You’ll love this healthy dessert made from poaching pears in red wine with spices. My recipe takes a shortcut by slicing the pears, which is faster than poaching them whole. This cuts down cooking time so you can enjoy your dessert sooner!
Poaching fruit adds a new dimension of flavor and texture to fruit. The technique arose as the solution to saving barely firm fruits that weren’t “ripening satisfactorily on the tree,” according to Wikipedia.
Instead of allowing the texture to go from unripe to gritty, poaching pears adds sweetness and spiced aromas to transform pears into a luxurious dessert.
I love poaching pears because it’s super easy. Plus, it’s a cozy way to enjoy fruits in the chilly winter. Poaching pears makes my kitchen smell like Christmas 😍🎄.
Let’s learn how to poach pears. You can extend this technique to poaching all kinds of fruit, including apples, cherries, peaches, apricots, and plums.
Best pears for poaching
Pick ripe pears (unripe pears are puckery) that are firm. Firm means you can push your thumb into the flesh of the pear without making an indentation.
NOTE: If your pears are ripe and soft, poaching will soften them further. They might become mushy like baby food. If that’s the texture you’re going for, feel free to use soft pears.
My favorite pears for poaching are:
- Red Bartlett
- Green Anjou (sometimes called D’Anjou)
- Red Anjou
Bosc is an ideal variety for poaching because it holds its shape well. Frankly, any variety of European pear will work well for poaching.
WARNING: I haven’t tried poaching Asian pears (a.k.a. Chinese pears, Japanese pears, Korean pears). I imagine their crispy and gritty texture would not work well for poaching. I can experiment if you’re interested in how it turns out. Leave a comment to let me know.
Skin on or off?
I like to leave the skin on my poached pears because:
- I slice the pears so there is plenty of exposed flesh.
- It’s faster to not peel.
- The peel adds fiber and nutrients.
If you’re poaching whole pears, I recommend peeling them. Whole pears benefit from peeling because you expose the flesh to the poaching liquid to infuse the pear with flavor.
I also prefer the texture of a peeled pear if it’s poached whole. But it’s up to you whether to peel or keep the skin on.
The main components to poaching pears are:
- A poaching liquid
- Acid (acid usually comes from the wine but you can add lemon juice)
You can adapt the recipe based on your taste buds and what’s in your pantry. Let’s dive into the different components you can substitute.
Best red wine for poaching pears
Pears poached in red wine is a French dessert originating from the Beaujolais region in France. This region is famous for producing (you guessed it) Beaujolais wine. You might know this region because of the Beaujolais nouveau wine that’s sold all over the world.
Poached pears are called poires à la beaujolaise (or poires pochées au vin rouge) in French.
NOTE: Check out more French recipes here.
The traditional wine for poaching pears is Beaujolais, which is a light-bodied, fruity wine, high in acidity.
Of course, you can use Beaujolais red wine for poaching pears.
Or, as I mention in my Mulled Wine recipe, use any red wine you like. Merlot, Pinot noir, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel. Why not?
I used a California boxed red wine blend, the same wine I used for the mulled wine (glühwein). It was great value in terms of price, and I was happy with the taste.
Poaching liquid options
While this recipe focuses on poaching pears in red wine, pears can be poached in different poaching liquids.
Here are different ideas of poached liquids you can try:
- Wine: Use red or white wine (chardonnay), sparkling wine (champagne), port, sherry
- Simple syrup: Use a simple syrup that’s 2 parts water to 1 part sugar (2:1).
- Fruit juice: You could use apple cider, grape juice, orange juice. Of course, it won’t have the deep flavor that red wine has but it’s a kid-friendly option.
- Liqueur: Use brandy, rum, spiced pear brandy, St-Germain, Grand Marnier, or your favorite liqueur for flavoring the poaching liquid.
TIP: Because liqueur is expensive, I would add a few tablespoons of your favorite liqueur. Then use water or fruit juice to make up the rest of the volume.
Spice and flavor variations
The poaching liquids can only do so much. Adding spices, herbs, and fruits is the key to making poached pears (and any poached fruits) aromatic.
My recipe for poached pears keeps things simple with ground cinnamon. But I encourage you to use your imagination when it comes to spice and flavor combinations.
Here are some ideas:
- Spices: Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pumpkin spice, cardamom, saffron, ginger, star anise, vanilla bean (or vanilla extract), black peppercorns
- Fruits: Lemon juice and zest, orange juice and zest
- Herbs: Mint, rosemary, thyme
I chose to use a minimal amount of sugar (1 tablespoon for 4 pears). If you have a sweet tooth, feel free to use a lot more sugar. You could use ¼ cup or even ½ cup of honey or sugar.
Honey: I use honey in this recipe because I like the floral touch it adds to the fruity flavors.
Maple syrup: Sub out the honey for maple syrup. You can use the same amount.
Brown sugar and granulated white sugar: These options get the job if you’re out of honey or maple syrup.
