How To Dry Elderberries

dry elderberries Elderberries should not be eaten fresh off the bush because the raw berries can cause stomach aches or diarrhea.  However, they are excellent to consume when dried or cooked.  Making elderberry syrup is my favorite way to use this herb, and is a medicine I try to make every winter to prevent and treat the flu.

You can use elderberries fresh for recipes, but if you have an over abundance of them, it’s a good idea to preserve them in some way for storage.

How To Dry Elderberries

To dry elderberries, you need either heat or air.  Elderberries shrivel up to tiny raisin-looking berries when they are dried.  Be sure to fully dry them so they don’t spoil in storage.

dried elderberries

There are a few different ways you can dry elderberries

  1. Spread elderberries on a pan and bake in the oven on lowest heat until elderberries are dried.  I read one person say it takes 7-14 minutes to do this, but mine were NOT done in that time.
  2. Use a dehydrator
  3. Spread on a window screen or something with holes and place the screen on a cooling rack to make sure air can circulate.

When I recently dried elderberries, I used a combination of methods.  First, I used the oven method.  I turned the oven on 150 degrees and left them in there for 20-30 minutes.  They still were not dry enough, so I decided to spread them out and leave them overnight to dry.  As I mentioned, something like a window screen works well for this.  You want to be sure the elderberries are spread out well and not bunched together.  Setting them on a cooling rack will help air circulate all around them so that they dry well.

After the elderberries are dried, the best way to store them is in a glass container.  You can find elderberry syrup recipes, plus a video of me making the syrup HERE.

If you don’t have access to picking your own elderberries, you can buy dried elderberries in bulk here.

Have you ever dried or frozen elderberries?  What’s your favorite method?

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  1. Danette says

    This is a very helpful post but I do have one question.
    I would like to make elderberry and vitamin C powdered capsules. I am wondering: if I dry the berries on my windowsill straight from the bush , then grind them into powder and encapsulate them, would they be ok to consume without cooking them or do I have to cook them at some point for them to be edible?

    • says

      That may be completely fine, but I’m not sure! You may want to cook them in the oven on the lowest heat for a bit in the drying process to be on the safe side. I can’t find a specific answer to this so far, but I’ll update my answer if I do! πŸ™‚
      Jill recently posted…How To Heal From Adrenal FatigueMy Profile

      • Danette says

        Thank you! I couldn’t find an answer either so I will dry them in my favorite spot and that should solve the problem. I love to dry things on a cookie sheet on the dashboard of my car on a hot summer day. It only takes an hour or two to dry my herbs and it’s free heat.

      • Heather Rodriguez says

        I know this is a very old post but just for your information elderberries need to be heated to about a hundred and seventy degrees Fahrenheit based on the fact that they contain quite a bit of cyanide. It becomes completely benign and evaporates out when the berries are heated to 170. Which is why it is not safe to eat them raw or juice them without heating slightly in large quantities. When heating them 270 degrees or more you not only make them safe but they are incredibly nutritious and helpful to your body. It’d be best to dry them in the oven first and then in the air or a dehydrator where there is some heat. Fresh berries are completely safe if you boil them into a syrup also. Happy foraging

        • Leilani says

          Jill, please re-read Heather Rodriguez’s reply. She left a good comment, but conflicting instructions (170 & 270 degrees -Which is recommended?). Thank you!

          • says

            Hi, Leilani! When drying it would be the lower temperature; when cooking to consume, it would be the higher temperature. I cannot find anything that supports an exact temperature that the cyanide evaporates from the berries. Maybe I will come across that info some day! I do know that drying should be at a low temperature, and they should be brought to a boiling temp to consume. πŸ™‚

  2. Eunice says

    I think I may have already read the same post that have been mentioned above, but in case I missed something, I’m confused which is the best way to store the dried berries? One says, dry dark place the other says in the fridge? Is 6 months the general rule how long they will last?
    Thanks for your help!

    • says

      Hi, Eunice! The fridge keeps everything fresher but I don’t have room in mine for herbs so I just do a dark cabinet. If you have enough room then go for it! πŸ™‚ Dried herbs stay fresh for 2-3 years after they are dried. I however use mine for longer. I’ve used herbs that were 5 years old and they worked. They may not have been as potent and I may have to use more to get the same effect, but they did the job! You just want to toss herbs after they start losing their color and smell musty. You can just tell when they are too old. Some herbs may need to be tossed after 2 or 3 years but you may find some usable for longer. Hope that helps!
      Jill recently posted…Kratom: A Powerful Pain-Relieving HerbMy Profile

  3. Ruth says

    Hi Sadly I have missed this years Elderberry crop I make lots of syrup from them ,but as is going into autumn there is only a few juicy berries left, most have gone to dry shriveled clusters on the tree,Can you tell me if the shriveled clusters of elderberry can be used for anything please ..Thank you

    • says

      That is so disappointing! As far as I know the shriveled elderberries are dead and not something you would want to eat. At least that’s my understanding from my reading. I hope you have better luck next year! My whole bush died and so I now rely solely on buying the dried elderberries to make syrup. I do have a new bush planted, though!
      Jill recently posted…How To Make Homemade Coconut MilkMy Profile

  4. Erin says

    I live in the mountains of Northern Idaho and am lucky enough to have more elderberry bushes than I could ever pick. I went out and harvested 3 of my 5 gallon buckets. It only took roughly 4 bushes to fill all my buckets.

  5. Bob says

    On Elderberry Picking…

    Thank-you for the wonderful tips.

    I’m 47 and have been foraging for berries all of my life. I was surprised about the admonition against eating elderberries off the bush as I’ve always done so. I would likely have a reaction faster than most as well.

    What I might add is that I never eat a green berry or one which is even greenish or still hard. In fact, I eat only from clusters which are 80% fully ripe or has berries which tumble off to the touch.

    With that caveat, I eat purple elderberries or ones which have turned from purple to brown.

    Even in cooking, I pick out all of the green or greenish berries.

    On Elderberry Drying…

    I just tried baking the berries at 175F for 20 minutes. It’s as if they weren’t dried at all as the berries are still plump.

    I’ll try the screen window overnight. Are there any other suggestions ?

    Thanks again

  6. Rachel says

    Hi! I just dried my elderberries for the first time and I’m afraid I dried them TOO much. Is that possible? They seemed to take forever in the oven, so they were in there while until they finally seemed fully dry. Well now, they just seem hard. Is that how they are supposed to be??

    • says

      Herbs stay “fresh” for 2-3 years, but I’ve used herbs as old as 5 years. I pitch them when they begin to lose their color and/or smell musty.

  7. says

    What is the ratio of berries you get from drying them? That is, what weight of dried elderberries do you get from 1 pound of fresh elderberries?

  8. Amanda says

    My understanding is that the seeds are poisonous. Is that not an issue once dried? or is there a way to remove them?

    • says

      Hi, Amanda! Eating uncooked elderberries can cause nausea- you should always cook them. I dry them so they can be stored long term without going bad, but I always cook them before consuming. Great question!

  9. Stephanie says

    So I purchased some dried berries to make syrup. I put the remainder of the bag in the freezer. Is that ok? Thanks

    • says

      If you are storing them long-term, the freezer is fine. If you use them regularly, the opening and closing of the bag would create moisture and the cabinet would be a better option.

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