Red Wine Poached Pears

Some recipes have a timeless appeal, and are reinvented over decades, even centuries. Pears poached in sweetened wine are one of the oldest confectionery treats. Dating back to Medieval Europe, pears were looked on more favorably than apples and often cooked in honeyed red wine with spices. Our version of Red Wine Poached Pears is a simple and easily adaptable dessert redolent with rich warming spices, evoking the vibrant hues of autumn. Poached Pears make a unique topping to an ice cream Sunday, and we like to serve them with red wine sauce and homemade caramel. If you have pears leftover, try our Salted Caramel & Pear Bread Pudding.

Yield: 6 poached pears


  • 6 firm but ripe Bosc pears
  • 1 bottle red wine (use an inexpensive dry red, that you enjoy)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half
  • Pinch of salt

Flavor Substitutions: whole cardamom, orange peel, fresh thyme, Allspice berries, fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, star anise


  1. Peel pears with a vegetable peeler, working to keep the stalk intact if possible. Cut off bottom ends so the pears are able to stand upright.
  2. In a large pot, over medium high heat, add wine, sugar, cloves, pepper, vanilla and salt. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring briefly to ensure sugar is dissolved.
  3. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the peeled pears to the wine mixture. Rotate and baste the pears every 5 minutes to ensure even color and cooking.
  4. Simmer uncovered for 15-30 minutes total, until the pears are cooked through. The cooking will vary depending on the ripeness and size of your pears. The pears are done when they are easily pierced through with a knife.
  5. Once the pears are cooked through, remove them from the poaching liquid, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  6. Boil the remaining spiced red wine mixture until it is reduced to a thick syrup, and about half the original amount of liquid, about 5-10 minutes. Do not leave the reducing liquid unsupervised as it can burn easily as it condenses. 
  7. To serve, bring the pears to room temperature or warm, and serve over vanilla ice cream with the reduced poaching liquid and homemade caramel sauce. These pears are infinitely adaptable and can be added to many desserts, cakes, pies or tarts.