This easy strawberry compote made with just three ingredients is my go-to topping for pancakes, shortcake, and so much more! You can also use this recipe to make coulis if you prefer a smoother strawberry sauce. The compote is tart, sweet, and comes together in just 20 minutes!

Two jars of strawberry compote and strawberry coulis on a weaved placemat next to flowers, strawberries, lemons, and kitchen twine.

If ever I need to take some cheesecake bars or crêpes up a notch stat (and by stat, I mean like, half an hour or less), I turn to the trick I learned years ago in pastry school. Whip up some compote and pour it over the top! Instant crowd-pleaser, believe me.

In the autumn, I immediately turn to my sage apple butter and in winter, my roasted citrus compote. But spring and summer? I’m all about the berries. Specifically strawberries!

This is a recipe I keep in my back pocket for last-minute desserts or brunch. It goes on everything and it’s ridiculously easy. And, it’s the perfect mix of fruity, sweet, tart, and citrusy. Let’s talk about compote!

You’ll love this compote!

If there’s one trick I always go back to, it’s making a good sauce. Nothing elevates a dessert or really great main course like a delicious sauce. This compote in particular is my go-to because it’s the actual easiest and everyone loves strawberry sauce. Here’s why you’ll love it too!

  • It’s made with only three ingredients.
  • The compote comes together in just 20 minutes.
  • Use it as a topping for desserts, brunch, or even in cocktails.
  • Blend it up to make strawberry coulis instead.

Compote, coulis, or jam?

Compote, coulis, and jam are all similar but have small differences. Coulis and compote are both made with fruit, sugar, and sometimes extra flavorings. But, compote is cooked until it’s syrupy and has larger chunks of fruit. Coulis, on the other hand, is compote’s smooth cousin. It’s blended up and strained for a smooth, seedless sauce. Both can be made with either fruits or vegetables, and sometimes they’re even made with raw produce. Also, compotes and coulis have a shorter shelf life because they don’t have as much sugar to preserve them!

Jams and jellies are a bit different, because they’re oftentimes made with pectin so they’re spreadable. Also, they have more sugar to make them easier to preserve. Lastly, jams and jellies are usually canned so that they have a longer shelf life.

The ingredients

A white bowl of strawberries next to white bowls of sugar and lemon juice, a wood bowl of lemon zest, and vanilla extract on a tan counter.
  • Strawberries – whenever possible, pick bright, fragrant strawberries that don’t have mold, nicks, or brown spots. You can also make compote with frozen strawberries!
  • Sugar – regular white sugar is what we’re looking for. It will add a bit of sweetness and help thicken up the compote.
  • Lemons – we’ll use the juice to offset the sweetness and the zest to add extra flavor. Lemon is totally optional but highly recommended.
  • Vanilla bean pastetotally optional! You can also use vanilla extract. This just adds a pop of extra flavor but is totally not necessary if you want to keep this to strictly three ingredients.

How to make this recipe

Six steps to making compote; photo 1 is strawberries in a pot. In photo 2, a hand pours sugar and lemon zest into the berries. In photo 3, the berries are boiling. Photo 4 is a wood spoon with thick, red liquid. Photo 5 has hands pouring vanilla bean paste into the berries. In photo 6, a spoon is pouring the berries into jars on a tan counter.

This compote is so simple! The trick is to make sure that you simmer the berries long enough so they thicken. See tips and a video in the recipe card below!

  1. First, place the sliced strawberries into a heavy-bottom saucepan.
  2. Next, add the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Stir well and place on the stove over medium-low heat.
  3. Cook, stirring often, until the berries release their juices, the sugar dissolves, and the mixture comes to a simmer.
  4. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the berries are very soft and the liquid is syrupy.
  5. Lastly, remove the pan from the heat and add the vanilla bean paste, if using. Pour the compote into clean jars, and let it cool to room temperature before refrigerating.

To make coulis

If you’d like to make coulis instead of compote, it’s super easy! Here’s how:

  1. After you simmer the strawberries for 10-15 minutes, remove the pan from the heat.
  2. Next, carefully pour the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds and extra pulp.
  4. Lastly, let the coulis cool and store in jars for up to 1 week.

Storing, freezing, & reheating

To store the leftovers, just pour the compote into a jar or airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week. This is also a great make-ahead option!

To freeze, spoon the cooled compote into freezer safe jars or zipper baggies. Make sure to leave space at the top because it will expand as it freezes. Freeze the compote for up to 3 months. Then, let it defrost overnight in the fridge when you’re ready to serve.

If you’d like to reheat the compote, pour it into a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the compote is warmed through, about 5 minutes.

Serving Ideas

Here are a few ways that you can use compote!

  • Cakes – either as a topping or a filling. Chocolate, angel food cake, cupcakes, or shortcake are all great options! If you plan on using this as a cake filling, you may want to thicken it a bit more with cornstarch (see tips in the FAQ section).
  • Cheesecakes – As a topping for cheesecakes or cheesecake bars.
  • Custards – On top of rice pudding, ice cream, panna cotta, or crème brûlée.
  • Breakfast – Serve over breakfast items like pancakes, waffles, crepes, or French toast.
  • Cocktails – Instead of muddling berries and simple syrup, just use compote instead!
A jar of strawberry compote with a spoon and a jar of strawberry coulis on a brown woven placemat next to lemons and strawberries.


