There's something very comforting about stewed pears. Naturally sweet even without added sugar, they are soft and delicious, and perfect for a healthy dessert or breakfast. Stewing pears on the stovetop is incredibly easy. And if your pears aren't perfectly ripe, this recipe will turn them from a disappointment into a tender, juicy treat.
What's so great about this recipe?
I'm lucky enough to have a pear tree in the garden, and I've made this recipe so many times I've lost count!
- Stewed pears are delicious. Even with no added sugar, they are surprisingly sweet. Cooking concentreates the natural sweetness, and you can enhance it with vanilla, or complement it with your favourite spices. After cooking, you'll even have a naturally sweetened syrup to serve alongside.
- Pears are very healthy. They are rich in fibre, including prebiotics, which means they are great for gut health. They are also a good source of antioxidants, and a number of vitamins and minerals. Sugar free pears are kid friendly and great for young children.
- Quick and easy to make. You'll literally just need fresh pears, a little water and vanilla or your favourite spices. After 10 minutes gentle simmering on the stove top, they'll be transformed into a delicious treat, or quick sugar free pear dessert. These poached pears are also great for meal prep as they can be made ahead.
- Perfect for a glut of pears, or pears that aren't as ripe and flavoursome as you'd hoped
- Vegan, gluten free, dairy free and free from refined sugar
Ingredients for stewed pears
You'll only need 2 ingredients for this sugar free recipe - pears and your chosen flavour!
Pears. You can use any variety of fresh pear for this recipe. Conference, William and Comice pears are all popular in UK supermarkets, and they'll all be good. It can be hard to get a pear at the perfect stage of ripeness, as they ripen from the inside, so pears from the supermarket are often rather hard and crunchy. This recipe for cooked pears will allow you to enjoy them at their best, soft, juicy and naturally sweet.
It's best not to use mushy overripe pears as they'll disintegrate as they cook. Pop those in a smoothie instead.
Vanilla. Poached pears and vanilla is a particularly delicious combination. You could use either vanilla extract or a vanilla pod. I was lucky enough to have some vanilla pods when I made this recipe, so you can see the little black flecks of vanilla in the pictures. However, if you are not a fan of vanilla, then make spiced pears instead. You could use cinnamon, or your other favourite spices such as nutmeg, ginger or star anise. Just pop the spices in the pan at the start of the cooking time so that they have time to infuse the liquid and fruit with flavour.
Water. You'll need to add a little water to the pan to ensure that the pears poach perfectly. Once they are cooked, the water will have turned into a delicious syrup from the natural sugars, so it's worth keeping to serve with the pears.
How to stew pears
Pears are quick and easy to prep. It's up to you whether you choose to peel the fruit. It's more nutritious to keep the peel on, but the texture of the stewed pears is lovely with the peel removed (although it does soften during cooking). Cut each pear into quarters. Then you'll just need to remove a tiny sliver from the middle of each to ensure that all the stringy core is removed. There's very little wastage:). You can either leave the quarters whole, or cut into smaller pieces. The pears will discolour and go brown at this stage if you leave them, so cook them straight away. (A squeeze of lemon juice will help to slow down the discolouration.)
Pop the prepared pears into a pan with 200 ml of water and your choice of vanilla or spices. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 8-10 minutes. Test the pears with the point of a knife, and if they are soft remove from the heat. Less ripe pears will take longer to cook - they might need up to about 20 minutes. Test the pears regularly as they are stewing to ensure they are just as you like them.
Either serve warm, or leave to cool in the syrup.
If you want to use a vanilla pod, split the pod lengthwise down the centre with a knife. Then scrape the seeds out from half of the pod with the point of a knife. You'll just need half a pod for this recipe. Add the seeds to the pan with the pears and water.
Stewed pears are delicious served for a healthy breakfast which you can prepare in advance. Add some yogurt and a few chopped nuts or healthy granola. Or serve cooked pears with these almond yogurt parfaits which are thickened with ground almonds. Of course you can also ladle cooked pears onto porridge and pancakes, and many of our other healthy breakfast recipes.
Poached pears without sugar also make a delicious healthy dessert. Warm pears and chocolate are a perfect combination. I love them with this healthy chocolate sauce, but custard would also be a great option. As would ice cream. Make extra and try them each way:)
If you prefer, you could also puree these stewed pears into a smooth compote.
Stewed pears will keep well for 4-5 days in an airtight container in the fridge. Keep them in the poaching liquid.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. Stewing pears is a great way to soften and sweeten pears that are hard and unripe. You'll need to cook them for a little longer, so just test them and cook until they are soft to the point of a knife.
Yes, stewed pears freeze well. Just pop them in a freezer proof container, and defrost at room temperature when you are ready to eat them. They may be a little softer once they have been frozen.
Both stewed and poached pears are simmered in liquid on the stove. But poached pears tend to be cooked in a syrup and use a lot more sugar. This recipe for stewed pears has no added sugar.
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- 500 g pears Any variety. Can also use underripe pears
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or use half a vanilla pod, or cinnamon
- 200 ml water
Preparing the fruit
- Wash the pears, and peel if desired. Cut into quarters, then remove the core. The pears will discolour and go brown at this stage if you leave them, so cook them straight away.
- Add the pears to a pan, along with 200ml of water and your choice of vanilla, cinnamon or other spices.
- Bring to the boil, and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Insert the point of a knife into one of the pears to see if they are soft. They may need up to 10 minutes longer if they are underripe. Turn off the heat and allow to cool in the syrup.
Please note nutritional information is for guidance only