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BEST Asian Pear Substitutes + What To Avoid

I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of Asian pear substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.

Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry swap, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.

Bosc pears or sweet apples are the best substitutes for Asian pears. You can use them for making bulgogi, snacking, salads, and even in desserts. But if you’re only using the pears as a meat tenderizer, you can try other fruits like kiwi and pineapples. White onions also work, but you’ll need to add sugar. 

The experiment

I made different batches of beef bulgogi to try out several Asian pear substitutes. 

Asian pears look more like apples than pears (check out the video below!). They have a sweet flavor and a crisp texture, making them great for snacking and using in raw dishes like salads. 

But they’re most commonly used as an ingredient in beef bulgogi’s marinade. Not only do they add a characteristic sweetness, but they have an enzyme called calpain, which acts as a meat tenderizer. 

The downside with these pears is that they’re not widely available and can be pricey because they’re difficult to grow. Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:

SubstitutesSubstitute DirectionsVerdict
Bosc pearsReplace in a 1:1 ratio10/10
Apples (Fuji/Honeycrisp)Replace in a 1:1 ratio9/10
KiwiReplace with ½ the amount of pureed kiwi.8/10
PineapplesReplace ½ the amount of pureed canned pineapple and a teaspoon of syrup.8/10
Diet cokeReplace with a splash of coke.7/10
White onionsReplace with ½ the amount of grated white onions + 1 tsp sugar.6/10

Common uses for Asian pears

For bulgogi: You can use any pears or sweet apples to substitute Asian pears in making bulgogi. Other acidic fruits like kiwis or pineapples will also work.

For snacking/salads: Fuji or honeycrisp apples are just as sweet and as juicy as Asian pears.

For baking/poaching: Bosc or Anjous pears are the best swap for baking because of their firm texture.

Bosc pears

Bosc pears are my go-to substitute for Asian pears because they’re way easier to find and more affordable. And they have the same sweet flavor, so you can use them in a 1:1 ratio.

They tasted great in my bulgogi and I can also see them working well for snacking, desserts, and salads. They’re a little less crisp in texture, but still firm enough to hold up well during cooking.

Anjous pears are also a potential option. But varieties like Forelle, Bartlett, and Taylor’s Gold have a softer texture than Asian pears, so reserve them for making sauces or jellies. 

How to substitute: replace Asian pears in a 1:1 ratio with grated Bosc pears.

Sweet apples

Apples and pears evolved from the same species, so it’s no surprise to see them on a list of Asian pear substitutes.

There are lots of apple varieties, but I highly suggest skipping the Granny Smiths and opting for sweeter options like Fuji or Honeycrisp. They’re super common, so finding them in your local grocery store is a breeze.

They’re juicy and crisp (perfect for snacking on), and although they’re a tad less sweet than Asian pears, I didn’t really notice in my bulgogi.

Psst… if you fancy some added tartness, try Pink Lady Apples

How to substitute: replace Asian pears in a 1:1 ratio with grated Fuji or Honeycrisp apples.


I know what you’re thinking, kiwis are nothing like Asian pears. But these small fruits work surprisingly well for marinating the beef in bulgogi, and they’re super tasty in salads.

Like Asian pears, kiwi has a meat-tenderizing enzyme called actinidin, which helps break down the proteins in your beef. 

Just a heads up though. The actinidin enzyme is very potent, so you don’t need to use much and you don’t need to marinate the meat for long.

Thirty minutes will be enough. Any longer and you risk the meat turning into mush… not the texture you’re going for with bulgogi!

How to substitute: replace Asian pears with ½ the amount of pureed kiwi. 


Ripe pineapples are another excellent substitute for Asian pears in bulgogi marinade. 

They bring a distinct sweet flavor, sort of like Asian pears but with more citrusy notes. And they have an enzyme called bromelain, which works similarly to the calpain in Asian pears.

This results in succulent, melt-in-your-mouth bulgogi that will have your guests begging for seconds.

Psst… you can also add a teaspoon of the syrup once you’ve pureed your pineapple to bump up the sweetness.

How to substitute: replace Asian pears with half the amount of pureed canned pineapple and a teaspoon of syrup. 

Diet Coke

Diet Coke may sound unconventional, but it’s surprisingly effective as an Asian pear substitute when making bulgogi.

It may not have meat-tenderizing enzymes, but its high acidity helps break down meat proteins. And it has a caramel-like flavor that’ll bring a delightful sweetness to your beef bulgogi. 

Remember though, it’s all about balance. You want enough Diet Coke to tenderize the meat and add some sweetness, but not so much that it overpowers the other flavors in your bulgogi.

How to substitute: replace Asian pears with a splash of Diet Coke.

White onions

White onions are a pantry staple you can use in place of Asian pears in bulgogi if you’re in a pinch. They obviously won’t work in baking or salads though!

You’re sacrificing that fruity sweetness with these, but they make up for it with their proteolytic enzymes that help tenderize the meat for your bulgogi. 

To achieve the best results, I recommend grating the onions just like you would with Asian pears. And to make up for the lack of sweetness, add a teaspoon of sugar.

How to substitute: replace Asian pears with ½ the amount of grated white onions + 1 tsp sugar. 

Other substitutes to consider

The options above are my top picks for Asian pear substitutes, but here are other alternatives you can try if you have them on hand: 

  • Papaya – this tropical fruit looks nothing like Asian pear but has papain enzyme, which works the same way as calpain in tenderizing meat for your bulgogi. You can use pureed papaya or pure papaya juice for this. 
  • Oranges – this is another easily accessible substitute you can use in place of Asian pear in bulgogi. It’s not as sweet as Asian pear, so you can add an extra pinch of sugar to make up for it. But its natural acidity does wonders in tenderizing your meat. 
  • Skip it – as a last resort, you can skip the Asian pear and manually tenderize the meat with a meat pounder. You’ll miss out on the sweetness of Asian pear, but you can always add a pinch of honey or sugar to your marinade to make up for it.

Best Asian Pear Substitutes + What To Avoid

I tested several different Asian pear substitutes to find the best one. I was looking for a substitute that was easy to find and can be used the same way as Asian pears.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Ingredient
Cuisine: Korean
Keyword: asian pear substitutes, substitutes for asian pears
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 1 person
Calories: 7kcal


  • 1 tbsp grated bosc peppers
  • 1 tbsp grated apples
  • ½ tbsp kiwi
  • ½ tbsp pureed pineapples
  • ½ tbsp diet coke
  • tbsp Asian pears


  • Cook your meal according to the recipe.
  • Add your chosen Asian pears substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
  • Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe


Serving: 1tbsp | Calories: 7kcal

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