Whether you’ve got a half-pint or a bushel of berries, we’ve got lots of brilliant ways to enjoy these summertime gems
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Best-Ever Blackberry Cobbler; photograph by Olga Ivanova
Ah, fresh berries. They’re gorgeous, delicious, incredibly good for us aaaannnd … often expensive. Fairly perishable. Frequently packed in such exasperatingly small containers that berry lovers are forced to choose whether to devour them solo or exercise enough restraint to put them in a recipe and share. Then there’s the issue of seasonality — sure, a globalized food system means we can buy imported berries in the dead of winter. But fresh, ripe berries are delicate homebodies that don’t much care for travel. If you want the tastiest ones, the best tactic is to pounce on local ones during the fleeting summer berry season.
Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a prolific raspberry bush growing wild in your yard. Or maybe, like me, you’re resolved to the fact that the moment your strawberry plant sets fruit, it will become an offering to the patio chipmunks, who might deign to leave a single, wonky berry for you. Either way, supply conundrums crop up when berries are involved. They’re either a precious commodity you need to showcase strategically, or you’ve got so many you don’t know what to do with them all.
We feel ya, so whatever your berry situation, we’ve got a handpicked selection of the best berry recipes to fit it.
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Your juiciest berry questions, answered
For the berry curious ...
Are fresh berries always better than frozen?
Not necessarily, though it depends on the berry and how you plan to use them. If fresh berries are out of season (or if they aren’t ripe and aromatic), frozen can often be a better choice.
For smoothies, using frozen berries of all types is a great shortcut that boosts the frosty factor of your favorite blend.
Frozen blueberries and raspberries work well in muffins and quickbreads. In fact, since fresh raspberries are so delicate, frozen often work better in thick batters if you want the berries to remain whole.
Both fresh or frozen berries work well in cooked sauces.
For cobblers, berry crisps, and pies, fresh berries usually work best. But sometimes, the choice depends on what other ingredients and fruits are included. For instance, if you’re making a peach or apple crisp that features a smattering of blueberries, you can generally get away with fresh or frozen. Let the recipe notes guide your choice — if they specify that either will work, go with whatever’s most convenient.
As waffle toppers or in salads, panini, salsas, or desserts like tarts and strawberry shortcakes, the mushy texture of thawed berries (and their tendency to bleed juice) doesn’t cut it. Fresh berries are your best bet.
Recent berry recalls have me nervous — are they really safe to eat?
When food recalls and outbreaks make headlines, it’s understandable to worry over the safety of what’s in your fridge or on the market. It’s a good idea to proceed with caution, and keep an eye on the FDA’s advisories on foodborne illness outbreaks and USDA’s recall page. Both will give specifics about affected brands and what to do if you’re impacted.
Hopefully, that information can also help cut through misinformation and alleviate unnecessary worries. Issues are often traced to a specific locale, farm, or distribution network. If strawberries grown in Florida are recalled, that doesn’t mean California-grown ones are automatically a concern, even if they come from the same parent company.
In the meantime, seek out local growers — or consider growing your own berries. Store your berries properly and wash them before use. And keep in mind that cooking kills many pathogens (including those that can’t be washed off). That’s NOT to say you should cook recalled berries. Err on the side of caution and follow guidances to discard specific products that might spread illness. But if you’ve bought a brand that’s ostensibly safe, and are just feeling spooked because the same type of berry was recalled, consider cooking them instead of eating them raw, so you can enjoy them sans paranoia.
What's the best way to wash and store berries?
Fresh berries should be stored in the fridge, but wait to wash them until just before use. (If you’ll be using them in a recipe, you may want to gently pat them dry first). Depending on the variety, ripe berries will stay fresh for about 3 to 5 days. (If they’ve got soft, wet, or moldy spots, or are turning wrinkly, it’s time to ditch them.)
If you won’t get a chance to eat your berries before they’re likely to go south, you can freeze them. Rinse and dry them, then spread them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Pop them in the freezer for about 20 minutes, or until they start to firm up (this will keep them from freezing in a lump). Then transfer them to a freezer-safe container or zip-top bag. Properly frozen, they’ll keep for about a year.
I don’t feel like cooking. How should I use my berries?
Stir berries into yogurt or oatmeal and drizzle with maple syrup
Top brownies with ice cream or whipped cream and berries
Spread toast with almond butter and top with berries
Smash berries into softened butter and serve with cornbread
Whip ricotta with a little sugar or honey and lemon zest and serve with berries plain or on baguette.
