(Recipe updated January 19, 2011 for clarity)
The condiment sections in my refrigerator have quite a few specialty items that I purchased for one or two recipes and then forgot about. Like Thai lesser ginger (kachai). Or pomegranate molasses.
The name “molasses” is a bit odd, because unlike the molasses that comes from sugar refineries as a by-product, pomegranate molasses is an intentionally made product with just a few ingredients: pomegranate juice, sugar and perhaps some lemon juice. The purpose — as illustrated by the fact that my bottle of molasses is five years old and still safe to eat — is to preserve the bounty of the fruit harvest. Pomegranate molasses is available in Middle Eastern markets. If you have a good source of pomegranates and want to try making it at home, has a recipe at Simply Recipes. has a recipe for pomegranate molasses.
I bought my bottle of the thick, ruby syrup a few years ago soon after I obtained Paula Wolfert’s “The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean,” a book that presents recipes from Turkey, Syria, the Republic of Georgia, and Greece. Pomegranate molasses appears in a few places in the book, but what caught my attention initially was a bulgur salad with red peppers and walnuts, a salad that combines textures and flavors like few salads do: chewy, crunchy, sweet, sour, sharp, herbaceous, and spicy.
I haven’t used the Wolfert book for quite a while, so the pomegranate molasses had migrated to a back corner of my refrigerator. (if pomegranate molasses catches on, we bloggers definitely need a nickname for it—repeatedly typing pomegranate molasses is not easy.) Recently, though, thanks to the May 26 KCRW Good Food radio program (more on that below), pomegranate molasses has escaped from its back-corner exile.
Pomegranate molasses is a wonderful addition to lemonade. Simply add a few teaspoons of the syrup to a glass of lemonade and stir. It brings a different kind of sourness to the drink and the floral aroma perks up the senses.
Alternatively, you could use grenadine, a pomegranate syrup typically found behind the bar for cocktails like the Tequila Sunrise. Grenadine was originally made only on the island of Grenada in the Caribbean, hence the name.
I have also heard that it can be an excellent flavoring for cocktails, but haven’t experimented yet.
On the May 26, 2007 Good Food radio program, one of the guests was Eric Gower, a.k.a. the Breakaway Cook. Gower talked about his “global flavor blast” concept, in which dishes made with seasonal or everyday ingredients are jazzed up with intense flavorings from around the world like miso, shiso leaves, umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum), Vietnamese fish sauce, and pomegranate molasses. One of his examples was a baked tofu dish, in which one of the “flavor blasts” is combined with soft tofu and an egg and then baked. A layer of crushed red lentils on top forms an attractive–and unusually flavored–crust. Here are the ingredients before mixing (minus the salt):
I have made this tofu dish twice with good results. The flavor is subtle and the uncooked red lentils somewhat unusual. It could use a little work, perhaps some more intense flavors like garlic to go with the mild pomegranate molasses.
Recipe: Pomegranate Molasses Tofu Bake
Adapted from an interview with Eric Gower on KCRW’s Good Food, May 26, 2007
1 package of medium tofu, soft tofu or silken tofu (12-14 oz.)
1-2 T. pomegranate molasses
Finely minced shallot or green onion
2 T. dry red lentils
- Lightly oil a small baking dish.
- Place the red lentils in a spice grinder and process for just a few seconds until the pieces are about the size of kosher salt grains, or slightly smaller than sesame seeds. Set aside. (alternatively, use a mortar and pestle to crush the lentils)
- Preheat the oven to 400 F.
- Put the tofu in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher or other suitable tool.
- Add the egg, pomegranate molasses, salt (to taste), and minced shallot or green onion. Mix thoroughly.
- Put the ingredients into the baking dish.
- Spread the red lentils on top, and spray or drizzle with a neutral oil.
- Bake for 20 minutes.