Slowly simmered in a sweet syrup infused with cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel, these easy Poached Pears are the perfect elegant but simple dessert for your next gathering! They can be served hot or cold as a dessert or as part of another sweet or savory dish. It's an impressively quick and easy 20-minute recipe that can be made with or without alcohol!
📖 What is Poached Pear
But before we begin, what are poached pears? They are a classic French dessert that was created in Burgundy and Lyon as a way not to let fruit go to waste.
Basically, they are fresh peeled pears that have been immersed in a flavorful spiced liquid and then slowly cooked on the stovetop until tender. In most cases, the cooking liquid is a mixture of sugar, water, and wine. And the most common spices used tend to be cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel.
However, pears can be poached with or without alcohol, and any spices can be added to the poaching liquid. It's a wonderful dessert that presents beautifully and is both easy to make and customize.
📖 Which pears are best for poaching
You want to use a type of pear that is firm and will hold its shape while being cooked. I find the best choice to be Bosc, which are a touch sweet but still nice and crisp. My runner-up are Anjou, which is not quite as flavorful but still poaches perfectly. Both of these varieties of pears will have no problem keeping their shape and are wonderful choices.
However, it's just as important to mention which pears not to use. Never use overly ripe or soft pears as they will just turn to mush in the saucepan. So I highly advise that you stay far away from Comice and Bartlett. These types of pears are simply too soft and will fall apart in the poaching liquid leaving you with sweet pear soup.
📖 Which liquid is most commonly used when poaching pears
For this simple poached pears recipe, I just used a combination of water and sugar as the base of my poaching liquid and a few of my favorite warm spices to add flavor. However, one of the great things about poaching pears is that you can customize the poaching liquid any way you like to make it your own. Many people like poached pears in red wine, white wine, or fruit juice and add spices like star anise and cardamom.
This recipe is just a template to show you how to poach pears and how I flavor mine. Here are some more poaching liquid ideas:
- Liquid: white wine, red wine, grape juice, apple juice, water
- Sweetener: white sugar, brown sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup
- Spices: cinnamon sticks, cloves, ginger, cardamom, star anise, vanilla bean, lemon zest, orange peel
🌟 Why this is the best recipe
- Easy no-fuss recipe – It takes just minutes and a few simple steps to poach pears. You don't need to be a chef or have any special training.
- Super delicious – The pears are perfectly infused with just the right amount of sugar for a bit of sweetness and warm spices for layered flavor making this the best poached pears recipe ever!
- No fancy equipment or ingredients – All you need is a few simple basic ingredients and a saucepan to make this simple recipe.
- Festive dessert – Pears are a wonderful fruit that is in season year-round and signifies holidays. This poached pear dessert is sure to add tasty cheer to your family gatherings.
- It's a detailed tutorial - These pears may look fancy, but they are so easy to make! However, I've still outlined all the steps as much as possible to make it totally foolproof. So, don't skip the expert tips or FAQ!
📝 Ingredient notes
- Pears: The best choices for poaching pears are firm varieties like Bosc pears and Anjou. Avoid using Bartlett pears because they are too soft and will fall apart. You can poach pears with or without skin, however, the poaching liquid easier penetrates into the pears if they are peeled.
- Water: I use water as the base of my poaching liquid. However, feel free to poach the pears in red wine or white wine if you prefer. Just simply replace half of the water with wine.
- Sugar: Simple white granulated sugar is all you need to sweeten the pears. But any type of sugar will work. To learn more about how to use different types of sugar in desserts check out my handy sugar guide.
- Spices: Cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and orange peel are used to flavor the pears as they slowly poach in the liquid.
- Alcohol (optional): Wine, rum, bourbon, brandy, or really most alcohol can be used as a poaching liquid or a combination of water and alcohol. However, it is absolutely not necessary to use alcohol, with the spices you will get super delicious poached pears without alcohol too.
🛒 You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the Recipe Card at the bottom of this post
👩🍳 How to make this recipe
Now on to the fun part! So! How to poach pears? It's a pretty simple process if you follow these easy steps I've outlined here.
1. Step-by-step instructions
To begin, the most important thing before you even start is to choose pears that are either just ripe or slightly underripe. If you pick overripe pears, they can easily go to mush as they simmer. And we don't want that!
- Prepare the poaching liquid by bringing the water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and orange peel to a boil in a large saucepan. It's essential that the pan be big enough to hold both the liquid and the pears comfortably.
- Prepare the pears by first peeling them. Then you can either leave them whole or cut them in half. Just keep in mind that whole pears will take a little longer to cook than halves.
- Place the pears in the saucepan with the hot poaching liquid. Then turn the heat down to medium and cook them for about 10 to 15 minutes or until just tender.
- Serve the finished pears warm or cold as a dessert on their own with some mascarpone, whipped cream, or ice cream. Or, you can serve them as part of another recipe or savory dish.
