I’m just going to say it: I like piña coladas but not getting caught in the rain. I mean what’s not like? Rum. Yes. Pineapple. Yes. Coconut. Yes. Rain. No.
I also, however, like to mix things up a bit, and I thought that just taking a piña colada and turning it into a popsicle would be a bit predictable. This is why I decided to use one of my favorite summer fruits instead: cherries. These popsicles also feature a base made with naturally-sweetened coconut milk, making them gluten free AND vegan. If you would like to make them kid-friendly, just omit the rum.
One of the things I love about living in Washington is that we get a lot of cherries. A dear friend of mine use to have a sour cherry tree in her backyard and she used to go crazy every year trying to give them away because the tree produced so many. And that was just one tree. We are also lucky to get many different varieties, but my favorite ones are probably Rainier cherries.
Rainier cherries are named after beautiful Mount Rainier, the highest mountain in the whole state of WA. After reading this handy Wikipedia article, I also learned that they were developed at Washington State University, my alma mater. How cool is that?
I find them to be less sweet than Bing cherries, which is precisely why I like them. In addition to these popsicles, I love to make cherry salsa to go over steak. You can also macerate them (more on macerating later!) and spoon them over vanilla ice cream. The only downside is that they won’t give your food that beautiful cherry-red color, but I can definitely live with that.
Making the Perfect Boozy Popsicle
First things first: let’s talk about popsicle molds. When I realized that grown ups can have popsicles too, I bought this set from Amazon. I have no complaints about it, other than the fact that it’s barely dishwasher safe. One of the ends fell off the top rack once, and it partially melted. I did buy them in 2013, so now there are more affordable, nicer options in the market.
Which leads me to… my favorite popsicle molds! I just bought the set that you see below because I wanted some that would look nicer in pictures, and I’m smitten. They are stainless steel and BPA-free. More importantly, they are a pleasure to use. The little popsicle holder makes it really easy to carry them to the freezer, and it takes seconds for the popsicles to unmold once you take them out of the freezer. I also love that they come with reusable bamboo sticks. They are a lot more expensive than the plastic ones and you have to hand wash them, but I’m sure that they’ll last me a lifetime.
Now, on to step two: the perfect dairy-free base. I can’t say enough good things about coconut milk. If you saw my chia seed pudding post, you know how versatile it is. But my favorite thing about it is that it stays super creamy after you freeze it. My problem with a lot of vegan ice cream out there is that it’s just too icy, when it should be creamy instead. I am not lactose intolerant (or vegan), but I don’t digest milk well, so it’s a relief to know that I can still have creamy popsicles in the summer without feeling sick afterwards.
I’ve chosen to sweeten mine with maple syrup not only because I love it, but also because it’s better for you than refined sugar. You won’t really be able to taste the difference, so why not go for it? I do recommend that you use good quality maple syrup just to make sure that it’s real maple syrup without anything else added to it.
Step three is just to make everything deliciously boozy. I achieved this by putting some Bacardi rum in both the base and in the liquid that I used to macerate the cherries. Macerating is just a fancy term for soaking something in a liquid until it softens. In this case, I soaked the pitted, chopped cherries in a combination of maple syrup and rum for about 15 mins before cooking them. This infuses some of the rum flavor into the cherries. More importantly, adding that little bit of booze means that the cherry mixture won’t freeze solid. My favorite thing about these popsicles is the contrast in textures between the slightly gooey cherry mixture and the frozen coconut milk.
One final note on these popsicles: I wanted them to channel the flavors that you find in a piña colada, but I didn’t want them to taste exactly like one. That’s why I chose not to use Malibu rum, a rum infused with coconut flavor. I was worried that having coconut milk and coconut-flavored rum would overpower the subtle taste of the cherries. But if you want to give it a shot, go for it. Just make sure to report back on the results.
Cherry Colada Popsicles (Vegan, GF, Naturally Sweetened)
These boozy cherry popsicles contain coconut milk, rum, and maple syrup. They are gluten free, vegan, and naturally sweetened, and you can easily make them kid friendly by omitting the rum.
- For the boozy coconut milk base:
- One 13.5 oz can coconut milk
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons light rum (I used Bacardi)
- For the cherry mixture:
- 2 cups of cherries, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup (or to taste)
- 1 tablespoon light rum (I used Bacardi)
- Step 1 To make the cherry mixture: mix all the ingredients for the mixture in a medium bowl. Let it sit for 15 mins. Put the cherries and their juices in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat and cook, stirring often, until the cherries begin to break down. About 10 mins should do the trick.
- Step 2 Let the cherry mixture cool until it comes to room temperature. Put the mixture in a food processor and process until all the big chunks have broken down. Feel free to make it super smooth if you want. I like mine with some texture.
- Step 3 To make the coconut milk base: Whisk all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Chill for at least an hour.
- Step 4 Once you have everything ready, put two tablespoons of the cherry mixture at the bottom of one of your popsicle molds (how much you use will depend on how big your molds are). Top with the coconut milk base, leaving some room at the top for inserting the popsicle sticks. Use a skewer or the handle of a barspoon to swirl the cherry mixture around.
- Step 5 Insert the popsicle sticks and freeze for at least 2 hours to overnight.
- Step 6 Unmold and enjoy!
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