The Aroma Of Juniper Berries Will Elevate Your Chili To New Heights

Occasionally compared to rosemary for its piney, citrusy notes, juniper berries are a wonderful addition to wintertime meals. The top and base scent profiles of woody, sweet, and slightly spicy are often a staple in holiday candles, but working fresh juniper berries into edible dishes can really elevate the smell of your kitchen to a whole new level. Namely, recipes centered around meats and sauces for easy incorporation are the perfect way to go, so using juniper berries in chili is a great option for a rustic take on the flavor. Chili, in general, is the fusion of a multitude of different tastes, spices, and herbs, meaning you can easily incorporate juniper berries without overpowering or taking anything away from the dish.

Both chili and juniper berries have cultural roots in Texas, so this is a pairing that doesn't fall too far from the tree. But when taking a closer look at what exactly makes these two work together, it's apparent that it's in their specific profiles. The juniper berry's piney flavor adapts nicely in conjunction with the heavier, smokier notes of chili, while the zest of citrus keeps things light and interesting. Other typical flavors of chili like cumin, pepper, tomatoes, and garlic all keep a focus on the savory side of the dish, so the addition of juniper berries can step in and round that out with some earthiness in both the aroma and taste. 

Getting the most out of juniper berries in chili

There is more than one way to add juniper berries into chili — and each option all boils down to personal preference. The easiest way to do this is by purchasing a ground juniper berry powder or dried whole berries, which are both readily found from online retailers. Simply add in the amount of your liking along with the other spices the chili recipe calls for. Similarly, you can toast your own berries if you're worried that fresh ones may be too strong for your liking, but they can burn easily, so be mindful of staying on top of them. These options give you the most control of how much flavor you're putting in the dish, however, keep in mind that they won't have as fresh of a taste or as aromatic of a scent as fresh juniper berries.

When working with fresh juniper berries, it's important to note that not all of them are edible, so be sure that you are reaching for a food-safe variety when picking them. For the strongest aroma and best flavor, crush fresh juniper berries in a freezer bag with a meat mallet. Pour the smashed berries onto the counter and finely chop them; finally, add them to the chili sauce and cook as the recipe states.