Once you start roasting your strawberries, you may never go back.
Coconut Rice Pudding with Strawberry-Nectarine Compote
Credit: Iain Bagwell; Prop Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine; Food Styling: Hadas Smirnoff

It's officially springtime in the South, and that means in-season strawberries are reappearing at grocery stores and farmers' markets. While it's tempting to eat these little red gems right out of the container, roasting them is almost just as easy and completely transforms the fruit into something else entirely.

When you roast strawberries in the oven, you are caramelizing them, which brings out their natural sugars, making them extra juicy and sweet. While the berries will hold their shape, they will be soft and tender in texture, closer to a cooked fruit compote. The bonus of roasting strawberries is that you'll also get an instant sauce—as the fruit roasts it will release its juices, which will thicken into a beautiful strawberry syrup. While you can roast perfectly ripe berries, it is also a great way to make the most of berries that are a little under-ripe or overripe.

WATCH: Classic Strawberry Shortcake

You can use roasted strawberries in almost any recipe that calls for fresh berries. They are a sophisticated topper for a scoop of ice cream, your morning oatmeal, a slice of pound cake, a bowl of chocolate pudding, or a dish of yogurt. They can also be eaten as-is, either chilled or at room temperature.

Here's how to do it:

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. As the oven heats, combine the berries (leave them whole if they are small; quarter or halve them if they are large) and granulated sugar in a medium bowl. For every 3 cups of berries, use ¼ cup sugar. Spread the berry mixture in an even layer in a lightly greased, rimmed baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until strawberries are soft, about 15 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Have other berries or summer fruits on hand? Toss them in with the strawberries and increase the sugar accordingly. (We especially love the tangy-sweet combination of nectarines and strawberries.) And if you really want to impress, add a halved vanilla bean in there too.