Juniper berries are a familiar flavor in European dishes. They originate from Europe, where people widely use them for culinary purposes. Some people may also use them for medicinal reasons, but they’re mainly added to dishes due to their exquisite piney flavor.
Smoked meat, beverages, and most European or Scandinavian dishes that include meat (like sauerkraut) become more delicious because of juniper berries. These berries may look like blueberries but taste woody and peppery instead!
You can easily substitute juniper berries with gin, rosemary, or caraway seeds, but the amount it needs can differ due to their different tastes. If you find yourself in a hitch with nothing that tastes close to juniper berry, here are juniper berry substitutes you can try.
Best Substitutes For Juniper Berries
Gin is a beverage primarily made of juniper berries, so it is the best substitute for cooking when you want a strong, piney flavor. It works just like how vanilla extract does in place of vanilla beans.
If you are worried about the alcohol in the beverage, you don’t have to! Most of it evaporates during cooking. So, all you will be left with is the taste of juniper berries.
The only thing you need to worry about is that adding the taste of juniper berries in this way may increase the amount of liquid in your dish. So if it's not intended to be soupy, watch out for adding too much gin.
Adding a teaspoon of gin is suitable for every two fresh juniper berries.
Rosemary is an ideal spice for meat dishes. Due to its strong scent, it is present in aromas, essential oils, and liquid cleansers. It also has health benefits, so you can use it to detoxify substances in food.
Rosemary is an excellent substitute for juniper berries when cooking light meat dishes and pasta. It's the perfect herb seasoning for steak, but you can also use it for vegetable dishes with bright flavors. However, be aware that rosemary’s taste and aroma can take over the dish the longer it cooks. So, be careful with the cooking time.
Use at least 2-3 sprigs of rosemary to substitute for one teaspoon of juniper berries. If you’re cooking sauerbraten, add just one sprig of fresh rosemary or ½ a teaspoon of dried rosemary for every teaspoon of juniper berries in your recipe.
3) Caraway Seeds
Using caraway seed as a juniper berries substitute gives your dishes the same piney flavor. It also has the same effect of cutting through solid flavors in meats. Moreover, it blends well with other spices without overpowering the aroma or taste of your dish.
Caraway seeds can give your savory dishes a slightly warm and sweet flavor. So, to balance it out, people often add one or two bay leaves to alter the texture and taste. It is also a great substitute when you want to add juniper berries to vegetable soups, brine, sauerkraut, sausage, or other meat dishes.
You should use crushed caraway seeds in the proportion of 1:1 as a replacement for crushed juniper berries. The ratio of 1:1 remains the same for teaspoons as well. In the case of the berries mentioned, one teaspoon of caraway seeds is equivalent to two juniper berries.
4) Bay Leaves
Bay leaves have a sweet-smelling aroma and have a bitter taste similar to that of juniper berries. You can use it wholly or in a ground form. However, you should discard the leaf when used entirely.
Bay leaves are best substituted for juniper berries when making an essential oil and braised or roasted dishes. Keep in mind that fresh bay leaves are not suitable for direct consumption. So, you should only use it in cooking dishes as they are tough to chew and can cause choking.
How to substitute: One teaspoon of juniper berries equals around 1-2 bay leaves. For ground bay leaf, an ideal proportion is 1:1. In braised dishes, a crushed bay leaf equals four juniper berries.
Pine needles have the same lovely taste and smell that juniper berries have. Like tea made out of juniper berries, it is an excellent source of vitamin C and can help with a hacking cough.
Both juniper and pine have a sweet taste of resin, and the freshness has the same effect, which improves blood circulation and the flow of fundamental oils in our body.
How to substitute: Simply chop a few leaves of pinewood into a saucepan and then boil it in water for around 5 minutes. As soon as you start getting the aroma of pine, your tea is ready to drink.
6) Hickory Spice
The hickory spice gives the grounded, savory flavor of various spices, including cumin, garlic, onion, stew, and salt. Due to its strong combination of flavors, it is very aromatic and brings a smokey flavor to many dishes. It is best suited in meat dishes and roasts for the strong, unique flavor it gives.
When using hickory spice, you need to remember that it contains salt. So, when using the spice, balance out your salt content.
How to substitute: Use 1.5 teaspoons of hickory spice for every teaspoon of juniper berries. The same proportion is to be used for hickory zest as well. It is not very hot in flavor, so you can increase the 1:1 ratio when cooking a spicy dish.
7) Black Pepper
Black pepper is one of the most uncomplicated replacements you can find for juniper berries. It is cheap and readily available in all markets or at your home. The robust flavor it has makes it a suitable substitute for juniper berries. Moreover, it mixes in well with lemon and other spices.
It is best used when replacing juniper berries in soups, brines, roasts, or other savory dishes containing them.
