Persian flavors sing in this tangy sweet-tart savory Persian-style roasted duck recipe. Za’atar and Pomegranate Molasses Roasted Duck is simmered, rubbed with za’atar spice paste, roasted in a hot oven, and glazed with a pomegranate orange honey sauce. It’s a show-stopper on your holiday table!
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
~~ Romans 15:13
‘Tis the season… May it be a peace-filled and joyful one spent with those you hold most dear. My husband and I will be on our way to Charlotte, North Carolina Saturday for an intimate gathering with our son Nils, daughter-in-love Jamie, and grandson Cade. Za’atar and Pomegranate Molasses Roasted Duck will be the centerpiece of our Christmas table.
In years past, we’ve been blessed to have most, if not all, of our 4 sons (and their significant others) around the Christmas table. Roasting duck can present logistical issues for home cooks, as 1 duck really only serves 2 people.
Cooking for 8 to 12 people (a typical Christmas dinner) equals 4 to 6 ducks! My 30″ range could not accommodate that number… hence I never have cooked duck for Christmas dinner.
Our smaller gathering this year provided the perfect opportunity to feature duck this year. 🙂 I am prepared with a Persian-style menu, and can’t wait to get started! I will bring 3 dishes to you between now and then, beginning with Za’atar and Pomegranate Molasses Roasted Duck. I will follow with a Zereshk (Barberry) and Pistachio Pilaf, and a Spinach and Persimmon Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette.
Persian Flavor Profile
This Persian-style roasted duck – and the recipes that follow – are based on the Persian flavor profile: Saffron, cinnamon, turmeric, mint, thyme, oregano, pistachios, pomegranates, citrus, zereshk (barberries), etc.
My inspiration for Za’atar and Pomegranate Molasses Roasted Duck came to me in the international foods aisle at HEB in McAllen. I was looking for pomegranate molasses for a salad dressing recipe planned for Thanksgiving.
I have always had to “make” my own by simmering down a bottle of juice. Imagine my delight when I spotted it on the bottom shelf in the Persian section! I perused the rest of that section, and spotted a container of za’atar spice mix. I subsequently ended up playing around with wet and dry rubs, and then glazing during cooking to find the best combination.
I have used this combination on a small chicken cooked on the grill, cornish game hens roasted in my convection oven, and most recently, on the duck roasted in my oven which you see in the photo above.
Making Za’atar and Pomegranate Molasses Roasted Duck
Pomegranate Molasses Roasted Duck Ingredients
What is Za’atar?
I’d venture to guess you may not be familiar with za’atar? Za’atar is a generic name for a spice mixture used in Middle Eastern cooking. Though recipes will vary by region, it typically includes sesame seeds, thyme, oregano, sumac, and salt.
Check out this recipe for homemade za’atar. A commercially prepared za’atar (if you are fortunate enough to have a market with a variety of international foods) is a fine substitute for homemade.
Pomegranates and Pomegranate Molasses
Pomegranates seem to be synonymous with Persian cooking… at least in the mind of this American cook. The brilliantly red fruit make an appearance in so many Persian dishes – including the popular and widely known fesenjan – but they are also an important cultural symbol. See Why Iranian Lifestyle can’t be Without Pomegranate for more info…
The health benefits of pomegranates include (but are not limited to) an impressive amount of vitamins and minerals, low in calories, rich in fiber, and potent antioxidants. For more information see 12 Health Benefits of Pomegranates.
One Duck does not go a long way! Most “experts” agree that one 5-5 1/2 pound duck serves 2-3 people… even with robust sides. So if you’re feeding 4, you really need two ducks.
The cavity of the duck is quite large, and the bird is bony. You don’t want to be short on roasted duck on Christmas Day!
While duck is considered “fatty,” it is considered a healthy food. Most of the fat is healthy fat (similar to olive oil), but about 1/3 of it is saturated. The meat itself is not high in fat.
Duck is high in protein, B12, omega fatty acids, and more. As a special occasion food, I would not hesitate to include it in a healthy diet…
I have been a fan of Food Network’s Ina Garten for many years. Her basic cooking techniques are so solid. I knew I wanted to incorporate Persian flavors, but I had no experience roasting a duck.
