What Does Elderberry Taste Like

What does elderberry taste like?

You must have heard of elderberry, but did you know it was common among indigenous people and ancient Egyptians? They used it in treating fever, burns, and rheumatism and also use it to enhance their skin color. In today’s world, not only is elderberry used in making supplements for cold and flu, but it is also used in making jams, pastries, and various recipes.

If you’re just hearing of elderberry, you’re probably wondering “what does elderberry taste like? Is it sweet, sour, or bitter?” Well, to answer your question, in this article, we have considered the different tastes of elderberry, based on its varieties and how it can be used. But before we get to it, let’s talk about what it is and some of its benefits.


Elderberry is a shrub with fruits and flowers that differ in their colors based on what variety of elderberry plants they grow on. It is also known as elder plant or sambucus tree. Elderberry grows favorably in subtropical climate regions and is of different varieties. One of the most common types of elderberry is the European elderberry (sambucus nigra), which grows originally in Europe, hence the name, but can also be found in North America, Asia, and Northern Africa.

Elderberry begins to bloom at the end of August. It is a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron, and antioxidants, especially the antioxidant anthocyanin, which is the pigment that gives the fruits their color. It could range from blue to blue-black, depending on how much anthocyanin it contains.

There are so many health benefits linked with elderberry, such as:

  1. Clears the body of free radicals, therefore helps to prevent certain chronic diseases such as cancer and type 2 diabetes.
  2. Improves heart health, as some studies have found that it can reduce the levels of cholesterol, uric acid, and blood sugar. However, more research needs to be done on this.
  3. Prevents or reduces the severity of some common infections such as sinusitis and bronchitis, as its antibacterial properties have shown to be able to stop the growth of bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori.
  4. Help boost the immune system.

Additionally, the flowers and leaves of the elderberry plant also offer some health benefits as they too have been used historically, to relieve pain, reduce swelling and information, and stimulate the production of urine, and sweat. The bark of the tree also was used as medicine, either as a diuretic, laxative or to induce vomiting. 

The flowers of elderberry plants are 10 times richer in flavanols, an antioxidant, than the berries of the plant. Years ago, not only was elderberry popular for its medicinal advantages but it was also believed to be able to ward off witches and evil spirits. However, in recent times, elderberry has made its way into pharmaceutical, winery, and skincare products. Skincare products containing elderberry extract were found to have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 9.88.

What Does Elderberry Taste Like
What Does Elderberry Taste Like


Elderberry can taste differently for different people, depending on the variety of the tree, and how it is used. The different varieties of elderberry have their unique taste and flavor, based on how they’re grown and pollinated. However, a lot of people say it tastes sour, bland, astringent, and slightly sweet, but this also depends on how you use it.


There are a lot of ways you can use elderberry, to ward off its bland, sour, or astringent taste.

Here are some ideas on how to enjoy your elderberry:

  1. Make Elderberry Jam: Wash your elderberries thoroughly and mash with a potato merger to extract the juice. Add sugar or lemon juice to the extract and pour the mixture into a pan. Let it simmer on low heat, but keep stirring, so the jam doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, once it’s ready, put it in jars and refrigerate.
  2. Make Elderberry Juice: A hot cup of elderberry juice after a long walk in the winter season is the best remedy for cold. You can make the juice out of just elderberries or you can mix it with other fruits such as cherries or blackberries.
  3. Make Elderberry Muffins: If you like blueberry muffins, then you’ll also love elderberry muffins. First cook your elderberry, discard the pulp, and mix the berries with your batter.


There are several species of elderberry all over the world. Previously, it was known to be about 30 different species worldwide, but recently, some species were labeled as subspecies, now making it a total of 9 different species of elderberry.

However, the most recognized type of elderberry are:

  1. The European or black elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
  2. The American elderberry (Sambucus nigra Canadensis)
  3. The Red elderberry (Sambucus racemona varracemona)
  4. The Blue elderberry (Sambucus Mexicana)

The European or Black Elderberry has dark purple or blue-black fruits because it is highly rich in anthocyanins. Their leaves are dark also and the flowers are yellowish white. They grow better in moist conditions, with full sun, and are known for their unique lemon flavor and bitter taste.

The American Elderberry is native to North and Central America. Their leaves are pale-cream colored, with a lemon scent. They grow better in wet environments and are pollinated by birds and butterflies, so they taste tangy but sweet.

The Red Elderberry, unlike the European and American Elderberry, their berries are red, hence the name. They’re native to Europe, but can also be found in the United States and Canada. Their fruits are believed to be poisonous, but their white flowers attract different birds and butterflies, so they’re mostly used as ornamental plants, however, the fruits are said to have a bitter pungent taste with lots of seeds.

The Blue Elderberry like the Red Elderberry doesn’t have the dark color of most elderberries. They are blue, with a white powder-like coating. They’re native to the North-West coast of the United States, Northwestern Mexico, and British Columbia. They prefer to grow in sunny places with moist soils. They’re also used as ornamental plants, and their berries are said to have a flavor that is a cross between grapes and tomato, although they are not safe for consumption.

Other types of elderberry include:

  • The Bob Gordon Elderberry
  • Lemony Lace Elderberry
  • York Elderberry
  • The Adams Elderberry


Some people eat elderberry raw, although this is not advised. Apart from the fact that raw elderberries have a tart, bitter, bland and earthy taste, they also contain toxins in their raw state, which makes them unsafe for consumption. Eating elderberry raw, that is including the berries, flowers, leaves, or bark of the tree can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Always cook your elderberry before consumption.


Cooking elderberries helps you get rid of the tart, bland and bitter taste. It gives a sweeter and juicier taste naturally, but it could also be enhanced with additional ingredients such as honey or sugar. When cooking elderberry, let it simmer until it reaches 180 degrees, then mesh the berries to release the juice, and allow to sit for 5 minutes before draining out the mixture.

Toss out the leftover pulp from the berry. Not only is cooked elderberry sweet, but they’re also safe for consumption, as cooking also helps to get rid of toxins.


When elderberry is used to make jams, the initial bitter taste of the fruit is replaced with a sweet-tart taste, while made into syrups or juices, it tastes delicious also. Of course, if you’re getting your elderberry juice from the market, the taste will differ from brand to brand because of how much sugar and other ingredients that may be added to it.


Elderberry pie tastes just like any other pie made with berries, like blueberry pies, only with some earthy flavor. It can be made with dried or fresh elderberries and you can also add other berries to your elderberry pie to add flavor and texture.


The flowers of the elderberry plant are called elderflowers and like the berries, they have their unique taste also. They taste very similar to lychee with some pear-like hints.

They have a very subtle floral taste and they smell like honey or lemon, depending on the type of elder plant. Like the berries, they could be made into syrups and used in baking. Elderflowers have a crunchy and juicy texture, which makes them refreshing.


Elderberry has a tart, bitter, bland, earthy, and slightly sweet taste when eaten raw. On the other hand, when cooked, the raw taste is replaced with a sweeter and juicier taste. You can enjoy elderberries by making jams, syrups, and juices out of them. You could also mix them with other fruits, such as blueberries,  to enhance the taste.

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