Tender, juicy poached pears with caramel sauce are a sweet and elegant way to end any meal. Learn how easy it is to make perfect poached pears with our foolproof recipe and step-by-step instructions.
🍐 Vanilla Poached Pears with Caramel Sauce
Apples might get a lot of attention come autumn (we see you, apple pie) but to me, pears are the unsung heroes of fall baking.
Pears pair beautifully with fall flavors like cinnamon and nutmeg, and they add a delicious, unexpected flavor to desserts that typically feature apples: think tart tatin, spiced cupcakes, and even pies.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy pears is also one of the easiest: poaching them. Though poached pears look fancy, they truly are one of the easiest desserts you’ll ever make. To make them, simply peel your pears, simmer them in liquid until tender, then serve them plain or with simple adornments like caramel sauce or whipped cream.
My poached pear recipe produces soft, tender, vanilla-scented pears you’ll be proud to serve at any gathering. I’ve included an optional caramel sauce that really takes them over the top, but rest assured, they are still absolutely delicious served with nothing more than a spoonful of their own juices drizzled over the top.
Table of Contents
🧾 What You’ll Need
The ingredients for Poached Pears are fairly simple. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you make this recipe. (Links are affiliate links and I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.)
- Pears: Use pears that are ripe but still firm – if your pears are too soft, they’re more liable to fall apart while poaching. I recommend using Bosc or Anjou pears if possible, but other varieties will also work – see the best pears to use for poaching section below.
- Sugar: We’re using regular granulated sugar in both the poaching liquid and the caramel sauce.
- Spices: Cinnamon sticks provide a lovely, warm flavor to the the pear juices. If you don’t have cinnamon sticks you can substitute 1/2-1 tsp ground cinnamon. I also use star anise, which has a very sweet, licorice-like flavor. Feel free to omit the star anise if you don’t care for the taste.
- Vanilla: Use a high-quality vanilla extract to get the best results. You could also use a split vanilla bean pod instead, if you have that on hand.
- Cream and butter: You don’t need cream or butter to make poached pears, but you will need them if you want to make the accompanying caramel sauce. I recommend using heavy cream and unsalted butter if possible.
- Saucepan: You’ll want to use a large saucepan that can accommodate 5 pears standing upright in the pan with the lid on. I like this 6 quart saucepan from Cuisinart.
- Vegetable peeler: A vegetable peeler makes quick work of peeling the pears.
- Silicone spatula: Silicone spatulas are my preferred tool when working with sticky recipes like caramel.
🥇 What are the Best Pears for Poaching?
Because the ingredients and preparation for poached pears are so simple, it’s important to select the right kind of pears to get the best results.
The top choices are Bosc and Anjou pears. Bosc pears have a long, tapered neck, perfect for poaching whole and maintaining their elegant shape. They hold up well to cooking while still becoming tender.
Anjou pears are more rounded, but still firm enough to poach intact. They deliver a sweet, delicate flavor that pairs nicely with the poaching liquid. Other good options include Comice and Concorde pears.
Whichever pears you use, be sure to select pears that are ripe yet still firm, so they soften but don’t fall apart during poaching. This allows them to retain their shape while absorbing the flavors of the poaching liquid.
💡 Tips and FAQs
- The pears can be served warm, at room temperature, or even cold.
- You only need a little caramel sauce on these pears, since they are already sweet from being poached in sugar syrup.
- Warm up the caramel sauce before adding it to the pears – it’s easiest to drizzle when warm.
- If the pears won’t stand up straight when poaching, slice off a thin sliver from the bottom so they sit flat.
Yes, it’s best to peel pears before poaching. The peel can turn bitter during cooking. Leaving it on can also prevent the pears from absorbing the poaching liquid flavor.
If the pears are falling apart during poaching, they may have been overripe. Use firmer pears and poach them for less time. All fruit and equipment is different, and while we provide suggested cooking times, you should keep an eye on the pears while poaching and test their texture as soon as it seems like the pears are getting soft.
If your pears are turning brown, you can add a bit of lemon juice to the liquid to prevent oxidation. You can also cut a circle of parchment to fit inside your pan, and press it directly on top of the pears as they poach – covering them also helps prevent oxidation. Keep in mind, brown pears will still taste delicious, and in some cases, you might not even notice the color if you are serving them with a sauce on top.
