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I have a recipe calling for juniper berries but none are available. Is there a good substitute or should I just skip it?

asked by a Whole Foods Market Customer about 3 years ago
41 answers 84614 views
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Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

added about 3 years ago

You can probably skip it -- I'm curious what the recipe is though; might be easier to think of a substitute for it. Let us know!

8a5161fb-3215-4036-ad80-9f60a53189da.buddhacat
SKK
added about 3 years ago

You can use gin - doesn't have to be expensive gin or rosemary sprigs or bay leaf. Amounts below

1 tsp. of gin per 2 berries
8 berries = 1 tsp. crushed
Fresh rosemary sprigs – one sprig for every four berries
Single crushed bay leaf = six juniper berries

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boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added about 3 years ago

Do you have a juniper tree or bush nearby? Fresh ones are just budding here.

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added about 3 years ago

Is the recipe for sauerkraut? If so, you could omit the berries or use caraway instead.

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pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

added about 3 years ago

Actually I'm surprised at the difficulty of finding juniper berries. They are available in the spice shelves of virtually every major supermarket under various major brands.

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added 4 months ago

Funny, I've been to several of my "major" supermarkets in the Seattle area and can't find juniper berries anywhere. I finally popped down to Market Spice and bought some there, but I can assure you they were not on the shelf at Fred Meyer, Albertsons, Safeway, Trader Joe's, or Thriftway.

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added about 2 years ago

Have you thought perhaps where she lives there is no demand for Juniper Berries and accordingly the supermarkets stock none. Perhaps there are no suppliers of Juniper berries as they are more expensive to import than recouped through sales?
Maybe in her region there are no juniper berries as these are a seasonal northern hemisphere plant that grow only in certain climactic conditions?
Actually- you're the kind of simpleton who'd be surprised each time they saw the "welcome" on their doormat.
The world is a little larger than the USA. Thank God.

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Pat
added over 1 year ago

Sorry to tell you Pierino but you're very wrong. Juniper berries are impossible to find in my area. I've been to Walmart super center and two major supermarkets in the northeast (shaws and hanaford) today as well as another small grocer and none of them carried juniper berries. Now I've wasted half my day and still haven't even stated my recipe. Thanks for sending me on a wild goose chase. Maybe you should check to make sure your advice is accurate next time because clearly they are NOT available in "virtually every major supermarket." I picked up caraway seeds and fresh rosemary to substitute. I'm making a brine for sauerbraten.

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added over 1 year ago

I'm sure pierino was trying to be helpful, not to send anyone on a wild goose chase. We all freely choose how we spend our day.

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added over 1 year ago

I missed the fact that you are making sauerbraten in my first reading of your note. I wouldn’t use either caraway or rosemary for sauerbraten. Perhaps add a spoonful of gin, or just omit the berries. They have a bitter, piney flavor, if that helps.

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pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

added over 1 year ago

I'm still perplexed by this because I can walk into an Albertsons, Safeway or Vons and ordinarily find at least two different lables of juniper berries for sale in the spice aisle; McCormick's, Schilling, Morton and Bassett. That said, Costco would not exactly be my first choice to shop for juniper berries.

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added over 1 year ago

I have never had a problem finding juniper berries in either the Midwest or Mid Atlantic--but if you can’t find them, you can certainly get them from Penzey’s or another on-line spice store. In my region, I find them at Safeway, Giant Wegman’s or Whole Foods. I am very surprised that they are so hard to find. If you want to use them for sauerkraut, I wouldn’t use rosemary--just doesn’t sound right to me with sauerkraut. On the other hand, if you do use it, provide a report!

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added over 1 year ago

I mean sauerbraten, not sauerkraut!

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added over 1 year ago

I don't think that I would sub gin for juniper berries because there are many flavors of gin, despite the common ingredient of juniper berry. Some are very floral and I have had gins that don't taste like "gin" at all. I think that rosemary is probably the closest herbal flavor to juniper.

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added over 1 year ago

I live in coastal Maine and can find them at most grocers. If they are not available in your area, buy them online and keep some in the freezer.

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added 4 months ago

I've been looking for juniper berries too, for a venison casserole. Should I use gin or rosemary? I live in the UK and can't find any anywhere.

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added 4 months ago

Have you tried Sainsbury's? The juniper berries I have came from them.

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added 4 months ago

Yes, I've tried Sainsbury's - none there!

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Nancy

Nancy is a trusted home cook.

added 4 months ago

Bay leaf, clove and star anise are also from evergreens. they won't give the same taste as juniper, but an echo, or a family taste. Also - though not an evergreen - caraway seed is nice to use with or instead of juniper, especially in sauerkraut.

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added 4 months ago

Thank you Nancy. Like the idea of cloves - presumably I should use all three together?

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Nancy

Nancy is a trusted home cook.

added 4 months ago

Maisie, hard to advise without knowing what the recipe is. If sweet, I would use EITHER the bay leaf (which is surprisingly good in sweet dishes) OR the clove & star anise. If savory, use one or more, according to what you have or like. Clove can overpower a dish, so I would start with very small amounts, cook, taste, adjust.

