Quinces are notoriously hard to find, and even harder to eat raw. So, you always have to cook them, but first you have to find them. These golden fruits are mostly found around the Eastern part of the Mediterranean basin, North Africa, and Arabian Peninsula. Still, you can sometimes find them growing in a sweet old grandma’s backyard in Connecticut.
So what do you do if you can’t find any quinces ? You need a quince substitute, something that will approximate both the flavor and texture of these beautiful fruits as much as possible. There aren’t many substitutes, but the ones available are fairly easy to find. Let’s take a look.
Best quince substitutes
The best quince substitutes are apples with some lemon rind, pears with some lemon rind, any cherries you like, or fresh figs. All of these ingredients provide a sweetness and texture similar to quince, while the citrus rind adds depth of flavor and that specific fresh, flavor. Most of these substitutes can be found throughout the year, either fresh or frozen.
The first two ideas are the closest ones in terms of flavor, because quinces, pears, and apples are all in the same family. They share a base aroma which means you can use this to your advantage.
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Apples and lemon rind
Apples and lemon rind are a perfect mix in general, but especially if you’re trying to substitute some quinces. The apples bring the perfect texture and a nice, tart, fruity sweetness. The lemon brings a citrusy flavor and simply rounds out the overall aroma.
Now let’s talk about just what kind of apples you should use. In theory, any apples will do. But since the citrus will bring some tart notes, you should opt for golden delicious apples. They’re very sweet, but have almost no tartness to them, much like a quince.
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If you can’t find golden delicious, look for a cross between gold and red, like Jonagold apples. They’re mostly mild and sweet, with just a hint of tartness and that nice apple flavor.
Very tart and crisp apples like Granny Smith are a good match in terms of texture, but not really for flavor.
Pears and lemon rind
The exact kind of pear you use does not matter, not as much as the apples. But make sure the pears are ripe, and they’ve softened. This means you won’t get the right texture, as they’re not as dense, but you will definitely get the right flavor.
Or you can simply cook the pears less, and leave them a little tougher, like a quince.
Cherries and rose petals
Cherries definitely don’t taste like quinces, that’s for sure. But they bring a similar flavor palette: fruity, floral, and a bit tart. They’re not as sweet as quinces or pears, but they can easily be sweetened.
We recommend getting sweet cherries instead of tart, but if tart is all you have they will work too. And since quinces take on a rosy color when cooked, a red cherry is fairly similar.
Next, we recommend adding just a few rose petals to bring a floral aroma. Not just any rose, look for a kind that is edible. Those are usually the very fragrant roses with thin, wispy petals and a very noticeable middle, much like a peony. These roses range from creamy white to bright pink, and are closer in appearance to a peony or wild rose than your traditional rose bouquet.
Figs aren’t quinces, but they’re just as ‘out there’ as quinces. You don’t see figs every day, and you don’t find them just anywhere. SO they’re more of an equally interesting choice, rather than a perfect aroma substitute.
In flavor they’re like a mild strawberry, mixed with a plum. And they have tiny seeds that pop in your mouth, a lot like poppy seeds.
What does quince go with ?
Quinces don’t go with just everything, but the pairings they do have success with are definitely worth remembering. Some of out more favorite mixes involve red meat, since quinces can cut right through that dense aroma. Let’s take a look at what you can usually pair quince with, be they poaches or jam.
Various cheeses, especially mild ones
A cheese platter with a bit of poached quince, or some quince marmalade is definitely delicious. Especially if you use both a mild cheese, like Edam or Gouda, and have a bit of blue cheese on the side.
The quince on a bit of cheese is just like the fresh grape in a cheese and leafy green salad. It’s just what’s missing to make things that much better.
Oh and you can take this one step further, like making a cheese fondue with some poached quince on the side. Or make some cheese pastries and sneak in a bit of cooked quince.
Red meat and game
Red meat tends to have a strong, deep flavor like beef, duck breast, turkey, and mutton. Something light and sweet like quince is going to pair nicely with that strong aroma, and even make it more palatable for some. You can adjust the sweetness level through how much sugar you add, but we recommend focusing on the flavor more than the sweetness.
In stronger-tasting meat like mutton or venison, you may want to add more quince, and in lighter ones like pork add less. We still recommend serving a starchy veggie on the side, like potato or sweet potato or beets, but make sure you balance out the sweetness.
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Use quince as a filling
You can use that quince as a sort of filling for whatever you’re cooking. So for example you can try stuffing the turkey with some quince, or use quince jam as the ‘stuffing’ for a chicken breast roll.
And of course, you can poach a quartered quince to soften it a little, then chop it up some more and use it as a filling in a pie. Or a croissant. Or whatever sweet dessert you might want to make.
In short, there are quite a few substitutes for quince and they’re easy to find. If you do find quinces and don’t have anything to do with them just yet, try preserving them or turning them into jam or marmalade.