Poached Pears Belle Helene


They say Auguste Escoffier created this dish in honor of the opera, La Belle Helene, but we chefs know the real reason. How else are you going to use up bruised pears in such a delicious and beautiful way?

Prep Time:
20 mins
Cook Time:
20 mins
Additional Time:
2 hrs 20 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs
4 pears


  • 6 cups water

  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced

  • 4 Bosc pears - cored, peeled, stems left on

  • 1 vanilla bean

  • 3 cups sugar

  • 1 cup prepared hot fudge topping, or as needed

  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream, or as needed


  1. Place water in a heavy pot. Stir in zest and juice of 1 lemon. Place pears in pot. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and split pods to the poaching liquid. Pour in sugar.

  2. Bring pot to a simmer over medium-high heat; stir gently to dissolve sugar with minimal jostling of the pears. Reduce heat so pears continue cooking over a steady, gentle simmer. Pears need to stay submerged, so place a small plate over them in the pot to keep them under the liquid. Simmer until pears are just tender, 20 to 25 minutes. (Remove plate to test the pears for doneness.) Remove pot from heat and let pears cool to room temperature in the poaching liquid.

  3. Transfer pears and vanilla beans to a storage container and cover with some of the poaching liquid. Cover and refrigerate until pears are thoroughly chilled, several hours or overnight. Reserve all of the poaching liquid (see footnote).

  4. Heat hot fudge sauce in a saucepan over medium heat until warm. Dip base of pear into the chocolate and spoon chocolate along the sides except for the top inch or so of the pear.

  5. Place dipped pears in individual serving bowls with another generous spoonful of syrup and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

    close up view of Poached Pears Belle Helene garnished with fresh herbs in a white bowl
    Chef John

Cook's Notes:

A small melon-baller is a great tool for removing pears' cores.

You can also coat the pears with a classic ganache. For this recipe, use 2 parts cream to 1 part chocolate (by weight).

As far as the extra vanilla poaching liquid goes: you'll want to strain it, pour it into some cool-looking bottles, and give it away as edible gifts. The taste is incredible. This would make a fantastic holiday treat for the wannabe mixologists in your life.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

1060 Calories
14g Fat
241g Carbs
4g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 4
Calories 1060
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 14g 17%
Saturated Fat 7g 33%
Cholesterol 15mg 5%
Sodium 252mg 11%
Total Carbohydrate 241g 88%
Dietary Fiber 9g 31%
Total Sugars 213g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 29mg 144%
Calcium 171mg 13%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 491mg 10%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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