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added 4 months ago

Hello all,

The recipe is for venison casserole! One recipe has it marinating in wine and juniper berries, the other has no marinade, but still calls for juniper berries. I live in the UK. Absolutely no juniper berries here until Christmas time, and no juniper berries either!
Thanks so much for your ideas.

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Nancy

Nancy is a trusted home cook.

added 4 months ago

Maisie, just wondering, since the question started about 3 years ago, have you made the venison? what seasoning did you use? how did that turn out? If not yet made, please do tell us how you eventually cook it...Thanks, :)

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added 4 months ago

Hi Nancy, Haven't made the venison recipe yet - will let you know how it turns out. The question that was raised 3 years ago wasn't mine - I kind of 'fell upon' this page when I was looking for a substitute for the juniper berries. Thanks so much for your suggestions.

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added 4 months ago

Nancy - hi,

Just a thought - do you use star anise in savoury dishes? Pork maybe?

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Nancy

Nancy is a trusted home cook.

added 4 months ago

On star anise in savory dishes: yes, yes, yes. Alone or as part of Chinese 5-spice blend. Great in stir-fry dishes & on chicken. Also recommended for pork. Probably too strong for delicate fish but ok for seafood.

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added 4 months ago

Thank you Nancy!

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added 4 months ago

oops I meant no juniper trees!

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added 4 months ago

Since you are in Britain, I am wondering if juniper berries may be known by a different name. It is odd that they are so hard to find, although, as you note, perhaps they are considered a seasonal food. If you have any junipers growing nearby that are not sprayed with chemicals, you could use the berries from the bush. Or you might try an apothecary to see if they have juniper oil. I would use just a drop of that, no more. Or try adding a spoon of pine honey to the dish. The sweetness will work with the venison, and you could still add a piney note to the stew.

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added 4 months ago

Hello Maedl,

I've never come across pine honey! All sorts of honey, but not pine, but love the sound of it. Might try an apothecary (chemist to those of us in the UK!) and see if I get any joy out of that. I think juniper berries are not known by any other name - I have bought them before, dried, but don't think I've ever seen fresh ones, or a juniper tree! I'm going to be using a spoon of red currant jelly in the recipe, so will get the sweetness from that. Next thing is where to get a piney note from, as I wouldn't need both honey and the red currant jelly. By the time I make this, the recipe will be unique! But hey, I don't mind change if it turns out well. Thanks so much for taking the trouble to respond.

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added 4 months ago

I just checked amazon.uk and they sell juniper berries--250 grams for £3.50. That's a lot of berries, but maybe you could plant some because it looks like junipers are not doing well in Britain--https://www.woodlandtrust...

I'd give the chemist/apothecary a try. I find all sorts of herbs and spices at my local apothecary in Germany--herbal medicine is very popular there--thankfully, because even things that I think of as common (i.e,, fennel seed) are hard to find in my town. I am even able to buy bitter almonds, albeit as a controlled substance, through the Apotheke.

Pine honey is popular in the Alps. It has a stronger flavor than most other honey and is made from the pollen from conifers.

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added 4 months ago

Hello Maedl,

Thank you for the information on honey and the berries. I do like the idea of pine/conifer honey and if I ever see a jar of it, I'll buy some! Many thanks as well for the trouble you went to, to try and find the elusive juniper berries online. I'm amazed at the help I've received from people in America and Germany as well as the UK - so good of you all! I found some eventually at our local health food shop this morning, which is not the usual place I think of for spices and herbs, but they turned up trumps! So now I can start cooking! Incidentally, one thing we do have over here are fennel seeds! No problem finding those.

Thank you again all of you! I'm glad you made contact and your help and ideas have been super.

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added 4 months ago

Good going! Let the cooking begin.

I wouldn't have thought fennel seed to be exotic in Germany--the bulb is easily found. I assumed that I could find the seeds in the grocery store spice rack. I got a nasty surprise and was lucky that I thought of the Apotheke. But that is in a small town where people are exceedingly resistent to trying new foods, much to the dismay of our local organic farmer, who loves to try growing various heritage vegetables. We've become buddies because he knows he can count on me to buy the weird stuff!

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added 4 months ago

You probably will have made this already but maybe this will help?
http://www.realfoods.co...

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added 4 months ago

Are you suggesting that the spiced pickled onions could take the place of the juniper berries? Novel idea - may have to try it if I can't find the juniper berries in the health food shop. Incidentally, thanks for the new website you suggested - might find a whole new set of recipes there!

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added 4 months ago

I quite like that idea the more I think about it - do you suppose chutney might be OK because I've never pickled anything before and they don't give quantities on that website (or suggest the spices that might be used). Thanks again.

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added 4 months ago

Check with your local health food store. They often have juniper berries in their bulk herb aisle.

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added 4 months ago

Good idea!

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added 4 months ago

Hi Dea,

Thank you for that idea - Brilliant! Found some in the local healthfood store this morning. I wouldn't normally think of looking there - my usual places are supermarkets, local market, etc. That was such a good idea - thanks so much!