This post is a little different than our normal posts, but many of you have asked about our homemade root beer recipe so we thought we’d share! Jesse and I have been
enjoying addicted to root beer the past few months so since we’ve been on a food prep spree involving foraging in the woods for wild food, canning apricots and canning cherries, that we decided to try our hand at making our own root beer!
While Jesse and I do try to spend few dollars on luxury items, and while we are trying to keep a tidy budget while we develop our off grid homestead from scratch, we have our things that we just don’t feel the need to do without. One of those things is great beverages on hand such as root beer, ginger ale, alcoholic beverages, or occasional kombucha.
While our high-quality diet is relatively simple day-to-day, we often work long hours in the sun, and words can’t describe how great it feels to pop open a hard root beer (or a root beer with natural ingredients such as Virgil’s) at the end of a work day. This activity is even better when done in our diy wood-fired cedar hot tub.
That said, we had a revelation that there’s no reason we couldn’t make our own if we knew how, it was easy and if we had the ingredients on hand.
We did a little research and I found a couple of recipes that looked too easy not to try, so we did, and we’re loving the results so we wanted to share them!
Benefits of Making Your Own Root Beer From Scratch
While health is extremely important to us, we don’t proclaim to be health gurus so we won’t go into the nitty gritty on that, but here are some reasons making your own root beer (or other soda / beverage) could be a great thing.
- Lower cost: If you buy a six pack of root beer here and there, it may make sense to just buy it and not worry about it, but if you buy them frequently as we are doing, there is a serious cost savings to making your own. A six pack of the hard root beer we like costs $12, so $2/bottle. A four pack of non-alcoholic root beer is about $4.50, so still over a dollar per bottle. There’s no way that if we buy the herbs to make our own root beer that we won’t save money in the long run because sugar is dirt cheap and the bottles we put the root beer in are an investment and will be used over and over for different beverages.
- No dyes, high fructose corn syrup or artificial ingredients: The more natural root beer we buy has pretty innocent-looking ingredients, but the hard root beer we really have no idea. Normal root beer soda I’m sure has garbage ingredients that can’t do anything good for the body. If we make root beet ourselves, we have total control over what ingredients we’re putting into our bodies. Might this root beer even be healthy for us?
- Potential health benefits: Aside from not having poor ingredients, the herbs in traditional homemade root beer have been used (and probably are used today) as a basis for all sorts of natural remedies. We don’t get all crazy about herbal remedies necessarily, but what if these herbs helped us in ways we weren’t aware of?
- Addition of probiotics to the diet: Again, we aren’t health gurus, but we do know that probiotics are a great thing and the Standard American Diet (SAD) is mostly void of probiotics. Sure there are some in yogurt, but who eats yogurt on a daily basis? Not only that, but we as Americans take all sorts of antibiotics which don’t just kill the bad stuff, but it kills everything, so it can really weaken your immune system over time. We always look for opportunities to consume extra probiotics especially since we try to avoid the doctor and getting sick all together. We’re all about preventative healthcare.
- You can tweak the recipes however you want: I don’t know that there is one standard root beer recipe, but from what we observe, they’re all mixes and matches of similar herbs. We like knowing that we can add or takeaway ingredients to get the exact taste we want. We can keep it simple or we can get complex.
- It’s special to share with friends: Nobody makes their own root beer, so if you have some, it’s a great thing to share! Making root beer is even less work than baking a pie in our opinion.
We don’t want to sell you on making your own root beer too hard… these are just some of the reasons we decided to give it a go. I’m sure we’ll get over this phase eventually, but for now, we’re enjoying always having a batch of it brewing in our cabin.
A Word on Sassafras – Does it Cause Cancer?
Now I know some of you have heard that sassafras causes cancer. According to our food bible Nourishing Traditions (a recipe book that highlights and focuses on benefits of traditional diets), this is what they have to say about sassafras.
When research showed that astronomical quantities of artificial safrole caused cancer in rats, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had a convenient excuse for removing sassafras from health food stores. One suspects that the FDA was more concerned about eliminating competition for the drug and soft drink industries than in protecting the populace from a carcinogen. Americans have enjoyed sassafras as a tea and in root beer with no ill effects for centuries.
It is recommended by multiple sources to not consume sassafras while pregnant. All that said, we’re comfortable to consume the herb but everyone needs to make their own choices. We trust consuming many herbs in their natural form more than we do the big soda and beverage industry.
