Spinach with Pomegranate Molasses, Honey and Caramelized Onions

While we’re at the tail end of our cold spring days–or so I hope, I still crave warm, rich flavors. On hot summer days, I often steam spinach and then dress it lightly with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, but when I arrive home soaked with rain, I want something more comforting. That’s how spinach ends up married to pomegranate molasses and honey in my kitchen. It’s a light dish, but its flavor is bold and lush.


Pomegranate molasses is a trendy ingredient right now with chefs, but it’s a traditional ingredient in Eastern countries, from Turkey to Iran. I first tried it at the table of my Azeri relatives, and I’ve been in love ever since. In Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic on the Caspian Sea, this tart condiment is commonly served as a dipping sauce and in numerous vegetable preparations. In the Ukraine of my childhood, where mayonnaise was the most exotic condiment, it seemed like something out of One Thousand and One Nights. But before long it became as ubiquitous in my pantry as mustard.


In the Azeri language, pomegranate  molasses is called narsharab, from nar, “pomegranate”, and sharab, “wine”, suggesting an ambrosial potion. Technically, it’s neither molasses nor wine, but a concentrated syrup made from a special variety of sour pomegranates, and yes, it’s addictive. The flavor is tart and bright at first, but as soon as your mouth starts to water, you notices hints of dried plums, apricots and dark caramel.


You can use pomegranate molasses* in the same way you use balsamic vinegar–in vinaigrette,  marinades, dressings, and sauces. It uplifts something as simple as a bean salad. It tenderizes meat and makes grilled chicken even more delectable. Drizzle it over baked salmon. Mix it with minced coriander (cilantro) leaves and shallot and serve this quick sauce with steak. Try roasting some bell peppers and tossing them with a spoonful of molasses, olive oil and a bit of garlic. Pomegranate molasses can also be diluted in water for a refreshing summer drink.


Spinach has a mild flavor, but it can easily support bold ingredients. In the recipe that follows, the caramel accents of cooked down onions and pomegranate molasses add richness, while honey tones down the astringency of this leafy vegetable.

The dish can be served as is, but I like an added crunch of either pomegranate seeds or toasted nuts. The choice  is up to you and your larder. Mine usually yields pine nuts and almonds, although the green on green effect when using pistachios is fetching too.

Spinach with Pomegranate Molasses, Honey and Caramelized Onions

Serves 4 as a side dish

If you don’t have pomegranate molasses, you can substitute balsamic vinegar. It has a similar fruity note, and its combination with caramelized onions is a classic one in its own right. You can serve this spinach as an appetizer or as a vegetable side dish. You can keep it for a couple of days, but it will lose its vibrant green color.

Variation: I love recipes that can be adapted in different ways, and here is one of my variations. Skip the spinach, caramelize the onions and dress them with honey and pomegranate molasses. Now you have an onion jam to eat with cheese, grilled meat, or simply on a piece of bread.

1 lb (500g) fresh spinach, stemmed and washed
1 large onion, sliced in thin slivers
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses (or balsamic vinegar)
1/2 Tablespoon honey
salt, pepper
pomegranate seeds or toasted nuts (pine nuts, almonds, or pistachios) for garnish (optional)

Put the spinach into a large pot and wilt it over medium heat. You might have to do it in batches  if your pot is not large enough. The water clinging to the spinach leaves will be enough for steaming. Drain and chop coarsely. If you’re using baby spinach leaves, you can leave them whole.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet and add the sliced onion. Stir often, until the onions are pale golden and smell sweet, about 10 minutes. (If using balsamic vinegar, add it right now to reduce it and deepen its flavor). Add the spinach, salt and pepper to taste, molasses, honey and stir together. Remove from the heat. Serve warm or room temperature. Decorate with pomegranate seeds or nuts before serving.

