Port Wine Poached Pears are a stunning and delicious fall and winter dessert. Full of warming spices, they're fantastic on their own, over ice cream, in a tart, and even alongside chicken. This port wine dessert is so easy to make and so impressive! It's so easy to poach pears . . . . and even more delicious!
Poaching pears in port wine takes the fall fruit to another level.
The pears steep in Ruby port wine for hours, along with cinnamon, star anise and fresh thyme. It's a beautiful, aromatic and rich combination of flavors.
There are a variety of ways to present port poached pears, and they range from pretty to prettier!
What is a poached pear?
Poaching pears is essentially cooking them submerged in a liquid on the stove. They're most commonly poached in simple syrup, but are often poached in wine.
The flavors pears are poached in can vary widely, and you can tailor the liquid to your taste by adding spices, fruits and using different sweeteners.
What are the best pears for poaching?
Firm pears are best for poaching because they hold their shape well. Bosc, Anjou, Comice and Asian pears are all great choices.
What is port wine?
Port is a fortified dessert wine from Douro Valley of northern Portugal.
There are several varieties of port, but there are two main types: red Ruby port, which has a berry-like flavor, and Tawny port, which has more of a caramel, nut-like flavor. Both are sweet, but the Tawny is a bit sweeter.
You can learn more about port wine here.
Above: The pears on the left have just been added to the poaching liquid, and the pears on the right have been marinating for about two hours.
- Port Wine Poached Pears are outstanding on their own.
- Reduce the poaching liquid and you'll have an amazing port wine glaze to drizzle over them. (Which is what we do in this recipe.)
- Fill the cavity (from where the seeds and core have been removed) with whipped cream, mascarpone or vanilla custard.
- Slice them and serve them over vanilla bean ice cream. (I like using mild-flavored ice creams with port wine poached pears so it doesn't compete with their delicious flavor.)
- The pears are perfect for filling tarts and pies.
- This one might throw you, but trust me . . . . serve them sliced with roasted chicken or duck. Imagine cranberry sauce and turkey, only different. 😉
Above: The pears have marinated overnight.
Recipe Tips and Substitutions
- Be sure not to use pears that are overly ripe or too soft because they likely won't hold their shape when you poach them.
- The longer the pears sit in the poaching liquid, the deeper the red color will be and the stronger the flavor.
- Ruby port wine is a dessert wine and is already sweet, which is why there's not much sugar in this recipe. Feel free to add more or less sugar to suit your taste.
- You can use Tawny port instead of Ruby if you'd like. The Tawny is slightly sweeter so lessen the sugar a bit if you do, and note that it's more brown than red.
- Feel free to change up the spices. I love the combination of the star anise and cinnamon in this recipe, and cloves and/or cardamom would also be great.
- You can use this pear poaching method with other wines also, and with most simple syrups. This Hazelnut Simple Syrup is my favorite and it's excellent with pears.
- It's pretty to garnish the pears with finely chopped nuts to contrast their color. I especially love how pistachios look.
Pictured below are a few different presentations . . . .Whole Port Wine Poached Pear with Port Wine Glaze and cacao nibs.
Whole, fanned Port Wine Poached Pear with Port Wine Glaze and chopped pistachios.
Halved Port Wine Poached Pears with Port Wine Glaze.
Can you make them ahead?
- Poached pears actually are even better when they're made ahead. As I mentioned above, the longer the pears sit in the poaching liquid, the deeper the red color will be and the stronger the flavor. In my experience they never get too strong. I think they go from delicious to even more delicious, the longer they marinate.
- You can make them up to a week ahead, and they should be stored refrigerated in the liquid they were poached in, in a tightly sealed container.
- A reason to serve them soon after they've poached, or to poach them for less time, is the color. When you slice into a Ruby port or red wine poached pear that has only marinated for about an hour, the pear will still be its natural cream color in the center. Here's an example. And when they marinate overnight, the red color goes all the way through. Either way, they're beautiful.
I hope you love this port wine dessert recipe as much as I do!
More pear dessert recipes:
- Pear Frangipane Tart (Cocoa & Lavender)
- Honey Baked Korean Pear
- Rosemary Roasted Hasselback Asian Pears
Port Wine Poached Pears
- 3 cups Ruby port wine (about 1 bottle)
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 8 small-medium pears (about 4 ounces each, ripe, but firm), I suggest Bosc or Comice
- about 5 whole star anise
- about 3 (approximately 3 inch) cinnamon sticks
- a few sprigs fresh thyme, washed and dried
- Make the poaching liquid. Add the port wine, sugar, star anise, cinnamon and thyme to a large pot. Warm it over medium heat just long enough to dissolve the sugar.
- Prepare the pears. Start this step only when the poaching liquid is ready. First cut a small base on the bottom of each pear. Then use a tiny melon baller to gently scoop out a small hole from the bottom of each one, working your way all the way into the pear to remove the seeds. Add each to the wine marinade as you work. (If you don't have a melon baller, use a tiny spoon (that's strong) or a paring knife. If you use the knife, move it in a circular motion, up the center of the pear.) Peel the pears, from the top down, beginning right at the stem. (Add each pear to the port wine poaching liquid as you work.
- Poach/Marinate. Over medium-high heat, bring the liquid to a strong simmer and then reduce the heat to the lowest setting and gently simmer just until the pears are tender. Use a fork to gently prod a pear to see how soft it is. They should be tender, but still firm enough to hold their shape nicely. Turn off the heat and let the pears sit in the poaching liquid for at least 3 hours, and up to a week. (Store them in the liquid, refrigerated in a tightly sealed container. Do not refrigerate until they've cooled to room temperature.)
- Make a port wine glaze. When you're ready to serve -- or whenever you ultimately remove the pears from the liquid, use a large slotted spoon to do so. Set the poached pears aside, and pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a small pot. Over high heat, bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer until it has reduced by at least half. This should take about 15 minutes, and the result will be a sweet, thick port wine syrup.
- Serve. Slice the pears any way you'd like to, or serve them whole. Drizzle with the glaze and garnish with finely chopped nuts if desired.
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