Marsala Poached Pears

Firm, just ripe pears should be used. If overly ripe, the pears will cook up mushy. If Bosc pears are not available, Bartlett or Anjou can be substituted. You can core the pears if you wish, from the bottom, but it really is not necessary.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 4 servings


  • 4 bosc pears, peeled, stem still attached, 1/4-inch of bottom sliced off so pears can easily sit upright
  • 1 cup dry Marsala wine (or Madeira)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 star anise
  • 4 cloves
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon


1 Make the spiced marsala syrup: In a saucepan just large enough to fit all of the pears, place the Marsala wine, sugar, lemon juice, star anise, cloves, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil.

2 Poach the pears in the syrup: Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and place the pears in the pan, standing upright. Cover the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes (if you want, baste with the liquid a couple of times during the cooking), until the pears can easily be pierced with a fork.

how to poach pears

Very firm pears make need to cook for up to 20 minutes.

Once poached, remove the pears to a serving dish.

3 Boil down the syrup until it becomes a glaze.  Keeping the pan uncovered, let the Marsala syrup boil down for a few minutes until it is a thick syrup. (If it begins to caramelize, remove pan from the heat and add a little water to the pan to stop the cooking.)

4 Pour syrup over pears and serve.

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  • Jenifer

    I made this using sweet, Boronia Marsala, and left out the anise – was wonderful just with the cloves and cinnamon.
    I would halve the pears next time and lie them down, to avoid the unattractive red tide mark partway up.
    Otherwise, yum! Perfect! And the leftover syrup is very nice over ice cream.

  • kmiffy

    I made this with cardamom instead of star anise as suggested by Elise in the comments section, and it turned out great! A lovely alternative for those of us who aren’t fans of anise.


  • Adam

    I had a bunch of pears sitting around so I just made this.

    “Cleanup on aisle delicious!”


  • Garrett

    Let me just add that these are, by far the best poached pears ever. We literally devoured those pears to the stem and seed in record time. This is a food that, like a divine touch, has the ability to sooth and comfort. =)


  • Anton

    Could you substitute anise seeds for star anise? They differ in flavor, so how much would you recommend to use in this case?

    I haven’t tried that substitute, so wouldn’t know what to tell you. If you do try it, please let us know how it turns out for you. ~Elise

  • Nate

    I recently poached some Asian pears in sake with ume (Japanese pickled plum) for flavoring. Poached pears are a great dessert!

  • Leio

    What kind of Marsala did you use? The cheap grocery store kind? I’m thinking about replace the marsala with some ruby port or tawny port.

    If it’s good enough to drink, it’s good enough to cook with. ~Elise

  • Lillianne

    I’ve always been confused about cooking with Marsala. Do recipes always specify if “sweet” Marsala is the ingredient, as opposed to just plain Marsala?

    Wiki has further confused me with secco, semi-secco and sweet. When to use which?

  • anya

    Elise –
    I’ve got sweet Marsala wine. Could I substitute that with less sugar?

    Sure, try it! Don’t know how much less sugar though, not that much less. ~Elise

  • ghanima

    I’m very much NOT a fan of licorice or licorice flavers (don’t like tarragon, etc.) Is there something you can recommend as a substitution for the star anise, or would that change the feel of the dish too much?

    You could leave it out entirely. Or try adding a pod or two of cardamom. ~Elise