Our poached Asian pear dessert recipe is delicately flavored and beautifully crisp, just like the fruit itself. This gentle cooking technique coaxes out the best characteristics of the pears and give them a nudge toward dessert. Quick and easy recipe.
Why this recipe works
With their light, floral flavor and gentle crispness, Asian pears (also called Chinese pears, Japanese pears, Korean pears, apple pears, or sand pears) work so well on their own that they hardly require any adornment to make a special dessert. Still, a quick bath in a sugar syrup perfumed with lemon, ginger and vanilla never hurt anyone, right? This recipe:
- Coaxes out the gentle sweetness and floral notes of the pears
- While leaving their special crispness intact
- Elevates the fruit's natural flavors with hints of ginger, vanilla, and lemon
- Is perfect on its own or paired with ice cream, whipped cream, yogurt, or oatmeal
I first published a version of this recipe here and on Serious Eats in 2009. I've since updated the post for clarity and tweaked the recipe as well.
What you'll need
Here's a glance at the ingredients you'll need to make this recipe.
- Asian pears have a lemony, floral flavor and a light, juicy crispness that puts them somewhere between pears and apples, but on a higher plane. They're actually many varieties of delightful fruit that all share a name and a few key qualities. See the section below for more information.
- You'll use half a vanilla bean in this recipe. Cut it open with a paring knife, flatten it out a bit, and scrape out the seeds with the point of the knife. Add both the pod and the seeds to the pot to make the syrup.
- Cut the fresh ginger into thin slices. There's no need to peel. The amount in the recipe gives a very mild flavor. You're welcome to add more if you want a stronger ginger taste.
- Use a vegetable peeler to easily remove the lemon zest in strips, without including too much of the bitter white pith.
How to make it
Here's an overview of what you'll do to make a lovely batch of poached Asian pears. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.
- To create the poaching liquid, stir together the water, sugar, vanilla bean, ginger, and lemon zest. Simmer until sugar is completely dissolved and liquid is bubbling briskly.
- Cut the pears into quarters, remove cores, and cut into ¼-inch slices.
- Add pears to poaching liquid, arranging so they are submerged. Simmer for three minutes.
- Let cool completely in the pot before serving.
Expert tips and FAQs
There are so many ways to enjoy this Asian pear recipe. I love them for breakfast straight up, spooned over yogurt with or without granola, or atop some oatmeal. For dessert, try them alone, with whipped cream, or over ice cream.
My favorite thing to do is to spoon a bit of the syrup and one of the strips of lemon peel into a cocktail. It works well in such a wide variety of drinks, from an Aperol or Hugo Spritz to a Gin & Tonic and beyond. This is a great place to play. If you're not into alcohol, you could mix it into some sparkling water for a lightly flavored treat.
100%. You'll need to make it at least 90 minutes in advance to give the pears a chance to cool completely, but you can do it a lot earlier if you like. They'll keep well at room temperature for a day and in the fridge for a week or more, as long as all the fruit is covered with syrup.
How to choose and store Asian pears
There are three main types of Asian pears, and easily more than 25 varieties. The three main types are:
- Smooth-skinned and round with greenish to yellow skin
- Round with bronze skin and a light bronze russet (pictured in this post)
- Pear-shaped with green or russet skin
How to choose
Regardless of variety, choose pears that are very firm, with no give at all. If choosing a russet variety, it should be a deep golden-brown. Smooth-skinned round fruits should be more yellow than green. Smooth-skinned pear shaped fruits should be pale green.
How to store
Asian pears feel very firm but are actually quite delicate and easy to bruise. To store, keep in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to a week.
More favorite simple fruit toppings & desserts
- 2 medium Asian pears (about 1 pound/454 grams total)
- 2 cups (475 ml) water
- 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
- ½ vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out
- 3 thin slices ginger (about ½ ounce/14 grams total)
- Zest of 1 lemon, peeled into strips with a vegetable peeler
- Remove cores from pears and slice them ¼-inch thick.
- In a medium pot, combine the water, sugar, vanilla seeds and pod, ginger, and lemon zest.
- Bring to a brisk simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved.
- Add pear slices, stir to submerge in liquid, and simmer for three minutes.
- Remove from heat and leave to cool completely.
- To serve, divide pear slices among four serving bowls and spoon a bit of the poaching syrup overtop. Serve alone, atop yogurt or ice cream, or topped with whipped cream.
- You'll need to make it at least 90 minutes in advance to give the pears a chance to cool completely, but you can do it a lot earlier if you like. They'll keep well at room temperature for a day and in the fridge for a week or more, as long as all the fruit is covered with syrup.
- There are so many ways to enjoy this recipe. I love them for breakfast straight up, spooned over yogurt with or without granola, or atop some oatmeal. For dessert, try them alone, with whipped cream, or over ice cream.
- My favorite thing to do with any leftover syrup is to spoon a bit of the syrup and one of the strips of lemon peel into a cocktail. It works well in such a wide variety of drinks, from an Aperol or Hugo Spritz to a Gin & Tonic and beyond. This is a great place to play. If you're not into alcohol, you could mix it into some sparkling water for a lightly flavored treat.
- If Asian pears are unavailable or unaffordable, you can substitute Bosc pears.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 70Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 13mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 4gSugar: 6gProtein: 2g