Pomegranate molasses, also known as pomegranate syrup or concentrate, is simply the juice from fresh pomegranate seeds that has been cooked down until it is a thick syrup. The syrup is thick and reddish brown and tastes very tart and astringent with a hint of sweetness, similar to tamarind or balsamic vinegar. Both pomegranates and pomegranate molasses are native to the Middle East and their use spread throughout India, the Mediterranean, and Central America. The molasses was traditionally used as a marinade and glaze for meats. It was also used to add flavor to bean salads, dips, and stews. Today, most of the pomegranate molasses is made in Lebanon from a tart variety of pomegranates. Other, sweeter varieties of pomegranates are also used and citric acid or lemon juice are often added to their juice to make the molasses more tart.
Pomegranate molasses can be used in a wide variety of dishes. Its sweet and sour flavor makes an excellent addition to beef, chicken, lamb, and fish marinades and glazes. It makes an interesting tart salad dressing for citrus and bean salads and can be used in many desserts, including ice cream. The molasses contains a high amount of potassium and various antioxidants.
The best place to find prepared pomegranate molasses is in a Middle Eastern market or a high-end supermarket or specialty store. You can also make the molasses yourself with fresh pomegranates or bottled pomegranate juice (also available at the above locations). If you are using fresh pomegranates, roll them around on the counter to loosen the juice then cut open the fruit and remove the red seeds. Be careful, as pomegranate juice stains everything, including your clothes, countertop, and skin. Wrap the seeds in cheesecloth and squeeze the juice into a measuring cup. Avoid adding the white, bitter pith surrounding the seeds. Some recipes use only the juice while others add a bit of lemon juice and sugar to the juice to add tartness and sweetness. Place the juice in a saucepan and simmer it under low heat until about two thirds of the liquid has evaporated. Be very careful when you are reducing the juice, as it is very easy to burn it, especially toward the end of cooking. The cooled molasses can be stored in a closed container in the fridge for several months.
If a recipe calls for pomegranate molasses and you don’t have any, a combination of lemon juice and honey can be used as a substitute.