*Shopping Notes: Look for brands that include only pomegranate juice in their ingredient lists. It might also be called pomegranate concentrate. Since pomegranate molasses is the condiment of the moment, you may be able to find it at natural food stores, gourmet shops, and even well-stocked supermarkets.  It’s commonly sold at Middle Eastern and Iranian grocery stores.  Online, it’s available at Amazon.com, Sadaf.com, Kalustyans.com. Keeps indefinitely in the fridge.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • Esperanza: Really nice recipe, thanks ! Turkish shops sell it in the Netherlands. April 17, 2013 at 8:43am Reply

    • Victoria: Hope that you can try it! I love this combo. Yes, you should find pomegranate molasses at any Turkish shop. It’s really a very popular condiment. April 17, 2013 at 1:01pm Reply

  • Jillie: Pomegranate molasses is one of my favourite ingredients! And now you’ve tempted me with another lovely recipe ….. I like to put it in a dish of tomato, onion, cubes of roasted aubergine and chick peas – it really adds an extra dimension, and creamy Greek yoghurt tops it off!

    And yes, it’s lovely as a drink when diluted with chilled sparkling water. It’s sort of like sherbert. And pomegranate is good for you!

    Thanks again for inspiring me. April 17, 2013 at 8:47am Reply

    • Jillie: By the way, can I ask if you, V, or anybody else has had difficulties with pine nuts? I used to love them and put them in practically everything, but now suffer from “Pine Nut Mouth”, a terrible bitter taste that lingers for weeks after eating them. I suppose it’s a sort of sensitivity, and it is said that it is mainly pine nuts from China that contain the allergen which affects only a few people, but I’ve had it happen after eating Italian nuts. I miss them, but now don’t dare eat them again. There’s nothing else quite like them. April 17, 2013 at 10:13am Reply

      • Mel: My difficulty with pine nuts is how expensive they’ve become! At least here in California they’re almost ten dollars for a tiny little pouch. I used to eat them like jelly beans and toast them for salads and pasta. You’re right. There’s nothing like them but I started substituting toasted pecans for them in salads and I highly recommend it! April 17, 2013 at 11:08am Reply

        • Jillie: Thank you! My sister recommends macadamia nuts, but they are just as expensive. But they do have a lovely creamy quality. April 17, 2013 at 11:27am Reply

        • Victoria: They are very expensive! I have a recipe for a Middle Eastern pine nut sauce which I really want to try. But since it calls for 1 cup of pine nuts, I don’t feel like using up all of my precious supply. April 17, 2013 at 1:12pm Reply

        • Samantha: My boyfriend laughs that I’m allergic to expensive food. I’m also allergic to oysters. April 17, 2013 at 3:23pm Reply

      • Victoria: I haven’t heard of this allergy, but I would stop eating pine nuts completely, or it might get worse.

        How about pistachios? They also have a tinge of resinous flavor and they have a wonderful texture both raw and toasted. April 17, 2013 at 1:14pm Reply

      • Samantha: I thought I was the only one who had allergies to pine nuts. My throat tightens and it gets scratchy. I use almonds in place of pine nuts. April 17, 2013 at 3:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: I love how versatile it is. It’s also great as a glaze for roast chicken or fish.

      Your dish sounds wonderful, by the way! I love the combination of pomegranate and eggplant, and the idea of chickpea stew is tempting. April 17, 2013 at 1:16pm Reply

  • Nicola: Wonderful! I have been eyeing the bottle of pomegranate molasses at my Turkish green grocers and now know what to do with it! (though I suspect it’s in the baked onion dish we have as a side with our grilled meats at the Turkish restaurant I go to with my Persian friend). Thank you very much Victoria. I love pomegranates, the taste and the mythical story/ies associated with them. Nigella Lawson has a recipe for pomegranate ice cream – which comes out all prettily pink! April 17, 2013 at 8:58am Reply

    • Victoria: Nigella adores pomegranates, and I’ve been watching her BBC show, Nigellissima, and they definitely feature prominently. 🙂 I understand why though–the fruity-tart flavor is a perfect match to many sweet and savory dishes. The combination with onions is one of my favorites. I’ve been known to scarf down most of the onion jam I mentioned in the recipe headnote before it even reached the table! April 17, 2013 at 2:39pm Reply

      • Jenna: I love that show too. Sometimes she can be over the top though, licking spoons, fingers and pouting. April 18, 2013 at 4:48am Reply

        • Victoria: So true! That’s classical Nigella for you. 🙂 April 18, 2013 at 9:58am Reply

