Red Wine Poached Pears are a classic and elegant dessert. They are sweet, slightly tart, with a soft texture (but not mushy!), and hints of red wine, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper.
These poached pears have warming and complex flavors thanks to the red wine and spices—they are the perfect dessert for a cold winter day. The deep purplish-red hue makes them look impressive and romantic, but they are so simple to make. Serve them at a holiday dinner party or an at-home date night.
What is Poaching?
Poaching involves slowly cooking food submerged in a liquid at a low temperature. When you poach food, you want the cooking liquid to barely simmer, with only a few small bubbles coming to the surface. It should never come to a rolling boil—that means it’s too hot and the food will cook too quickly.
In this recipe, the pears are poached in a red wine sauce so that they cook evenly, and slowly soak up the delicious flavors in the sauce.
The Best Pears for Poaching
Bosc pears are the best pears for poaching since they are firm in texture and won’t become mushy when cooked. They taste mild, which means that they will take on the flavor of the red wine sauce beautifully. It takes about 20 minutes to poach the pears.
The Poaching Liquid: Red Wine
The pears are poached in a red wine sauce made with Cabernet Sauvignon, orange juice and peel, honey, and warm spices like cinnamon, cloves, and black peppercorns. I prefer Cabernet Sauvignon because it is full-bodied with a deep, complex flavor profile, and it results in a sauce that is rich and flavorful.
If you do not like Cabernet Sauvignon, then use any full-bodied red wine you like to drink like Zinfandel, Syrah, and Merlot.
Helpful Tips for the Best Poached Pears
This is a very simple recipe with just four steps. Here are some tips to take your poached pears from good to amazing!
- Use just-ripe or slightly underripe pears. They should feel firm to the touch. If they are too ripe, they will become mushy when cooked.
- Gently flip and rotate the pears in the sauce every 5 minutes while they poach so that they cook evenly.
- Slowly poach the pears on medium-low heat, nothing higher. The red wine sauce should barely simmer. If it comes to a rapid simmer or a rolling boil, lower the heat.
Ingredient Substitutions for Poached Pears
Use this recipe as a roadmap and adjust it based on your preferences and the ingredients you have on hand. Here are some ideas to make them uniquely yours.
- Instead of Cabernet Sauvignon, use any full-bodied red wine like Zinfandel, Syrah, and Merlot.
- Asian or Anjou pears are firm like bosc pears and can be used here.
- The honey in the red wine sauce can be substituted with any type of sweetener, such as granulated sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, or coconut sugar.
- Try different spices and flavorings. A star anise, cardamom pods, a lemon peel, vanilla bean pods, or dried cranberries would give the red wine sauce unique flavors.
Plan Ahead, Plus Proper Storage
Red Wine Poached Pears can be made ahead of time. Once the pears are poached and cooled, transfer them into an airtight glass container and strain in the red wine sauce. Cover the container tightly and store the pears in the fridge for up to three days.
The poached pears can be served cold straight out of the fridge or warmed. To warm the pears, slowly reheat them in a saucepan over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, until they are warmed through. If the sauce thickens too much while reheating, add a few tablespoons of water to thin it out a bit.
We Love Pears, Too
Red Wine Poached Pears
This recipe calls for Cabernet Sauvignon, but feel free to use any full-bodied red wine like Zinfandel, Syrah, or Merlot. Can’t find Bosc pears? Anjou or Asian pears are good substitutes.
2 1/2 cups red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup honey
1 orange peel
5 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
5 to 8 whole black peppercorns
4 Bosc pears, peeled and stems left intact
Vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or mascarpone cheese, to serve
Make the sauce:
Set a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, and add the red wine, orange juice, honey, orange peel, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and peppercorns. Bring the sauce up to a simmer and cook uncovered for 5 minutes. Some small bubbles will come up to the surface, but it should not be a rolling boil.
Poach the pears:
Once the sauce has been simmering for 5 minutes, add the peeled pears and cover the saucepan with a lid.
Let the pears simmer in the sauce for 20 to 25 minutes, gently flipping them every 5 minutes to ensure that they cook evenly. The pears are ready when they are soft enough to poke through with a paring knife without much resistance. If the pears are still hard, poach them for an additional 5 minutes, then test them again for doneness.
Reduce the sauce:
Use a slotted spoon to scoop the pears out and into a medium bowl. Let the sauce simmer and reduce uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, until it takes on a thick, syrupy texture. This may take longer depending on how much liquid the pears released into the sauce. Follow visual cues, not the time.
Set a fine mesh sieve over the medium bowl and strain the sauce into it. Discard the spices and orange peel.
Place the poached pears in small bowls with a drizzle of red wine sauce. Serve them warm or at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or mascarpone cheese.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 72g||26%|
|Dietary Fiber 6g||23%|
|Total Sugars 57g|
|Vitamin C 23mg||114%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|