How To Open A Pomegranate (In 4 Easy Steps)

When I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago, I met up with my long-time friend and fellow blogger Elise, who very kindly showed up with homemade chocolate biscotti, and a few pieces of fruit from her garden.

Among them was a pomegranate, and I had to pick my jaw up from the floor. To a Parisian kid, pomegranates (grenades in French) are super exotic, the kind of fruit that must grow in some faraway tropical forest with multicolored birds and monkeys flying around, the kind of fruit that should also (once the kid is all grown up and environmentally conscious) be eaten in moderation because of the carbon footprint.

Pomegranate juice is a gorgeous ruby pink color, yes, but do you want it polka-dotting your clothes?

Yet I adore pomegranates. I love biting into their little seeds bursting with tart juice, and I love sprinkling them on stewed vegetables and on salads, especially the raw kale salad with avocado and cilantro that I made a few times in San Francisco.

So I received this local pomegranate with great joy, and as I was about to cut it open and harvest the seeds — standing at Heidi‘s beautiful marble counter — I thought I’d take a few quick pictures to share the technique with you in case you’re new to this whole pomegranate opening thing.

(I have only just heard about this wooden-spoon whacking technique, and will have to try that next time, though I have yet to be convinced it saves that much time. Also: the violence of it!)

0. Before you begin, put on an apron and roll up your sleeves; pomegranate juice is a gorgeous ruby pink color, yes, but do you want it polka-dotting your clothes?

Pomegranate

1. Using a sharp knife, cut a slice off the top and the bottom of the fruit, just to uncover the seeds. Make four vertical cuts all around the fruit, cutting through the rind just until you reach the seeds but not slicing into them.

Pomegranate

2. Put the pomegranate in a deep bowl of water and separate it into four sections underwater (this is so no juice will squirt out).

Pomegranate

3. Still working with your hands in the water, pluck the seeds from the spongy membrane, and discard the non-edible bits as you go. The pieces of membrane will mostly float to the top while the seeds will sink to the bottom.

Pomegranate

4. Et voilà ! Scoop out the seeds from the bottom of the bowl, straining them between your fingers and inspecting them for any stray bits of membrane.

An average-size pomegranate weighing about 260 grams (9 ounces) will yield about 1 cup seeds (150 grams or 5 1/3 ounces). Those seeds freeze very well in an airtight freezer bag, and will thaw very quickly, too, if you place them in a bowl of water.

Join the conversation!

Is this how you open pomegranates yourself? And what do you like to do with the seeds?

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  • RockLynn

    My 3 year old Pomegranate bush growing in a pot in my yard here in Sacramento provided me with a real bounty this year–13 fruits! As I don’t care for the actual inner ‘seed’ I used your technique and juiced all of mine over a period of weeks. I enjoyed some nice cocktails and antioxidant rich juice!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Lucky you! What method do you use to juice the seeds? Just blend and strain?

  • http://www.dressingournest.blogspot.com Dee

    Thank you for this post. I am probably one of the few people in the world who has never tasted an actual pomegranate although I’ve picked up bottles of the Pom juice from time to time at my local grocer. I’ve been itching to try one though. I just wasn’t sure what to do with it. Thanks again.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I didn’t taste one until I was in my late twenties — I hope you like it when you do!

  • http://www.simplyyum.com/ Christina

    Great post! I always avoid buying pomegranates because I never knew how to handle one!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Let me know how it works for you if you try it!

  • http://www.mytravelingjoys.com Joy @MyTravelingJoys

    I love whacking pomegranates with a wooden spoon – great way to take out your aggression! ;-) I used the seeds to garnish salads and desserts as well as cocktails. And for breakfast, I like the fresh pomegranate juice!

    • Cassandra2mil

      Yes, it is akin to punching down bread dough!

      • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

        And tenderizing meat with a mallet! ^^

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      What method do you like to use to juice the seeds?