Easy-to-Follow Homemade Root Beer Recipe
There is no one standard root beer recipe, but many are pulled from a similar list of ingredients. The one we like the most so far is listed below, but there are many other root beer recipes on the internet!
This and this recipe also look pretty good if you’d like a couple alternatives, although we haven’t tried them ourselves yet.
- 1/4 cup sassafras root bark
- 1/4 cup wintergreen leaf
- 2 tablespoons sarsaparilla root
- 1 tablespoon licorice root
- 1 tablespoon ginger root
- 1 tablespoon dandelion root
- 1 tablespoon hops flowers
- 1 tablespoon birch bark
- 1 tablespoon wild cherry tree bark
- 1 teaspoon juniper berries
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 cup unrefined cane sugar
- 1/2 cup ginger bug or whey
- 12 cups water
- 6 glass flip top bottles
- fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth or jelly strainer
- Place herbs in pot with water and bring to a boil.
- Reduce to simmer and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Strain out herbs.
- Add sugar while liquid is still warm and stir to dissolve.
- Let mixture sit for quite a while until it is just lukewarm.
- Stir in the ginger bug (liquid only) or whey.
- Pour into bottles and let sit for 2 days before transferring to refrigeration.
- Every 12-24 hours, open the bottles to let out built up carbonation. Every batch for us is different, but sometimes after 12 hours enough pressure has built up that the bottle will explode when opened. We simply open the bottles over a bowl to catch the exploded liquid, and then pour the liquid back into the bottle when it settles down. It’s suggested that you don’t keep these in your house but maybe in a garage or even outside. After you move the bottles to refrigeration, they will continue to ferment but not as quickly.
Thoughts & Does it Taste Exactly Like Store-Bought Root Beer?
We’ve been drinking this root beer for about a week now and I’m sure you’re wanting to know our thought after this time, so let’s address the questions I know you have.
Does it taste exactly like store-bought root beer?
The recipe above does not taste exactly like the root beer you may be used to whether it’s a cheap quality root beer or a higher quality root beer you may find on the health food aisle. However, I’m sure with a few basic ingredients, a similar taste can be achieved. Our next batch we want to try just using sassafras and vanilla, just to see how simple we can make it. However, just becuase it doesn’t taste exactly like the root beer you’re used to, that doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious! You just need to open your mind to what root beer is… it’s not the high fructose corn syrup drink you grew up drinking.
What does it taste like then? Will I like it?
If you’re adventurous with your food and enjoy other similar beverages such as kombucha, or even unique teas, then I think you will like it! We bought a little of all ingredients just to play with and if we find a flavor we are in love with, we may splurge on larger quantities. I think these REAL root beers are a little more sophisticated, and if you pay attention, you really can pick out the flavor of many types of roots, then you can tweak to taste.
Other Probiotic Soda Recipes
If you aren’t ready to go straight for the root beer, maybe because it requires buying a few herbs that you don’t already have, then why not try a more simple recipe? Here are a few below we have already tried and love, or want to try because they look delicious as well!
- Rhubarb Limeade
- Cherry Almond Soda – We tried this one when we had oodles of cherries to use up… it’s a winner!
- Peaches and Cream Soda
- Blackberry Soda
- Elderberry Soda
- Watermelon Soda
- Dandelion Soda
- Natural Ginger Ale
- Fermented Lemonade
Have you ever tried to make your own root beer, soda or other beverage that you love from a store? What has been your experience? Do you have a go-to or to-die-for recipe that we need to try? Do you find that making your own beverages lowers your grocery bill or is just a time consumer? We would love to hear your thoughts!
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Yes! Love making our own probiotic drinks. Our gingerale is my fave. Especially when everyone is sick in our house. It’s a great help for nauseousness and a cold hard one taste great at the end of a long hot day or around the camp fire. Yes at first it seems time consuming but if you make in a regular basis then you get in a rhythm and the taste, health benefits, cheap costs, and luxury factor are all totally worth the effort! Thanks for your thoughts on the root beer. Can’t wait to try it! Ordering ingredients now!
Feel free to share your ginger ale recipe! I think this is what we want to try next… then again we have a bunch of juice sitting in our cabin for other beverages… so many options! I can imagine the entire household loving this when they are sick or even nauseous! I think drinking 7-Up for nausea is probably terrible health-wise, haha! Good marketing by 7-Up though!
