This Peach Melba dessert recipe is the perfect evening treat that is ready in 15 minutes. The sweet peaches are poached in a delicious simple syrup, the raspberries are turned into a velvety sauce, and they're both served over top creamy vanilla ice cream. I mean, who wouldn’t love that?!
If you have never heard of peach melba, you are in for a treat! It is a classic French dessert that has stood the test of time. It is a perfect way to use those summer peaches and berries but also makes for one awesome holiday party dessert!
What is Peach Melba?
Peach melba is a beloved dessert with a long and famous history going back to the 1870s. Traditionally, it’s poached peach halves with raspberry sauce served over vanilla ice cream.
It’s said to have been invented by a French chef and first served to guests at a grand opening of a London Hotel where it quickly gained great popularity. It got its name from the opera singer, Nellie Melba, who the French chef, Auguste Escoffier was friends with.
Now, hundreds of years later, this dessert is still one of the most enjoyed desserts year-round. It’s the perfect way to showcase the summer peach season and can also be made with frozen fruit and served in the winter.
Ingredients and Substitutions
All substitutions are a 1:1 substitute unless otherwise noted.
Sugar: We use white sugar or cane sugar to make the simple syrup that the peaches will be poached in.
Substitutions: Honey or agave will work in place of sugar here. These liquid sugars will make the peaches more mushy though. You can use brown sugar for a more caramelized flavor.
Water: Enough water is needed to cover the peaches while poaching. This also makes the base of the simple syrup.
Substitutions: Sorry, no substitutions for this.
Vanilla: Adding vanilla to the poaching liquid helps to also bring out the vanilla in the ice cream.
Substitutions: We recommend pure vanilla extract, but imitation vanilla can be used in a pinch. Vanilla bean powder or paste are also great options.
Lemon Juice: We only use enough lemon juice to preserve the beautiful color of the peaches, not enough to flavor the syrup. The acidity in the lemon juice prevents oxygen from reacting to the polyphenol oxidase. Instead, the oxygen reacts with the acid from the lemon juice, thus preventing browning.
Substitutions: Lime juice or pineapple juice can be used in place of lemon juice. Lemon peel could be used too.
Peaches: You need 4 ripe peaches! While poaching them softens peaches and sweetens them a little bit, it does not make them that much sweeter. If you aren’t sure how to see if your peaches are ripe, check out our notes below on picking the best peach!
Substitutions: You can use frozen peaches, but I do not recommend poaching them. Simply thaw the peaches and make the simple syrup separately to use in the raspberry sauce.
Raspberries: We use bright and fresh red raspberries. I am sure this would be tasty with wild black raspberries too!
Substitutions: Fresh or frozen raspberries that have been thawed will work great!
Vanilla Ice Cream: I love that this recipe can be made dairy-free or gluten-free simply by picking which ice cream you like best. I made mine with dairy-free Very Vanilla ice cream from So Delicious and man, was it SO delicious!
Substitutions: Use any ice cream you like! You can also make your own no-churn ice cream using our vanilla ice cream recipe.
Recipe Testing Notes
Throughout our testing of this peach melba, we learned some key things that worked and didn't work. Here are the key takeaways!
Using simple syrup to sweeten the sauce: Traditional peach melba uses powdered sugar to make the raspberry sauce. So, we tested the sauce this way and by using the poaching syrup. We found that the sauce with the poaching syrup had a smoother finish, plus it requires fewer ingredients!
Cutting the peaches: Again with the traditional - traditional peach melba serves ice cream with peach halves. We found this to be difficult to eat so we cut the peaches into bite-sized pieces from the get-go.
How To Make This - Step by Step
Step one: make poaching syrup
Add the vanilla, lemon juice, water, and cup of sugar to a pot or wide saucepan and bring to a boil. The pot or medium saucepan should be small to medium but deep to ensure the liquid fully covers the peach slices. Let this boil while stirring periodically until the sugar dissolves. While that is going, prepare the peaches by slicing them into ⅛ths or at least into halves.
Step two: poach peaches
Place peach halves or slices cut side down in the poaching syrup and keep boiling over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, or until the peaches are fork tender. While these go, prepare your blanching bowl by putting ice and water into a large bowl and setting it next to the stove.
Step three: blanch peaches
When the peaches are done, remove them with a slotted spoon (do not strain them because we still need the poaching liquid!). Drop them directly into the blanching bowl and gently stir. Leave these to be while you make the sauce.