  • Ines: I love your recipe posts. 🙂
    This one sounds particularly yummy. Thank you. April 17, 2013 at 9:09am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Ines! It’s simple too. You can caramelize the onions in advance and then add spinach when you’re ready to serve. April 17, 2013 at 2:40pm Reply

  • Shirinalzebari: Any body with Food Pairing curiosity, can purchase the Food Pairing app. From theApple iTunes store, really interesting! April 17, 2013 at 9:42am Reply

    • Victoria: Sounds fun! Thank you! April 17, 2013 at 2:40pm Reply

  • Katy McReynolds: Is that a beautiful yellow quince I see there in the background? I let them ripen just for the fragrance and then slice them paper thin and devour with a good glass of Cabernet. Your recipe sounds divine and I will seek out the pomegranate molasses. April 17, 2013 at 10:14am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, you’re right! I need to try eating them your way, because I can just imagine that this might a great combination. I buy quinces whenever I see them and I keep them to perfume the house. When they’re fully ripe, I either make compotes, jellies, or stew them with meat. Quinces make the winter more bearable for me. April 17, 2013 at 2:42pm Reply

  • Elena: My Turkish friend introduced me to pomegranate molasses, and I love it. She uses it on all sorts of things, like cous cous salads. I think it could work almost anywhere that you would use lemon or like you said, balsamic vinegar, for a different kind of tart brightness. April 17, 2013 at 11:21am Reply

    • Victoria: Isn’t it tasty? It’s one of the first condiments I bought once we came to Brussels. I didn’t know if we were going to stay for a month or longer, but I needed my pomegranate molasses. 🙂 I use it much more than balsamic vinegar, for instance, because it isn’t too sharp. But it works well in most recipes where vinegar would be used. April 17, 2013 at 2:45pm Reply

  • rosiegreen: Victoria, thank you for the new recipe. I love spinach and I am always looking for new recipes to use it in. April 17, 2013 at 12:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: My pleasure, Rosie! Spinach is one of my favorite greens, and it’s fun to experiment with it. April 17, 2013 at 2:46pm Reply

  • Vishishta: Thanks for this beautiful recipe! I will go in search of this wonderful sauce. April 17, 2013 at 1:43pm Reply

    • Victoria: Now that it’s trendy, it should be easier to find. 🙂 I hope that you can try it. April 17, 2013 at 2:47pm Reply

  • maja: I bet that pomegranate syrup goes perfectly with caramelized onions, tart and syrupy against the sweetnes of onions, yummy. I have discovered it a couple of years ago in a Turkish shop and been using it since then, mostly in summer salads. Thank you for a fantastic idea. April 17, 2013 at 1:51pm Reply

    • Victoria: I like the mild tart flavor of pomegranate molasses with fresh vegetables. Occasionally, if I’m out of lemon, I use it instead. It will, of course, give its own taste, but in many cases, it’s a good thing.

      I often go to the Turkish shops to do my groceries, and I always find something interesting. April 17, 2013 at 2:56pm Reply

  • YuliyaFe: The fork on the picture is very recognizable) April 17, 2013 at 2:24pm Reply

    • Victoria: Almost every Soviet family had this set. 🙂 I love mine, even though it’s far from complete after all of the moves we did. April 17, 2013 at 2:57pm Reply

  • Emma M: This sounds delicious, thanks for the recipe. Pomegranate molasses is completely new to me but I will definitely seek out a bottle. I love pomegranates – not least because the seeds look like little jewels when scattered into a dish. April 17, 2013 at 3:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also love how festive pomegranates make the simplest dish. Of course, their season doesn’t last that long, but pomegranate molasses is a good way to enjoy pomegranates all year round. At the Turkish or Middle Eastern stores, it also has a benefit of being very reasonably priced. April 17, 2013 at 5:17pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Mouthwatering, your and Jillies recipes! I myself love aubergines, and spinach as well. my spinachdish: fry an onion until golden, then add garlic, boiled chickpeas, zest of lemon, pepper, simmer 5 minutes, add spinach, some lemonjuice,dille, and when the spinach is done,mix with Greek feta. I eat this with pasta. From a Greek cooking book, ages ago, can’t remember which one.
    I certainly will have a look in the Turkish shop for the pomegranate! April 17, 2013 at 5:46pm Reply

