Poached Pears with Vanilla Custard Sauce

Flavorful poached pears make for a pretty dessert alongside a homemade custard sauce.

Poached Pears with Vanilla Custard Sauce
Photo: Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Christine Keely
Active Time:
20 mins
Chill Time:
8 hrs
Total Time:
8 hrs 20 mins

This fall, we're shining a light on one of the most underrated fall fruits: Pears. Apples have historically gotten all of the attention, but these fall fruits are just as sweet. The perfect way to enjoy nature's fruit, these Poached Pears with Vanilla Custard Sauce make a beautiful harvest dessert.

Hibiscus tea bags and cranberries bring a stunning magenta hue to these poached pears, while a cinnamon stick warms everything up. Sweet with a nice balance of sour, the pears turn a beautiful red color overnight. Storing these in a vessel big enough where they have room around each other is key—it allows them to evenly absorb color (the pears touching will leave you with white spots). This recipe calls for Bosc pears. A firm, honey-sweet pick, it's good for baking and poaching. Press near the stem end of fruit to check it for ripeness. Blotting the pears gently before pouring the custard sauce helps the custard sauce to adhere to the fruit.

Once you've made these poached pears, the possibilities are endless. They would be great served as an elegant dessert alongside the creamy vanilla custard, but sliced and served with Greek yogurt, granola, and a drizzle of honey, they could just as easily work as a festive fall breakfast. You could even use these poached pears in a pretty purple tart.


Poached Pears

  • 6 medium-size firm-ripe Bosc pears, peeled (leaving stems attached) 

  • ½ cup honey

  • cup granulated sugar

  • 1 (3-inch) lemon peel strip plus 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

  • 1 (3- to 4-inch) cinnamon stick

  • 2 hibiscus tea bags (such as Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger)

  • 1 vanilla bean pod, split 

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

Vanilla Custard Sauce

  • cup granulated sugar

  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

  • 1 ½ cups whole milk

  • 4 large egg yolks

  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Prepare the Poached Pears: Place pears close together, but not touching, in an even layer in a large saucepan. Add water to barely cover, about 4 to 5 cups. Add honey, sugar, lemon peel strip and juice, cinnamon stick, and tea bags. Scrape seeds from split vanilla bean into saucepan, and add seeds to saucepan. Bring to a simmer, undisturbed, over medium-high. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until pears are just tender when pierced, about 10 minutes. Add cranberries; return to a simmer. Simmer until cranberries burst, about 3 minutes. Discard tea bags. Cover; chill at least 8 hours or up to 3 days.

  2. Meanwhile, prepare the Vanilla Custard Sauce: Whisk together sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk until smooth. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

  3. Whisk egg yolks in a small bowl. While whisking, gradually add about one-third of hot milk mixture to beaten yolks. Whisk egg mixture into remaining milk mixture in pan. Cook over medium-low, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens slightly (do not boil), 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Transfer to a medium bowl. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on surface; chill about 3 hours.

  4. To serve, remove pears and cranberries from poaching liquid; arrange on a serving platter. Lightly blot pears with paper towels. Serve with chilled sauce.

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