Juniper berries aren't always easy to come by.
We usually use juniper berries as a spice, as a beverage or the juniper wood to smoke meats in.
Sometimes you need to substitute or replace the juniper in recipes or other uses.
We'll cover 10+ different ways to do just that in this article.
You can substitute Juniper Berries
As a spice with
- Bay leaves
- Black pepper
As a beverage with
- Lingonberry juice
- Hot cranberry-apple cider
- Pinewood tea
- Lingonberry tea
- Cranberry tea
As a smoke wood with
As essential oil with
- Bay leaves
You can find junipers all over the world. There are about 60 different species. The most common juniper is the Juniperus communis.
All junipers grow berries. But it's actually not a true berry, it's really a cone. The cone has unusually fleshy and merged scales, which give it a berry-like appearance. Because of the name and appearance, we choose to still call it a berry.
The Juniperus communis is the juniper that has the best berries to eat. Other variety’s are often considered too bitter to eat. And there are juniper varieties that are poisonous as well!
There can be several reasons you might not want to eat or make something out of juniper or juniper berries. Perhaps you're not sure which juniper berries that are safe to eat, or you might not like the flavor.
Below we list 10 alternatives to what you can use instead of juniper or juniper berries.
Table of Contents
What Are Juniper Berries Commonly Used For?
These are the common uses of juniper or juniper berries we suggest a substitute for
- Spice, from both fresh and dried juniper berries
- Juice made of juniper berries
- Tea made of the junipers needles or the berries
- To Smoke Meat with juniper wood chips and the needles
- Juniper berries in essential oils
- To flavor Spirits like gin
Juniper berries are commonly used as a spice in spirits like gin. Some say that if you have tried gin, you know what juniper berries taste like.
We focus on alternatives for juniper berries in foods and non-alcoholic beverages in this article.
If you're interested in reading more about the different uses of juniper berries and the health benefits they can provide, I recommend you read our article titled What Are Juniper Berries Good For? What Do They Taste Like?
Substitute For Juniper Berries In Cooking
Juniper berries are used in cooking as a spice, to make beverages and to smoke meats with. When you smoke meat you usually don't use the berries, instead the juniper wood and sometimes even the needles are used.
As a spice you mainly use dried juniper berries. The berries are left in the stew for a long time to get that musty, rich, woody flavor.
Juniper berries are commonly used in beverages like juice or tea. The unique flavor from the juniper berries is quite hard to replace but we've managed to come up with two juices and three different tea alternatives that we feel can substitute the flavors that the juniper berries give.
In Smoking Meat
Smoking meat in juniper wood chips is something that's been done for a long time. It's still common but today it's not mainly used as a preservative method for storing food over the winter, instead we smoke meats because of the flavor.
Dried Juniper Berries Substitute
Juniper berries are usually used in dried form as a spice. Often you add dried juniper berries in meat dishes. It gives the meat a musty flavor. One of the most common ways of using dried juniper berries is to have them with venison.
You can also have the juniper berries in the sauce that’s served to the meat. It is said, without the juniper, the sauce becomes quite weak in flavor compared to the meat. The juniper flavor also works well with most dishes with minced meat.
Just before you put juniper berries in your cooking you need to crush them just a tad, to free all the flavors. The shell is too hard so if you put the whole berries in a stew for example, without crushing them, they'll not give any flavor.
For a long shelf life, it is important to dry juniper berries well and then keep them dry and preferably dark.
Alternative To Juniper Berries As A Spice
Three great alternatives that you can use to spice up your food instead of juniper berries are Bay leaves, Rosemary and ordinary Black pepper. The best replacement by taste is the Rosemary.
Bay leaves is an alternative as a spice in dishes you usually have juniper berries in. Bay leaves taste pungent and have a sharp, bitter taste. Dried bay leaves has a fragrance that is slightly floral and is reminiscent to oregano.
The most common way to use bay leaves in food is in the dried form.
You can find organic bay leaves in a nice reusable glass jar on Amazon. This brand supports organic farming.
Read more about good things you can do with bay leaves below, in the section about our recommended substitute for juniper berry essential oil.
Rosemary is a common alternative to juniper berries as a spice. Rosemary has the flavor that comes closest to the juniper berries taste. It's a herbal flavor that in my oppinion is the best substitute for juniper berries used as spice for meats, such as venison.
One fresh sprig of rosemary can be used as a substitute for every 4 berries. Rosemary contains antioxidants and minerals that can strengthen the immune system. The spice also has a high content of saponins, a plant substances that has detoxifying effects.
Rosemary is not only a tasty way to spice your food, it has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal herb. Among other things, the herb is believed to counteract poor circulation.
Rosemary is a very useful spice. I always have a jar in the kitchen. I can recommend this excellent brand of Rosemary that you can find on Amazon. The packages are available in different sizes, so you can get just the amount that suits your needs.
Ordinary black pepper is a common inexpensive spice. It can also be used as an adequate substitute for juniper berries.
For instance in stews where you put several dried whole juniper berries to give it flavor. Instead, you can put in whole dried black peppers, and it works the same way. It'll give the food a nice flavor.
