Coulis vs compote: What is the difference between the fruit sauces?

Traditionally, a compote is a mixture of fruits and sugar cooked on low heat. Picture: Valeria Boltneva

Traditionally, a compote is a mixture of fruits and sugar cooked on low heat. Picture: Valeria Boltneva

Published Apr 18, 2024


If you have been to a fancy restaurant and seen a delicious fruit sauce drizzled over your dessert, you were probably looking at a coulis or compote.

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a coulis and compote? If so, you are not alone.

Although the two varieties of fruit sauce are sometimes used interchangeably, there are some significant distinctions, based on how they are made and their taste, texture and standard uses.

By learning the differences, you can better identify which sauce goes with which dish or, at the least, it can be an interesting bit of trivia to share with your friends.

How different are they?

Coulis is a thick sauce made of puréed fruits or vegetables. The word “coulis” comes from the French verb “couler”, which translates to “strain, flow”. Originally, the term referred to the drippings of cooked meat.

Later, it was used to refer to puréed soups and strained gravy. While the word has been used to refer to different things over the years, it always indicates some type of thick liquid.

As coulis is widely used for decoration, it should always have a beautiful, rich colour and a fine, smooth texture.

A compote, on the other hand, is a chunky sauce that originated in Medieval Europe and is made and enjoyed to this day.

The word “compote” comes from the Latin word “compositus”, which means “mixture”. Traditionally, a compote is a mixture of fruits and sugar cooked on low heat. It may also contain spices, extracts, dried fruit and so on.

With that said, compotes can be savoury too. You can make savoury compotes using vegetables, spices and herbs. Compotes can be served either warm or cold.

What is great about the two dishes is that both provide similar health benefits.

Both use fruits or vegetables as one of their main ingredients. Thus, depending upon the ingredients used to make the recipe, the health benefits may differ from one dish to another.

However, since they use simple ingredients like fruits and vegetables, they are rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants.

They could satisfy all your hunger needs without adding many calories. Therefore, coulis and compote make an excellent addition to a healthy diet.

If you are new to the dishes, you might want to try master at least one of them. Below is an amazing recipe that uses compote, courtesy of dietician and nutritionist Ellie Krieger. Bon appétit!

Honey custard cups with blueberry compote. Picture: Tom McCorkle

Honey custard cups with blueberry compote

Serves: 6


For the custard

2 cups milk

2 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

¼ cup honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 pinch kosher salt

For the compote

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

2 tbs honey

⅛ tsp ground cardamom


Make the custard

Position a baking rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 160ºC.

Bring a kettle of water to a boil on the stove, and place a clean kitchen towel on the bottom of a 23-by-33cm baking dish.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk until very hot but not boiling. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolk, honey, vanilla and salt.

Discard any skin on the top of the hot milk. Whisk about ¼ cup of the milk into the egg mixture to temper the egg, then gradually whisk in the rest of the milk.

Pour the mixture into six ovenproof custard cups or ramekins. Place the ramekins into the baking dish on top of the towel. Position the cups so they are not touching one another or the sides of the pan.

Place the baking dish onto a rack in the middle of the oven (it prevents the ramekins from moving around) and pour hot water into the pan around the cups, so it comes a little more than halfway up the sides of the cups.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the custards are set and the tops are golden, but the custard jiggles a little in the centre when you gently shake the pan.

Remove the custard cups from the water bath and let cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Make the compote

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the blueberries, honey and cardamom and cook, stirring frequently, until the berries begin to burst, about 6 minutes.

Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. The compote will thicken as it cools.

Serve the compote slightly warm or refrigerate for up to a week in an airtight container.

Serve the slightly warm custard topped with the warmed blueberry compote or chill the custard and the compote and serve them cold.