Recipe: Grapefruit Star Anise Sorbet

Author & Photographer: Rebecca Chen


This recipe pairs grapefruit and star anise, an aromatic, licorice-like spice frequently used in Chinese cooking, as well as other savory and sweet contexts. The warmth of this spice complements the bright citrus for a light and refreshing dessert. Even without an ice cream machine, the process for making homemade sorbet is surprisingly simple-- it comes down to freezing some sweetened fruit juice or purée. I've added light corn syrup for some body and creaminess, and a bit of alcohol to improve the texture and keep the sorbet from becoming icy. Once you have the basic process down, there are countless riffs and variations that can be made: mango or lime sorbet with chili, pear ginger sorbet, strawberry with black pepper. Just keep the sugar to fruit juice ratio about one to four.


Yield: About 3/4 of a quart

Preparation Time: 15-30 min.

Total Time: 7-10 hours


  • 2 ⅔ cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (about 6 grapefruits)

  • ⅓ cup bottled or filtered water

  • ½ cup granulated sugar

  • 3 tbsp light corn syrup (or ¼ cup granulated sugar)

  • 2 tsp vodka

  • 2 medium-sized whole star anise (or equivalent in broken pieces)

  • ¼ tsp salt


1. Combine water, sugar, corn syrup, and star anise in small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Let sit until cool and remove star anise.


2. Stir together grapefruit juice, vodka, and salt in 9 by 13 inch baking dish or other shallow dish. Stir in syrup mixture and freeze until solid, about 3-4 hours.

3. Cut frozen mixture into squares and transfer to blender. Blend until smooth. This breaks up the formation of larger ice crystals and helps with a smoother final product.

4. Transfer blended mixture to loaf pan (preferably metal), cover with parchment paper, and freeze again, at least 3 hours or until ready to serve. If too solid to scoop, let sit in refrigerator for 15-20 minutes to soften.  

Melanie WangComment