Juniper berries may seem like blueberries, but their taste is altogether different from all other berries. It is commonly used in Scandinavian and European cuisines as a spice to season meaty treats and vegetables.
Since juniper berries are only used in particular meals and drinks, it is not a usual grocery item for most of us.
So, if you don’t happen to find these berries in your kitchen pantry, then no worries! There are a lot of substitutes to use in place of juniper berries in different types of meals and drinks.
What Are Juniper Berries?
Don’t get confused with their name because Juniper berries don’t actually belong to the berry family. In fact, these are fruits of a pine plant commonly known as Juniper. Interestingly, these berries have a dark-purple blue color with a fleshy texture and shiny skin, which make them resemble blueberries. However, these berries have a strong flavor which is good to season and spice up different types of food.
Since the juniper plant is a native of Europe and America, these berries are commonly used in European cuisines.
Is it safe to eat juniper berries?
The minute people learn that the juniper berries belong to a pine plant, they fear to use them in cooking. Are juniper berries really safe to eat? Well, yes! In fact, the juniper plant is the only edible variety among the commonly grown pine plants. The berries and their extracts are good for cooking and completely safe for health.
However, if you are particularly allergic to such plants and their products, then you can avoid using these berries in cooking. And it will be best to replace them with the following mentioned juniper berries substitutes.
What Does Juniper Berries Taste Like?
As the berries belong to the cypress family of pine plant, they naturally have a woody and pine-like fragrance with hints of citrus and floral aroma in them. The taste is a mix of spicy, refreshing and savoury.
The fragrance and taste, kind of, work together to season up a drink or food. The taste of these berries develops with time.
Use of Juniper Berries in Cooking
These round purple berries are used in cooking to infuse a deep and strong taste. Due to this trait, they are mostly used as a spice, and they are excellent to make:
Brines are prepared to infuse deep flavor in meat or vegetables. The berries are cooked in a liquid brine solution with other ingredients, which releases their strong taste into the brine.
Juniper berries can be used in all types of fermenting solutions, whether you are making a drink, sauerkraut or other fermented cabbage dishes.
- Seasoning Meats:
Many venison dishes, boar recipes, marinades like sauerbraten, red meat soups and braises call for juniper berries for a refreshing flavor.
- Making of Gin:
The distinctive flavor of gin actually comes from the use of juniper berries. These berries are soaked with other ingredients to get their strong flavor.
- Vegetable Dishes:
Whether it’s the cooking of roasted vegetables or stewing vegetables, adding juniper berries will give them a distinctive taste.
- Juniper Berry teas and beverages:
Juniper berries or their extracts are added to different teas and beverage recipes to give them a refreshing twist.
The 10 Great Juniper Berries Substitutes
You can get to enjoy juniper berry-like flavors in your food without actually having the berries! The following known substitutes for juniper berries will help you big time.
Substitute for Juniper Berries as A Spice
The distinctive taste of juniper berries and their strong fragrance makes them a great spice for a variety of recipes, as we have learnt that from the above-given section. As a spice, you can replace these berries with other commonly available spices, such as:
Rosemary comes in both, fresh and dried form. The fresh one is great to replace juniper berries in most recipes. Rosemary is a herb with needle-shaped small leaves with bright green color and a refreshing aroma.
The dried rosemary has a deeper and stronger flavor, and it has pepper and a sage-like taste. Rosemary sprigs are excellent to season steaks, meat dishes, soups, stews and vegetables etc.
1 sprig of fresh rosemary is enough to replace four juniper berries in a recipe.
2. Caraway Seeds
Also known as Persian cumin or meridian fennel seeds, caraway seeds are widely available everywhere. They have a strong aroma with a refreshing and subtle taste.
Replacing Juniper Berries with Caraway
Its liquorice-like taste and strong fragrance make it a perfect substitute to replace juniper berries in several recipes. You can replace the juniper berries with caraway seeds in equal proportion. One teaspoon of berries can be replaced with one teaspoon of caraway seeds.
3. Bay Leaves
Bay leaf is another commonly used kitchen ingredient that we all have. It is used in several soups, salads, toppings, and stews etc. The leaves are added to a dish to infuse its distinctive aroma into the meal. And for this reason, it can easily replace juniper berries in a recipe.
Once the bay leaf is added to food and cooked, it releases all its flavors and aroma, so you can remove it afterwards.
How to Replace?
One teaspoon of juniper berries can be replaced with 1-2 bay leaves in a recipe. Since bay leaves are not strongly flavored, it’s okay to use extra leaves.
4. Hickory Spice
It is the hickory spice that is readily available in the markets. The spice is a blend of hickory powder with cumin, garlic, salt, chilli and onion powder. This combination, therefore, has a strong flavor and aroma. It has a mix of flavors which is great to substitute juniper berries.
How to Substitute Juniper Berries
Since hickory spice’s taste is less strong than the juniper berries’ you can use 1.5 teaspoons of hickory spice to replace one teaspoon of juniper berries.
5. Black Pepper
An everyday spice that we all have in our kitchen cabinets is black pepper. Crushed and ground black pepper is used in almost every other recipe. It has a deep spicy flavor. Freshly crushed black peppercorns also have a fresh aroma along with a strong taste.
You can use dried black peppercorns instead of juniper berries in different brines, soups, broths, and stew recipes to get the spicy flavor.
We all know cardamom as a highly aromatic spice. Cardamom pods, their seeds and the powder are used in a great number of recipes. It is added to teas, desserts, spice rubs, curries, stews, soups and rice etc. For this reason, cardamom is quite famous in the Indian and middle eastern cuisines.
How to Replace?
Cardamom powder is more concentrated, and it has a strong taste, so I would recommend replacing it as per the taste. However, cardamom pods can be used in a 1:1 ratio to replace juniper berries in a recipe.
7. Juniper Extract
Juniper extract is another substitute for juniper berries in all sorts of recipes. Add few drops as per the required taste to replace juniper berries. But again, the extract is not easily available. The good thing is, if you buy this extract’s bottle once, it will last long.
Gin is a common ingredient of most alcoholic beverages. Gin is a spice-infused, aromatic spirit that is loved for its taste. It Is prepared using juniper berries, so it has that same aroma and flavor.
It can be added to sauces, marinades and beverages as a replacement for juniper berries. One teaspoon of gin is enough to replace the flavor with two fresh juniper berries in a recipe.
Juniper Berries Juice Alternatives in Drinks and Beverages
Juniper berry juice is a widely used ingredient to make several drinks and beverages. This juice has a sweet and musty flavor which can be replaced by using the following alternatives:
9. Lingonberry Juice
In drinks, juniper berry juice and extracts are added, which can be replaced with an equal amount of lingo berry juice. It does not taste exactly like juniper juice, but it is still a good substitute for drinks.
10. Hot Cranberry Apple Cider
Cranberry apple cider has a strong kick in taste and the subtle taste which the juniper berry juice has, can be replaced with a small amount of apple cider. It is good to add to drinks and teas.
Table: Substitutes for Juniper Berries
The following table will help you understand the conversion rate to replace juniper berries with the substitutes in different meals:
|Caraway Seeds||Fermented good and brines||1 teaspoon/2 berries|
|Cardamom||To season meat dishes||1 cardamom pod/ 1 berry|
|Gin||Drinks, sauces, marinades, and brine||1 teaspoon/ 2 berries|
|Rosemary||Light seasoning of pasta, meat, or vegetable dishes||1 sprig/ 4 berries|
|Bay Leaves||Roasted and braised||1 crushed leaf/4 berries|
|Juniper Extract||All kinds of foods||To taste|