Cooking Mahonia berries – great options for this tart & healthy berry

Mahonia berries are edible, but they’re best eaten after the season’s first frosts. The icy crystals break down some of the most tart compounds, leaving only the sweet sugars for all to taste!

The tartness of a Mahonia berry is very similar to that of red currant, and you can eat them in much the same manner, too!

Discover some of the ways to eat these berries and which varieties are best!

Berrylicious Mahonia fruits

Although there are a few precautions to take, as shared below, Mahonia berries are uniquely delicious. Here are a few suggestions to prepare and savor these tart power-packed superberries!

Mahonia berries “a la fresco

This means simply eating them raw! Since they’re really tart, best to add something softer and smoother such as:

  • cream or whip cream, either sweetened or not
  • sugar, from plain white to exotic coconut sugar
  • combination of both, such as in sweetened condensed milk, yoghurt, etc.
  • other fruits like raspberry, billberry, blueberry, red currant

If at first it tastes too tart (which certainly might happen!), simply mash it up somewhat. You’ll find it very palatable!

Since this is a late fall fruit, it’s often easiest to pair it with other late summer fruits in a seasonal fruit salad

  • soft fall pear fruit varieties like the beurré hardy will be perfectly ripe by then
  • other pear and apple tree varieties are also ready for consumption
  • sweet exotic fruits such as ananas comosus and barbary fig

Mahonia berry jam & jelly

Mahonia berries make a delicious jam with a unique, very flavorful taste. It’s even more delicate than the more famous blueberry jam!

For mahonia berry jelly, simply follow these steps:

  • rinse fruits out
  • in a pan with just a bit of water (less than a quarter inch or 5 mm), start boiling the fruits
  • use a potato-masher to burst the berries while boiling
  • when berries are all burst, sieve the mix with a fine sieve or simply cheesecloth
  • weigh the juice and add the equivalent amount of sugar
  • add a dash of lemon juice (a teaspoon)
  • boil and mix constantly with the ladle
  • after about 10 minutes, test a drop of the syrup on an ice-cold plate: when it hardens and doesn’t run anymore, put in sterilized jam pots. Until then, keep simmering extra moisture away.

For jam, simply follow the steps above, but instead of cheesecloth, use a wider mesh sieve that will let everything but the seeds through.

Delicious on scones, toast, and pancakes!

Mahonia wine & liquor

The name of one of the most famous mahonia varieties – Oregon grape holly – shows that these purple grape-like berries are also good for wine.

  • This involves fermentation. The entire process takes about a month.

Thick, sweet syrup can also easily be produced from mahonia berries.

  • Much like jam, thick syrup that is still liquid can be used to dress dessert plats, ice cream, toast and more.
  • Add it to champagne to create Mahonia Kir Royal.
  • If a batch of jelly lacks pectin or agar-agar, don’t discard it! This is a syrup that will keep very well!

Mahonia granola bars

Dehydrated mahonia berries are excellent in granola bars.

  • Simply add them to the recipe you’re most familiar with exactly as you would raisins or dried goji berries.

Smart tip about cooking mahonia

If you’ve harvested too many mahonia berries, simply prepare a few mahonia preserves. They’ll keep you well-stocked with this tart delight!


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Cream & sugar berries by Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois, own work