruit puree, water, and sugar.
Granita is related to both sorbet and Italian ice, but is also very different. The water, sugar, and fruit are blended until very smooth and then frozen in a baking dish.
Once the fruit puree base is frozen, the tines of a fork are used to shave the ice into small crystals. This process of shaving the ice with a fork is repeated several times during the freezing process until all of the granita base has been turned into finely shaved ice crystals.
The granita can then be frozen until ready to serve. Think of this as a very fancy shaved ice or snow cone sweetened naturally with all different kinds of fresh fruit.
What Is The Difference Between Sweet And Sour Cherries?
Before you get started, it's good to know that all cherries are not created equal when it comes to a tart cherry granita. Make sure you know the difference between sweet and sour cherries before running to the store.
For this particular yummy shaved ice recipe, you’ll want to use sour cherries.
Sour cherries are on the tart side of the cherry scale, making them the perfect balance to the hint of sweetness in this granita dessert.
Surprisingly, there are different sour cherry varieties. Some sour cherry varieties you might come across include Montmorency, Richmond, Morello and North Star.
Tart sour cherries are often preferred when making dessert recipes to a sweet cherry. They hold their shaper better than sweet cherries and the combination of tart and sweet flavor is just divine.
Sour cherries have a very specific growing season, so be sure to catch them in June and July. They are mainly found in Michigan but can also be found in Utah, New York and Wisconsin.
Sour cherries freeze well. Buy them frozen, or purchase fresh sour cherries, pit them and freeze them yourself to use later.
It's usually easier to find fresh sweet cherries at the grocery store. I recommend them on a fresh salad or a no-bake dessert! Some sweet cherry varieties include Bing, Rainier and Sweetheart.
How To Pit Cherries
Before you plop your sour cherries into your food processor or blender, you're going to need to pit them. There are a few different ways to go about this. If you don't already have one, I recommend investing in a good cherry pitter. They're great for cherries and can be used for foods like olives as well.
If you'd like to take a different route, you can pit your cherries for your tart cherry ice the old-fashioned way. Get ready to sit down, grab a bowl and a toothpick or chopstick and turn up some music – pitting cherries the old fashioned way is fun and simple once you get the hang of it.
After rinsing and de-stemming your cherries, simply insert a toothpick into the stem end of your cherry. When you hit the pit, twist the toothpick around the pit and then pop it out. Voila! You've just pitted your first cherry.
Frozen Tart Cherries
Often sour cherries come frozen and already pitted. They have a very short season in the summer so I always freeze some during peak ripeness to be able to use all year along, even into the holidays when you want to make a sour cherry pie.
For this tart cherry lime granita, if I'm in a pinch and don't have any in my freezer then I order them from
How To Make Tart Cherry Lime Granita
This granita is such an easy summer dessert recipe and only needs three ingredients, sugar, tart cherries, and lime juice.
First the granita recipe begins with dissolving sugar in water on the stove to make a syrup (this is called simple syrup). Allow to the syrup to cool. Then in a blender or food processor the tart cherries and lime juice are pureed until very smooth.
The cooled simple syrup is added to the cherry fruit puree in the blender and blended again until combined. Pour the fruit puree into a freezer-safe baking dish and place in the freezer until set and frozen, about 6 hours.
After the base is frozen, use the tines of a fork to scrape the ice and break it into small ice crystals. This may take multiple stages, so just return the granita to the freezer for 30 minutes in between scraping until all of the granita has been scraped.
Store the granita in the freezer covered with plastic wrap for up to a couple of days.
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Sorbet is churned in a machine to have almost a creamy texture. Granita is much more like shaved ice. The consistency is created by scraping fruit ice with the tines of a fork against the frozen fruit, water, and sugar puree mixture.
Granita will store in the freezer covered for up to a week. Past this time it tends to become too icy. Granita is best served the first couple of days after it's prepared. If the granita becomes too icy, break the crystals up again using the tines of a fork.
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Tart Cherry Lime Granita Recipe
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups (10 ounces) fresh or frozen pitted tart cherries thawed
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- Dissolve sugar in 1½ cups water in a saucepan over medium heat; let cool. Purée cherries and lime juice in a food processor or blender until smooth.
- Add cooled sugar syrup to cherry mixture. Pour into a shallow pan or baking dish and freeze until solid, 6 hours or overnight. Use a fork to scrape ice into a granita-like consistency and serve topped with a sugared cherry, if desired.
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Recipe Tara Teaspoon. Photography Yunhee Kim. Prop Styling Deborah Williams. Food Styling Tara Teaspoon. Recipe originally published in LHJ 08/10. Updated June 2023.