Compote, Coulis, Sauce, Jam

Reader Melody wants to know what a compote is and that’s a darn good question. “Compote” is a term you find used in many of your finer food and cooking magazines, usually without any explanation. Basically a compote is a sort of chunky fruit sauce. The fruits that are in it — for indeed you can have more than one in a compote — have been cooked for at least a short period of time in a light sugar syrup. A fruit cocktail, if it’s been cooked, is a compote.

How does that make it difference from a sauce? Er…well it’s not that different from a sauce when you stop to think about it, other than the fact that it’s usually quite chunky and you can eat it by itself.

What’s the difference between a compote and a jam? Primarily that it isn’t as sugary or as thick. Speaking in general terms, the intention of a compote is to lightly sweeten and gently soften your fruit without making the mixture homogenous. The fruits should be distinct as fruit when you’re done.

How about a coulis then? That’s another term you hear bandied about quite a bit. Any similarities there? Indeed a compote is not dissimilar from a coulis save for the fact the a coulis is usually cooked a little longer until the fruits is very soft, at which point the whole mess is pushed through a strainer for a more homogenous texture.

But doesn’t that just make it a sauce?

OK, wise guy, no more questions.

8 thoughts on “Compote, Coulis, Sauce, Jam”

  1. In Eastern European countries they also call fruits canned in a light sugar syrup a compote (usually without the “e”). When you look at the glass jar, it is about 1/2 to 2/3 full of slices of fruits or berries floating on top of syrup. It is served in the form of a clear fruit soup of sorts during winter months.

  2. Interesting, how some terms change their meaning in different languages. In Latvian, “kompots” (obviously, term with similar roots as “compote”) means canned whole fruits in light syrup Among many households it’s common way of preserving fruits and berries for winter, and “kompots” with chantilly cream is a nice and quick dessert itself.

    1. Great stuff, Antuanete. We seem to be talking about the same thing (more or less). Whole or large pieces of fruit that have been gently cooked (or preserved).


      – Joe

  3. Thanks for answering the question Joe…. I had never herard the term before but with the explanation, i realize that we kinda make our own versions of it here, albeit unintentionally. 🙂

    Thanks again for the education.


  4. My Mum just called it stewed fruit, and we had it regularly for desert with ice cream, and for breakfast with cereal.

    1. Yep, I heard that same term a lot in Britain lo these many years ago!


      – Joe

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