Sweet, tart, and delightfully fizzy, elderberry kombucha combines the two powerful immune boosters. Like most fermented drinks, kombucha is naturally rich in beneficial bacteria that help support general wellness. When you combine that with elderberry and ginger, two potent herbs for immunity, you create a deeply nutritious tonic that tastes utterly delicious, too.
What is it?
Kombucha tea is a fermented black tea that tastes both sweet and tart, like a light and fizzy version of apple cider vinegar. As a fermented drink, it's naturally rich in beneficial bacteria just like tepache and beet kvass.
You can flavor the tea with fruit, juices, and herbs. For elderberry kombucha, you flavor the tea with a syrup made with elderberries. You can add complementary herbs like ginger or cinnamon, too.
Why should you make it?
Both kombucha and elderberries are nutritious foods that encourage wellness in general, and your immune system in particular. When you combine them together, you create a mighty tonic that nourishes your body and tastes delicious, too. When winter sniffles make the rounds, elderberry kombucha is an excellent tonic to keep on hand for a little extra immune support.
- Elderberries are a potent source of micronutrients including vitamins A, C, and B6 (1) .
- They also contain powerful antioxidants and phytonutrients that combat inflammation (2).
- Elderberries have antiviral activity and support the immune system (3).
- Kombucha is rich in beneficial bacteria (4), which supports gut health.
Which ingredients do you need?
To make elderberry kombucha, you'll need to start with prepared kombucha tea. You'll also need elderberries, coconut sugar (or another sweetener) and additional herbs.
- Prepared Kombucha Tea. If you're new to kombucha brewing, start by making your first batch either using the continuous brew method or the batch brew method.
- If you're new to kombucha brewing, you'll need a kombucha mother which you can order online here.
- Dried elderberries. Dried elderberries are available year-round, and are easy to order online. You can use fresh berries in the summer if you're lucky enough to find them.
- Ginger or other spices. Ginger harmonizes beautifully with elderberry, both in flavor and in energy.
- A sweetener. The beneficial bacteria in kombucha need sugar to thrive. A caloric sweetener like coconut sugar, maple sugar or organic white sugar work well.
Tips for making elderberry kombucha
Making flavored kombucha relies on a two-step process. You'll first prepare a syrup, and then mix that syrup with prepared kombucha during bottling or secondary fermentation. Primary (or first) fermentation is when you prepare your kombucha tea. Secondary fermentation happens when you flavor and bottle your brew.
- Simmer your elderberries. Raw elderberries are toxic and can upset your stomach. So, simmer your berries at least 20 minutes. You'll neutralize the berries' toxins and release their nutrients.
- Prepare a syrup. A syrup is easy to add to your kombucha and supports even flavors.
- If you don't want to make a syrup, you can use a purchased elderberry syrup as long as it contains a source of sugar to feed the beneficial bacteria.
- Make sure to stir your prepared tea very well to promote even carbonation. See this post for kombucha brewing tips.
- Use flip-top bottles to bottle your brew so that it becomes nice and fizzy. Order them here.
Pro Tip: If you want a super easy option, snag the Elderberry Kombucha Kit which has everything you need (plus some extra herbs!).
Elderberry Kombucha Recipe
Prepare the elderberry syrup.
- Pour the elderberries and ginger into a saucepan. Pour in the water, and bring it to a boil over high heat. Immediately turn the heat down to medium, and simmer about 15 to 20 minutes or until the liquid reduces to ½ cup.
- Turn off the heat, and stir in the coconut sugar until it dissolves completely in the liquid.
- Set a fine-mesh sieve over a jar, and then strain the syrup into the jar. Allow it to cool to room temperature, approximately 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add the elderberry syrup to the kombucha.
- Pour the prepared kombucha into a gallon-sized jar or another large vessel. Stir in the room temperature elderberry syrup, and then pour the liquid into bottles. Seal the bottles tightly.
Ferment the kombucha.
- Allow the kombucha to ferment about 2 to 3 days. Enjoy it right away, or transfer it to the fridge to keep up to six months.
This recipe is versatile, and you can adjust it easily depending on your needs and likes. Add different herbs, swap your source of sugar, or even try a different starter culture to make Elderberry Soda or Elderberry Kefir.
Switch your source of sugar. The beneficial bacteria in kombucha need a source of sugar to survive. We used coconut sugar in this recipe, but you can use any source of concentrated sweetness like maple sugar, organic white sugar or even honey.
Try adding other herbs. This version uses elderberry and ginger, but you can also add other herbs, too. Hibiscus, rosehips, orange peel, cloves and cinnamon chips all complement elderberry nicely.
Other Immune-Boosting Recipes
Many herbal remedies can be powerful immune boosters, just like this elderberry kombucha. But here's some of our favorites.
Fire Cider is a traditional American herbal remedy that includes antiviral ingredients like onion, garlic, hot peppers, and horseradish. It's an excellent warming tonic for winter sniffles.
Four Thieves Vinegar is an herb-infused vinegar inspired by an 18th-century folk remedy thought to combat the plague.
Citations and Resources
- (2019) Elderberries. Nutrition Data.
- Sidor, A., & Gramza-Michałowska, A. (2014) Advanced research on the antioxidant and health benefit of elderberry (Sambucus nigra) in food – a review. Journal of Functional Foods.
- Hoffmann, D. (2003) Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press.
- Chakravorty, S., et al. (2016) Kombucha tea fermentation: Microbial and biochemical dynamics. International Journal of Food Microbiology.