This traditional Greek breakfast, yogurt with “spoon sweet” cherries is a delightful breakfast for special company. The cherries in sweet syrup, oftentimes served in a glass dish on their own, are commonly spooned over yogurt and served as an offering of hospitality. It’s such a perfect recipe for Sunday brunch or Mother’s Day!
Greek Yogurt with Cherry Spoon Sweets
I’ve always been a lover of Mediterranean recipes! Tender lamb meatballs with tzatziki and Tuscan gnocchi are two of my favorite recipes to serve at dinner parties, but this recipe was my favorite from Greece. I had this for breakfast every morning while visiting friends a few years ago, and I’ve made it for myself ever since!
The only problem, though, is that I live in New York, where I can’t always find fresh cherries. So I developed this recipe with frozen cherries, so I can make them all year round!
What are “Spoon Sweets?”
The cherries in this recipe, referred to as “spoon sweets” in Greece, as well as Albania, Kosovo, the Balkans, Cyprus, and other Middle Eastern nations, are a simple preserve.
Spoon sweets can be made with cherries like these, or orange rind, quince, grapes, mulberries, bergamot, apricots, apples, figs, or even tomatoes. Some are even made without fruit, and simply with herbs or nuts.
They’re most commonly served with yogurt, but also delicious on ice cream. I particularly love serving them with a soft cheese like brie or poured over a creamy triple cream.
This recipe is made with frozen, pitted cherries, instead of fresh, so it’s not exactly the most traditional recipe. But the trickiest part, the pitting, is already done! All you have to do is let them thaw, and use the juice that releases for the syrup!
First, we’ll add frozen, pitted cherries to a strainer over a bowl and let them thaw overnight.
Next, we’ll pour the cherry juice that’s released into a saucepan with a little water, sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon juice.
Then, we’ll let it simmer and reduce for about 20 minutes.
Finally, we’ll pour the reduced cherry syrup over the cherries in a sealable jar, let it cool, then serve over yogurt.
Frozen Cherries – Although traditionally, you’d use fresh cherries, frozen cherries are essential for this recipe. You’re going to allow them to thaw overnight over a bowl, releasing some of the juices for the syrup. I used “Organic, Dark, Sweet Cherries” from Fresh Direct. They come pitted, which makes the process 100% easier than if they were fresh. If you use another brand, look for pitted rainier or bing cherries.
Water – Depending on how much juice your cherries release, you’ll use just enough water to make half a cup, when added to the juice. So if your cherries release 3 ounces, you’ll add 1 ounce of water. I find 1½ cups of frozen and thawed cherries release about 3 ounces, generally.
Vanilla Extract – Use a quality, real vanilla extract.
Lemon Juice – use fresh, squeezed lemon juice. Not bottled.
Greek Yogurt – I used Fage yogurt, but Stoneyfield also makes a lovely, organic Greek yogurt.
How to Make This Recipe – Step by Step
1. Place 1½ cups frozen, pitted cherries into a strainer over a mixing bowl, and thaw overnight in the refrigerator, or for 8 hours.
2. The cherries will release juice as they thaw. You should have about 2-3 ounces of cherry juice. Place cherries into a container and set aside.
3. Pour cherry juice into a measuring cup.
4. Add just enough water to the measuring cup with cherry juice so that you have ½ cup of liquid. If you have a full half cup of juice, don’t add any water.
5. Pour juice and water into a small saucepan with 1 cup white granulated sugar.
6. Add juice from ½ lemon and ½ tsp. vanilla extract.
7. Simmer on low uncovered for 20-25 minutes. No need to stir. Simply swirl from time to time. When it appears you have a runny syrup, remove from heat. It will thicken as it cools.
8. Pour syrup over cherries and refrigerate.
9. Once syrup is cool, spoon yogurt into cups.
10. Spoon 4-5 cherries and syrup over each yogurt bowl and serve.
They will last for 3 months when refrigerated and kept in a sealed container. If properly canned in an airtight jar, they will last for years.
A few traditionally Greek breakfast recipes are sesame bread rings known as koulouri, spinach pie, known as spanakopita, kagianas, which is a scrambled egg and tomato dish, and of course, hot, strong Greek coffee.
An Important Tip
Make sure to simmer on LOW. The syrup may bubble up very quickly if it reduces too fast and will make a mess of your stove-top.
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Greek Yogurt with Cherry Spoon Sweets
- 1 mixing bowl
- 1 strainer
- 1 8 ounce measuring cup
- 1 saucepan
- 1 sealable container
- 1½ cups frozen, pitted cherries
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. real vanilla extract
- juice from ½ lemon
- 32 oz. greek yogurt
- water – see recipe for amount
- Place 1½ cups frozen, pitted cherries into a strainer over a mixing bowl, and thaw over night in the refrigerator, or for 8 hours. The cherries will release juice as they thaw. You should have about 2-3 ounces of cherry juice. Place cherries into a container and set aside.
- Pour cherry juice into a measuring cup. Add just enough water to the measuring cup with cherry juice so that you have ½ cup of liquid. If you have a full half cup of juice, don’t add any water.
- Pour juice and water into a small saucepan with 1 cup white granulated sugar. Add juice from ½ lemon and ½ tsp. vanilla extract.
- Simmer on low uncovered for 20-25 minutes. No need to stir. Simply swirl from time to time. When it appears you have a runny syrup, remove from heat. It will thicken as it cools.
- Pour syrup over cherries and refrigerate. Once syrup is cool, (about 30 minutes) spoon yogurt into cups. Spoon 4-5 cherries and syrup over each yogurt bowl and serve.