Quick and Easy

How to Make Compote With Any Fruit You Have

August 12, 2020

Here at Food52, we love recipes—but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: Transform your season's harvest into a simple, versatile compote, without fancy canning equipment—and without a recipe.

Compote Not Recipes on Food52

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As a great philosopher (or maybe Shakespeare?) once famously mused: Where does compote end, and jam begin? Simply put, compote is like jam, simplified—it doesn't need any additional thickeners, and you don't have to tackle that terrifying process known as "canning." At its essence, compote is pure fruit, broken down with heat into a thick-textured, spreadable mixture, augmented only with the addition of a few flavorings to sharpen its edges and make it sing.

Besides its utter simplicity, compote's best selling point is its versatility. It can be made with whatever combination of fruits you have in fridge, and it's the highest calling of your bruised, almost over-the-hill market haul. With the addition of heat and a few pantry basics, you can transform any fruit into a thick, spreadable compote in under an hour—here's how. 

Compote on Food52


1. Choose your fruit! Go with whatever's in season—we got our hands on some sweet strawberries, but late-summer berries, stone fruits, figs, apples, and even eggplant would work as well. And remember: This is a prime opportunity to use bruised specimens: With a little heat, acid, and sugar, the lovable but slightly bruised-up duckling will transform into a beautiful, fruit-laden swan. 

More: Before heading to the farmers market, read this.

Also get out: Some source of acid, such as lemon, lime, or even a splash of vinegar; a sweetener, such as maple syrup, sugar, honey, or agave; a pinch of salt, and anything else you'd like to flavor the compote. I went with vanilla and lemon zest here, but below are some ideas for how you can spice things up (pun certainly intended).

Ground cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, coriander, black pepper, or even cayenne powder would all be great spicy add-ins, depending on the fruit in question. Grated fresh ginger, citrus zest, fresh or dried bay leaves, or fresh herbs (mint, thyme, rosemary, and sage all come to mind) would also be delightful. Try combining some grated ginger with strawberries, peaches, or plums; some ground cardamom or coriander with figs; blueberries with cayenne and a hint of lime. Play around with it until you find a combination that's your jam, pun intended.

Compote without a recipe on Food52


2. Cut off any inedible parts of your fruit (here's what to do with your strawberry tops), prep your flavorings—zest your citrus, scrape out your vanilla bean, grate your ginger, prep your herbs or spices—then toss everything into a saucepan. If you want your compote to have a thinner consistency (say, to use it as a pourable sauce for ice cream instead of a thick condiment to spread on toast), add in a few splashes of water or juice.

More: Make sure to compost those inedible odds and ends! Here's how.

how to make compote without a recipe on Food52


3. Set the mixture on the stove over low heat, then forget about it (well, not really, but just about). When the heavenly aroma of fresh berry fields comes wafting from your kitchen, 30 to 40 minutes in, give it a stir or two—it's not needy. Let the fruit break down as much or as little as you like (sometimes I like mine to be more closely akin to fruit swimming in syrup, as in this grits recipe). When the fruit is to your desired level of softness and the whole thing looks glossy, the compote is done. Don't worry if it seems thin—it will thicken as it cools. (That's thanks to pectin, the polysaccharide—aka, sugar-molecule compound—that naturally occurs in many fruits and thickens jams and jellies wonderfully.)

How to Make Compote without a recipe on Food52


4. Give the compote a taste, then adjust the flavorings until sweet, sour, and savory meet in your ideal balance. If you're feeling frisky, feel free to add a splash of bourbon or rum. You could also stir in some chopped dried fruits—apricots, crystallized ginger, cranberries, cherries, you name it—for texture. Once the mixture cools, you could also purée it in your food process or blender until smooth, thinning it out as needed with water. This will let you more easily pour it over pancakes, or add a splash to brighten up your cocktails.

How to make compote without a recipe on Food52


5. Once the compote's cool, store your beautiful nectar in a tightly sealed jar and keep refrigerated for up to two weeks. Spoon it over vanilla ice cream, swirl it into your morning yogurt, and spread it on fat slices of golden challah bread. Clearly, you can see the first thing we did with it.

More: What's your idea of the perfect compote? Do you like it thick and syrupy? Full of fat pieces of rhubarb? Tell us in the comments! 

