Juniper berries have a key role to play in several Nordic culinary specialties. Notably, the citrusy taste of gin that comes from this piney berry is something that you’ll love to relish. It’s amazingly delicious to have juniper lime cake, also the rhubarb and juniper berry jam. There are many more such recipes to list.
What to do when you don’t have juniper berries for a recipe that requires it? Don’t worry! This article reveals the best juniper berry substitute to use in a pinch, also a little about its uses and flavor profile.
What are juniper berries?
A juniper berry is the female seed cone produced by various species of junipers.
Technically, it isn’t a berry but a cone with unusually fleshy and merged scales but outwardly it appears like a berry. It has a dark purple-blue color, almost black, and looks rather leathery and shriveled.
Originally, this berry was grown in Europe, especially in the Nordic regions. Currently, there are about 60 species of juniper berries cultivated all over the world. Some of them are not edible for their strong bitterness or noxious elements.
Among the different varieties of juniper, Juniperus communis is the best to eat, known for its nice flavor, nutritional benefits, and medicinal value.
How does juniper berries taste like?
Juniper berries taste woodsy and herbaceous with a piney aroma. It has hints of spice and citrusy notes with a fruity undertone.
The taste of juniper berries turns more herbaceous and citrusy when they are ripe. Dried and crushed berries taste spicy with a mild pungent sting.
Overall, the juniper berries add a piney citrusy flavor with a mild pungent and bitter note to your dishes.
How are juniper berries used in cooking?
Juniper berries, fresh, dry, or ground are used in cooking. It’s a treasured ingredient in European cooking and is often used in in-game dishes and cabbage or sauerkraut dishes.
These berries are widely utilized in gin making for it renders the spirit its bright, astringent character. Also, they are used in juice, tea, and other beverages as flavoring ingredients.
Dried juniper berries are a common ingredient in spice blends used for seasoning or marinating foods.
Juniper needles, twigs, and wood chips are popularly used for making smoked meat.
What is a good juniper berries substitute?
Juniper is mostly grown in Alpine European countries and scarcely cultivated in the rest of the world. For this reason, it isn’t easily available at grocery stores in most parts of the world.
Juniper berries are an important ingredient in some of the dishes like game meat and vegetable dishes. If you don’t have juniper berries required for your recipe, then consider one of the alternatives listed below:
Rosemary, a Mediterranean herb of the mint family, has a piney pungent flavor and aroma akin to juniper berries.
Rosemary is also a versatile herb that can very well be used in most recipes that call for juniper. These two can be used interchangeably in your cooking. Thus rosemary is the best substitute for juniper berries in your recipe.
Most grocery stores do have dried rosemary on sale, fresh leaves are also available depending on the season.
In place of one teaspoon of crushed juniper berries use a spring of rosemary. Use rosemary in the same way as you use juniper.
Another possible substitute for juniper berry is gin flavored with juniper berries. This substitute option may not work for all recipes and also for those who are averse to alcohol. Usually, high heat cooking neutralizes alcoholic content in gin but juniper flavor stays intact.
Note, there are several varieties of gin, some aren’t flavored with juniper. While replacing juniper berries with gin use a good quality gin like the ones from brands such as Beefeater or Tanqueray, for they use the real stuff.
Use one teaspoon of gin for every tablespoon for crushed berries, if needed add more gin to your dish in the latter part of cooking.
3. Caraway seeds
Caraway seeds are a versatile spice that works in most recipes that call for juniper berries, especially in sauerkraut and other cabbage dishes.
The flavor profile of caraway seeds with citrus, pungent taste with undertones of licorice is an excellent replacement for juniper berries’ flavor. Like rosemary, ground caraway seeds can be included in the meat rub for game meats.
To your advantage, caraway seeds are easily available in most grocery stores. Who knows, you might already have it in your pantry!
Use crushed caraway seeds as a 1:1 substitution for crushed juniper berries.
Cardamom is an aromatic Indian spice, a possible ingredient to use in lieu of juniper berries. This unique spice is a quintessential ingredient in Indian savory dishes, baked goods, and seasoning blends.
The flavor of cardamom is reminiscent of pine with woodsy notes is a suitable substitute for juniper berries. Also, cardamom is a nice complementary spice to most other spicy ingredients used in dishes that call for juniper.
As a substitution for juniper berry, use 1 teaspoon of crushed cardamom seed for every teaspoon of crushed juniper berry.
4. Bay leaves
The astringent flavor of bay leaves is a good alternative to the pine-like flavor of juniper. In European cooking, often bay leaves and juniper berries are used interchangeably in cooking despite their differences in texture.
Bay leaves are also a highly versatile spice that goes well in most recipes, especially in meat dishes.
These leaves are commonly available in most grocery stores near you.
Use one or two bay leaves in place of one teaspoon of crushed juniper berries. Note, bay leaves are usually removed from the dish before serving.
Choose the juniper berry substitute according to the purpose; the best options include:
- Cooking: rosemary, bay leaves, gin, caraway seeds, and cardamom
- Beverages: lingonberry juice, lingonberry tea, cranberry tea, gin, and pinewood tea
- Smoked Meat: hickory and alder
As a rule, always start using a substitute at lower quantities and if needed add more at the latter part of cooking.
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