The 7 Best Substitutes For Barberries

What can I use instead of barberries? The best substitutes for barberries are red currants, goji berries, sour cherries, cranberries, and apricots. Use rose hips to make tart preserves and sumac for color and flavor.

Barberries or zereshk are tiny, intensely sour, bright red berries commonly used in Middle Eastern and East European cuisine. Eaten fresh as a snack or dried and rehydrated in cooking, vitamin C-rich barberries add brightness to chicken, vegetable, and rice dishes. Barberries are high in pectin, so they make excellent jams and preserves. Let’s look at the seven best substitutes for barberries.

The Best Barberries Substitutes

Red Currants

Red currants are an excellent substitute for barberries.

Known as Johannisbeeren in Europe, these bright red, tangy little berries are highly nutritious, containing vitamin C, organic acids, antioxidants, and polyphenols.

Red currants can be eaten fresh, making delicious summer tarts, puddings, and Scandinavian fruit soup. They are also tasty when dried, providing a more intense flavor than raisins or craisins.

Try fresh red currants as an alternative to barberries if you want a sour-tasting snack berry or topping for porridge, granola, or yogurt.

Dried red currants are an excellent replacement for braised meat dishes, pilaf, stuffing, or cookies.

Like barberries, red currants are rich in pectin and make a similarly tart jam and jelly, tasty with savory meat and cheese.

Replace barberries with equal measures of red currants. Soak the red currants in a bit of lemon juice if they are too sweet.

Goji Berries

Tart and healthy goji berries are a great alternative to barberries.

A Chinese ingredient and traditional medicine, goji berries or wolfberries are tiny, reddish-orange, and sour. They are typically dried, becoming slightly sweeter, but retaining their herbaceous zing.

Goji berries are regarded as a superfood, incredibly high in antioxidants and with cancer-fighting properties.

Like barberries, goji berries are best when rehydrated in lemon juice or tea (a Chinese hack). Use them instead of barberries to add a tangy punch to your breakfast smoothie or oatmeal bowl.

Add them to couscous and grain salads and embellish homemade fruit bars, cakes, and cookies.

Replace barberries with goji berries in a 1:1 ratio.

Sour Cherries

Sour cherries make a delicious alternative to barberries.

This unusual summer fruit looks like glowing red cherries but has a surprisingly sour, acidic flavor.

Fresh sour cherries are fragile and perishable and only available from farmer’s markets. You’ll find frozen cherries at the supermarket. You can also find dried sour cherries from the Montmorency brand.

 Use fresh-frozen sour cherries instead of barberries in pies, cakes, compotes, or with rich game dishes. Because of their high pectin content, they make lovely preserves, jams, and jellies.

Dried sour cherries can replace barberries once they’re rehydrated. They’re great in relish and chutney or braised with meat and vegetables.

Replace barberries with the same amount of sour cherries.


Cranberries are a convenient replacement for barberries.

These tiny, jewel-like berries are native to America and are integral to traditional Thanksgiving cuisine. They are full of health benefits, boosting a vitamin B and C and supporting the immune system.

Fresh cranberries are mouth-puckeringly tart and are seldom eaten out of hand.

Dried cranberries or craisins are common year-round and are often sweetened. Choose the unsweetened variety to retain the tasty sourness.

A perfect alternative to fresh barberries, cranberries make a delicious sauce or relish for poultry, tangy jams and jellies, and exceptional pies, cakes, and scones.

Dried cranberries make a delightful addition to rice dishes, salads, stuffing, granola, or cookies. To replace tiny barberries, chop the cranberries in half.

Use like-for-like amounts to replace barberries with cranberries.


If you can’t find a berry replacement, look to apricots to substitute for barberries.

These juicy stone-fruit have soft, peach-like skin and rich pink-orange color. Apricots taste bright and slightly tart and contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Like barberries, apricots are a popular and versatile ingredient in Middle Eastern and Levantine cuisine. They are incredibly versatile, so they are fresh and dried in sweet and savory dishes.

Fresh apricots make tasty snacks, chopped into yogurt or oatmeal, in tarts, desserts, and cakes. They make delicious jams as well.

Dried apricots are an ideal replacement for barberries, as you can use them without rehydration. Chop dried apricots into rice and grain dishes, chicken and lamb kebabs and curries, salads, and stuffings.

Replace barberries with similar amounts of chopped apricots, with the proviso that apricots are sweeter.

Rose Hips

Rose hips make an unusual replacement for barberries.

The fruit of the rose plant, hips or haws, appear in fall and winter after the rose has flowered and looks like big red berries. They have a seriously sour flavor.

Rose hips have long been known for their medicinal properties, rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, and iron.

Avoid eating rose hips raw, and ensure that you cut them open and scoop out the seeds and their indigestible, hairy covering, as they will make you sick.

Rose hips can replace barberries as an ingredient in jam, syrup, or jelly. Use equal amounts of rose hips as barberries, but add another element high in pectin to encourage the preserves to set.


The final recommended substitute for barberries is sumac.

Sumac is a citrus-tasting red berry used in Middle Eastern and Levantine cuisine. It has a strong astringency, with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities.

Typically dried and ground into a coarse, burgundy powder, sumac is used as a seasoning rather than a fruity ingredient and can replace salt as a flavor enhancer.

Sumac is one of the main ingredients of the ubiquitous Middle Eastern spice za’atar.

Use sumac instead of barberries to add flavor to meat rubs, relish, and dips. It is delicious with fatty meats, like lamb or duck.

Sumac can also add color to dishes, especially if you use it as a flavorful garnish or sprinkle – it’s like squeezing lemon juice over food before serving.

Sumac works as a barberry alternative if you need a punch of flavor and color rather than a solid ingredient. Add sumac gradually to taste.