Step four: make the sauce
To make the sauce, add the fresh raspberries and ½ cup of the poaching sugar syrup to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Because the liquid is hot, it is SUPER important to remove the middle venting cap on the blender lid. Use a paper towel to loosely cover this opening while you blend just to keep the raspberries from splattering.
Step five: strain and peel
Strain the raspberry sauce through a fine-mesh sieve (this is not required but makes for a super smooth sauce). Leave this to cool slightly while you remove the peach slices from the ice water. Carefully remove the skin from each peach slice and dice the slices into 3 equally sized bite-size pieces per slice.
Step six: assemble
To assemble, add a large scoop or 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream to a bowl, top with diced peeled peaches (or approximately ¼th of what you have chopped up), and drizzle with raspberry puree. I like to do the raspberry sauce at the table for a real show-stopper effect!
Watch How to Make This - Step by Step
This recipe is super simple to make, but to make sure it is peach perfect, here are some expert tips!
- Strain the sauce: While straining the sauce may seem annoying, it takes the sauce from good to great! Use the back of a spoon to push the sauce through quicker.
- Cool peach versus warm: I prefer the peaches to still be a bit warm when serving. This makes for a gooey and saucy dessert! However, if you do not want any melted ice cream, you can cool the peaches before serving.
The original recipe for peach melba was invented by a French chef and first served at the Savoy Hotel in London.
To pick a great peach, gently squeeze the peach. The perfect peach will have a slight give, similar to if you were to squeeze playdough. If it is hard, then the peach is not ripe.
Melba sauce is a homemade raspberry sauce made with tart raspberries and sugar.
Adding sugar helps the fruit to retain its shape during the poaching process. It also helps to prevent the dilution effect, where the fruit becomes less sweet through the poaching process. Check out this great article on Dilution Through Osmosis!
Want to mix up how you serve a classic peach Melba? You’re in luck! Here are a few fun switcharoos!
Boozy Peach Melba: For a fun take on this, try replacing ½ cup of water with bourbon to poach the peaches in. This will also add that bourbon flavor to the sauce!
Crunchy Peach Melba: For a nice crunch, try topping your peach Melbas with toasted sliced almonds or toasted coconut.
Melba Toast: Looking for a breakfast version of this delicious dessert recipe? Try topping toast with poached peaches and raspberry sauce. Maybe serve with a little cream cheese or Greek yogurt.
Want to make this ahead of time? Here's how!
Peach Melba toppings are awesome for making in advance and taste great the next day! I recommend only scooping enough ice cream for serving because that won’t save well.
Making ahead of time: The peaches can be poached and the raspberry sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance. They will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days and taste delicious straight from the fridge! When ready to serve, simply scoop the ice cream and top it with cold peaches (or let them come to room temperature) and raspberry sauce.
Poaching fruit is a way of softening the fruit to make for a very tender bite. This is especially helpful when the fruit is not totally ripe yet. But, when poached in plain water, the fruit absorbs the water and therefore the sugar percentage decreases by weight. Same sugar + more water = less % sweetness thanks to osmosis! (source)
More Tasty Dessert Recipes
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- 2 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ tablespoon lemon juice
- 4 peaches
- 1 cup raspberries
- 3-4 cup vanilla ice cream
To Make the Peaches:
- Heat water, sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice in a small saucepan to make the poaching syrup. Stir periodically until the sugar melts.
- While that heats up, halve the peaches.
- Once boiling, reduce the poaching syrup to a quick simmer. Add in the peaches (make sure fully submerged) and let poach for 2-3 minutes or until soft.
- While the peaches are poaching, prepare a large bowl with water and ice.
- Remove the peaches with a spoon (preferably slotted spoon) and transfer to the bowl with ice water. After a quick dunk, remove the peaches and set on a plate or cutting board. Turn the heat off on the poaching syrup once all peaches have been poached.
- Carefully peel the peach halves and slice the peaches into cubes.
To Make the Melba sauce:
- Add the raspberries to a blender with approximately 1 cup of the hot poaching syrup. This does not need to be exact, as this is a very hot liquid so it is better to just gather an approximate amount.
- Remove the center piece from the blender lid and place the lid on the blender. This is critical because hot liquid will explode if covered completely. Use a paper towel to loosely cover (this is purely to prevent a red raspberry explosion) that hole while blending. Blend the raspberries until pureed.
- Strain the raspberry sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a pourable container.
- Scoop 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream into each dish, top with 1 peach per dish, and then pour raspberry sauce and enjoy!