5 Best Substitutes for Juniper Berries

Some recipes call for juniper berries, however, they are not always available, or you may not take them, but you still want the same benefits. In this article, we take a look at the best substitutes for juniper berries. 

Juniper Berry Substitutes

A juniper berry is a small purple fruit with a distinctive sharp flavor. The name is deceptive and the juniper berry is not a berry at all but a seed cone with a softer exterior than most other cones. Juniper berries are most common in Northern European cuisines such as Scandinavian and German cuisine.

In cuisine, crushed juniper berries are used to flavor brines and marinades for meat, particularly game, as the potent, fresh flavor cuts through the richness of game. They are also used to produce beverages such as gin. If you don’t have juniper berries, then your roast will taste blander, and the gamey flavors of wild meat may be overwhelming for some.

substitutes for juniper berries

Juniper berries are crucial in brines and marinades, particularly if you want to follow tradition. Although they may be hard to find, you can use other spices and herbs as a substitute.

The best juniper berry substitutes are herbs with a similar floral, pungent flavor profile. Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary and bay leaves have similar aromas and work well in marinades and brines because they impart flavor into meat over a long resting period. You can also use gin, which is made from juniper berries and has the same taste, because the alcohol evaporates with cooking.


Fresh rosemary herb on the dark background. Top view rosemary

One of the first things to ask yourself when you look for a substitute is to know what you need the berries for in the first place. This way, you know what benefits you need and if the replacement will give you those benefits. Rosemary is a fragrant herb that is often used for cooking. It has an aromatic scent that is often used in the kitchen and around the house. 

It has a mint flavour as it is part of the mint family. It has a similar flavour to the other herbs, such as basil and oregano. It grows all year round, and as such, you can always get it.so you won’t have issues like them being out of season. Rosemary is thought to have numerous benefits, such as preventing brain ageing, improving concentration, and digestion. It is also high in antioxidants which are thought to help boost immunity. 

Fresh rosemary is used in recipes that usually involve game meat. It has an aroma that pairs well with such recipes. It also goes well for any recipes that may be marinated in red wine. 

You can use a sprig of rosemary in the place of juniper berries. One small sprig of rosemary can take the place of 1 juniper berry. Both juniper berries and rosemary can be used in cooking, and they have a pine-like flavour. However, rosemary has a more fragrant flavour in comparison to juniper berries.

Caraway Seeds

caraway seeds

Caraway seeds are another great way to have a similar flavour as what juniper berries would give you, but without using them. Juniper berries are a standard fixture on European recipes. But if you cannot find them where you are, you can always substitute with Caraway seeds. 

Caraway seeds are also known as Mediterranean fennel and Persian fennel. The plant looks quite similar to other members of the carrot family. 

These seeds are usually used to flavour meat dishes, sauerkraut, rye bread. They are often used as spices in food, and they seem to be a cross between cumin and fennel with some notes familiar to anise. 

Caraway seeds will add texture and flavour that can make a dish different. It also adds a different strong aroma. It is also often used for its medicinal purposes. For this purpose, it can either be taken as a tea or as a supplement. It can potentially reduce inflammation, encourage healthy digestion, and in some cases, may help reduce weight.

You can use one teaspoon of caraway seeds for two juniper berries.  These seeds blend very well with a wide array of spices and as such is a great substitute. 


Cardamom in a wooden shovel on a gray wooden background

Cardamom is a spice that is often used for cooking and also for its medicinal properties. It has a woody flavour, and as such, pairs well with different meat recipes like a duck. This spice comes from a combination of different plants. Perhaps this mixed bag of goodness makes it a versatile spice that can be used for both sweet and savoury dishes. 

It comes in different forms, depending on how you will want to use it. It is available as an essential oil, as whole seed pods, as a herbal supplement and spice. Its benefits include dealing with metabolic syndrome, including conditions like high blood sugar and low levels of good cholesterol. These conditions can lead to more serious ones like heart disease. 

It is also said to be good for oral health and heart health in general. It may also help prevent ulcers and also may possess anti-cancer properties. These are all benefits that you can expect to siphon from using the Indian spice cardamom. 

You can use one crushed pod of cardamom, in place of 1 juniper berry. The pods can not be eaten, and as such, they can be added to food whilst cooking and then removed when serving similarly to how you handle cinnamon sticks. 


Glass of gin tonic with cucumber lime and ice over a wooden table

If you can’t get juniper berries, you can always use a by-product of juniper berries. Gin is an alcoholic drink that is made of juniper berries. As such, it easily replaces those berries. It’s like looking for the flavour of oranges and using orange juice in its place. The flavour of Gin and juniper berries is very close to each other. 

However, different manufacturers make gin, and as such, the flavour may be altered. You will need to be deliberate about the gin type that you choose. You can use gin in meat dishes, where you would ordinarily add the juniper berries. Gin is one of the best ways to get the flavour of juniper berries in your food. 

A lot of people find it difficult to cook with alcohol if they don’t normally drink it. However, there is no need to worry about the meal getting people tipsy, because the alcohol evaporates as you cook, leaving the berry flavor for the gin. 

You can use one teaspoon of gin for every juniper berry you need. 

Bay Leaves

bay leaves on a straw background with pepper

Bay leaves are a great substitute for juniper berries, and they are more readily available. They have a pine flavor that tastes great with red meat. Bay leaves have the same strong and sharp taste that you get with juniper berries. In most cases, you use them in their dry form. You can either get them whole, fresh, or dried and ground.

You can use one bay leaf for ¼ teaspoon of juniper berries.