I looked to Ina Garten for her basic roasted duck recipe. Her Roast Duck recipe prep method yielded a golden, crispy skin, and moist and flavorful duck.
The duck goes into a hot oven, and is basted with a tangy, orange molasses pomegranate glaze. In 30 to 40 minutes, the duck should be golden, crispy, and cooked to an interior temperature of 160°.
Recommended temperatures can range from 145° to 180°. 😥 Duck is pretty forgiving, not drying out like chicken and turkey. We thought 160° made for a spectacular bird!
- Simmer the duck(s) in broth, pat dry, air dry.
- Make the rub then rub it into the skin.
- Place the duck in preheated (hot) oven.
- Make the pomegranate glaze, then begin basting periodically.
- Roast until desired temperature is reached.
- Garnish with pomegranate arils, orange slices, and fresh herbs as desired.
Tips and FAQ for Pomegranate Molasses Roasted Duck
I’m serving 4. How many ducks should I prepare? Given that a 5 pound duck feeds 2-3, you will need 2 ducks.
How much time should I allow start to finish? About 2 1/2 before carving and serving.
As mentioned above, the internal temperature recommendation for duck is 145° to 180°. Duck is fairly forgiving; I cook until an internal temperature of 160°.
In planning my Christmas menu, and putting these recipes and posts together, keep in mind that I am not attempting to recreate an authentic Persian dish. Rather, I am using Persian flavors to bring you a new “twist” on a traditional holiday favorite.
I hope that you will consider Za’atar and Pomegranate Molasses Roasted Duck for your own holiday menu this year… and as you plan take time to enjoy the beauty of the season. Merry Christmas!
- 2 - 5 to 5 1/2 pound ducks
- 6 cups chicken broth/stock
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
The Spice Paste
- 1/4 cup za'atar (see notes)
- 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
- zest of 1 large orange, or 2 small clementines or mandarins
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- several grinds pepper
- 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
- juice of 1 orange, or or 2 of the smaller varieties
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- * See Notes
Simmer the Duck (from Ina Garten's Roasted Duck)
- Unwrap the ducks and allow them to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. With a fork, prick the skin without piercing the meat. This will allow the fat to drain off while the ducks cook.
- Meanwhile, in a very large stock pot which can hold the 2 ducks, heat the chicken broth with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt until it boils. Add the ducks very carefully and bring the stock back to a boil. If there isn't enough stock to cover the ducks, add the hottest tap water to cover. If the ducks float to the top, place a plate on top to keep them immersed. When the stock comes back to a boil, lower the heat and simmer the ducks in the stock for 45 minutes.
- When the ducks are finished simmering, skim off enough duck fat from the top of the stock to pour a film on the bottom of a 14 by 18 by 3-inch roasting pan. This will keep the ducks from sticking when they roast. Carefully take the ducks out of the stock, holding them over the pot to drain.
- Place them in the roasting pan, pat the skin dry with paper towels, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. If you have time, allow the ducks to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the skin to dry.
- Read more at: Roast Duck
- Preheat oven to 475 degrees (450 convection). Combine ingredients for the spice paste in one prep bowl, and the ingredients for the glaze in another bowl.
- When ducks are simmered and thoroughly dried, rub them all over with the spice paste. Place them in the roasting pan(s), and into the hot oven.
- After about 10 minutes, brush the ducks all over with the glaze. Be generous. Repeat every 8 to 10 minutes until your desired internal temperature is reached.
- Remove from the oven. Brush on any remaining glaze. Cover with foil for about 15-20 minutes before serving to allow the ducks to absorb all the juices.
- Carve* and enjoy!
Za'atar spice mix is commercially available. You can also make your own with this recipe: Homemade Za'atar.
I love to roast using the convection setting on my oven. I drop the temperature 25 degrees, and roast for approximately 20% less time. You will want to use a thermometer to check for doneness as the cooking time varies with the oven and size of your ducks.
For help with carving those beautiful birds: How to Carve a Whole Duck.
Macronutrients are an approximation only from MyFitnessPal.com and a very rough estimate based on a 4 ounce boned serving. Don't worry about the holiday calories!
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 564 Total Fat: 33g Carbohydrates: 39g Protein: 28g