Around this time of year, when orchards begin to overflow with sweet, juicy fruit, it's apples that get most of the attention, but I'm even more excited for pears. Pears come in just as many delicious varieties as apples, and they have plenty of uses in the kitchen other than eating out of hand. Need some convincing? Below are 17 recipes that incorporate the sometimes-unfairly-overlooked pear in creative ways, including mixed into pancake batter, juiced into cocktails (and mocktails), and stirred into a marinade for beef. They're all you'll need to get the most out of the season's other fruit this year.
Breakfast and Sweets
Oatmeal Pancakes With Pears and Pecans
As satisfying as it can be, a bowl of oatmeal isn't the only way to eat oats for breakfast—mixing them into pancake batter makes a heftier, more filling pancake that bears up well under the lightly browned pears and chopped pecans in this recipe. Mix all the oats in whole for a heartier, rustic texture, or grind half of them in a food processor for smoother cakes.
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Rum and Pear Pancakes
A pancake topping of ripe pears softened in butter and spiked with a shot of warming rum sounds fantastic, right? Wouldn't it be even better if you could make sure that those flavors worked their way into every bite? We do just that by incorporating grated pear and rum directly into the pancake batter, for cakes that are sweet, fluffy, and just a touch boozy.
Pear and Concord Grape Pie
A pie filled with pears alone can end up too mild-tasting, while one made with only the assertive sweet-and-tangy-ness of Concord grapes can be overwhelming. The Goldilocks solution is combining the two fruits—the marriage of subtly sweet pears and tart grapes seems just right. Adding an ounce of tapioca flour or potato starch creates a filling that holds together nicely.
Apple and Pear Tarte Tatin
For this variation on a classic tarte Tatin, we caramelize the two fruits in a rich syrup of butter, sugar, and apple cider, then bake it all in a flaky puff pastry crust. While you can try making your own puff pastry, it's a lot of work, and store-bought dough works well. The result is a lovely tart of tender seasonal fruits nestled in a crisp, buttery shell—ideal for showing off at your next dinner party, if you're feeling a little fancy.
Pear, Riesling, and Ginger Sorbet
This sorbet recipe was inspired by the traditional dish of pears poached in wine, itself an easy and elegant dessert. You'll need the right kind of wine for the sorbet to work—a moderately sweet Riesling, with strong acidity and about 12% ABV. A little spicy fresh ginger complements both the Riesling and the pears very well.
Cardamom, a powerful, earthy spice that we love in baked goods, joins mild pears in these not-too-sweet muffins. Because it's so strongly flavored, we cut the cardamom with softer cinnamon and nutmeg. Buttermilk adds a light tang to the batter and helps keep the crumb moist.
Cooked pears and cardamom combine again here to make a fudgy, fruity caramel; a pinch of salt and a dash of ground ginger deepen its complexity. It's perfect for topping ice cream or folding into bread pudding, and it'll last a couple of weeks in the refrigerator—provided, of course, that you don't eat it all by the spoonful first.
Pearsauce or Applesauce Bread
Pearsauce, if you've never heard of it before, is quite similar to applesauce, and not only is it similarly tasty, it's also useful in many of the same applications. Its appearance in this recipe doesn't make the bread sweet—at least, not sweeter than your typical sandwich loaf—but it does lend a healthy dose of moisture. Look for a brand that's relatively low in sugar, and keep in mind that you might have to adjust the amount of flour depending on how liquid the pearsauce turns out to be.
Roasted Pear Salad With Endive, Pomegranate, Blue Cheese, and Hazelnut Vinaigrette
The deep, nutty sweetness of roasted pears adds a wonderful dimension to fall and winter salads. The best salads have lots of contrasting flavors and textures, and this one delivers: bitter endive and frisée, peppery arugula, funky blue cheese, crunchy hazelnuts, and vibrant, juicy pomegranate seeds, all combined with the rich, sweet flavor of browned pear slices.
Baby Spinach Salad With Pears, Red Onions, Cranberries, and Toasted Hazelnuts
This spinach salad reprises the combination of sweet pears and crunchy hazelnuts, but gets its color from tart dried cranberries instead of pomegranate seeds. Thin slices of red onion add some welcome pungency, but to keep them from overwhelming the more delicate flavors in the salad, we soak them briefly in water to soften their bite.
Blue Cheese, Pear, and Hazelnut Smørrebrød (Danish Open-Faced Sandwich)
Rugbrød is a dense sourdough rye bread that's popular in Denmark; spread with butter, it's the base for the open-faced sandwich called smørrebrød. You can top smørrebrød with just about anything—here, we rely on the (by now tried-and-true) combination of sliced pear, blue cheese, and toasted hazelnuts. Any dark rye bread will do if you can't find true rugbrød.
These genius mashup nachos are topped with bulgogi, caramelized kimchi, and a gochujang-laced cheese sauce. Where does pear fit in, you ask? We add the fruit (preferably Asian pear, though Bosc will also work) to the marinade for the beef, where it both adds sweetness and helps tenderize the meat.
Cold Korean Noodle Soup With Asian Pear and Cucumber (Mul Naengmyun)
The crisp and almost grainy texture of Asian pear makes it worthy of inclusion in more than just marinades. Here, we julienne the pear and use it, along with hard-boiled egg, pickled radishes, and cucumber, to top a refreshing chilled noodle soup with sliced beef. This dish is served ice-cold, so use a broth that's fairly light on gelatin to keep the consistency slushy, not icy.
Slow-Cooked Korean Short Ribs With Green Onion and Pear
Asian pear again serves as a garnish here, lightening up braised short ribs enough to make them appropriate for this time of year. Their flavor comes from a kalbi-style marinade, made with bracing Chinese black vinegar and balanced by sweet brown sugar and apple juice. Feel free to make the short ribs a day or two ahead of time, but save the garnishes for just before serving.
Sparkling Bourbon Pear Cocktail
With just me and one or two friends to think about, I love mixing cocktails. But at a larger gathering, it's just not practical to make individual drinks from scratch. Premade mixers translate into less time behind the bar and more time having fun with your guests. In that spirit (no pun intended!), this cocktail starts with a premixed base of earthy-and-sweet roasted-pear purée, maple syrup, and bourbon. To serve, just combine the base with bubbly sparkling wine and garnish with spicy ground cloves.
Tangy Kumquat-Pear Juice
The key to making a nonalcoholic cocktail that really works? Incorporating zero-proof ingredients that mimic the bitterness and heat of booze. This simple drink, based on Anjou pear juice, gets its kick from ginger and a little astringency from whole juiced kumquats—peel, seeds, and all.
DIY Pear Liqueur
Though you can find good pear liqueur in stores, it's cheap and remarkably easy to make a better-tasting version yourself at home. There's nothing to it except steeping pears and a vanilla bean in a glass jar of liquor for a couple of days, then adding a pear simple syrup to taste. We prefer brandy for our liquor base, but vodka or whiskey could work, too.