Quince paste (otherwise known as membrillo, quince cheese or quince jelly) is a sweet, thick jelly made from quince fruit and commonly added as a sweet touch to cheese boards (Manchego cheese in particular).
Membrillo, or dulce de membrillo, is sold in square blocks and became popular in Spain in the 18th Century.
Where does the name quince paste originate from?
Quince fruit grows on the quince tree (Cydonia oblonga) and is a member of the Rosaceae family of pome fruits.
A quince looks like a cross between an apple and a pear but when it's cooked, the flesh changes colour from white to a ruby red.
Quince looks tasty but don’t be fooled, you can't eat quince raw as they are too acidic and could cause vomiting.
If you eat them in large quantities, the seeds can be poisonous, but like apples, quince contains high amounts of pectin which makes them ideal for jams and pastes. These will not make you sick.
Who invented quince paste, and when did it become popular?
The Spanish popularised quince paste as an accompaniment to cheese, but it has appeared throughout history in various forms, so it’s difficult to pin down a single person as the king or queen of quince paste. There are even mentions of quince paste in Roman cookbooks from the late 4th and early 5th Century AD.
Are membrillo and quince paste the exact same thing?
Yes, the name membrillo is the Spanish name for quince paste. You’ll find that it’s called by different names around the globe, such as marmelada in Portugal and Brazil and cotognata in Italy.
What does it taste like?
Quince paste tastes tangy and sweet, although the sweetness does depend on the amount of sugar used in the recipe.
How is it normally eaten, and what should you eat with it with?
Usually, thin slices of quince paste are placed on top of cheese and crackers, most famously Manchego cheese in Spain, although it is now served with many different kinds of cheese.
It is also popular as confectionary on its own or as a breakfast snack, added to spreadable cheese on toast. You’ll find quince paste as an ingredient in many recipes. You can see a full recipe collection for quince paste here.
Can you eat quince paste when pregnant?
Yes! Some believe that quince paste, which is rich in nutrients, does wonders for morning sickness and other ailments. It should only be eaten in cooked paste form though.
If you're concerned about eating it, talk to your GP or healthcare provider.
Is the quince fruit just used for making quince paste?
No, quince are actually used as ingredients for many dishes and have lots of uses away from the cheeseboard. Quince paste is also commonly used in marinades, for example, with this slow-roasted roast duck recipe.
What are its nutritional values?
Quince paste is a ‘sometimes food’ to be consumed in small quantities.
It’s made up of quince and sugar, so it has little nutritional value and is high in calories. 15g (or 1 tbsp) of quince paste has 40 calories and 30mg of salt.
How to make quince paste
Whipping up some homemade quince paste is easier than you think. Try this simple and easy-to-follow quince paste recipe for beginners.
What you’ll need
• 1 kg of fresh quince
• 2.5 kg white sugar
• Juice of 1 lemon
1. Wash, peel and cut the quince fruit into 2cm chunks. Place the core and peels in a cheesecloth or tea towel and add to a saucepan with the remainder of the fruit.
2. Boil in water for 30 minutes or until they soften.
3. Press the quince paste through a sieve or use a stick blender, using a food processor will result in too fine a paste.
4. Place pulp back in the pan and stir lemon juice and sugar through the warm mixture until dissolved. Cook on a low heat for 1 hour until the paste thickens.
5. Place the paste in a lined baking tray or dish and place in the oven on a low temperature, no higher than 50 degrees for 90 minutes or until it has dried completely.
6. Store the paste in an airtight container or glass jar.
Quince paste tips and FAQs
What should you do if your quince paste is not setting?
If you find your quince paste is not setting, it’s probably because there’s too little pectin, try adding a bit more lemon juice.
Can you make quince paste in a slow cooker?
Yes, you can, follow the same steps above using a slow cooker rather than a saucepan.
Can you make quince paste in a Thermomix?
What can’t the Thermomix do? Try this recipe from the Thermomix community page.
How to store quince paste
It’s best to store quince paste in the fridge in an airtight container. Think of it the same way you store jam.
How long does quince paste last?
Store quince paste in the fridge and it should last a minimum of three months.
Can you freeze quince paste?
You can also freeze quince paste for six months or more. Wrap it well in plastic film and store in a freezer bag.
Where can you buy quince paste?
If you don’t have the time to make the quince paste recipe yourself, you can still get your quince paste fix from most supermarkets and delicatessens. You could try Maggie Beer quince paste from Coles or Julianne's Kitchen quince paste from Woolworths.