You can absolutely make poached pears ahead of time. Here are some tips for storing and reheating them:
After poaching, let the pears cool completely in the poaching liquid. Then transfer them to an airtight container and pour the liquid over to cover. Refrigerate the container of poached pears for up to 5 days. The liquid helps keep them moist and preserved.
To reheat, remove desired number of pears from the storage liquid. Place them and a few tablespoons of liquid in a skillet over medium heat. Gently warm the pears for 5-10 minutes until heated through. Baste them with the liquid as they reheat. You can also reheat them in the microwave, covered, for 1-2 minutes.
Poached pears taste best served warm or at room temperature. The chilled liquid makes a great sauce drizzled over the top too.
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For the poached pears:
- 12 fl oz water, (1 1/2 cups)
- 3.5 oz granulated sugar, (1/2 cup)
- 5 large bosc pears, washed and peeled, can sub other firm pear variety
- 1/2 cinnamon stick, gently crushed or broken, can sub 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 whole star anise, optional, you will need more if you want to use them as decoration when serving
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the salted caramel sauce:
- 3.5 oz granulated sugar, (1/2 cup)
- 2 oz heavy cream, (1/4 cup)
- 1.5 oz unsalted butter, (3 TBSP), cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
- Pinch sea salt
To make the poached pears:
- Wash and peel the pears.
- Place the pears in a large pot with the water. Add the sugar, cinnamon, anise, and vanilla. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Let it simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the pears are tender and the liquid is thickened like syrup.
- Serve pears warm on their own, or with a bit of the leftover syrup.
- Garnish with a bit of cinnamon, salted caramel sauce, or an anise star for an added touch of beauty when serving.
To make the salted caramel sauce:
- In a medium saucepan, heat the granulated sugar over medium heat. Stir constantly until the sugar forms clumps and turns into a thick amber colored liquid.
- Once the sugar is melted, immediately stir in the butter. Mix until melted and combined. After the butter and sugar are combined, cook for a minute without stirring.
- Slowly add the heavy cream. Be sure to add it little by little so that it combines smoothly. Let it boil for another minute and remove from heat.
- Immediately add the salt and stir until combined. Serve warm, so it is easy to handle and soft.
Our recipes are developed using weight measurements, and we highly recommend using a kitchen scale for baking whenever possible. However, if you prefer to use cups, volume measurements are provided as well. PLEASE NOTE: the adage “8 oz = 1 cup” is NOT true when speaking about weight, so don’t be concerned if the measurements don’t fit this formula.
Want to learn more about baking measurements and conversion?
📋 How to Make Poached Pears Step-by-step
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to make poached pears with caramel sauce. You can find easy-to-print instructions in the recipe card.
To Poach The Pears
- Wash and peel the pears.
- Place the pears in a large pot with the water.
- Add the sugar, cinnamon, anise, and vanilla.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Allow the pears to simmer for 30-40 minutes until the pears are tender when pierced with a knife.
To Make The Caramel Sauce
- In a medium saucepan, heat the granulated sugar over medium heat.
- Stir constantly until the sugar forms clumps and turns into a thick amber colored liquid.
- Once the sugar is melted, immediately add the butter, and stir until melted and combined. After the butter and sugar are combined, cook for a minute without stirring.
- Slowly add the heavy cream. Be sure to add it little by little so that it combines smoothly. Let it boil for another minute, then remove it from the heat. Finally, stir in the salt.
- You can serve pears warm on their own, or with a bit of the leftover syrup.
- Garnish with a dash cinnamon, salted caramel sauce, or a bit of whipped cream (or all of the above!)
🍽️ What to Serve with Poached Pears
Although Poached Pears taste delicious plain, they’re also extremely versatile, so get creative with one of these variations:
- Serve them with a sauce like Cinnamon Syrup or Honey Cinnamon Caramel.
- They would taste delicious with soft whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
- Experiment with adding other flavors to the poaching liquid. You can add different spices like nutmeg, cardamom or allspice, flavoring extracts like cinnamon or almond, or add a bit of alcohol like rum or brandy to the liquid.
- And, let’s not forget the presentation! You could slice them on top of yogurt, pancakes, oatmeal or ice cream. We also love these pears with a soft and light panna cotta.
- Wrap poached pears in puff pastry, like in this recipe for Puff Pastry-Wrapped Pears with Chocolate Espresso Sauce.