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How to Cut a Pomegranate the Satisfying Way

Learn how to de-seed a pomegranate using the “spoon-thwacking” method. You’ll wind up with a delicious bowl of fruit in no time, and minimal mess.

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Photograph by Olga Ivanova

Every time I sit down to eat a pomegranate, I am confronted with a challenge — the undeniable difficulty of extracting the seeds from this tantalizing fruit. 

Why can’t a pomegranate be more like an orange? An orange I can understand. Beneath the peel, the edible fruit is arranged in more or less even segments, in a radial symmetry that just makes sense, each morsel easy to section off and consume, each structure easy to visualize and digest. 

A pomegranate on the other hand is pure chaos. Inside that leathery skin, you’ll find overlapping lobes of inedible white pith and connective tissues, with edible kernels facing every which way, hemmed in by tough fibrous membranes, lodged in place with tough little roots that resist a probing finger or a prying eye. 

A structure as chaotic as the pomegranate demands bold strokes, not surgical precision. That’s why I endorse a method of seed extraction that is as violent and imprecise as it is effective. Sure, you may mash a fleshy sarcotesta or two in the process, but stick with me here and soon you’ll be whacking your pomegranates with savage efficiency and enjoying your hard fought meal of juicy pomegranate seeds with the satisfaction that can only come from swift and decisive action. 


Jump ahead to:

Juicy answers to your pomegranate questions >>

Step-by-step instructions for de-seeding a pomegranate >>

Recipes using pomegranate seeds >> 


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Juicy answers to your pomegranate questions

Learn the basics of pomegranates in this handy Q&A


What part of the pomegranate is edible? 

The seeds are the edible part: That means you can eat both the juicy, ruby-red flesh (aka the sarcotesta) that surrounds the seed itself, and also the crunchy white core. The skin, pulp, and thin membrane in which the seeds are embedded are not edible; they’re too fibrous and bitter to enjoy. 


What is the sarcotesta?

The sarcotesta is the proper botanical term for the layer of juicy flesh that enrobes each pomegranate seed. That layer (and the seed itself) is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a “pomegranate aril,” but an aril, it turns out, is a whole ‘nother part of a fruit, a part that the pomegranate simply doesn’t have. If you have more questions about the bewildering variety of seed dispersal mechanisms in the fruiting world, allow me to direct you to this article, which provided answers to seed questions that it never occurred to me to ask.   


How do I pick a good pomegranate?

Ripe pomegranates have a smooth, hard rind and should have undulating curves and semi-flat sides that show off the swelling lobes inside rather than perfectly round symmetry.  Look for fruit that feels heavy for its size and is free of bruises or cracks. In North America, pomegranates are ready to harvest from mid-September to December or January, so you’re most likely to find ripe fruit at the grocery store during the winter months. 


I heard it’s better to de-seed underwater?

I heard that too. While it’s true that the method I endorse can splash a little juice around, I think it’s a far easier and more elegant way to extract the seeds than its rival strategy. Detractors of my “Divide and Thwack” method claim that it’s messy and imprecise, that pomegranate seeds fly everywhere and juice stains all over shirt fronts and floor. Sure, some seeds get squished, but I find my technique no more messy than lopping off the top of the pomegranate, cutting it into chunks and working the seeds loose with your fingers while keeping the fruit submerged in a bowl of water. If you follow my tutorial closely, I think you’ll find that the collateral damage and mess is limited — allow the thwacked seeds to fall into your hand and then into the waiting bowl below. Plus, it’s all over in seconds. Manual extraction is fussy, detailed work; some versions call for a lengthy pre-soak before getting to work. Call me impatient, but I’m a fan of immediate pomegranate gratification. I don’t want to wait around; I just want to eat. 

Also, I like to whack a pomegranate. It’s fun. 


How long do pomegranates stay fresh?

Whole pomegranates stay fresh for a couple of weeks on the counter at room temperature, and up to a couple of months in the fridge. Once you’ve removed and dried the seeds, they can stay in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days, or in the freezer indefinitely. If you have more pomegranate than you know what to do with, consider juicing the seeds and freezing the juice. 



Step-by-step instructions for de-seeding a pomegranate

Here's everything you need to know for the “Divide and Thwack” method


Step 1: Gather your materials

You’ll need a sharp knife, a large bowl, a heavy wooden spoon, and a strainer.

Photograph by Rachael Nusbaum

Step 2: Score around the pomegranate’s equator

Using your paring knife, score the skin around the middle of the pomegranate to a depth of about 1/4 inch, dividing it into two more or less even hemispheres. Don’t cut too deep, as you could slice the seeds and make more mess than necessary.