  • Ada

    Could you possibly post your recipe for the kale-avocado-cilantro-pomegranate salad? I’m sure it’s about as simple as it sounds, but I love a good kale salad and I’m always excited to find new recipes!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Sure! It’s a non-recipe, but here goes: I slice the (spine-less) leaves of kale into ribbons and massage them with salt and olive oil. I then season them with lemon juice and salsa verde if I have it leftover from La Taqueria :) and add diced avocado, chopped cilantro, and pomegranate seeds. The exact amounts are left to your own intuition, what looks aesthetically pleasing, and/or what you have on hand. Let me know if you try it!

  • http://revessurpapier.wordpress.com Rachel

    I’ve never come across this method before! I’ve been a devotee of the whacking-with-the-back-of-a-wooden-spoon method for quite a while (I learned it from the first Ottolenghi cookbook) – yes, it’s messy, but there are some days when the violence of it is rather satisfying… ;) But I’ll bear this one in mind for those times when I don’t want to make such a mess.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Oh, I missed the trick from the Ottolenghi book! I’ll look for it, it will be a fun treasure hunt. :)

  • Melanie

    I am a pomegranate lover :) I’ve just planted 3 in my garden and waiting eagerly for them to fruit! I used to de-seed this way but was taught the wooden spoon method by a chef I worked with. Sure it’s a little messy but when you use water you loose a lot of juice and wash a lot of flavour off the arials (seeds) themselves. Lovely in salads, over yogurt, cocktails, dressings and roasted in to granola..

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      If the seeds aren’t ripped open, you don’t lose juice at all, and if you dry the seeds well, I find there’s no flavor difference between hand-picked and underwater-picked. But I plan to try the wooden spoon method and see how it goes!

  • http://knitlittwit.blogspot.com/ Joanna @ the knitlit twit

    I love pomegranates! I admit it, though, I kind of enjoy taking the time to break apart the pomegranate and extract the seeds a handful at a time and eat them straight away while sitting on the sofa. With plenty of paper towels on hand to keep things clean, of course!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Ooh, you are so fearless, I myself wouldn’t risk it on the couch! :)

  • Rachel

    I find the best way to deal with a pomegranate is to use a bowl of water. Lightly score the skin in radiating segments the end and take a spoon to gently start to separate the segments. Then put the whole thing in a large bowl of water in the sink and pull apart and de-seed. The white pith and peel will float and the seeds will fall to the bottom. It is an easy and tidy way. When last I did it two days ago, not a single drop of juice got anywhere it shouldn’t.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Right, that’s the method I describe in pictures in the post above!

  • msue

    I’d love to visit that magical land with flying monkeys and multicolored birds! My sister-in-law just brought us a pomegranate picked off her tree, plus we have another from the store. Some seeds are destined for a Thanksgiving salad with greens from the garden. The other will become juice, either consumed on its own, or perhaps mixed with blackberries for a smoothie. Such a beautiful fruit!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      A blackberry and pomegranate smoothie sounds like such a refreshing thing to drink post-Thanksgiving feast! ^^

  • http://www.creativemindsexposed.com Dayle

    If you boil the pomegranate after you slice it, the seeds will float to the top. Have ice water ready to put the seeds in after. Workd great everytime!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I wouldn’t have thought of that, and would worry that the hot water might change the flavor of the seeds somehow. I’m curious!

  • http://mrsredbootsfood.blogspot.com/ Annabel

    We just cut them in half and then in half again and each is responsible for picking his or her own seeds out of the skin. I think we are having one for supper pudding tonight…. yummy!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I like the idea of just picking the seeds and eating them one by one, but in truth I find it frustrating. I prefer to eat a spoonful at a time. :)

  • Cheryl

    Clotilde,

    I get many pomegranates from the “farm box” that I subscribe to. The farmer gave a very similar set of instructions but he suggest that you put a colander in the sink and then fill the sink with water. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the colander and the rind will float. Then instead of scooping the seeds, you can just lift the colander out of the sink. I also tried the spoon method, but find it to be a bit messier.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I’ll try the colander trick next time, thank you!

  • Vidya

    This made my jaw drop a little. I never knew there were so many techniques for this! I always opened these for my grandparents in India – I just use a sharp knife to take off all the skin, then gently pry the whole thing apart and start peeling off the membrane while plopping the seeds in a bowl. Not all that messy once you’ve done it a few times. Your hands end up a bit stained but that just adds to the fun of it. I am definitely trying this the next time, though!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      How sweet that you opened these for your grandparents!