APRIL CHABOT says
If you make your own kombucha you can use fresh ginger as a 2nd ferment for flavoring. I love it that way. It really helps break up the vinegary-ness of the kombucha and gives it a refreshing (and gut healing) flavor. I’ve been wanting to make my own root beer for awhile and I’ve tried some natural ones with flavor additives but it’s not what I’m looking for. I’ll have to make an investment into some MR Herbs (I hear they are the best around) and get the ingredients. Found your blog via a pin for the root beer. I look forward to reading more! Thanks! AJ
Charlisina I would so love to try and would greatly appreciate your recipe for gingerale. If you don’t mind sharing that is. i just found this blog today but have not seen you recipe just yet. If you have already shared it I apologize and thank you.
Alyssa thank for tge rootbeer recipe look bwry forward to trying it.
Dustin Horn says
When sugar ferments (yeast) it makes Carbon Dioxide (Carbonation) and Ethanol (Da-Runk). Not an issue for Adults, but giving kids booze is frowned upon.
I use concentrate and make it with Brown Sugar instead of white and use 2/3 the recommended amount.
Makes 5 gallons at a pop. My nieces and nephews love it!
We have lots of “Thumb Trees” in this area if you wanted to dig the roots.
The lumber smells like root beer too!
Thumb trees? Is that a sassafras tree? I hope we get the opportunity to try that some day! Yes technically these fermented drinks have a small amount of alcohol but I’d probably be okay giving that to children, of course, other parents might not be. I think they took kombucha off the shelves once because kids found out if they drank enough of it they could get a buzz, not sure if that’s truth or myth. Good to hear you have successfully made it with brown sugar, that’s what I want to try! I think that’d give it a great flavor.
This root-beer was seriously good! The description of it not tasting like store-bought root-beer is accurate, but definitely a flavor that could become addicting! Out of all the homemade drinks we’ve made, both fermented and not, water kefir has been the biggest hit! It’s probably the easiest, shortest and least intimidating taste of all we’ve tried. Only takes 2 days to brew, only requires water, sugar and kefir grains and can be flavored up however you like! After falling in love with Moscow Mules, we made kefir mocktails with ginger and lime juice (and a splash of organic vodka on occasion!). So yummy! Thanks for sharing your recipe! And please let us know how the sassafras and vanilla turns out! I’m all for simplicity!
Glad you liked it! We’ll have to try water kefir sometimes. Kefir mocktails sounds amazing… one of my favorite grins is ginger liquor, ginger beer and vodka, I wonder if your drink is equally delicious? We may have to try these sometime! I’ll let you know how the simple root beer recipe turns out. I’m determined to mimic the traditional root beer taste we are all used to 🙂
We have been enjoying home made ginger ale for a while now, and to be perfectly honest, we will sometimes do a second ferment (just add a bit more sugar) to make it more alcoholic. Yum! Hic… 😉
I have always wanted to try making root beer, but, like others, was afraid of the carcinogenic in the sassafras. Well, after reading your post, I think I am going to try it! Thanks!
A second ferment is a great idea! Based on the comments, I think we’ll have to try ginger ale asap. Yea, I think in the end there are a million and one things that can cause cancer (so they say) but our rule of thumb is to eat the most clean, real-food diet as possible and use as few products as possible (health care products, lotions, harsh cleaning agents, etc.) and if root beer does cause cancer, well, we’ve lived a damn good life hahaha!
Worth your Time:
Thank you for the recipe. Are the ingredients for the root beer hard to find? Do you buy them locally or online?
You’re welcome! The basis for the recipe (sassafras and/or sarsaparilla) I haven’t seen locally anywhere… not even at our local brew shop. You can find things like star anise and licorice locally… maybe even some of the barks from your local health food store… but we had to order a good amount of them online.
Mark Worden says
As a kid we would brew our own root beer. It was amazing, and I can still hear the bottles exploding in the middle of the night. 🙂 It took me 50 years to find something that tasted half-way close to homebrew (Not My Dad’s). For the past few months I’ve been fermenting green beans, pickles, and sourkraut (sp), but now I’ll have to attempt this root beer recipe.
You guys are great and I love watching your progress.