Photos by James Ransom

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

A kitchen scientist and dog-lover. Someday I want to have you over for dinner.


abbas_muna September 1, 2021
Great Article 👍
Cecelia E. August 24, 2020
I'm currently in South India. Mango season has come and gone. But I am seeing a lot of papayas in the market. Seeing as papaya is a relatively soft fruit, softer than even strawberries, how would I go about using it for a compote? Should I get papaya that isn't so ripe? Or go 'balls to the walls' ripe? The flavorings are equally as perplexing, as there's soooo many fresh spices, herbs and such to play with here.
Help!!! I'm falling down the rabbit hole of compote possibilities!!!!....
[email protected] August 23, 2020
Oh please stop adding all these different ingredients. Just chop and cook the fruit. You don't need sugar and other spices, herbs whatever and most of all NO thickening. Just the fruit.
Bert G. August 23, 2020
As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo during mango season, I would make make mango compote and add a bit of fresh palm wine for extra flavor.

I used it on everything, goat, grilled agouti, but especially black eyed pea fritters.

I had a little kerosene fridge for storage.

Time to make more. Thanks for the great article.
Cecelia E. August 24, 2020
I'm currently in South India, mango season had passed, but I'm totally with you on a mango compote. Here it might be seasoned with cardamom and ginger for a spicy kick. Oh the things I could do with a mango compote...🙄❤️
undependant August 21, 2020
Hello/bonjour as they say where I live.
May I start by thanking all those bloggers/writers/commentators world-wide who kindly and informatively share their knowledge, experience and ideas? I'm sure there are many (older) folks like me who come home after doing a weekly shop, put everything away and then think; "well what can I make, that's new?" and so we go to the internet for inspiration, but sometimes forget to say thank you.
I'd like to offer an observation and pose a question, or two. Many retired people live in small appartements, with at best a medium-size fridge that has only a small freezer compartment. Our budgets are limited, and I suspect our motivation to "create" a good/healthy meal each day is too. For my own part, whenever I cook I make two helpings. If something turns-out really good, I may eat the same main meal the next day, otherwise I freeze the second portion to eat (enjoy?!) a few days later.
It's mid summer and fruits here are fresh direct from the local farms. And cheap.
My question is, what do people think about making compote and how well it can be frozen and stored in freezer bags? For how long? Can the bags (they're plastic, ugh!) be re-used perhaps by washing and then blasting in a microwave? Bags are cheap to buy, I don't have lots of space to store jars/tupperware/plastic containers, and I can freeze a helping or two quite flat, so can get quite a lot in my small freezer compartment.
Thanks everyone; don't forget there's an elderly lady or gentleman near to where you live, if you're cooking for the family, an extra portion costs only a few extra pennies to share. Then again, I'm English and I live in France, I do know it's not easy to have elderly neighbors want to eat what I cook!!
KristinKeiter August 23, 2020
You can most certainly freeze the compote with good success When you’re ready to use it, I’d just pop it in the fridge to thaw overnight.

My grandmother reuses her plastic bags. She washes them with soap and water and turns them inside out to dry. She uses them for the same reasons you mentioned — storage and freezer space.

I tend to share jams and breads or sweets I make, as I suspect most older people locally would not enjoy the foods I make. I tend to cook vegetarian foods from my travels and even just hummus or spanakopita is strange to older, rural dwellers in parts of the USA. There are many exceptions of course, and I quite enjoy alternating the preparation of meals with those who have well traveled pallets. (I don’t say this with snobbery; I grew up in a small mountain town and am most grateful I’ve had the opportunity to go to school in England and travel an live in many countries around the globe. I know it’s a luxury.)