    • Victoria: It sounds delicious, Cornelia! I love the combination of spinach and feta, and I will definitely try it soon. My Greek friend taught me to eat greens simply with olive oil and lemon juice, and it works on everything, from rapini to spinach. Of course, the fresher the greens, the better! April 17, 2013 at 7:04pm Reply

  • marjan: thanks for the recipe! my mom uses pomegranate molasses too. my favourite dish is her stew of chicken with walnuts and pomegranate juice. it’s scrumptious! April 18, 2013 at 2:39am Reply

    • Victoria: Now, that sounds great! The combination of pomegranate and nuts of any kind is one of my favorites. April 18, 2013 at 9:57am Reply

  • Jenna: I normally avoid spinach, but your recipe made my mouth water. 🙂 April 18, 2013 at 4:46am Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 Thank you, Jenna! April 18, 2013 at 9:58am Reply

  • Shirinalzebari: Pomegranate molasses:
    3 cups of pomegranate juice,
    1/2 cup lemon juice,
    1/2 cup white plain sugar,
    Put everything together, bring it to boil until it remains one cup only,
    Leave it to cool down to room temperature,
    Use it! April 18, 2013 at 10:27am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! April 18, 2013 at 10:54am Reply

    • Daisy: Yes! That is my recipe too for pomegranate molasses! I have to be really careful though in the US since so much pomegranate juice is actually mostly apple juice with a little bit of pomegranate. Label reading essential! April 22, 2013 at 12:50am Reply

      • Victoria: Also, here the fresh juice is also so expensive that it would cost me less to mail order a bottle of pomegranate molasses than try making it myself. Maybe, one day when I have my own pomegranate tree I will experiment. April 22, 2013 at 8:20am Reply

  • Andy: Sounds delicious…and simple too. As soon as I find pomegranate molasses I’ll have to make this! April 18, 2013 at 10:36am Reply

    • Victoria: I already predict that you can find numerous ways to use it, Andy! I look forward to hearing all about it. 🙂 April 18, 2013 at 10:55am Reply

  • MissKumi: Ooooh, now I’m inspired! Thank you for the lovely recipe. I’ll have to go on the hunt for this elusive molasses! I love a reduction of balsamic vinegar on vanilla ice cream; and this sounds like it could slide into that position perfectly! Yum. 🙂 April 19, 2013 at 9:13am Reply

    • Victoria: My pleasure! 🙂 I’ve tried pomegranate molasses sauce on vanilla ice cream at a restaurant, and I liked the combination of tart and sweet. April 19, 2013 at 3:54pm Reply

  • shirinalzebari: If you can’t find fresh pomegranate, you can use the dried version of pomegranate seed, it is very cheap and available at almost all Asian (Pakistani and Indian) super-markets as they use and sprinkle it frequently on their salads and foods! April 20, 2013 at 12:45am Reply

    • Victoria: Anardana, dried pomegranate seeds, is a wonderful spice. Thank you for mentioning it. But I would caution against eating them whole. They are too dry and hard. In India, anardana is ground to powder and used as a souring agent rather like lemon juice or pomegranate molasses, but in dishes where you don’t want extra liquid. April 20, 2013 at 8:32am Reply

  • Daisy: This looks beautiful, Victoria! I love the colors too! Pomegranate seeds seem to be everywhere of late, which is find by me since I find the seeds to resemble little jewels. Thank you for another fantastic recipe! April 22, 2013 at 12:51am Reply

    • Victoria: Happy to share! I love this combination. Pomegranate also works well with stronger greens like kale.

      I remember that in the stores in NYC you could even get pomegranate seeds already cleaned and ready to use. More expensive, of course, but very convenient. April 22, 2013 at 8:21am Reply

  • Orris: I liked your recipe and would like to try it but i am not sure if pomegranate molasses is available in India. Is it possible to make it at home? April 25, 2013 at 8:19am Reply

    • Victoria: Shirin kindly posted a recipe for her homemade pomegranate molasses just above, so it’s worth trying.

      You can also use anardana powder (about 1/2 teaspoon added when you finish sauteing the onions). It will be very nice too. April 25, 2013 at 12:44pm Reply

  • Orris: Thanks Shirin. I will definitely try it at home. May 4, 2013 at 8:31am Reply

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