For a long time ago it was the other way around. The Romans used juniper berries as a cheap substitute because the black pepper was so expensive.
Tellicherry black peppercorns remains longer on the vine and get larger, this allows them to develop their more refined aroma. You can buy this delicious black pepper on Amazon and try it out yourself.
Substitute For Juniper Berries In A Juice Recipe
Juniper berry juice is hard to find, but can easily be replaced by a nice lingonberry juice or a sweet hot cranberry-apple cider.
These two beverages are not perfect substitutes for the juniper berry flavor but they are both good alternatives to drink with the same kinds of dishes that you commonly have juniper berry juice to.
What is Juniper Berry Juice
Juice made of juniper berries is not so common anymore. In Scandinavia the juice has been a traditional beverage in Christmas time. The beverage is often made of juniper berries. But there are also juices that are made of both the berries and the needles of the juniper.
Nowadays it's not sold as much in stores and people don’t make it themselves as they did before. The juniper berry juice is a musty, black drink.
Alternative 1: Lingonberry Juice
Lingonberry juice is a beverage that you should drink to meals of meat, venison/game. In Scandinavia it's common to drink cold lingonberry juice in the summer and drink hot lingonberry juice in the winter.
Lingonberry juice is believed to, among other things, alleviate urinary tract infections.
It's not the same as juniper berry juice, but it's a good alternative. The juniper berry juice has a more musty and sweet flavor while the lingonberry juice has a strong but more tart flavor.
Recipe for Lingonberry Juice
The juniper berry juice is something Scandinavians drink especially during Christmas. So if you make the lingonberry juice with some christmas flavors like apples and cinnamon it'll be a perfect substitute for a nice Christmas beverage.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Ingredients (about 5 servings)
- 1.0 lb Lingonberries (0.5kg)
- 5.0 cups of Water (1 liter)
- 1 cup of Sugar (2 dl)
- Wash or defrost berries
- Mash together lingonberry with sugar in a pot and pour in the water
- Heat while stirring and simmer for 15 minutes
- Strain carefully
If you don't have the possibility to make lingonberry juice yourself but still want to try it I really recommend this juice from Ikea that you can buy on Amazon. So Swedish!
Alternative 2: Cranberry-Apple Cider
Cranberry-apple cider is an excellent substitute for juniper berry juice. This juice also works perfectly during the holidays. It's commonly served as a Christmas drink.
You can preferably serve it hot which makes it a warming drink that's very suitable during cold winter months.
Cranberry-apple cider is quite easy to make yourself. It has a tart and sweet taste that is amazing. Here is an easy recipe I recommend you to try.
My Cranberry-Apple Cider Recipe
Cranberry-apple cider is quite easy to make yourself. It has a tart and sweet taste that's amazing!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Ingredients (About 12 servings)
- 2 quarts of apple cider
- 1 1/2 quarts of cranberry juice
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- 4 sticks of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of whole cloves
- Mix all ingredients in a saucepan
- Heat to boiling
- Reduce heat and let it simmer uncovered for 15 minutes
- Strain carefully
- Pour into mugs and serve!
This juice also works perfectly during the holidays. It's commonly served as a Christmas drink in Scandinavia.
What Can I Use Instead Of Juniper Berries To Make A Healthy Tea?
Instead of a healthy juniper berry tea, you can substitute the juniper berry tea for a pinewood tea, a lingonberry tea or a cranberry tea. These also contain a lot of healthy nutrients.
You can rarely find juniper berry tea in regular stores. The juniper berry tea is considered a medicine more than just a hot drink. You can find the tea in health food stores.
The tea on juniper berries is considered diuretic and can activate the kidneys. It's also believed to prevent urinary tract infections, but you should not drink too much because it's strong, and avoid it completely during pregnancy and if you have health issues, especially with your kidneys.
The tea has also been used as a cough medicine.
Alternative to Juniper berry tea
All conifers contain vitamin C. The needles also contain essential oils that stimulate blood circulation. Tea made of pine needles is a good alternative to juniper berry tea.
Just like the juniper berry tea the tea on pine needles is also believed to work as a cough suppressant. It's easy to make a cup of pine needle tea yourself.
All you need to do is to
- Chop a few tablespoons of fresh needles into a saucepan
- Pour a large cup of water in the pan
- Boil for five minutes
- Sift it and drink!
The tea has a sweet taste with a hint of resin.
Tea on juniper berries are believed to work against urinary tract infections. To cook tea on lingonberry rice and leaves is a good alternative to juniper berry tea, because it's also believed to be a good prevention for urinary tract infections.
Lingonberries are evergreen, this means that no matter what season, you can always find lingonberry rice and leaves to cook the tea on.
To make the tea yourself
- Two teaspoons of lingonberry leaves
- a cup of hot water
- Boil for five minutes
- Sift it and drink!
Drink three cups a day for two weeks against urinary tract infections or cystitis.
Just like juniper berry tea and lingonberry tea, cranberry tea is also believed to help against urinary tract infections. The cranberry has a fresh and sour taste that reminds a little of the lingonberry.
