Rich, sweet and tart, pomegranate molasses is a great staple to have in the cupboard, adding depth of flavour to dressings and marinades and even cocktails.
Here’s everything you need to know about this wonderful ingredient, from how you cook with it to how you can make it yourself. Farmdrop’s DIY Pantry-regular, Malou Herkes, gives you the lowdown.
Pomegranate molasses: a cook’s secret weapon. Photography: Natalé Towell
Native to Iran, pomegranate fruits are in season during the colder months and have been used in Persian cuisine for centuries. It’s little surprise, then, that people found ways to preserve its flavour by boiling the juice into a thick, tart, intensely flavoured syrup.
Pomegranate molasses is used across the Middle East and Turkey and – partially in thanks to Ottolenghi who has listed it as one of his top ten storecupboard ingredients – is now gaining in popularity in the British kitchen. It’s a fantastic base for salad dressings and marinades, adding depth and fragrance to vegetable or grain-based dishes, curries, barbecued meats and stews.
4 ways to use pomegranate molasses
Shake it into a dressing. Pomegranate molasses’ syrupy sweetness and tang is similar to balsamic vinegar, so treat them in the same way. Mix 3 tablespoons of molasses with 2 tablespoons of rapeseed oil and the juice from half a lemon, tasting as you go to make sure you get the right balance of acidity. Drizzle over roasted vegetables or stir through a grain salad, like this Maftoul couscous number.
As a marinade for meat. Pomegranate molasses stands up really well to all types of meat, from chicken to lamb, and adds wonderful depth to barbecued or roasted joints, as well as tagines and stews. Combine it with oil, garlic and strong spices, like cumin, ginger and cinnamon as a marinade for lamb. Or pair it with sumac, garlic and chilli and brush onto chicken, or even kid goat, before roasting in the oven.
Pomegranate molasses pairs well with kid goat in this flavour-packed recipe.
For cocktails. Use it as you would a cordial (it’s basically a syrup after all), adding a swig into gin-based drinks with some fresh pomegranate jewels for good measure.
With hummus and other dips. A drizzle of pomegranate molasses over a bowl of hummus or blitzed up with roasted red peppers, walnuts and garlic for the Middle-Eastern dip, muhammara, is delicious. Add it to any other dip or sauce that could use the extra tang.
Can you make pomegranate molasses at home?
This is the thing. You can make a version of pomegranate molasses at home and very easily in fact. But you might find it fails to acquire the same tang that you can get from quality shop-bought versions, which tend not to add sugar. I tried it three times, varying the sugar content and acidity. On further research, I found that it’s all down to the variety of pomegranates you use. Typically, a sourer type of pomegranate fruit is used than the ones we tend to get here in the UK.
Adding lemon juice certainly helps with creating an acidic tang, and while it’s not quite the same, you’ll come out with a delicious syrup that you can use as shown above. Some recipes call for sugar, which will – along with the lemon juice – help to preserve your molasses for longer. If you’re not concerned about shelf-life, there’s no need to add it. If you do add sugar, don’t use too much (about 15g per 100ml of juice) to avoid an overly-sweet syrup and accidentally turning it into jam, which is no bad thing either!
How to make pomegranate molasses: a step-by-step guide
Step 1. Halve or quarter your pomegranates (I used 4 large ones) and remove the seeds, making sure to remove all the bitter, white pith. Deseeding pomegranates can be a messy business. To avoid getting the juice everywhere, pick them apart while submerged in a bowl of cold water. You’ll find a lot of the pith will float to the surface so you can scoop it off and discard. Drain the seeds.
Step 2. Place the pomegranate seeds in a blender and blitz into a bright pink liquid.
Step 3. Rest a sieve over a medium saucepan, then pour in the juice. Use the back of a spoon to get as much of the juice through the sieve as possible. Discard the leftover pulp.
Step 4. Place the pan over a medium-high heat. Add a good squeeze of lemon juice and sugar (if using, see above), then bring to the boil, skimming off any scum from the surface.
Step 5. Reduce to a medium-low heat and simmer gently for 1 hour or so, or until thickened to a syrupy consistency. When it coats the back of a spoon, it’s done. Keep an eye that it doesn’t burn.
Step 6. Decant into a sterilised bottle and store in the fridge.
Want to know how you can make your regular pantry staples at home? From butter to cheese, icing sugar to yoghurt, kombucha to apple cider vinegar, these DIY Pantry step-by-step guides are here to help.