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The 10 Best Pomegranate Substitutes

The best pomegranate substitutes will have a similar taste and texture profile. Dried cranberries or fresh blackberries are easily swapped in salads, in particular, while citric fruits like lemon offer a bit of sourness and pair well with sweeter inclusions such as raspberries or strawberries.

There are several ways to replace pomegranate in a dish, whether it’s a salad, dessert, or savory recipe. This article shares the ten best foods you likely have on hand to use for a quick switch to substitute for pomegranate seeds, syrup, and molasses in any dish.

Here is a table showing the best substitutes for pomegranates:

Pomegranate SubstituteSimilar Flavor? Similar Texture?
Lemon or lemon juiceYes (may need sweetening)No
CranberriesYesSomewhat
RaspberriesYesYes
StrawberriesSomewhatNo
BlackberriesYes (may need sweetening)Yes
Sour cherriesYesNo
CurrantsSomewhatSomewhat
AlmondsNoYes
WalnutsNoYes
Granola clustersDepends on flavoringYes

1. Lemon or Lemon Juice

A-Lemon-Being-Squeezed

Citrus, in general, can offer a lovely alternative that gives a tang to any dish. Lemon and lemon juice, in particular, are helpful because they work in both sweet and savory recipes. If the sourness is too overpowering, you may need to cut it with a bit of sugar or add water to dilute the lemon concentrate. 

2. Cranberries

Handful of cranberries

Cranberries are added to a dish, either fresh or dried, yet it’s the dried variety that most closely resembles pomegranate seeds. Keep in mind, however, neither fresh nor dried berries have the exact same crunchiness that gives pomegranate seeds their signature mouth-feel. When shopping dried, look out for hidden sugars on the back of the packaging. 

3. Raspberries

Thanks to their sweetness and the seeds, raspberries provide a similar taste and feel on the tongue and make a great pomegranate substitute. They’re fantastic in salads, in particular. The only downside is that they don’t have the same juiciness as fresh pomegranates. 

4. Strawberries

Woman Holding a Copper Tray With a Jar of Strawberry Jam and Fresh Strawberries

You might not immediately think of strawberries as a valid substitute for pomegranate, but you’d be surprised by the results you can get with this berry. Not only does it work well in desserts, but it can be added to other recipes and act as a great meat substitute, as well. 

5. Blackberries

Like raspberries, blackberries bring the same texture to mind as pomegranate. The biggest difference is that their flavor is more bitter and tart, which can be beneficial in certain dishes. If you prefer a sweeter flavor, allow blackberries to ripen just short of softening before eating. 

6. Sour Cherries

Close-up of sour cherries

Unlike other cherries, sour cherries are highly acidic and tart in flavor by comparison. Sour cherries, also sold as tart cherries, make an excellent substitution for pomegranates when added to savory dishes, such as meat dishes, to help create a satisfying, well-rounded recipe. 

7. Currants

Fresh red currants on dark rustic wooden table

Currants are a form of dried grape, similar to a raisin, but better. Raisins could also be used as a pomegranate substitute, yet the flavor and texture of currants offer a closer comparison. Currants work best to substitute pomegranate in meat dishes and salads to provide a burst of added pizzazz. 

8. Almonds

Pile of Toasted Almonds

Almonds are a common and beloved nut that makes for an excellent pomegranate substitute. They’re a common addition to many recipes and a healthy snack. You can find them sold chopped for easy access to a pomegranate substitute or slivered if you plan to pop them into a salad. 

9. Walnuts

Fresh walnuts on a rustic wooden table

Some nuts are richer in flavor than others, and walnuts are a great example. This rich taste substitutes well for pomegranate. Walnuts are just as healthy as other options in the category, and they’re softer yet with a satisfying crunchiness that makes them ideal for adding to any food. 

10. Granola Clusters

Bowl of granola clusters

A less popular option, granola clusters, nevertheless make an excellent replacement for pomegranates for their texture and sweetness. Some use granola clusters for use in yogurt or desserts. Look for those with lower sugar content and heavy oats to bulk up your meal. 

What Is the Best Substitute for Pomegranate Seeds? 

Pomegranate seeds offer a balance between sweet and tart flavor with a crunch. Think of the unique taste and texture that you get from pomegranates. They fit easily into several different dishes, such as salads, soups, and desserts. They are most commonly associated with Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cuisines.

The best substitutes for pomegranate seeds include nuts, particularly those with a richer taste like almonds and walnuts. Fresh berries with seeds can also substitute well in both texture and flavor. Different substitutes will work better depending on the style or other ingredients in a recipe. 

What Is the Best Substitute for Pomegranate Molasses?

Pomegranate molasses has long been a staple in Middle Eastern kitchens, but recently it has become more commonplace in the West, and for a good reason. Offering an intense flavor that balances both sour and sweet notes, it adds a unique flair to both savory and dessert dishes without adding much sugar. 

Due to the particular taste of pomegranate molasses, finding a successful substitute can be challenging. The trick is to find the right consistency in your chosen replacement. Pomegranate molasses, like traditional molasses, is very thick. That’s why so little is needed in any recipe, and, indeed, less is more. 

The best substitutes for pomegranate molasses include balsamic vinegar and cranberry juice, as they compensate for the intense and tart flavors. Thicken your substitute to better replicate the intended final result. 

