I know we are in pumpkin pie season, but really, how many pies can you eat? Dare we break away for a moment to celebrate the beauty of the pear? I’ve been playing around with desserts that don’t have any added sugar lately, and this recipe for Poached Pears in Cherry Syrup is a winner.

Poached Pears are Just Enough

I love sweet desserts as much as the next person. I’ve also been reading lots of research that implicates a sugary diet in all kinds of health issues, from diabetes to Alzheimer’s. I know that cutting carbs can seem like a joyless exercise, so why not start by cutting the white sugar and refined foods, and turn to pure fruit?

Using Reduction to Make a Fruit Sauce

The recipes I’ve used to make poached pears in the past all employed white sugar to make the syrup thick and glossy. The pears were poached in red or white wine, then the wine was cooked with sugar to make a syrup. To dump the added sugar, I opted to use bottled dark cherry juice instead, and to reduce it to make a concentrated, flavorful sauce.

Reduction is Magic

By simmering the pears in the cherry juice, the flavors meld, giving the pears a hint of cherry and the cherry juice a hint of pear. I added orange peel, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla, too, to give it some depth and complexity. Once the poached pears are tender, the remaining juice is boiled down until thick and shiny. By boiling the liquids, all the flavorless water leaves the sauce, concentrating the juices for an intense, fruity syrup.

Fresh Tarragon and Pistachios Add Intrigue

Once the poached pears and syrup are complete, a sprinkle of fresh, licorice-scented tarragon gives the dish an unexpected kick. I like to toss some crunchy pistachios over the syrup-drizzled fruit, to finish it with added texture and color.

Of course, I served it with a small scoop of coconut sorbet. Adding a little fat to a meal slows digestion and lowers the glycemic index, so why not? The fiber in the poached pears also keeps the natural carbs in the fruit from spiking your blood sugars. The poached pears are also naturally gluten-free, plant-based, and vegan, so everybody can indulge.

Elegant and Impressive Dessert

Don’t tell anyone that this might be a little more healthful than that pie. It’s so alluring on its own, and its the perfect ending to any meal. When you just want something sweet after dinner, go for an all-fruit dessert.

Pears Poached in Sweet Cherry Syrup

Make this classic, elegant dessert and wow your guests. Using cherry juice instead of wine means you don't have to add sugar, unless you want to!
Course Dessert
Keyword plant based dessert
Servings 4


  • 4 medium bosc pears
  • 2 cups dark sweet cherry juice
  • 3 inches orange peel pared in a strip
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 4 sprigs fresh tarragon plus a few leaves
  • chopped roasted pistachios
  • coconut sorbet or plant-based ice cream


  • Carefully peel the pears, leaving the stems on. Using a paring knife,cut a cone shaped hollow in the base of the pear to remove the flower end. Pare straight up into the pear to remove the seeds, hollowing out the pear without cutting through it.
  • Place the pears in a 2 quart sauce pan and pour in the cherry juice, add the orangepeel, vanilla, and cinnamon stick. Over high heat, bring to a boil, then reduceto a simmer. Put the lid on, slightly ajar, and cook for about 15 minutes,turning the pears every 5 minutes to color them evenly. Test for doneness by piercing with the paring knife. When the pears are tender but not falling apart, take them off the heat. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to gently remove them from the juice and place on a plate.
  • Put the juice mixture back on the heat and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium and simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup,about 10 minutes. The juice will get quite syrupy and the bubbles will become large and shiny. Transfer the syrup to a small pitcher.
  • Serve the cooked fruit drizzled with syrup, garnished with tarragon sprigs, and sprinkled with pistachios, and a scoop of your favorite plant-based ice cream or sorbet.