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How to Make Elderberry Syrup

Author John Moody

This excerpt is from the bookThe Elderberry Book: Forage, Cultivate, Prepare, Preserve by John Moody.  

John Moody is the founder of Whole Life Services and Whole Life Buying Club. He won the 2013 Weston A. Price activist of the year award and is one of two old timers and five rambunctious kids who farms and homesteads on 35 acres in Kentucky.

Excerpt from the book The Elderberry Book

How to Make Elderberry Syrup, including Alternative Sweeteners and Storage

Elderberry Syrup

Most people in America meet elderberry for the first time as a suggested way to treat colds and flu, especially in the winter. What makes it into a syrup is the sweetener—generally . viscous sweetener by volume, sometimes less, sometimes more. Traditionally, honey was the most common option, but we also enjoy using maple syrup and date syrup. If you plan to give children under the age of one any, then only use an alternative sweetener because of the botulism risk that honey poses to their immature digestive systems. Alternative sweeteners are also important for those on certain diets. You can even make a less sweet version by decreasing the amount of sweetener—it will just result in a thinner, more watery final product.

The fruit of the elder starts green and slowly ripens over the summer.

Ingredients (using fresh berries)

  • 1 cup fresh elderberries
  • 1 ¼ cups clean water
  • ½ cup real honey
  • Optional: 2 Ceylon cinnamon sticks or ½ tsp Ceylon cinnamon:
  • 5 cloves: ginger, ½ inch fresh grated or ¼ teaspoon dried


  • Bring 1⅓ cups of water to a simmer.
  • Add all the ingredients except honey.
  • Cover and allow to simmer for 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Strain mixture through a fine sieve or colander, pressing the excess liquid out of the berries and other ingredients. The leftovers are great for chickens, pigs, worms, or the compost pile!
  • Measure the amount of liquid; you should end up with about 1 cup. If needed, add some water to get to 1 cup; this helps speed cooling process.
  • Allow the strained mixture to cool to 110ÅãF (43ÅãC).
  • Add sweetener of choice and blend mixture with a fork or small whisk. If the sweetener is especially thick, you may need to use a handheld blender on a low setting to thoroughly incorporate it. Makes 16 ounces or 1 pint.

Low-Honey/Sweetener Version

For medical or other reasons, some people need or want to restrict their sugar/carbohydrate intake. In such a situation, use ⅓ to ½ less sweetener and make a thinner, but still delicious, syrup. Note that the total final volume will be less, or you will need to make slightly more liquid to add the sweetener to reach a full pint.

Other Syrup Versions

  • If using dried berries, follow the recipe above, but use ½ cup of dried berries in place of fresh. Makes one pint.
  • If using regular elderberry juice, use 1 cup of juice + ⅓ cup water and only simmer for approximately 15 to 20 minutes with the additional ingredients.
  • For concentrated juice or syrup, use 1/2 cup juice and a bit over ¾ cup water.
  • Feel free to consult commercial product labels as well, as products will vary.

Syrup Storage and Shelf Life

Elderberry syrup is best stored in a cool, dark place, preferably the refrigerator. Since the sweetener is not pasteurized in our recipe, the risk of fermentation or mold is greater than with pasteurized products, both store-bought or homemade.

The syrup should last at least 4 to 6 weeks, though we and many others have had it last 8 to 12 weeks in the coldest part of the fridge.

If you want to make a larger batch, say from your own fresh berries, and save it for winter use, you can freeze the syrup. I would suggest freezing it in no more than 1-cup portions, enough to last a few days when thawed, in a square Pyrex dish or an ice cube tray. Store frozen portions in a freezer bag or larger container.

Alternative Sweeteners

While honey is usually the sweetener of choice for syrups, many other options are available. Maple syrup, date syrup, and the like all make wonderful elderberry syrup, with some added benefits. For instance, children under the age of one shouldn’t consume raw honey, so an elderberry syrup made with an alternative sweetener is infant friendly, unlike the honey version. Some people, because of dietary beliefs, such as vegans or vegetarians, may want to avoid honey. Others can consume date or other sugars, but not honey or maple syrup.

If you substitute into an alternative sweetener, here are a few guidelines.

  • Few sweeteners are as sweet as honey. It is almost twice as sweet as most other common sweeteners, like maple syrup, so the final product will have a similar amount of total carbs/sugar but may taste less sweet.
  • The final thickness/viscosity will vary based on the sweetener. In our experience, maple syrup makes a thinner final product, whereas date syrup makes a thicker one. The thicker the sweetener, the thicker the syrup; the thinner the sweetener, the thinner the syrup.
  • Sweetener costs vary substantially, both between sweeteners and depending on your location. You may want to adjust the amount in the recipe based on cost considerations. In our area, honey is almost half the cost of maple syrup, but in other places, the reverse may be true.

Dark, amber glass bottles are the best way to store syrups and similar herbal preparations.

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