For example, if using cranberry juice, add a tablespoon of sugar and boil it down to improve the consistency. This creates a thin syrup without overpowering the taste in the way cornstarch or similar ingredients would. You can cut the sweetness by adding a dash of vinegar, but be conservative with the amount to avoid overpowering the sauce. 

How To Use Pomegranate Molasses

This molasses is a crucial ingredient in recipes such as Fesenjoon, an Iranian stew and perfect winter treat made with chicken and plums. Plenty of other incredible Middle Eastern dishes also feature this rich substance. 

You can also use it for simpler foods. Tossing root vegetables, such as carrots or parsnips, in a couple of tablespoons can add a whole new dimension to roasted veggies. Or use it to coat meat and sprinkle it with some of your favorite spices before popping it into the oven. 

What is the Best Substitute for Pomegranate Syrup?

The best substitute for pomegranate syrup is a homemade version or a similar fruit syrup. Ultimate, the best option depends on what you need it for. However, this ingredient serves a culinary purpose in certain recipes, such as stew or roasted meat, so your best bet is to make your own to use. 

It’s possible to use pomegranate seeds as a replacement for some dishes, but it might not be ideal for many. You can make a paste by crushing the seeds, but it’ll have a different texture that might not work for the given recipe. Double-check what it says about replacements before use. 

Lemon juice is also often used as a substitute, but it may be too sour and acidic and overpower the flavor of your food. If that ends up happening, try adding a bit of honey. The sweetness  helps undercut the tartness of the lemon effectively and brings a similar flavor to the pomegranate.

How To Make Pomegranate Syrup

You can create pomegranate syrup using pomegranate juice, which is found in most grocery stores. Or, if you have the fruit on hand, crush the seeds to produce pomegranate juice. Then, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Combine eight cups of juice with one cup of sugar in a saucepan. 
  2. Stir in 2-4 tablespoons of lemon juice (depending on your desired tartness). 
  3. Bring to a light boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. 
  4. Reduce the mixture until it reaches your desired consistency. It should be thicker than syrup but smooth and easy to stir. 
  5. Let cool before use.

Store any unused leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to two weeks. Freezing isn’t recommended, as the consistency turns chunky when thawed. 

5 Pomegranate Products To Have On-Hand for Substitutions

One of the best ways to make sure you have access to pomegranate year-round and avoid needing to substitute it for other items in a recipe is to have various options on hand. After all, fresh fruit is only available part of the year and given its seasonal nature. In some regions, it may not even make it to shelves. 

Here are five ways to keep pomegranates preserved in your home and available at any time:

Dried Pomegranate Seeds

Dried pomegranate seeds are probably the easiest way to have the fruit on hand at all times. Sold in packs of a few ounces to bulk packs of up to a pound, they have been dehydrated, increasing their shelf life. 

To use them, just take a handful and soak them in water for a couple of minutes until they regain their juicy consistency. You can also eat them as is, but keep in mind they are often a little on the chewy side rather than crunchy like you might expect. They are similar to dried cranberries but sweeter. 

When looking for the right product, pay close attention to the expiration dates. Like many dried fruits, it’s possible to get a bag that has been sitting on a warehouse shelf for an extended time. While eating expired seeds won’t harm you, it’ll impact the taste and texture. Stale pomegranate seeds are devoid of most of their flavor. 

Pomegranate Juice

Probably the most widely available product, pomegranate juice can be bought in a shelf-stable form and subbed out for many recipes. You can find pomegranate juice in the refrigerated section, and many stores have canned or boxed variants, as well. Keep in mind, refrigerated juice won’t last as long as other options and is less ideal for long-term storage. 

When using pomegranate juice for cooking, you’ll need to thicken it for most recipes, turning it into a syrup. Corn starch can be used for this purpose, or follow the steps explained earlier for making syrup.

When choosing a juice, make sure it’s 100% pomegranate. Some brands mix in other berry juices to sweeten it, making it a cocktail, which won’t work for any recipes calling for pomegranate specifically. 

Pomegranate Molasses

Pomegranate molasses is a staple of Middle Eastern cooking and a great way to add a burst of complexity to stews, soups, and even roasted meats. It’s also easy to store for long periods. Most grocery stores catering to Middle Eastern locals and some South Asian groceries should have it on hand. Otherwise, you can find it online. 

Remember, when using molasses, less is more. It’s easy to overpower a dish when using this ingredient since it’s so thick and robust. 

Pomegranate Extract

Most people are unfamiliar with pomegranate extract, yet it makes for a great pantry staple. Pomegranate extract can be bought in bulk powder form to be tossed into drinks, dishes, or made into capsules to take advantage of the benefits to the body. 

Pomegranate fruit is well known for having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and being high in Vitamins C, K, and Potassium. This makes it a popular addition to health regimes, including smoothies. While not an ingredient substitution for most recipes, it isn’t a bad option if you look to the fruit for its nutrition. 

Pomegranate Concentrate

Slightly different from syrup, Pomegranate concentrate is the heaviest of all products. It contains no added sugars or other ingredients, just pure fruit, and is perfect for adding a noticeable dash of flavor while using very little. For most uses, you’ll add this concentrate to a liquid base –typically water– before use. 

You can use the concentrate to make Pomegranate vinegar, a common ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine. It also makes a perfect dressing to create a light and refreshing salad. Or, add it to stews and other recipes that require a tiny amount to help make the bottle last as long as possible.

For more, don’t miss The 12 Best Substitutes For Milk In Smoothies.

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