- Pomegranates are one of the most nutritious fruits — full of fiber, vitamins, and polyphenols.
- The tools needed to cut a pomegranate are a paring knife, cutting board, and a large bowl to hold all the seeds.
- A medium-sized pomegranate will yield one cup of seeds or ⅓ cup of pomegranate juice.
For most people, opening a pomegranate is less like skillful cutting and more like mangling through the thick shell and hoping the hundreds of delicate seeds come out unscathed.
Pomegranates are a tricky fruit to tackle. Just the look of a pomegranate — it’s waxy reddish husk, substantial size (larger than an apple, smaller than a grapefruit), and the spiky “crown” on top — is enough to keep you from adding it to your shopping cart. Plus, the juice from any broken seeds can stain your clothes, skin, and almost anything it touches.
However, passing on pomegranates means you’re missing out on one of the healthiest fruits. Pomegranates not only have the fiber and vitamins found in most fruits, they're also antibacterial, antiviral, and have three different types of polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants.
Pomegranates are also very versatile. They can be sprinkled on salads and power bowls, used in meat marinades and dips, and added to juice blends. And of course, the fruit is also delicious on its own.
To enjoy this juicy superfood, the first step is to learn how to cut a pomegranate. The easiest, quickest, most mess-free techniques are below.
Picking the Perfect Pomegranate
Pomegranates have a distinct taste that’s between sweet and tart. It’s most similar to cherries and cranberries. To make sure you get one that’s on the sweeter side, look for pomegranates with skin that has a vibrant color (although it doesn’t have to always be red). The skin should also be plump and fairly smooth.
It’s important to note the best pomegranates are not perfectly round. As the fruit ripens and the gem-shaped pulp, called arils, fills with juice, the skin gets pushed out and forms angular sides. Pomegranates that are a smooth sphere are not yet ripe.
Furthermore, a cracked pomegranate is not necessarily bad. As long as the crack is only on the surface and hasn’t gone through the flesh, the pomegranate is still okay. In fact, the skin is expected to crack as the interior ripens and swells with juice. As such, cracks indicate the fruit is juicy and ripe for the picking.
Next, pick up the pomegranate. It should feel hefty for its size — a heavy fruit means the seeds hold more juice, while a lighter one indicates the seeds are on the drier or smaller side. Give the pomegranate a firm tap. Ripe fruits will have a hollow somewhat metallic sound.
Note that pomegranates stop ripening as soon as they’re picked. This means no leaving the fruit in a paper bag or out for a few days — pomegranates should be eaten as soon as they’re picked.
So instead of big box fruit that’s transported from across the country, it’s better to buy yours straight from a local farmer’s market or produce stand. These vendors are more likely to have freshly picked pomegranates.
The months between September and February (and then again from March to May) are best for finding in-season pomegranates.
The Tools You Need To Cut a Pomegranate
The tools needed to cut open a pomegranate are a sharp paring knife, a stable cutting board, and a large bowl or container to hold all the seeds. A paring knife usually has a blade length of 2 1/2 to 4 inches. This is perfect for deftly cutting through the husk and membrane of a pomegranate.
A wooden cutting board is also the best work surface for any kitchen cutting task. Just be sure the board is protected with mineral oil. Regular applications not only build a water-repellent barrier, the oil will also protect the board from liquid seeping into and staining the surface. You can place a thin kitchen towel or paper towel on the board to protect the wood from any juice.
It’s also a good idea to have a large serving spoon or soup spoon on hand. This can be used to hit the pomegranate husk and dislodge some of the seeds.
How to Cut a Pomegranate Peel
The first step to get to the pomegranate seeds is to break through the tough outer husk.
Start by slicing off a sliver from the bottom of the pomegranate. This way, the fruit can stand steadily on top of the cutting board. Then use the tip of the knife to cut around the base of the top crown. Cut about 1/2 an inch deep, just enough to go through the membrane without piercing through the fruit. Gently pick out the crown and dispose of it.
Alternatively, you can take off the entire top of the pomegranate in one straight slice. Remove about 1/2 to 1 inch to keep from cutting into the seeds and spilling any juice.
Next, make shallow cuts from top to bottom all around the whole pomegranate. If possible, try to cut between the ridges — these are where the inner membranes are. A standard pomegranate should have about six cuts.
Once all the cuts have been made, place your thumbs in the top center of the pomegranate (where the crown was) and gently pry open the fruit. It should come apart easily.
How to Deseed a Pomegranate
Once you've broken the pomegranate into segments, the next step is to separate the seeds. There are three ways to do this.
The fastest is to hold a pomegranate segment with the exposed side down. The seeds should be in the palm of your hand. Then holding a large spoon in the other hand, start vigorously tapping the husk. The seeds should start falling into your hand. Do this over a bowl or container to keep the seeds from scattering over the cutting board. Repeat for all the remaining segments.
Another way to remove the seeds is to place the segments in a bowl of water for a few minutes. The cold water will help soften the membranes and pith. Then with the pomegranate submerged in the water, use your hands to dislodge the seeds. You can remove clusters at a time, as the seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl, and the membranes and pith will float to the top. Once all the seeds have been removed, pick out all the membranes and drain the water.
The third way is to simply remove the seeds straight from the segments. Start by turning each segment out — holding onto the edges and using your thumbs to push the center of each piece forward. This will also push most of the seeds out. Do this over a bowl, then use your fingers to remove any seeds left in the membrane. Follow the same steps for the rest of the pomegranate segments.
This takes a bit longer, as each seed has to be picked out, but ensures the pomegranate is completely clean and free of any white membrane.
Using any of these three techniques will result in a nice bowl of juicy pomegranate seeds. A medium sized fruit will yield about one cup of juicy seeds or 1/3 cup of pomegranate juice. These can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for three to four days. They can also be frozen for up to three months. As with all fruit, however, it’s best to enjoy your fresh pomegranate as soon as possible.
The Fruits of Your Labor
With so many nutritional benefits and a distinct punchy flavor, pomegranates are worth the effort to open. They can be sprinkled on so many dishes — from sweet to savory — and add an interesting dimension to any meal.