6 Best Substitutes for Juniper Berries

Juniper Berries

Juniper berries quite resemble one of our favorite berries: blueberry. Before you get confused, both are totally different. Juniper berries have earned their name due to its culinary uses. Most European and Scandinavian cuisine uses it for meat dishes like game meat and even for sauerkraut dishes.

When you’re trying to cook a traditional European dish and you don’t have juniper berries You can substitute it with rosemary, caraway seeds, gin, cardamom, bay leaves, and hickory spice.

Let’s see how you can perfect these European dishes without juniper berries.

Juniper Berries Substitute

1. Rosemary


Rosemary is a diverse herb. You can get it dried or buy the whole plant from the grocery store to get a sustainable herb source straight from your kitchen. It is perfect for pan-seared dishes like steaks. A few sprigs of it can add more aroma and taste to the meat. Aside from its culinary uses, it’s also popular for making perfumes, essential oils, and fragrant for cleaning liquid soaps.

How To Substitute

The substitution is quite simple for this one. All you need to do is add a few rosemary sprigs to the dish. You can use at least 2-3 sprigs of rosemary to substitute 1 teaspoon of juniper berries.

This can already make a difference with the absence of juniper berries. If you just harvested some fresh game meat or other red meats, this is a perfect substitute that you can use to achieve that distinct aroma and taste.

You can mix the rosemary on the marinade beforehand or have it cooked directly onto the pan with the meat. I highly recommend doing the latter since it boosts the flavor and the aroma of the meat all the more.

2. Caraway Seeds

Caraway Seeds

If there are caraway seeds available in your area, then perfect! Caraway seeds or often called as meridian fennel and Persian cumin is another flavor seed that offers a subtle flavor but enormous aroma to every dish. You can find this mostly in herbs and spices shops. If you can’t you may shop online since international shipments are honored in most countries.

It’s one of the effective substitutes over juniper berries because of its almost licorice taste highly aromatic characteristics. You can really tell when a dish has it because it brings out the best of your dish without overpowering it that much.

How To Substitute

You may use the ratio of 1:1 when substituting it. You can use one teaspoon of caraway seeds to substitute 1 teaspoon of juniper berries. Then just add a bay leaf or two to the dish depending on how much you like it to be aromatic. Feel free to adjust the seasonings based on your preference.

3. Gin


Yes, gin can be an ultimate substitute for juniper berries. I’m pretty sure some of us keep a stash of gin collections in our bar area or cellar. The next time you need juniper berries and have none, skip running to the grocery store and go to your cellar instead. There’s no specific brand or alcohol content for the type of gin. Whatever you have at home, can be used for this substitution.

How To Substitute

For the substitution, just add a teaspoon of gin to replace a tablespoon of juniper berries. You can adjust the content if you want to depend on how comfortable you are with the taste. Also, if you want it more aromatic, you can add other herbs or spices just to boost the aroma. The gin adds a more subtle aroma and sometimes it’s not even noticeable.

4. Cardamom


Cardamom is a very special spice mainly used in Indian cuisine and even in other delectable European sweets. It’s surprisingly unique and flexible as well when it comes to the kitchen. Just when you think that it has limited use, you can actually use this spice as a substitute for the unique taste and aroma of juniper berries.

The seeds of cardamom are harvested and then dried before being consumed. It’s more excellent to use on savory dishes to boost its aroma and flavor. Other types of cooking use its whole pods and seeds when cooking.

For convenience, it’s best purchased when ground. The only thing about this spice is that it’s a bit expensive compared to the other entries we’ve listed a while back. But, it’s worth the substitution because of its capability to copy the juniper berries’ unique characteristics.

How To Substitute

The substitution is quite easy as well. Just follow the 1:1 ratio. For every 1 teaspoon of juniper berries, substitute it with 1 teaspoon of cardamom. It will depend as well on how big your dish is. If you’re making a big batch, just adjust the contents and taste test before adding more content to it.

5. Bay Leaves

Bay Leaves

Bay Leaf is another strong and very aromatic spice that is known around the world. It’s really fragrant by just using only one leaf, it can already do some magic. You can get these ground or whole dried leaves. That depends on what you prefer to have. Bay leaves are not really edible, it’s only used for its distinguished aroma and flavor. It’s usually discarded after cooking.

How To Substitute

If you currently have the whole leaves, substitute one teaspoon of juniper berries over 1-2 bay leaves. If you have the ground bay leaves, then use the 1:1 ratio. Don’t worry about going beyond the ratio since bay leaves are not that strong whenever you use too much of its contents.

6. Hickory Spice

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Hickory spices are now readily available in most grocery stores that come in all types of brands. Hickory spice is a mixture of different herbs and spices like cumin, garlic, onion, chili, salt, and of course, hickory powder. No wonder this spice is very aromatic and flavorful, a perfect choice to substitute juniper berries.

How To Substitute

You can substitute a teaspoon of juniper berries with 1.5 teaspoons of hickory spice. If you like the kick, you can do more than that. Its spice is not that hot so I highly recommend using more than the 1:1 ratio. To know if the spice is fit for your palate, you can do a taste test. If you like it, you may adjust the taste and go from there.

What’s a Juniper Berries?

Juniper berries are mostly found in Europe, dubbed as the most valued spice in those areas. When it reaches its maturity period, it’s taste develops a quite unique herb-ish and citrusy flavor. When used as a spice, the berries are slightly crushed and dried to get the best of its flavors. It’s also good to consume when fresh.

Key Takeaway

Unique herbs and spices just like juniper berries can be intimidating to replace or substitute because of its specific uses. However, with the proper knowledge of other herbs and spices available out there, it could be easier to mix, match, and substitute those from one another.

The best advice I can give is to always visit your nearby herbs and spices shop and learn to understand and study its unique characteristics.

Experiment with dishes and take note of those that can be substituted with another. So the next time you run out with one thing, it would be easier for you to pick up which appropriate herb to use instead.

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