How to substitute: Black pepper should be replaced at a ratio of 1:1 when used in place of juniper berries. Ground black pepper is a preferable option to use when substituting.
Cardamom can get a little pricier than other juniper berry substitutes. But, due to the distinct flavor and fragrance similar to juniper berries, it is a good substitute for it.
It is the best substitute for juniper berries when cooking dishes with a strong, meaty flavor like mutton, pork, or beef. It is also used as a replacement when using juniper berries in cake recipes. This spice may come in pods or seeds, but it's best as a substitute in its ground form.
The best thing about cardamom as a substitute is that it comes in two varieties. You can use green cardamom for its strong aroma and flavor. On the other hand, you can use black cardamom to replace juniper berries in meaty dishes to get a smoky flavor.
How to substitute: The ratio of substituting cardamom for juniper berries is 1:1. So, use one teaspoon of cardamom in your recipe to replace one teaspoon of juniper berries.
Alder is an excellent juniper berry substitute when smoking any sort of meat - salmon, poultry, pork, or fish. The flavor gives your meat a gentle, smoked taste, and the wood is known to be less poisonous than most trees. It is preferable to use it in the form of alder wood chips.
How to substitute: Like hickory wood, you can use alder as a substitute by smoking the meat with alder, which gives it a milder smoky taste.
Cranberries are hard, sweet berries with a strong tart flavor. You can use it to replace juniper berries in tea. However, note that they have a sourer and sweeter taste than them.
How to substitute: Similar to making pinewood tea, cranberry can be squashed and mixed with water to make juice. It usually replaces juniper in tea and is prepared similarly - except you use cranberry leaves. Boil two teaspoons of crushed cranberry leaves in water for around 5 minutes until you get the aroma.
Lingonberry is the last replacement option for juniper berries as they are slightly different from the woodsy, piney taste.
However, it is a lovely replacement for juniper berry tea as it has health benefits like dealing with urinary tract diseases. The tea made from the leaves also has a robust and tart flavor similar to tea made from juniper berries.
Lingonberry tea is also a traditional Scandinavian beverage. Also, you can drink it all year round due to its easy availability.
How to substitute: Crush and blend in two teaspoons of lingonberry leaves with water to make a juice. To make it in the form of tea, boil the leaves in hot water until the aroma arises.
Are you still thinking about which of these best juniper berry substitutes will fit your recipe? Check out the following table and find out which ones taste closer to these tiny berries.
|Gin||Gin is your best substitute for juniper berries as it is a juniper-flavored distilled, alcoholic drink.|
|Rosemary||As a minty flavored herb that is also highly fragrant, rosemary is strong enough to substitute juniper berries in meat dishes.|
|Caraway Seeds||Caraway seeds give a piney flavor similar to juniper berries and are a common replacement for them in sauerkraut dishes.|
|Bay Leaves||Used in its dry form when being cooked in foods, bay leaves add a sharp, bitter taste which adds the same woodsy flavor as juniper berries.|
|Pinewood||Since it possesses the minty, piney taste sought after when using juniper berries, it is a good substitute for juniper berries in tea.|
|Hickory Spice||Hickory spice has a strong, sweet, woodsy flavor which is often compared to the richness of the bacon and can be used to substitute it in meat dishes.|
|Black Pepper||Black pepper is a common household spice that is readily available. It is an excellent substitute for juniper berries with a similar woody taste.|
|Cardamon||Cardamom is a good substitute for juniper berries as it gives the same woody, piney taste. It is commonly used in Indian and European dishes.|
|Alder||Alder is a delicate wood with a gentle, sweet flavor best used when smoking meats.|
|Cranberry||The tart and intense taste of cranberry makes it a decent substitute for when you need to use juniper berries in beverages.|
|Lingonberry||Evergreen and readily available, lingonberry is a comparatively decent option to replace juniper berries in tea.|
There is no definite answer as juniper berries all vary in size. But, generally speaking, making one tablespoon of ground juniper berries takes around eight berries.
Juniper berries have a strong taste, and it is nothing like your typical berry. Instead of sweet and juicy, juniper berries have a woody flavor and taste fresh and piney. Sometimes, there is also a hint of spiciness and citrus.
Allspice berries and juniper berries have entirely different tastes. Allspice gives you a variety of bitter, earthy, and sweet flavors, while juniper berries are woody and piney. They also have other purposes - the former being typically added to sweets and the latter to meat dishes.
Considering the piney taste of juniper berries, the experience of eating them as we do with regular berries would not be the same. It certainly will not be a pleasant experience.
Juniper Berries are delicate fruits that get bruised easily. Once the berries are crushed, they can deteriorate fast, so make sure to use them immediately.
When you store dried juniper berries properly, they can live up to 3 years. You can recognize stale juniper berries by their less flavorful taste.