What Is Quince? Here’s Everything You Should Know About the Fall Fruit

updated Sep 15, 2023
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Three pieces of yellow-colored quince on a kitchen scale
Credit: Faith Durand

Around the fall, many people reach for seasonal favorites like apples and pears. If you’re looking for something in-season but a little different, we recommend learning all about quince. Quince is a fall fruit that looks similar to apples and pears, but tastes quite different. It’s yellow in appearance, short, somewhat round, and has a relatively tough texture. Whole quince fruit is not available everywhere, but quince paste is commonly sold in stores. Read on to learn about both!

Quick Overview

What Is Quince?

Quince is a round and edible fruit close in size to an apple or a pear. It has a rather tough texture and is more commonly consumed in a processed state because it tends to be very acidic in flavor.

The fruit, which usually develops a pink color when cooked, is native to the countries of Turkey, Iran, and Greece and is commonly turned into a sweet paste, similar to guava, which is often served on boards with various cheeses and crackers.

(Image credit: Emily Han)

What Is Quince and What Does It Taste Like?

Quince is an ancient fruit, found in Roman cooking and grown across Turkey, Iran, Greece, and southeast Asia. It grows on small trees and closely resembles apples and pears. The fruit is somewhat bumpy on the outside, with an irregular shape and often a gray fuzz — especially when the fruit has been picked underripe.

The ripest, nicest quince will have a golden tone and smooth skin (like pictured directly above). Raw quince, even when ripe, isn’t considered edible because it’s known to be acidic and very firm. When cooked, however, quince can take on a pleasantly sweet small and flavor that is great in pastes.

How To Cook Quince

The first clue that quince hides something special is its aroma. If you leave a quince on a sunny windowsill it will slowly release a delicate fragrance of vanilla, citrus, and apple into your kitchen.

And then, if you peel a quince and hack it up, then cook it, those scents blossom into an indescribably wonderful perfume, and the fruit itself magically turns from yellowed white to a deep rosy pink. When you poach quince in sugar and a little water or wine, it becomes not just edible but delicious — sweet, delicate, fragrant.

What to Do With Cooked Quince

Once the quince is cooked, it’s soft and tender, usually with a really lovely syrup from the cooking process. You can eat the fruit straight like this, or pour it over yogurt, or bake it into a tart.

You can also make a sweet, spicy paste out of it (known as membrillo in Spain) that is magnificent with cheese. I love making sorbet and other desserts with it too.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

Where to Buy Quince

Quince are often hard to find, but you may have luck at the produce section at Whole Foods. Also ask around at the farmers market; often an orchard will have just one or two quince trees.

Why Don’t We Eat More Quince?

Quince are not nearly as popular as apples and pears, of course, and the work of cooking them is part of this. I wonder if this has protected them, however, from the mass production and flattening of taste that afflicts so many popular fruits today. I was amazed in France at how delicious the local grapes were — but they were full of seeds. The process that breeds the seeds out of grapes seems to inevitably take the taste away.

But we’ve chosen convenience over flavor in our fruit, so in that sense I am glad that quince are still semi-forgotten and unpopular. If they were bred to be more consumer-friendly I wonder if that wonderful aroma would be dulled or lost. If it means keeping that astonishing flavor I am happy to peel, chop, simmer, and work hard to transform them from ugly stepsister to belle of the ball.

And perhaps this magical transformation, in the end, is what makes quince so appealing. It’s like a magic trick, a miracle of water into wine: take an inedible, ugly fruit, and produce something delicious. Add in the fact that quince are often hard to find (that element of the hunt, you know), and you can see how I’ve become more than a little obsessed.