  • http://fridica.wordpress.com Ivana

    Hi Clotilde, this is off topic, but I was just looking at the recipe for Dark Chocolate Mousse in your latest book (p.50) and it calls for Cream of tartar. I live in Belgium so I went online to check what that’s called in French, but then I found a post on your forum where it is mentioned that this ingredient is difficult to find in France. I assume the same will apply to Belgium – so what to use instead for that recipe? Thanks a lot!

    • Dornbuschhexe

      Hi Ivana, I’m not Clotilde but maybe I can help too: Cream of tartar means “tartre” or “crème de tartre”. Here you can find it as baking ingredient in any supermarket – and supermarkets in Germany are poor in specialties ;) So I ‘m sure you’ll have no trouble in Belgium to buy crème de tartre. Otherwise you can send me an E-Mail. Belgium is only as far away as my way to the mailbox.

      • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

        Thanks so much for answering that question, and offering to send some to Ivana, that is most generous. I have forwarded your email address to her so she can get in touch if she wants to take you up on it. Thanks again!

        • Dornbuschhexe

          Merci, Clotilde! I had not realized that my email adress is not shown.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      In France, cream of tartar (crème de tartre) is not so easy to find, but it is sold at G.Detou in Paris — not sure what it’s like in Belgium.

      In any case, it’s an acid whose purpose is to stabilize and increase the volume of beaten eggs. If you can’t find it, you can replace it with lemon juice or vinegar, using three times the prescribed amount.

      Hope you enjoy the book and the recipe!

      • http://fridica.wordpress.com Ivana

        Thanks very much! I guess I was just curious to know what you used in the French version of your book, since you mentioned elsewhere that it was difficult to find in France…

        • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

          There isn’t a French version of the book yet, but I will replace it with lemon juice when I adapt that recipe!

  • Hilda

    I live in SouthAfrica and have never tasted pomegrates! I will definitely try it now in salad.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Do pomegranates grow in South Africa?

  • http://cookingwithloveandlight.wordpress.com Vanessa

    Thanks for this helpful read. A pome has amazing health benefits but appears daunting to eat because I wasn’t sure how to cut into it – until now. Thank you! I’ll be reading you from now on. xo

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for reading!

  • Jasna Lukic

    Hi Clotilde,

    Just enjoyed reading your latest edition and forwarded your notes on San Fran to my cousins who have just moved there. It all looks very exciting.

    As for opening pomegranates, I have used Nigella Lawson’s method for some time now and find it very easy. And I have cooked her lamb with pomegranates using this recipe time and time again, it’s delicious: http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/warm-shredded-lamb-salad-with-mint-and-pomegranate-178
    Yes,it’s a bit messy, but bashing pomegranates is rather satisfactory.
    I am in Belgrade (Serbia) at the moment, exploring new eateries and new and exciting ways of preparing traditional dishes. It’s a great place for a holiday. Very lively and friendly. Delicious pastries, roast suckling pig, beans au gratin, the choice is endless…
    All the best, Jasna

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for the link, Jasna, and the notes from Belgrade! Very tempting.

  • Kelly Crichton

    Personally, I enjoy starting my morning bashing pomegranate seeds into my granola. And when they’re here, my young grandsons love helping with the task. They also love eating them on their own… in small bowls…just like jelly beans.

  • Donna

    Pomegranates abound all over where I live—weekenders yards and friends.
    You can roll them like a lemon or orange to break up the membranes before cutting. A grapefruit spoon and grapefruit knife make for easier cutting. I also juice them with an electric juicer—I do that outside in my breezeway. With white walls easy to spot any red spots to wipe. They like cold weather, can grow as a bush or a tree. Were a dollar each last years and now 2.00 each in the markets Plus they wax the shells.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for the tips, Donna!

  • Daniela

    There is a very simple way to get the seeds out: just cut the fruit in half, put one half with the cut surface facing down into your open palm and knock onto the fruit with the roundt side of a spoon. The seeds drop out easily this way. I learned this method in the Arab World and since using it I really enjoy pomegrades!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Ah yes, that sounds like the same method described in the video I linked to! I’ll try that next time.

