The best elderberry recipes
Content manager, botanist and tree lover
Make the most of dark, fragrant elderberries while they’re in season.
Cooking with elderberries can get messy but it’s worth it. They’re full of health-giving properties and have been used medicinally for centuries. There are lots of elderberry recipes out there but here are our favourites.
Credit: David Boag / Alamy Stock Photo
Elderberry identification: a quick guide
- Shrub or small tree
- Pinnate leaves with 5 or 7 toothed leaflets
- Leaflets oppositely arranged
- Pale, corky bark
- Clusters of small purple-black berries on red-pink stalks.
- Berries ripen July-October depending on where you live.
Pick the clusters by breaking off the large stem – they should snap off of the branches easily. Shake off any insects.
The easiest way to remove the berries from the stalks is to strip them using the prongs of a fork. If you can’t use the berries straight away, they can be frozen and used later.
Take care! Some people can be sensitive to elder when it comes into contact with the skin leading to irritation and rash. And although the flowers and cooked berries (pulp and skin) are edible, the uncooked berries and other parts of plants from the genus Sambucus are poisonous and may cause stomach upset.
Elderberries and ginger may have anti-viral properties, so get ready for winter and make a stash of elderberry syrup. Add cinnamon and ginger to taste.
It's easy to make and you can eat it by the spoonful, drizzle onto porridge or yogurt, or add a dash to fizzy wine.
- Carefully separate your elderberries from their stalks with a fork or your hands
- Chop up a little ginger into small pieces
- Put the elderberries and chopped ginger into a pan and cover them with water
- Bring to the boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly
- Pour the mixture through a jelly bag or muslin (fine cloth) and allow the juice to drip through. Extract as much liquid as possible
- Pour the elderberry liquid into a measuring jug, and measure how much you have. Now add equal parts sugar to the liquid mixture - so if you measured 500ml of juice, add 500g of sugar, or if you have 1 litre of liquid, add 1 kilo of sugar
- Add the sugar and a little ground cinnamon or cinnamon stick to the strained liquid. Simmer for five minutes and then cool and pour into sterilised bottles
Credit: Ben Lee / WTML
When the weather turns colder and you find yourself in front of the fire, it's the perfect time to enjoy a glass of elderberry wine.
Patience is required for this recipe. Like red wine grapes, elderberries are high in tannin and so the wine needs time to mature.
- 2½ lb elderberries
- Campden tablets
- 2½, 2¾ or 3 lb sugar (use the lowest amount of sugar for a dry wine, next for a medium dry wine and the higher sugar for a medium sweet)
- Wine yeast
- Yeast nutrient
- Gloves - particularly when handling the berries as they can die your skin purple!
- Strip the elderberries from the stalks and wash well
- Put into a fermenting bin and crush, either using gloved hands or a potato masher
- Pour on 4 pints of water
- Add 1 Campden tablet, crushed and dissolved in a little warm water to kill off any wild yeasts
- Boil half of the sugar in 2 pints of water for 2 or 3 minutes and, when cool, mix into the pulp
- Add the yeast (6g) and nutrient and cover and allow to ferment for 5 days, stirring daily
- Strain and press and return the liquor to a clean fermenting bin
- Boil the rest of the sugar in 1 pint of water for 2 or 3 minutes and when cool, add to the liquor
- Cover again and leave for 3 or 4 days
- Pour carefully or syphon into a gallon jar. Try and leave as much of the sediment behind as possible
- Fill up the jar with cooled boiled water to where the neck begins
- Fit a fermentation lock and leave until fermentation has finished
- Rack your wine (which means to move your wine into a fresh container) adding a Campden tablet after the first fermentation
- Syphon into bottles
Credit: iStock.com / Dejan Kolar
Elderberry and dark chocolate vegan muffins
They’re the unsung heroes of foraged bakes, but the tangy tartness of elderberries pairs perfectly with the bitter edge of dark chocolate and delicate sweetness of vanilla.
These delicious vegan muffins are perfect if you’re living with food allergies or eating a plant-based diet. Enjoy them with a brew, as a dessert or even for breakfast.
- 150g elderberries
- 300g plain flour
- 200g ground almonds
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 250ml almond milk
- 200ml maple syrup
- 4 tablespoons melted coconut oil
- 80g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or one pod)
- Preheat the oven to 180C fan (gas mark 4). Line a 12-hole muffin tray with muffin cases.
- Add the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda to a large mixing bowl and stir together until well combined, with no lumps.
- Pour in the almond milk, maple syrup, melted coconut oil and vanilla extract. Mix well until the batter is thick and smooth.
- Once thickened, gently stir through the elderberries and dark chocolate pieces.
- Divide the mixture evenly between the muffin cases and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until golden, risen and cooked through. Test the muffins by inserting a skewer or knife into the middle – if it doesn’t come out clean, pop the muffins back in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes.
- Once cooked, remove the muffins from the oven and leave to cool completely.
Credit: Charlotte Varela / WTML