Pomegranate Molasses — Off the Beaten Aisle

By: J.M. Hirsch
roasted pomegranate chickpea salad
Are you about over the pomegranate trend yet?

If so, you might want to revisit it one more time. But this time we aren’t talking about chugging the juice or turning it into fancy cocktails.

This time it's pomegranate molasses, a thick, syrupy concentrate that is sweet and tart and as delicious as it sounds.

To explain pomegranate molasses, we ought to start with the fruit itself.

Pomegranates originated in Western Asia and the Mediterranean, with the best supposedly coming from Iran. The trees produce large, usually red orb-like fruits filled with edible seeds, each of which is covered by a juice-filled membrane.

The seeds (or rather the juicy membrane around them) have a sweet, tart and fairly astringent taste. They can be eaten as-is or crushed to extract the juice.

Likewise, that juice can be consumed as-is or mixed with sugar syrup. The latter is called grenadine, a popular flavoring for cocktails (though many modern grenadines are synthetic and no longer made from pomegranate juice).

If you take the unsweetened juice and boil it down until it is thick and syrupy, you have pomegranate molasses, a popular flavoring in Middle Eastern cooking.

Pomegranate molasses once was unheard of outside of ethnic markets, but today it can be found in the international aisles of most larger grocers.

If you can’t find it, it’s easy enough to make. Buy a bottle of pomegranate juice (or juice concentrate), then boil it until it has reduced and become thick.

The thick, deeply red syrup has an intensely sweet-tart flavor that pairs surprisingly well with savory dishes, especially grilled meats. For example, pomegranate molasses and walnuts is a classic flavoring for poultry.

Opened bottles can be refrigerated for long periods, but it’s not likely to sit around for long. You don’t need to love Middle Eastern food to love what pomegranate molasses can do for the foods you already love.

  • Mix it into your favorite sweet or spicy barbecue sauce (yes, even the bottled stuff) for an amazing sweet-and-savory glaze for grilled meats.
  • Blend a splash of it into a basic vinaigrette, then use that to dress a robust salad with plenty of meats and cheeses.
  • Blend a 1:1 ratio of pomegranate molasses and vinaigrette, then use this stronger version as a marinade for chicken breasts or thighs.
  • Mix tomato paste, pomegranate molasses, cumin, salt and pepper. Use this as a glaze for meatloaf or meatballs.
  • Drizzle pomegranate molasses over warm rice pudding, oatmeal or ice cream. It also makes a fine drizzle over angel food cake topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.
  • Sauté shallots and garlic, then add pomegranate molasses. Spoon this mixture over grilled pork chops.
  • Toss cubed butternut squash with a blend of garlic, olive oil and pomegranate molasses, then roast until tender.
Roasted Pomegranate Chickpea Salad
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Servings: 4
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Ground black pepper
4 cups arugula
2 cups baby spinach
Kosher salt
4-ounce log goat cheese

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the pomegranate molasses, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Add the drained chickpeas and toss to coat evenly.

Arrange the chickpeas in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, or until the chickpeas are dried and starting to get crunchy.

Remove the pan from the oven and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice in a large bowl. Season with pepper, then add the arugula and spinach. Toss to coat.

Divide the greens between four serving plates, then sprinkle each with kosher salt. Divide the chickpeas between the salads, then top with crumbled goat cheese.

J.M. Hirsch is the national food editor for The Associated Press. He is the author of the recent cookbook High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking . He also blogs at jmhirsch.

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