Photograph by Rachael Nusbaum

Step 3: Use brute force to break the pomegranate into halves

Channel your inner Schwarzenegger and use your thumbs to force the two halves of the pomegranate apart, exposing the ruby red seeds. 

Photograph by Rachael Nusbaum

Step 4: Invert one half in the palm of your hand over the bowl

With the exposed seeds facing down toward the bowl, cup the pomegranate half in the palm of your hand and hold it over the bowl, skin-side up.


Step 5: Thwack like crazy with a spoon while rotating the fruit

Take aim at a spot just off center and start thwacking the outside of the pomegranate with your spoon. Thwack with abandon. Don’t be shy. As you dislodge the seeds from one section of the fruit, rotate it in your palm so your blows strike all over the surface. The seeds will fall out into your hand and drop into the bowl along with dribbles of bright magenta pomegranate juice. 

Photograph by Rachael Nusbaum

Step 6: Repeat the spoon-thwacking with the other half

Once you’ve thwacked the pomegranate thoroughly, check the interior to see if any seeds held on through the onslaught. Once you’re satisfied, repeat the process with the other half. 

Photograph by Rachael Nusbaum

Step 7: Douse the seeds in water and discard the inedible bits

Fill the bowl with cold water. White membranes and pith will float to the surface leaving the seeds at the bottom of the bowl. Skim the junk off the surface of the water and discard it. 

Photograph by Rachael Nusbaum

Step 8: Strain the seeds and enjoy

Pour out what’s left through a mesh strainer and go to town. You’ve got pomegranate seeds to eat and no time to waste. 

Photograph by Rachael Nusbaum


Recipes using pomegranate seeds

Done thwacking? Start snacking! These recipes provide a variety of ways to enjoy pomegranates, from fresh cocktails to complex chicken stew. 


Pomegranate Orange Muffins

The key to these muffins is the brown butter, which lends these sweet treats a nutty caramel backbone that really lets the tart pomegranate seeds shine. 


Winter Citrus Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

Yummly Original

This salad is a colorful showstopper. With julienned tarragon for a little licorice contrast, you’ll love this riot of citrus and sweet. 


Tahini-Maple Kale Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash

Yummly Original

This “salad” has real body: With roasted squash, toasted pecans, and a hearty tahini maple dressing, it’s nearly a full meal on its own. And what a meal it is!


Roasted Eggplant Dip

Thyme-scented za’atar and tart pomegranate go together like peanut butter and jelly in this sweet and savory variation on baba ghanouj. 


Pomegranate and Whipped Ricotta Crostini

Yummly Original

Another riot of texture and color! Smooth ricotta and crunchy pomegranate seeds bring these toasts to life!


Vegetarian Nut Loaf with Shiitake Mushroom Gravy

Yummly Original

Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, you’ll love the deep mushroomy richness of this nut loaf. I dare you to stop at one dollop of mushroom gravy — I could eat it by the cupful. 


Khoresh Fesenjan | Fesenjoon

Fesenjan is one of the classics of the Persian culinary repertoire. It shows off the depth of the pomegranate, with both pomegranate syrup and a garnish of fresh pomegranate seeds giving a sweet and sour intensity to this chicken stew. 


Christmas Rum Punch

Yummly Original

The key ingredient in this rum punch is clove-scented Velvet Falernum liqueur, just enough to give a little spice to this intoxicating winter dram. 


Pomegranate-Rosemary Gin Cocktail

Take your pomegranate cocktails in another direction with this refreshing rosemary scented spritz. 


Cardamom Pannacotta with Pomegranate Reduction

A perfect panna cotta has just enough gelatin to let the heavy cream coalesce into a jiggly, luscious flan. Topped with tart pomegranate syrup and mint, it’s the perfect sweet to cap off a night of indulgence. 


Pomegranate and Limeade Popsicle

If you’ve still got frozen pomegranate seeds in a ziptop bag in your freezer in July, break out the popsicle molds and make these refreshing frozen citrus treats. Plus pomegranate seeds have lots of antioxidants and vitamin C, so this dessert is good for you!



More how-to advice

Learn the best method for cutting a mango, a pineapple, and an onion in the guides below.

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How to Cut a Mango

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How to Cut a Pineapple

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How to Cut Onions Without Crying

Ask five people for tips on cutting onions without tears, and you’ll probably get five different answers. Now what? Here's our list of methods that actually work, and the ones that don't!


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