Poires Belle Helene, the Classic French Pear Dessert

Poires Belle Helene, the Classic French Pear Dessert

The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
932 Calories
16g Fat
189g Carbs
8g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 932
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 16g 21%
Saturated Fat 10g 49%
Cholesterol 58mg 19%
Sodium 221mg 10%
Total Carbohydrate 189g 69%
Dietary Fiber 10g 34%
Total Sugars 154g
Protein 8g
Vitamin C 5mg 25%
Calcium 215mg 17%
Iron 4mg 20%
Potassium 773mg 16%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Few desserts come more classic than this delightful Poires Belle Helene. The dish is essentially poached pears with a chocolate sauce but certainly sounds so much more enticing with its beautiful enticing French name.

The dessert was reputably invented by the godfather of haute cuisine, Auguste Escoffier in Paris in the 19th century and purportedly named after the opera, La Belle Helen (the beautiful Helen) by Offenbach.

Without a doubt, the ease of preparation and beautiful presentation make this dish a stunning dessert for a dinner party, which is bound to impress but is equally impressive at any meal. What is not to love about pears, chocolate and ice cream; heaven in the bowl. 

"Such an elegant dessert that you can prepare the day before. The chocolate sauce and ice cream kick it up to the next level, but the pears are delicious all by themselves. Save the pear-flavored simple syrup. It's wonderful in tea!" —Diana Andrews

Poires Belle Helene, The Classic French Pear Dessert/Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 2 cinnamon sticks

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 1/2 cups water, divided

  • 4 firm Bosc pears, peeled, cored from the bottom (see below), preferably with stems

  • 8 small scoops vanilla ice cream

  • 1/2 cup chocolate sauce, for drizzling

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients to make Poires Belle Helene

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  2. Combine cinnamon sticks, sugar, and 1/2 cup of water in a medium saucepan.

    Sugar, cinnamon sticks, and water in a pan

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  3. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, undisturbed, until the sugar melts and the mixture becomes syrupy and turns golden, about 10 minutes.

    A pot of boiling sugar and water mixture with cinnamon sticks

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  4. Turn heat to low. Gently whisk in remaining 2 cups water.

    A hand whisking in additional water to the pot of sugar-water-cinnamon mixture

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  5. Add the pears to the syrup. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat, gently turning in the syrup frequently until the pears are just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Test for doneness with a knife by pricking in the thickest part of the fruit. The pears are poached when they are just cooked through, but not completely soft. Be careful not to overcook or the pears will collapse.

    Four pears cooking in the pot of cinnamon syrup

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  6. Let the pears cool in the syrup, turning occasionally until they are room temperature. Lift pears carefully from pan with a slotted spoon.

    A spoon removing a pear from the pot

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  7. Serve with 2 small scoops of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. 

    The cooked pear served with chocolate sauce and ice cream

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

How to Core a Pear

  1. Lay the pear on its side. Using a sharp knife, take a thin slice from the base of the pear; this will expose the core and also create a flat surface on the base.

    A pear on a cutting board with the bottom sliced off

     The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  2. Take a paring or vegetable knife and very carefully cut tight in and around the core (keep as close as you can to the core so as not to spoil the fruit or risk breaking through).

    A hand cutting out the core from the bottom of the pear

     The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  3. The core should come away easily. If not, use a teaspoon to scoop it out.

    A cored pear, with a spoon and removed core

     The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

Which Pears to Use for Poire Belle Helene

Choose firm but not overripe, unblemished pears making sure the stem is still intact. A favorite is the Bosc pear, which has smooth, even skin and shape, making it easier to peel.​