What Is Pomegranate Molasses?

Here's everything you need to know about this luscious Middle Eastern condiment — from where to buy it, to how to make your own, to the best ways to use it.

What is Pomegranate Molasses?

The juice of pomegranates, cooked to a very thick consistency, is called pomegranate molasses. However, the term "molasses" is quite misleading. While its color is similar to molasses made of sugar cane or sugar beets, pomegranate molasses is not a sweetener but a condiment, and as such added to dishes in small amounts.

Pomegranate molasses is an important ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking. The Arabic name (dibs rumaan or rub rumaan) and the Farsi name (rob-e-anar) mean "thickened pomegranate juice." The Turkish name "sour pomegranate" (nar ekşisi) best fits what pomegranate molasses is. That being said, the taste of pomegranate molasses is much more sour than sweet, and to some palettes it tastes astringent.

Pomegranate Molasses vs. Pomegranate Syrup

Pomegranate molasses and pomegranate syrup are two different names for the same thing and are used interchangeably. Calling it pomegranate syrup is just as misleading as pomegranate molasses because it is not sweet like syrup, which has a higher sugar content.

Actual pomegranate syrup is called grenadine, a sweet-tart bar syrup used for cocktails. Grenadine retains the red color of pomegranates, although in many products the color is enhanced with red food dye.

Where to Buy Pomegranate Molasses

Pomegranate molasses is sold online, in Middle Eastern markets, and in some supermarkets, where it is often located in the aisle with international foods. (Note that some brands contain a small amount of added sugar, though not enough to detract from the condiment's signature tart flavor.)

Buy It: Pomegranate Molasses ($13.45, amazon.com)

You can also buy organic pomegranate molasses. But to date, pomegranates have not been included on the annual Dirty Dozen™ List that determines the pesticide residue in produce. So it's not clear whether buying organic pomegranate molasses is a safer choice.

Pomegranate Molasses Recipe

If you can't find pomegranate molasses at the store, or if you like to make things from scratch, it's easy to make homemade pomegranate molasses.

You need only two ingredients: pure pomegranate juice and sugar.

Fresh pomegranates are available in the early winter, usually around Christmas. Deseeding them and extracting the juice from the arils is time-consuming and depending on the quality and juiciness of pomegranates, you might need up to eight large pomegranates for four cups of juice. We recommend using store-bought bottled, pure unsweetened pomegranate to save time and money.

Another advantage of making your own pomegranate molasses is controlling the amount of added sugar. Feel free to experiment with different types of sugars such as coconut, beet, or pure cane to see which you like best.

Homemade Pomegranate Molasses

  • 4 cups unsweetened 100% pomegranate juice
  • 1/3 to ½ cup white sugar, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. Heat pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon juice in a wide saucepan over medium heat, and stir until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Lower the heat so the mixture just simmers. Cook, uncovered, for about 1 hour, until the mixture is thick and syrupy and coats the back of a spoon. It should be reduced to one-fourth, or 1 to 1¼ cups. If you only use 1/3 cup sugar, it will take a little longer. Tip: After 45 minutes, start checking the consistency every few minutes so you don't overcook it, as the mixture will thicken significantly after cooling.
  3. Let the syrup cool slightly, then pour it in a sterilized glass bottle or jar. After it's fully cooled, close with a tight-fitting cap or lid and store in the refrigerator.

Pomegranate Molasses Substitutes

Most dishes call only for a small amount of pomegranate molasses so, in a pinch, you can get away with a substitute. Generally, anything that is a combination of tart and fruity works well as a substitute.

Good substitutes for savory dishes are:

  • Cranberry juice concentrate or unsweetened cranberry juice, boiled down to a syrupy consistency
  • Tamarind paste (pulp), soaked in hot water and strained; or tamarind concentrate, diluted in 2 parts water to 1 part concentrate
  • Balsamic vinegar

In dishes with a sweet note, you can use:

  • Boiled cider (a.k.a. apple molasses)
  • Grenadine

Since both are sweeter than pomegranate molasses, adjust the amount of sweetener called for in the recipe. For example, in this Pomegranate Molasses Barbecue Sauce, if you add 2 tablespoons boiled cider instead of pomegranate molasses, reduce the amount of honey to 1 tablespoon and taste for sweetness.

Pomegranate Molasses Uses

Pomegranate molasses is used in classic Middle Eastern dishes such as:

  • Fesenjaan, a Persian poultry dish made with chicken or duck
  • Muhammara, a roasted pepper and walnut spread
  • Kisir, a Turkish bulgur salad
  • Fattoush, a bread salad

Of course, beyond traditional options, the possibilities for using pomegranate molasses are virtually endless. You can add it to anything where you want some extra zing:

  • Try it in salad dressings, in place of vinegar
  • Use it for meat, lamb, and poultry marinades, glazes, and barbecue sauces
  • Stir into drinks like iced tea, soda, and cocktails
  • Add to hummus and other dips
  • Drizzle over roasted vegetables or for glazed vegetables
  • Add a finishing touch to lentil soup or hearty vegetable soup
  • Sub it for pancake syrup; on its own or mixed with another syrup, such as maple
  • Complete a platter of bacon-wrapped figs or dates with a drizzle

Pomegranate molasses can also be your secret ingredient in desserts and baked goods:

  • Use in place of traditional molasses in gingerbread or gingersnaps
  • Incorporate into chocolate desserts, such as truffles, chocolate sauce, chocolate mousse, or chocolate cake

How to Store Pomegranate Molasses

Once opened, store-bought pomegranate molasses should be stored in the refrigerator, where it lasts almost indefinitely. But since it thickens and hardens over time, it's best to use it within a year or two.

A Little Trick When Pomegranate Molasses is Too Thick

When properly stored in the refrigerator, pomegranate molasses becomes very thick over time and difficult to pour. Either let the bottle warm to room temperature, which may take a couple of hours, or place it in a bowl with hot water to speed up the softening process. Return the bottle to the refrigerator afterwards.

Was this page helpful?
You’ll Also Love