I hope you enjoy some delicious freezer-compote!
HeatherAnn M. March 14, 2017

here is a great Fruit compote i have found. its already canned and there are no preservatives save the lemon juice ! i ate one and its soooo good. I've never eaten with Challah bread and now i really want to!
abbas_muna September 1, 2021
Also find here
Brenda R. August 6, 2015
Can the compote be frozen??
Teresa S. August 7, 2015
I would think there would be no problem freezing this just like freezing any other fruit, especially since it's cooked down.
Peter August 16, 2020
It can most definitely be frozen. We make a big batch of strawberry rhubarb compote from a recipe I found on Food52 1 million years ago unfreeze multiple pints of it and use it throughout the year. Heavenly.
Teresa S. July 3, 2015
What about black raspberries....I'm wondering about the seeds. Any good way to get them out? Not necessarily all, but the majority?
rofliron January 30, 2015
This is a recipe...
Kristen K. July 4, 2014
I'm going to make a blueberry compote. Can anyone recommend quantities of add ins? Thinking vanilla bean, maple syrup and maybe some lemon rind?
AntoniaJames July 4, 2014
I find that lemon zest can overwhelm blueberries. (I have seventeen prolific blueberry bushes, so I do a lot with blueberries.) A touch maybe. Lots and lots? I recommend restraint. Not sure about the maple syrup. Blueberries really don't need much sweetener. If I were making a compote, I'd use, per pint of berries, 2 tablespoons at most of raw sugar + bay leaf + vanilla bean. People think of bay leaves as savory, but they really are a cross-over herb. I make a bay + vanilla ice cream swirled with bay-scented blueberry sauce, the recipe for which I posted here on Food52. So tasty. ;o) P.S. It may be too late, depending on where you are, but blueberries + cherries makes a dynamite compote. I'd go vanilla, solo.
Magica August 20, 2020
I add a tiny amount of lemon zest and a sprig of rosemary. No sweetener required unless you like sweets. Tastes fabulous on vanilla yogurt or icecream
[email protected] August 23, 2020
Just cook the fruit with a couple of tablespoons of water. You don't need to complicate it.
AntoniaJames July 2, 2014
Someone asked a question about this post on the Hotline, wanting to know whether the compote could be canned. A Food52 staff member responded that it can, and provided a link to the hot water bath processing instructions in another post. I'm intrigued by the response, in light of the standard cautions -- which the author of this post implicitly embraces -- that one must have a certain balance of acidity and sugar in order to ensure a safe, shelf-stable product. Obviously, a not-recipe, little of this, little of that approach is not consistent with that conventional wisdom. What do you think? (I'm going to raise this with MrsWheelbarrow, too, on her equipment/shopping checklist post that appeared on the site today.) ;o) Here is the link to the hotline question: https://food52.com/hotline/25205-what-process-would-be-best-for-canning-the-fruit-compote-recipe-you-ve-posted
LysiaLoves June 23, 2014
I made a gluten-free cheesecake with gingersnap crust and made a spiced peach compote, lightly sweetened with coconut sugar, to go on top. The fresh brightness of the peach mingled with a touch of orange and a teensy pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves was outrageous against the rich, fluffy creaminess of the cake. I didn't use a recipe either - it's one the easiest things to do by taste! I cooked it down really far too, I wanted it to be slightly chunky and sticky syrupy. I was NOT disappointed! I am currently drooling over the image of strawberry compote over golden challah. I mean, it's almost physically painful to look and not eat. Gluten-free challah seems like a mighty task, but one I may have to get up the courage to tackle. Just so I can slather it with strawberry compote! Ooh, or make french toast with it, THEN the compote. OHMYGOSH. I better stop.
Cecelia E. August 24, 2020
Now, you wanna take this to the NEXT LEVEL???...
Try a sweet potato (my personal favorite) or pumpkin (I detest pumpkin pie and the like) with the same gingersnap crust, topped with the peach compote. Hunny, you will name your next child after me for this, I promise you.
The. Best. Period.
Cecelia E. August 24, 2020
I mean sweet potato cheesecake...
Joyce June 23, 2014
can you use frozen fruit? I shop the Farmer's Market and always buy too much so I have lots of berries, cherries and figs inmy freezer.
LysiaLoves June 23, 2014
I have! Just don't defrost the fruit first. When I've used frozen sliced peaches they worked much better still frozen. I dumped the fruit, no extras, into my saucepan, cover it and cook it on low. Once it's defrosted, follow the rest of the instructions on adding ingredients, cooking down, etc.
Steven M. June 16, 2014
I use Truvia or Splenda, in lieu of sugar.
Pegeen June 16, 2014
Would Merrill's tip to add a knob of butter be appropriate?
Catherine L. June 17, 2014
LysiaLoves June 23, 2014
I think a knob of butter is appropriate in most situations ;)