How to Pit Cherries, Peaches, Olives, and More
Many of nature's tastiest and most colorful fruits have pits that need a little help to remove. We'll share our secrets for pitting cherries, peaches, olives, avocados, mangoes, and more. There's a way to pit all of these foods without any fancy gadgets—we guarantee you have everything you need right in your kitchen!
Avocados, peaches, nectarines, olives, dates, and mangoes all have one thing in common: A pit that needs to be removed before you use the fruit in a recipe. While pitting fruits is not difficult, different fruits require different approaches to removing the pit. We'll give you tips and tricks for each. You might even be surprised by some of them (like our trick for pitting cherries without a cherry pitter). Once you master these easy methods, you'll be well on your way to fresh cherry pies, peach cobblers, and all the avocado toast you can eat.
What Is a Pit?
Soft, fleshy fruits with pits in the middle are known as "stone fruits" or "drupes." The pits themselves are made of the seed of a fruit surrounded by a hard shell. Fruit pits are inedible.
If you're planning on eating the fruit out of your hand and not using it for cooking or baking, you don't have to pit the fruit. Generally you can eat around the pits of cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums, and olives. So go ahead and pack unpitted peaches, plums, and nectarines in a picnic basket. Serve unpitted olives on an appetizer buffet, or offer a big bowl of unpitted cherries on a dessert buffet. Just be sure to provide a convenient receptacle for the pits.
How to Pit Cherries with a Cherry Pitter
The easiest way to pit cherries is with a cherry pitter, a handy gadget available at kitchen supply stores. Here's how to use one:
- Wash and drain the cherries well in a colander. Remove the stems—simply pull them off the fruit.
- Place one cherry, stem end up, into the center of the open-hole tray of the cherry pitter.
- Holding the pitter over a bowl, squeeze the handles of the cherry pitter together, and allow the pit to fall into the bowl.
- Remove the pitted cherry from the holder, and repeat as needed with the remaining cherries.
How to Pit Cherries Without a Cherry Pitter
While a cherry pitter removes the pit cleanly and quickly, if you don't have one, you can use these other common household items to remove those pesky pits. In any case, work over a bowl to catch the pits.
- Paper Clip Method: Remove the stem from the washed cherry. Holding the cherry stem side up, insert the lower end of the paper clip into the stem end of the cherry. Working the clip like a hook to get underneath the pit of the cherry, pull the pit upward and back out through the stem end of the fruit.
- Drinking Straw Method: Remove the stem from the washed cherry. Holding the cherry stem side up, push a drinking straw through the top of the cherry through the bottom of the fruit, driving out the pit as you go.
How to Pit Olives
If your olives are small (about the size of a cherry), they can be pitted with a cherry pitter (see instructions above). For other olives, it's easy to remove the pits simply using your hands.
- Place the olives on a clean, flat surface, such as a cutting board.
- Press each olive with your thumb to flatten the olive while cracking it open. If the olive has a hard flesh that clings to the pit, use the smooth end of a meat mallet to crush the olive.
- Use your thumb and forefinger to grasp each side of the olive and pull the olive apart, exposing the pit. Remove the pit. If the olive does not pull apart easily, use a paring knife to cut the pit away from the flattened olive.
Note that some olives, such as Cerignola olives, are difficult (if not impossible) to pit. Serve these as appetizers, keeping a bowl handy for discarding the pits. Be sure to warn your guests if the olives you serve are unpitted.
How to Pit a Date
To remove the pit from a date, cut a slit into the side of the date, from the top end to the bottom end, then pry the pit out with the knife.
How to Pit a Mango
To pit a mango, first take a look at its shape. You'll notice it has a broad, flat side. That shows you the shape of the seed at its center and indicates how you'll want to cut around it.
- Wash the mango under cool running water and dry with paper towels.
- Stand the fruit stem side up and with the narrow side facing you.
- Using a sharp knife, slice all the way through the mango next to the seed, cutting from top to bottom (in the photo above, the seed is just next to the knife, toward the fruit's center).
- Repeat on the other side of the seed. This will result in two larger pieces of fruit.
- Cut away all the fruit that remains around the seed.
- Alternatively, you can also purchase a mango pitter, which is a gadget that cuts down on both sides of the mango pit at the same time.
How to Pit Peaches and Nectarines
The key to pitting these fruits is a light hand—you'll want to keep the soft fruit bruise-free and intact while getting that stubborn pit out. Here's how:
- Wash the fruit under cool running water and pat dry with paper towels.
- Using a sharp paring knife, slice into the stem end of the fruit until you reach the pit. Rotate the peach around the paring knife so you're cutting the fruit all the way around the pit into two halves.
- Set down your knife. Grasp one half of the fruit in each hand and gently twist the halves in opposite directions. The halves will separate, and the pit will remain in one of the halves. (Note that the pits of some nectarines may be particularly clingy, making it difficult to pry the fruit into two pieces. If this is the case, cut the nectarines into smaller sections, cutting them away from the pit as you go.)
- Use your paring knife to loosen the top and bottom of the pit from the fruit. At this point you can usually use your thumb and forefingers to remove the pit from peaches. For nectarines, use the tip of the knife to pry the pit from the fruit.
How to Pit an Avocado
A slice and a twist are all it takes to remove the pit of an avocado from its rich, buttery flesh. Here's how to do it:
- Rinse the avocado under cool running water and pat dry with paper towels.
- Using a sharp chef's knife, cut through the avocado lengthwise through the flesh and to the seed. Rotate the fruit around the knife so that you've cut the avocado into two halves, all the way around the avocado.
- Separate the halves by placing one hand on each side of the avocado and twisting in opposite directions. The seed will remain in one of the halves.
- To remove the seed, carefully tap it with the blade of the chef's knife. You don't need to strike with a lot of force, as the blade will easily catch itself in the seed, which is a bit softer than it looks.
- Rotate the knife to lift out the seed.