You make the cranberry tea in the same way you make a lingonberry tea
- Two teaspoons of cranberry leaves
- A cup of hot water
- Boil for five minutes
- Sift it and drink!
Drink three cups a day for two weeks against urinary tract infections.
What Can I Substitute For Juniper Berries Wood Chips When Smoking Meat?
When you are smoking meats and don't want to use juniper wood chips, you should try some alder wood chips or hickory wood chips. Both will give the food that unique delicious smoke flavor.
Why Smoke Meat?
Smoking foods is one of the oldest preservation methods. Smoking conserves and adds good taste, especially for meat.
The wood and needles of the juniper have been used for ages in the process of smoking meat products.
Foods that work well to smoke is fatty fish, pork and venison. From being mostly used as a preservative method, smoking of meat and fish has become an appreciated flavor.
Alternative To Juniper When Smoking Meats
Alder wood chips
Alder wood chips are widely used when smoking meats and is a good alternative to replace juniper. The smoky flavor is mild and goes well with most meats, but especially with pork and fish.
Some say it contains fewer toxic substances than other trees. But we've found no research that supports that statement.
A tip if you have some juniper wood chips and a nice piece of meat you want to smoke, you could smoke it with alder and just at the end of the smoking process, you put in just a bit of juniper. That will give the meat a milder smoky taste than if it had just been smoked with the juniper.
There is alder wood chips you can buy on Amazon if you're eager to try it out for yourself.
Hickory wood chips
If you want a stronger flavor when smoking meats than the alder wood chips, hickory wood chips is a good alternative. Hickory is very flavorsome and your meat will get a strong, tasty flavor.
Hickory is a hard wood that provides a dense and fine smoke. Hickory is a classic wood to use when smoking beef. It produces that well-known barbecue flavor that so many love.
Hickory is also good for smoking bacon, other pork and even cheese.
Here you can find a nice brand of hickory wood chips on Amazon, that gives your food a great smoke flavor.
Substitute For Juniper Berry Essential Oil
Juniper berry is often used as essential oil. Burning bay leaves is a good substitute for the same effect that the juniper berry essential oil is believed to give.
Juniper berry essential oil is believed to give a calming effect and might help to ease stress. It might also help relieve emotional issues, like nervous tension. It's even believed that it might work as pain relief.
Just like juniper berries there are studies that have shown that bay leaves may have a calming effect. The leaves are also believed to relieve pain, work anti-inflammatory and reduce symptoms of cold and flu.
But you don't actually need to eat the leaves for that calming effect. You can use them as incense as well. Place a small amount of leaves in a fireproof container and carefully light them. The scent is believed to lower stress, tension and has a relaxing effect on muscles.
Conclusion: What We Use As A Substitute For Juniper Berries
There are many alternatives for juniper berries. Rosemary is the spice I recommend when you want an alternative to Juniper Berries to spice up your food.
I also love to drink lingonberry juice, both homemade and bought. I often have lingonberry juice at home. We’ve actually written several articles about just lingonberries, because we think lingonberries are one of the best berries you can eat. Read all our articles on lingonberries.
When it comes to tea I must say that the lingonberry and cranberry tea alternatives are my favorites, I enjoy them a lot.
I like the juniper berry smoked meats, it's especially delicious if it's smoked venison. The alternative we use the most is the one smoked with alder wood.
Juniper berries are quite unique. Firstly because of it's unique taste and secondly it's texture as it's not really a berry but a cone.
Being so unique in taste and texture, it's hard to find a perfect replacement, but we believe that the alternatives we've listed in this article are good substitutes for these cones if you come across a recipe that requires Juniper Berries.
But Juniper Berries are also readily available online. We've compiled a recommended page for Juniper Berries that covers many of its uses. There you'll find pricing, images and availability in many Amazon markets for all the products we recommend.
Frequently asked questions about Juniper Berry Alternatives
What are juniper berries used for?
Juniper berries are mostly used as a spice. But you can also make a juice or tea of juniper. You can also smoke meat with juniper. You can have juniper berries in essential oils. It’s also common to have juniper berries as a spice in spirits like gin.
Are juniper berries safe to eat?
Junipers grow all over the world, in many different varieties. All junipers grow berries. The Juniperus communis is the most common juniper and the juniper variety that has the best berries for consuming. Other varieties are often considered too bitter to eat. There’s also one juniper variety that’s poisonous, named Juniperus Sabrina or Savin Juniper.
What spice can I use instead of juniper berries?
There are three great alternatives you can use in your recipe instead of juniper berries. You can either use bay leaves, rosemary or black pepper. The closest replacement by taste is the rosemary.
What can I use instead of juniper essential oil?
Juniper berry essential oil is believed to give a calming effect and might help to ease stress. It might also help relieve emotional issues, like nervous tension. A good alternative for this is by burning bay leaves. The smoke can give the same effect that the juniper berry essential oil is believed to provide. It’s very easy to try some bay leaves. Just place a small amount of bay leaves in a fireproof container and carefully light them. Don’t leave it unattended.
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