  • Berries – any berry will work for this recipe! Raspberries and blueberries are both great options. Depending on the sweetness of the berries, use less or more sugar.
  • Citrus – use orange or lime instead of lemon to switch up the flavors.
  • Alcohol – instead of lemon juice, you can use bourbon, orange liqueur, brandy, rum, or cognac.

Tips & tricks

  • If you want chunkier compote, cut the berries into fourths (for large strawberries) or halves (for small strawberries). Or, for smoother, softer compote, thinly slice or chop the berries instead.
  • Make sure to taste test your strawberries before adding sugar! If they’re sweet summer berries, drop the sugar to 2-3 Tablespoons. If your berries are very tart, add up to 1/3 cup of sugar (or to taste).
  • Don’t boil the berries or the mixture will burn instead of thicken. Instead, let it cook for up to 15 minutes at a gentle simmer.
  • Let the compote cool completely. It will thicken quite a bit as it cools, so you’ll want to let it chill before topping it on cheesecakes or ice cream.

Recipe FAQs

Can I use frozen berries?

Absolutely! During autumn and winter, I love making compote with frozen strawberries from the summer. You can even cook them right out of the freezer! You may just need to add 2-3 minutes of cooking time.

How to thicken the compote?

If you want extra thick compote, all you need is a bit or cornstarch! Just whisk 2 teaspoons of cornstarch with 2 Tablespoons of cold water. Then, after you’ve simmered the berries for 10-15 minutes, stir in the cornstarch slurry and cook for 2-3 more minutes. The compote will get thick, glossy, and jammy as it cooks.

Does the compote thicken as it cools?

Yep! Thanks to a combo of sugar and lemon (which naturally has pectin in it!), the compote will continue to thicken as it cools. However, if you want a super thick compote for cake filling, use the cornstarch tip above!

Is this safe for canning?

This recipe is not great for canning. It doesn’t have enough sugar or acid for preserving.

A hand spooning strawberry compote out of a jar next to a jar of strawberry coulis on a weaved placemat next to strawberries, lemons, white flowers, and books on a tan counter.

Recipes to go with this sauce

No-Bake Strawberry Crunch Cheesecake
Sour Cream Lemon Pound Cake
Orange Mascarpone Cheesecake
Strawberry Cheesecake Bars
Norwegian Pancakes
Poppy Seed Pancakes

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5 from 1 vote

Easy Strawberry Compote & Coulis

Yield: 2 cups of compote
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
This three ingredient strawberry compote is my go-to topping for cheesecakes, shortcake, and pancakes! It's tart, sweet, and comes together in just 20 minutes. And, you can even blend it up to make a smooth strawberry coulis!


  • 1 pound strawberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)


  • Heavy bottom saucepan
  • 16 ounce jar, for storing


To Make Compote

  • Hull the strawberries and slice them into quarters (if large) and halves (if small).
  • Combine the strawberries, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a heavy bottom sauce pan. Place on the stove over medium-low heat.
  • Cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves and the strawberries release their juices. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until the liquid is syrupy and the berries are very soft and starting to break up.
  • Remove the berries from the heat and add the vanilla bean paste or extract (if using). Immediately pour the compote into a heatproof container or jar. Let cool to room temperature. Then, cover, refrigerate, and let the compote cool completely before serving. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week.

To Make Coulis

  • After you simmer the strawberries for 10-15 minutes, remove the saucepan from the heat and add the vanilla bean paste or extract (if using).
  • Next, carefully pour the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. (If the mixture is too thick, add 1-2 Tablespoons of water to thin). Then, pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer, pushing the coulis through with a rubber spatula, to remove the seeds and extra pulp.
  • Lastly, pour the coulis into jars and cool to room temperature. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week.


For smoother compote, thinly slice or chop the strawberries.
Taste the strawberries before adding the sugar. If the berries are very sweet, use 2-3 Tablespoons of sugar. If they’re very tart, add up to 1/3 cup of sugar.
To thicken the compote further, combine 2 teaspoons of cornstarch with 2 Tablespoons of water, and whisk until smooth. After simmering the berries for 10-15 minutes, slowly pour the cornstarch slurry into the compote. Stir frequently until the compote is jammy and no longer cloudy, 2-3 more minutes.
If you plan on using this compote as a cake filling, I recommend thickening it with cornstarch so the liquid doesn’t soak into the cake. (See cornstarch instructions above).
Cuisine: French
Course: Sauces
Serving: 0.25cup of compote, Calories: 44kcal, Carbohydrates: 10.8g, Protein: 0.4g, Fat: 0.2g, Sodium: 1mg, Potassium: 91mg, Fiber: 1.2g, Sugar: 9.2g, Calcium: 9mg
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xo Sara Lynn

Song of the day – Kilby Girl by The Backseat Lovers