A simple yet decadent and elegant dessert – these Red Wine Poached Pears enhance the natural sweetness of the fruit with delicious red wine and beautiful spices.
Serve red wine poached pears with some mascarpone cheese, or whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream for an impressive dessert.
I remember eating my first poached pear when I was little, and wondering whether those gorgeous deep red pears were doused in the same candy as candy apples. I wasn’t too happy that they weren’t crunchy like candy apples, but the taste more than made up for it!
Red Wine Poached Pears are a classic French dessert and very underrated in my opinion. It’s such a simple dessert, yet delightfully flavorful and very elegant and impressive. They have a great balance of sweet, spice and fruity flavors, and the deep red color turns this into a beautiful centerpiece dessert too.
Plus, making red wine poached pears (or white wine poached pears) is really easy. Today, I’m going to show you how to make this easy dessert step by step, with additional suggestions to amp up the flavor.
How to poach pears in red wine with perfect results
Choosing the perfect pear to poach
I prefer Bosc pears. It’s a great choice because bosc pears retain their shape well while being cooked. Bosc pears are crisp and mildly sweet, making them the perfect canvas for all the flavors in the poaching liquid.
Another good option is Anjou pears. They too have a mild flavor that doesn’t interfere with the flavors of the poaching liquid, and more importantly, don’t become mushy while being poached.
Asian pears are also a great option. They are almost like a cross between a pear and an apple in terms of taste and texture. They are also crisp and sweet, and poaching these would again give you something resembling a poached apple and pear in terms of flavor.
Which pears to avoid
Avoid Bartlett pears at all costs. Bartlett pears are delicious to eat, but they bruise easily if handled too much, and warming them up will turn them to mush pretty quickly.
They are perfect to make pear sauce or pear butter, but they are a no-go for poaching.
Can I use overripe pears?
Ideally, you don’t want pears that are overripe, because they’d be too soft to withstand the hot poaching liquid. You CAN poach overripe pears for a shorter time, but that doesn’t give enough time for the pears to really absorb all the flavor. Plus, overripe pears can be harder to manoeuvre while you’re cooking them (since you will need to rotate the pears in the saucepan to evenly cook them).
How to choose a wine to make these red wine poached pears
That’s an important question obviously, with a simple answer. Cook with a wine that you like to drink. And not too expensive. That goes for both red and white wine.
Since the red wine will be simmered here with spices and sugar (or honey), the flavor of the wine will get concentrated and enhanced. A little sweetness is good for poaching pears, so sugar (or honey) is necessary.
I use a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot when I make these red wine poached pears.
How to choose the right spices and flavors for red wine poached pears
I’ve made these red wine poached pears with all kinds of spices. Seriously, there’s only very few that won’t work. Poached pears are quite versatile, and it’s mostly about choosing what you like. But don’t be afraid to try new spices and flavor profiles that you’re not familiar with either.
For red wine poached pears, I usually go with cinnamon, star anise, cloves, orange peel and vanilla. It’s a great combination of spices. Think mulled wine, but for poached pears. 🙂
Another way to enhance the flavor of these red wine poached pears is by changing the sweetener. I use white sugar for this recipe, but you can add brown sugar, or honey, or coconut sugar instead as well.
I always add some orange peel to the red wine when I make these poached pears, but depending on the wine, you can add more flavor with fresh fruits or fruit juice.
I like to add raspberry, or blackberry or cherries that complement the flavor of the red wine. The seeds can be an issue if you’re using raspberries or blackberries, so once the wine is simmered, you can pass it through a sieve to remove the seeds, BEFORE you add the pears.
In terms of juice, I like to add apple cider, orange juice and pomegranate juice.
Totally optional, but why the heck not? 🙂 Yes, it’s red wine poached pears, but you can enhance the flavor with a little more alcohol. I love adding bourbon, whiskey, brandy or sherry. Cointreau and Port are good options too.
Choosing the right saucepan for poaching pears
The poaching liquid for this red wine poached pears recipe is good for a maximum of 5 pears. But you can just as easily poach 3 – 5 pears in this red wine mix. It’s important to use the right saucepan for the job though. You want the pears to fit snugly in the saucepan, with just a little wiggle room for the pears to be partially submerged even at an angle, or upright.
I always poach the pears while they are sitting upright first, and then have them submerged at an angle in the red wine mix so that the tops of the pears get cooked. Usually I have the pears angled towards the middle, and then rotate them every few minutes to make sure the whole pear is poached well and flavored with the wine and spices, and colored evenly. Since it’s red wine, it’s easy to tell which parts of the pears have been poached or not. And since the bottom of the pear is plumper, I poach the pears while keeping them upright for a little longer.
These red wine poached pears can be made a day ahead and stored in the fridge. I prefer to keep the pears in the poaching liquid overnight, because the liquid will continue to flavor the pears even more as the pears cool down. Then this gorgeous poaching liquid can be simmered even more to make a syrup which you can pour over the pears when serving.
Red wine poached pears are such an elegant and delicious dessert that everyone would love! Flavored with wine and spice flavors, and served with more of that delicious wine syrup and a generous serving of mascarpone cheese on the side, this dessert is a great finish to any meal.
And since the liquid is being cooked for a while, the alcohol in the red wine will be mostly cooked out too, so kids can enjoy it as well. I certainly loved eating red wine poached pears when I was a kid, and never got drunk, but that’s a decision I will leave to your discretion. 🙂
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Red Wine Poached Pears
- ½ cup sugar 100 g
- 1 large piece of orange peel
- 8 - 10 whole cloves
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 cups red wine I prefer Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot
- ½ cup water / orange juice see notes for more options
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup raspberries / pitted cherries / blackberries OPTIONAL
- 3 - 6 medium sized bosc pears
- Place all the ingredients (except pears) in a saucepan. Make sure the saucepan is large enough for the pears to fit snugly in there, with just enough wiggle room for the pears to submerge in the poaching liquid at an angle as well.
- Bring the red wine to a simmer while stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- When the wine comes to a simmer, strain the red wine liquid (IF YOU USED FRESH FRUITS), to remove the seeds or fruit pulp. Discard the seeds and pulp, but NOT the cloves, orange peel and cinnamon. Add the cinnamon, cloves and peel back into the liquid and return the liquid back to the saucepan. You can skip this step if you didn’t use fresh fruits with seeds and pulp.
- Peel the pears ONLY when the poaching liquid is ready (pears will discolor if you peel them too early).
- Lower the peeled pears into the poaching liquid.
- Let the pears poach in the liquid on medium-low heat (simmering) for 20 - 25 minutes, but rotate the pears every 5 minutes to ensure they poach evenly on all sides, including the tops of the pears.
- When the pears have been poached, keep them upright in the poaching liquid, and remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the pears to cool down in the poaching liquid.
- I prefer to serve poached pears chilled, but they can be served at room temperature as well.
- Before serving, remove the pears from the poaching liquid and leave them on a plate, covered with plastic wrap.
- Heat the remaining liquid in the saucepan, and bring it to a simmer. Simmer for a few minutes until the liquid thickens slightly into a syrup. The cooking time depends on how much liquid is left, so keep an eye on it. If the syrup is too thick, add a little water to thin it out.
- Serve the pears on a serving plate, and brush them a little with the syrup to make the pears look shiny (optional).
- Pour a little syrup over individual pears, and serve with some whipped mascarpone cheese or whipped cream.
Tips & Tricks