💡 Top Tip: It's better to undercook the pears a little rather than overcook them.
2. Should I use alcohol to poach pears
Whether or not you decide to use alcohol to poach your pears is completely up to you! It's just a matter of taste and personal preference.
If you opt to use wine, it does add a lovely touch of acid to the pears that contrast beautifully with the natural sweetness of the fruit and added spices. Wine poached pears are the most classic way, it's not the only way.
And talking about alcohol, it's also possible to use rum, bourbon, brandy, or really most any alcohol you like to poach pears. It's not as commonly used as wine, but you will find pear poaching recipes that call for spirits. They too are a wonderful addition to the poaching liquid and the cooking process is exactly the same.
How to poach pears without wine? It is exactly the same process. For example, you can easily use grape juice, apple juice, just water, or even add a bit of fresh lemon juice to your poaching liquid. These are all fantastic options for making alcohol-free flavorful pears.
💡 Top Tip: Remember when adding alcohol to the poaching liquid you need to dilute it with water to balance the flavors.
3. How to serve poached pears
Now we have perfectly cooked pears! But more importantly, how to eat poached pears?
For a simple, yet elegant dessert, you can serve them with some creamy vanilla ice cream or mascarpone cheese. Then top with a sprinkle of toasted nuts. Or, serve the pears alongside a delicious cake or simple Creme Anglaise.
Another way to use the pears is in a recipe like my Poached Pear Pound Cake or Pear Galette. There are many recipes that call for pears. In fact, many restaurants top salads with poached pears or include them as part of cheese platters. These are all ways you too can use this cooking technique in your sweet and savory dishes.
💡 Top Tip: Hot pears will melt cold ice cream. So keep that in mind when planning your menu. You may want to serve them at room temperature instead.
🎓 Expert tips
- Use pears that are all about the same size and equal in the amount of ripeness for even cooking and the best outcome.
- Avoid using Barlett pears at all costs. They are far too soft for poaching. For the best results, I recommend Bosc and Anjou.
- Use a proper vegetable peeler to peel the pears versus a knife. You just want to remove the skin of the pears and still have them maintain their shape rather than cut into them.
- The pears must be fully immersed in the liquid as they simmer to cook evenly. So if you double the number of pears you also need to double the amount of liquid used as well.
- You need to watch the pears closely as they cook. How long they take to poach is dependent on both their size and level of ripeness.
- Do not boil the pears. They must slowly simmer, which helps them to maintain their shape as well as being infused with the spiced poaching liquid.
- To avoid overcooking the pears, remove them from the liquid as soon as they are tender. They will continue to cook in the hot liquid if they sit in the saucepan.
- Do not toss out the poaching liquid. It can be used to store the pears in or as part of the dessert. It's full of sweet spiced goodness and the longer the pears sit in it the more flavorful they become.
- Feel free to adjust the spices and amount of sugar used. You can even omit the sugar to make healthy poached pears or add more depending upon how you want to use them.
A mixture of wine and water is typically used to cook pears. However, no alcohol is necessary to make this recipe.
It is recommended to peel them. Now, do you peel pears before poaching? Yes, that's how they are infused with flavor.
The pears need to be either just ripe or slightly underripe. If they are overly ripe they will turn to mush.
When the pears are ready they will still be holding their shape, but be fork tender, yet not mushy.
Yes! You can make the pears up to 3 days in advance and store them in a container in their liquid in the fridge. Then remove them about an hour before serving and heat them up in the liquid if you like.
If properly submerged in the liquid and cooked long enough the pears will not turn brown. But if any part of them is not fully cooked or covered completely with the liquid there is a small chance of them turning brown.
You can keep the cooked pears in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days and it's always best to store them in the cooking liquid.
If you place the cooked pears and the liquid in an airtight container they will keep in the freezer for about 3 months. Then just allow them to completely thaw out overnight in the fridge before reheating or using them in another recipe. Please note that after thawing they might lose their shape.
🧁 More dessert recipes
Poached Pears (VIDEO)
- 3 Pears firm varieties like Bosc and Anjou
- 1 liter (4¼ cups) Water optionally replace half of the water with red or white wine
- 150 g (¾ cups) Granulated sugar
- 1 large Cinnamon stick
- 1 Orange peel
- few Cloves
US customary cup measurement is an indicative figure only. Measure the ingredients with a digital scale by weight (gram). Baking is art but also science which requires precision and accuracy.
- Bring all ingredients to boil (except pears) in a large enough saucepan
- Peel the pears and either cut them into half (vertically) or leave them in one piece
- Cook the pears for 10-15 minutes (depending on the size of the pears) on medium heat. Do not overcook the fruits, it is better to slighly udercook them
- Serve it warm or cold as an individual dessert with some whipped mascarpone, or if it is part of a recipe, proceed accoridng to the recipe
- Store refrigerated for 2-3 days in air-tight container