What Does Elderberry Taste Like?

Elderberry Taste

Elderberry has been propelled to popularity because of its use as a cold and flu fighter. Of course, elderberry is not new to the world. Elderberry has been with us for some time and fighting colds and flu are not the only benefits of elderberry. Elderberry helps fight inflammation, has many antioxidants and helps promote heart health. Elderberry has also proved popular in food flavouring and winemaking. The elderberry has quite a reputation and many would wonder what it tastes like.



Elderberry is the fruit product of a shrub known as Sambucus that occurs naturally in subtropical climatic regions. Sambucus are grown for their leaves, seeds, berries and flowers which all have value. The elderberry is a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin B6 and Iron. This versatile fruit is also used in wine and liqueur. Elderberries because of their nutritional profile are also widely used in medicine as a flu remedy. The elderberry also has a very interesting history with it being believed to ward off witches and evil spirits and this may be the reason it became popular in the past. With the berry so useful the question of how it tastes was bound to come up. So what does elderberry taste like?



Unlike many shrub berries, the first thing you will notice about elderberries is that they are not sweet. If anything the flavour is best described as tart, quite similar to other tart berries like grapes and blackberries. This flavour is what helps them blend easily with sweet fruits such as apples or strawberries. This is the flavour that has seen elderberry become very popular in winemaking as they add flavour with an edge as compared to the often smooth sweetness of late harvest red wines. However, they can behave somewhat like strawberries and the flavour you will ultimately get ranges. This tart flavour can sometimes be dialled up to tangy and bitter. You will often find references to elderberry being better tasting when cooked than its raw form; more on this later.



Another flavour hint that is commonly noted amongst those who have tasted elderberry is the reference to it having an earthy almost mineral taste to it. Not uncommon in berries such as raspberries it gives the elderberry a fuller taste. Not so much that it can dominate other flavours but it covers more of the palate. The tart flavour is bright and while it doesn’t have the sharpness of a granadilla, it is present. The earthy flavour balances this and gives the elderberry taste more body. The flavour is soft so it matches up to the low levels of the tart flavour of elderberry.



Other people have described elderberry as being a bland berry. While the berry does possess a tart flavour it is important to remember that it is 83% water. While this is consistent with most berries elderberry is very low in sugar so this makes for a very watery berry and the tart flavour is more of a hint than a highlight. They are similar to blueberries in this regard as blueberries tend to have a very watery berry and only a slight hint of their bright flavour. Much like blueberries, their flavour is downplayed in their fresh raw form. This blandness applies to raw fresh elderberries as we shall see later.



Raw elderberries only have hints of flavour. For best results cooking elderberry will give you a greater appreciation of their flavour. Elderberries thus are very popular in recipes that involve the cooking or further processing of elderberries. There is a whole school of thought that has popped up that elderberries should not be eaten at all in their raw form. While the basis of this argument is hard to to ascertain it is certain that elderberries subtle flavours come through when the berries are cooked or processed. Cooked elderberries are described as being sweet and juicy. The cooking process enhances the concentration of the sweetness of elderberries. So you will find those who have elderberry in a form where it is cooked or otherwise processed will cite the berry as having a sweet, bright and earthy flavour. These qualities are undoubtedly the reason why a berry with a flavour that is bland can be used in flavouring wines and liqueurs. The cooking and/or processing certainly enhances the tart flavour of the elderberry to a sweet bright flavour.



The flesh of the elderberry is similar to that of a grape. They do contain as much water as grapes so this is not surprising. The flesh is mostly a membrane that holds water something like jelly. So what you have is a moist, translucent, flavoured jelly of sorts. Not very difficult to chew and much smaller than grapes. Elderberries also have three little seeds about the size of poppy seeds in them. This gives an almost unexpected crunch to the berries. The seeds themselves do not contribute much to the flavour of the elderberry and their presence is experienced through texture rather than any specific flavour they bring to the fruit.


The elderberry is a popular small berry but the taste is not so easy to identify and explain. The raw elderberry has a low-level tart and earthy flavour. Sometimes the flavour can be tangy or even bitter instead of just tart. The closest match to such a flavour is the blueberry. When cooked elderberry has a total change of flavour as it transforms from earthy and tart to sweet and bright. Elderberries have a soft jelly or grape-like flesh and very small seeds which add a little bit of crunch but not much flavour.

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