What Is a Fruit Compote?

A Guide to Understanding and Cooking With a Fruit Compote

Wine poached pears in glass compote

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A colorful fruit compote brings a casual or holiday meal to a delicious close whether it is enjoyed by itself or in combination with other desserts. In the culinary arts, a compote refers to fresh, canned or dried fruit that has been stewed in a syrup of sugar and other flavorings.

The fruit in a compote is cut into chunks. When a compote is made with dried fruit, the fruit is typically soaked in water first to soften it. Compote recipes sometimes include wine, brandy, rum or liqueur. Fruit compote is frequently made from combinations of figs, pears, apples, plums, berries and rhubarb. Compote recipes usually include other flavorings, such as vanilla, cinnamon, citrus peels and cloves.

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They are almost always served with chunky fruit in the mixture. A pureed fruit mixture is better referred to as a coulis. The compote is meant to be enjoyed immediately, although it can be refrigerated for a short time.

How to Make a Simple Fruit Compote

There are plenty of recipes for fruit compote on the internet, and it is wise to follow a specific recipe, but in general, a simple fruit compote requires a selection of fresh fruits, canned fruit or softened dried fruits. You toss the fruit into a saucepan or pot and add some liquid — either juice, wine or syrup — to get things going. Be careful you don't add too much liquid as the fruit will release its own moisture as it heats. If some of the fruit is sour-tasting, you should add sugar to the pot. Add more flavor using ginger, cinnamon or vanilla to taste. Simmer the fruit in the pot, stirring occasionally, trying not to crush all the fruit. About 15 minutes later, your compote will be thick and ready to come off the heat.

How to Serve Fruit Compotes

Compotes are delicious served all by themselves as a dessert at the end of a meal. They are usually served warm but are sometimes chilled. They can also be used as the star ingredient in other dishes. Here are some ways to include fruit compote in your menu:

  • Spoon raspberry compote over pound cake or ice cream
  • Serve a compote made with apricots, raisins, dried cherries, apples, pears and Marsala wine with a selection of cheeses for a luxurious dessert course
  • Spoon a red compote of cherries, red grapes and strawberries over black currant syrup and garnish with sweetened whipped cream
  • Layer compote with custard or yogurt
  • Spoon a couple of tablespoons of pureed compote into a tall glass and fill with sparkling wine
  • Serve strawberry compote with shortcake and whipped cream
  • Offer peach compote on pancakes for breakfast
  • Garnish baked French toast with mixed-berry compote

History of Compotes

The term compote comes from the French word for mixture. This dessert originated in medieval Europe. Then (as now) the dessert was simple to prepare. The concept of compotes has changed little since it was invented. Compotes are found in the cuisine of most countries.