  • Gill

    Pomegranates do grow in South Africa. In Zambia where I grew up it was always a race between the birds and us as to who got to the pomegranates first when they were ripening!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I am very curious about what it was like to grow up in Zambia, and love to imagine that race. How do the birds eat the pomegranates? Do they peck on the skin until it opens and then pluck out the seeds?

  • Donna

    Read about how it’s hard to find cream of tarter in France and Belgium. Maybe because Penzey’s spices imports it. Wonder why they don’t use it from here in California from the wineires (unless has to come from wood barrels?)?

  • Ursula

    I definitely find a huge time saving in the wooden spoon method – it really takes only a minute or two to almost empty a half shell. A good thing if you like to eat them in decadent spoonfuls. We like ours with a little cassis poured over just to up the decadence factor!

    I also recently heard yet another method, that I haven’t tried yet, which is to break your pomegranate in half, put the half between two bowls (facing each other to form a “ball”), and then shake it around. This apparently also shakes all the seeds out, and has the advantage of not spraying juice everywhere. Who knows?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I need to try that too! It reminds me of the Saveur video a little while back about peeling garlic by shaking it.

  • sue T

    I always thought that pomegranates were tropical fruits until we moved to France and saw a tree full of fruits in a local village. There’s a huge tree in Nontron where I go shopping and sadly no-one picks them!
    When we were small a pomegranate was a real treat and we used to have a pin to pick out the seeds and pop them in our mouths, yummy!!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Well, there you go — not very exotic then! Love the pin idea.

  • http://living-learning-eating.blogspot.com/ Sabrina @ Living, Learning, Eating

    Great post! I love pomegranates, but buying just the seeds is expensive (and hard to find) and I always have so much trouble figuring out the whole fruit. I’ll have to try this technique!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Do report back if you try it!

  • Laura

    A silly question, perhaps, but how do you eat the seeds? I can’t manage it. I suck on each one to get at the juice, but I have to spit out the hard seed inside. Never mind that it took me two hours to eat half a pomegranate this way… I just love the colour of those little gems!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I just swallow the hard seed, and I think that’s what people generally do, kind of like with passion fruit.

    • Kirstin Lucas

      I find I have to spit out the hard seed as well.

      • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

        I bite gently so as not to crack the tough seed, which I agree is fairly unpleasant, then just swallow.

  • Mikulas

    Here is my method. Cut the fruit on equator. Cut each half on five white separate lines, you could see that where is the white spongy stuff. You will have five section. In each section, in the middle is thin membrane. Push on the red skin to open seeds, remove membrane. Remove seeds to bowl of water. Some white pieces will float on the top. Strain them and you have clean seeds. No mess or loss of the juice.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for sharing your method, Mikulas!

  • Cristina

    I release the seeds different ways every time I buy them. Mostly, I try to buy pomegranates already seeded. It’s worth the extra money to me since I don’t buy them that often.

    But my favorite use is in making guacamole. The sweet-tart taste is the perfect complement to the spicy jalapeños, and the bright color is gorgeous in the green dish. All I use is avocado, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, jalapeños and the pomegranate seeds along with a bit of salt.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      It must look gorgeous indeed!

  • Ariel

    It is a real shame to ‘deseed’ the pomegranate in water. You lose the precious juices which are so good for you. I use the wooden spoon method. I cut the fruit in half and then turn it over in my palm so the seeds are facing downwards. I then start to hit it with a wooden spoon while I gently squeeze the half as the seeds are falling out. Now you get all the juice and the seeds and lose none of the nutrition. Never clean the fruit in water. You can taste the difference between the fruit deseeded in water and that without water. The wooden spoon method is quick and you can just pull out the white skin.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      Thanks, Ariel. Just in case it wasn’t clear from my explanation, the seed pods are left intact in water, so none of the juice is lost.

      • Ariel

        Oh yes, I got that. However, you will see what I mean if you use the wooden spoon method. When taking out the seeds, it is inevitable that some juice is extracted. Putting the seeds in water causes them to be washed so to speak and definitely dilutes the flavour.

        • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

          Thanks Ariel — I’ll give it a try and a taste test next time!

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