You don’t need many berries to infuse drinks with lots of flavor.
This classic smoothie uses just a half cup of strawberries, but that’s enough to give it a beautiful berry hue and lots of fresh strawberry flavor.
You’ll need just 1 cup of berries (plus extra for garnish) to make the luscious blackberry syrup for this cocktail’s base. Best of all, you’ll have extra syrup for mocktails, drizzling over vanilla ice cream, or swirling into yogurt.
Okay, this recipe uses lots of berries, but it also serves 8. If you’re not entertaining a crowd, you can still embrace the sangria concept — just add some chopped berries to your favorite wine.
Berries as recipe accents
If your berries come in half-pints (or if they’re super-pricey), you need recipes that showcase them like the little gems they are
Succulent berries are the sophisticated smores level-up you didn’t know you needed.
We’ll take our personal cheesecakes topped with fresh berries, thankyouverymuch.
Tart dried cranberries supplement the sweet fresh blueberries in this feta-topped salad. The balsamic dressing would pair well with strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries, too, so consider the recipe a template, and experiment with different greens, berries, nuts, and cheeses.
You went berry picking (or picked up that warehouse club-sized tub o’berries) and don’t want to drink the same smoothie every day until they’re gone? We’re here to help.
Bonus: If strawberry desserts are your jam, we’ve got 17 of them right here (along with handy tips on selecting the best strawberries and storing them for optimal freshness).
Prefer your strawberries savory? Try this salsa on grilled fish, too, or just scoop it up with tortilla chips.
Whole grain pasta, peppery arugula, and grilled peaches get tossed with fresh blueberries and a Dijon vinaigrette in this sweet and savory summer salad that’s perfect for al fresco dining.
This recipe is a low-commitment way to make a quick, nutrient-rich raspberry jam. You don’t need bushels of berries and there’s no canning involved. It’ll keep in a covered container in the fridge for about a week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. You can use other berries, too, so experiment with your favorites.
These not-too-sweet brown sugar-oat bars feature a jammy raspberry filling that makes use of an entire pound of berries. Yum.
If there’s a recipe that’ll justify going wild at the pick-your-own berry farm, it’s this cobbler featuring lightly sweetened buttermilk biscuits baked atop plump, juicy blackberries.
Berries & cream
Berries have an amazing affinity for anything creamy — like literal cream, ice cream, cheese, pudding — you get the picture. These recipes pay homage to the classic combo in all its iterations.
Whether you’re serving them for brunch or as a special dessert, these berry-loaded crepes, with their vanilla cream cheese filling, are sure to delight.
Lemony chia seed pudding is creamy and vegan, thanks to the use of coconut milk. Blueberries and lemon are a top-notch combo, but we won’t say no to layering this pudding parfait-style with other berries.
The creamy tang of goat cheese pairs beautifully with fresh strawberries, basil, and pepper in this toasty panini. If you fall for the berry grilled cheese concept, check out this Brie Berry Cheese Melt too.
If you’ve got an ice cream maker, this honey-sweetened DIY froyo is a snap. Greek yogurt amps up the protein content in this 4-ingredient recipe; other berries work beautifully too.
Pureed berries are folded into homemade whipped cream in this ultra-simple English classic. This recipe calls for frozen berries, but you can absolutely use fresh instead.
Mixed berry bonanza
You’ve got berries — all kinds of berries! — and you’ve got lots of them. The possibilities are endless, but their shelf life isn’t. We’ve got recipes that’ll help you use them all (and will probably perpetuate the Buy. All. The. BERRIES!!! impulse).
This throwback treat is simple, nutritious, and a stellar way to use (and preserve!) a boatload of berries. Tip: the author recommends using silicone pan liners, such as Silpat, to keep the puree from sticking while it dehydrates, but if you don’t have them, similar recipes suggest baking parchment.
Sweet strawberries, tart raspberries, and puckery rhubarb make a phenomenal filling for a summertime pie. Rhubarb’s season is pretty short, so if you can’t find fresh, frozen works, too; thaw the rhubarb in a colander set over a bowl to drain. Do use fresh berries, but if you want a prep shortcut, premade pie crust is your friend.
Quick, easy, and deliciously refreshing, this triple-berry fruit salad will be your go-to summer dessert all season long.
More fruit-loving fun
Check out these fruity articles for more refreshing, juicy recipes and tips.