Dried fruit: You can add raisins, dates, and candied lemon peels to the poaching liquid. While they probably don’t add as much sugar as a tablespoon of honey, they’ll add sweetness and introduce a new texture. You can serve the poached dried fruit (the raisins will plump up) with the poached pears.
NOTE: You could use a low-calorie sweetener like agave syrup or an artificial sweetener. However, these sweeteners may not thicken the wine mixture to make a syrup. If you’re using them, expect a thin sauce.
How long do you poach pears?
My recipe is quicker than traditional poached pear recipes because I slice the pears. If you’re cooking a whole pear in the poaching liquid, it will take much longer.
Here’s my rule of thumb for cooking times:
- Sliced pears: 5 minutes of poaching on each side (total 10 minutes)
- Whole peeled pears: 25-30 minutes of poaching
- Sauce cooking time: 10-15 minutes of simmering
Obviously, these are guidelines. Poach the sliced pears longer if you’re finding the slices are too firm for your tastes. Or poach the whole pears for less time if you started with soft pears.
How to scale the recipe
If you’re making poached pears for 1-2 people, you can halve the recipe. (Though, I recommend making the full recipe with 4 pears and saving the leftovers for the next day.)
I made the same recipe with 1 pear and ¼ cup of red wine, which worked well.
To scale the recipe up, you can double or triple the recipe. The main issue to scaling up the recipe is ensuring you have enough liquid to cover the pears.
If you’re using 6-8 pears, use a big soup pot to fit all the pears without squishing them. If doubling the amount of wine isn’t enough to cover the pear slices, add enough water to bring up the poaching liquid level to just cover the top layer of pears.
Tips for success
- Adjust the cook time: The poaching time is flexible. Poach longer if you prefer softer pears. Poach for less time if you prefer firmer pears.
- Flip carefully: When you flip the pears so the top pears reach the bottom of the saucepan, be gentle. It’s easy to break pears as they’re softening. While it won’t affect the taste, intact pears present more beautifully on the plate.
Easy & healthy spiced pears poached in red wine
- Chopping Board
- 4 large pears, ripe and firm
- 2½ cups (600 ml) red wine
- ½ teaspoon (2 g) Cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) Honey
- Gather the ingredients.
- Peel the pears if desired. Remove the pear cores. Slice each pear thinly.
- Assemble the pear slices in the saucepan by layering the slices on top of each other.
- Sprinkle the cinnamon over the top layer of the pears.
- Pour the red wine over the sliced pears.
- Drizzle the honey over the pears.
- Heat the pears over medium-high heat.
- Once the red wine begins to bubble, turn the heat down to low. Allow the pears to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Flip the pears so the pears on the bottom of the saucepan are moved to the top and vice versa.
- Simmer the pears for another 5 minutes (or until they are soft to your liking).
- When the pears reach your preferred softness, remove the pears from the saucepan. Set them aside.
- Boil the spiced wine and honey mixture for 5 minutes until the sauce thickens on medium-high heat. The syrup should reduce by ⅓ the volume (or by ½ of the volume if you want a thicker sauce), about 5 minutes (could be longer if you like your syrup thicker).
- When you're satisfied with the sauce's thickness, remove it from the heat. Pour it over the pears. Allow the pears and sauce to cool.
- Enjoy your red-wine poached pears!
How to serve poached pears
Poached pears can be enjoyed lukewarm, at room temperature, or cooled.
While I like eating poached pears alone, it can be nice to add extras to complement them.
Poached pears go well with:
- Creamy dairy foods: Crème fraîche, mascarpone, yogurt, whipped cream, sour cream
- Soft cheeses: Brie, blue cheese, cottage cheese
- Sauces: Chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, vanilla sauce, butterscotch sauce
- Nuts & seeds: Pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, roasted cashews
I also use poached pears as a topping for oatmeal, ice cream, pound cakes, chocolate mousse, pancakes, waffles, and cheesecake.
Can you make this in advance?
Yes, you can poach the pears in advance. They’re a great dessert to make ahead of time in preparation for a dinner party.
I also like to make poached pears on Sunday night and eat them with oatmeal for breakfast during the workweek.
How to store leftovers
Put the leftovers in an airtight container and store them in the fridge. Eat the leftovers within 5 days.
Can you freeze it?
Yes, you can freeze poached pears, but I don’t recommend it. The texture will be mushy when you defrost them. If you don’t mind the mushy texture, you can try freezing them. But they’re tastier freshly poached or stored in the fridge.
How to reheat
If you’re serving poached pears that were refrigerated, I would leave them on the counter for 30 minutes at room temperature to warm up.
If you like poached pears lukewarm, you can reheat them in the microwave for 30 seconds on high. I would avoid cooking the pears on the stove again to reheat them because they might become too mushy.
If stove cooking is your only option because you don’t have a microwave, then you can reheat the pears on low heat until they’re warm and then remove from the heat before they boil.
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