Poire Belle Hélène

Poire Belle Hélène is a classic French dessert made with poached pears, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate sauce. It is named after the 19th-century French opera by Jacques Offenbach.


  • 2 ripe pears
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter


  1. Peel the pears, leaving the stem intact. Rub the pears with the lemon half to prevent browning.
  2. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. In a medium saucepan, combine the vanilla bean, sugar, water, and pears. Cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the pears are just tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and let the pears cool in the syrup.
  4. In a small saucepan, heat the cream, milk, chocolate, and butter over low heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate is melted and the sauce is smooth.
  5. To serve, place a pear in the center of each plate. Spoon the chocolate sauce over the pears and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Potential changes & improvements

There are many potential variations on this classic recipe. For a richer dessert, you could replace the milk with cream, or use a dark chocolate sauce. For a lighter dessert, you could use white chocolate or omit the chocolate sauce altogether. You could also add a liqueur to the poaching syrup, such as Grand Marnier or Cognac.

What other food it works well with

Poire Belle Hélène is typically served with vanilla ice cream, but other flavors would work well too. Try it with a scoop of chocolate ice cream, or a dollop of whipped cream.

Common Mistakes

One common mistake is to overcook the pears, which will make them mushy. Another is to use unripe pears, which will not be as tender and may not have the same flavor. Finally, be careful not to scorch the chocolate sauce.

Nutritional Information

This recipe is relatively high in sugar and fat, but can be easily lightened up by using low-fat milk and omitting the chocolate sauce.


This recipe contains dairy and tree nuts (chocolate).

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