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

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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 the color of pomegranate molasses 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.

When pomegranate juice is boiled down to a thick consistency, it loses the bright red color of the pomegranate arils and turns a dark brown, almost black.

Pomegranate Molasses vs. Pomegranate Syrup

Pomegranate molasses and pomegranate syrup are two different names for the same thing and 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.

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

Where to Buy Pomegranate Molasses

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

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 cannot find pomegranate molasses at the store, or if you like to make things from scratch, it is not difficult to make your own 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. Using bottled, pure unsweetened pomegranate instead, which many grocery stores carry, is more economical and less time-consuming.

Making your own pomegranate molasses lets you adjust the amount of sugar and experiment with the type of sugar, such as pure cane sugar instead of white sugar, to see what 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 and strained lemon juice
  1. Heat pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon in a wide saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  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. After 45 minutes, start checking the consistency every few minutes so you don't cook it for too long, as the mixture will thicken significantly after cooling.
  3. Let it 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 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 also 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
  • For a finishing touch in lentil soup or hearty vegetable soup
  • Sub it for pancake syrup; on its own or mixed with another syrup, such as maple syrup
  • 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:

  • Replace the traditional molasses in gingerbread or gingersnaps with pomegranate molasses
  • 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 Are 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.