Currants are sweet and tart berries that are featured in a variety of recipes. However, they aren’t always the easiest berry to find. Fortunately, there are several excellent substitutes you can use.
What Are Currants Made Of?
The shrubs and edible fruit in the Ribes genus break down into two groups: currants and gooseberries.
Currants thrive in temperate areas in the Northern Hemisphere and western South America. They’re especially common in northern Europe and the Rocky Mountains area of the US.
Currants are true berries that come in various colors, including black, deep purple, red, pink, and almost translucent white. You can find them either fresh, dried, or preserved.
The most popular species are the red currant (Ribes rubrum) and the black currant (Ribes nigrum).
The other two species people often grow for their berries are the buffalo currant (Ribes odoratum) and the Nordic currant (Ribes spicatum).
Both red and black currants are popular ingredients in jams and jellies and in desserts like pies, tarts, and scones. They’re also sometimes paired with game meats.
Black currants are also popular for making lozenges, flavorings, and fermented beverages.
One cup (226.8 g) of raw black currants provides the following nutrients:
- Calories – 71
- Protein – 1.57 g
- Carbohydrates – 17.2 g
- Potassium – 361 mg
- Vitamin C – 203 mg
- Phosphorus – 66.1 mg
- Calcium – 61.6 mg
- Magnesium – 26.9 mg
- Iron – 1.72 mg
What Do Currants Taste Like?
Fresh currants have a sweet berry flavor accompanied by a bright acid kick. They also contain enough tannins to activate your pucker reflex.
Dried currants have an intensely sweet, acidic, and tangy flavor.
Best Replacement For Currants
The best substitute you choose for currants really depends on how you plan to use them. You have to imagine their function in the recipe to decide the best substitute.
Raisins or cranberries might substitute well in a recipe like scones or in sauteed spinach, currants, and pine nuts. However, gooseberries might work better in a pie recipe.
When choosing a currant substitute, you will want to consider several things:
- Flavor resemblances, such as sweetness or tartness
- Texture resemblance, such as fresh or dried
- Size resemblance
- Suitability for a sweet or savory dish
Let’s look a little more closely at the textures and tastes of ten possible substitutes for currants to help you determine which will switch out best in your recipe.
Gooseberries have a sweet and tart taste that is similar to currants, strawberries, apples, and grapes. Some varieties can be more sweet than tart, so they’re not an exact match but close.
Since gooseberries are in the same genus as currants, it makes sense that they would work well as a substitute for currants in both sweet and savory dishes.
Gooseberries work well in chutneys, sauces, casseroles, stuffings, and pies.
While both currants and gooseberries have a tart taste, gooseberries tend to add more of a lemony taste to desserts than currants.
If you use gooseberries as a currant substitute in a recipe, you should substitute the same volume of gooseberries.
Prunes (or dried plums) are an acceptable substitution for dried currants in a recipe. They have a rich, concentrated caramel sweetness without any tartness.
Prunes are acceptable substitutes for currants in soups and go well with roasted meats and poultry. They also work for baked goods like muffins.
Prunes are much larger than dried currants, but you can substitute the same volume of prunes.
In most cases, you will want to cut the prunes into smaller pieces so that they distribute through the food in the same way as tiny currants.
Prunes are sweet without the tartness of currants, so you might consider adding a pinch of dried sumac or tamarind to some recipes if you want to emulate the tartness.
Dates have a flavor similar to prunes and raisins but with a sweeter taste close to brown sugar. They also tend to disintegrate during cooking, so they blend more into a dish’s overall flavor.
Since dates are sweeter than currants, they may not work well in savory dishes. The velvety-rich taste of dates works best as a substitute in sauces, jams, and syrups.
You can replace currants with the same volume of dates. Since they are much larger than currants, you will want to chop them into smaller pieces.
Adding a pinch of sumac or tamarind to a recipe can help emulate the tartness missing from dates. Because dates are already sweet, you may also want to use less sugar in the recipe.
Keep in mind that dates often come with pits, so you’ll want to check and remove any pits before cooking.
Raisins (or dried grapes) have a sweet, tangy, and intense flavor similar to the taste of currants. Thus, raisins can be a close replacement for dried currants in sweet and savory dishes.
Raisins are an excellent substitute for pastries, bread, and sweet dishes. They also complement lamb and chicken dishes well.
The taste isn’t exactly the same, but some varieties that are tangier, like sultanas, can make a close replacement.
Most raisins are slightly larger than currants, so you will want to substitute the same volume of raisins for currants.
Cranberries have a slightly sweet taste, but their main flavor notes are bright tartness.
Interestingly, cranberries look a lot like currants when they are fresh. However, they are in the Vaccinium genus, not the Ribes genus
Fresh cranberries can substitute for fresh currants, while dried cranberries can substitute for dried currants in sweet and savory recipes. They substitute well in desserts, pastries, and meat dishes.
When replacing fresh currants with cranberries in a recipe, you can use the same amount by volume. However, you will need to add a sweetener since cranberries aren’t very sweet naturally.
You can also do a 1:1 substitution for dried cranberries and dried currants. One consideration when substituting dried cranberries is that they almost always come with added sugar.
You can also use jujubes (the fruit, not the candy) as a currant substitute. Other names for jujubes include red dates, Chinese red dates, and Chinese jujubes.
If you’re having difficulty finding currants locally, you may be able to find jujubes in a grocery store that sells Chinese or ethnic foods.
Jujubes have a sweet and tart flavor. Fresh jujubes are crisp and taste like sour apples, while dried jujubes have a texture and caramel taste more like dates.
You can use jujubes as a replacement for currants in both sweet and savory dishes. Try them in muffins, cookies, bread, sauces, or with pork or poultry dishes.
You can use jujubes to replace currants in both sweet and savory dishes. You will use the same volume of jujubes as you would currants.
You will want to be sure to remove any seeds before adding them to recipes.
Dried cherries can range between sweet and tart. Dried cherries that are more tart work best to replace currants in a recipe.
Dried cherries work well as substitutes in roasted meat dishes, muffins, pies, bread, and tarts.
When switching out dried cherries for currants in a recipe, you will want to use the same volume of dried cherries.
Since dried cherries are larger than currants, you will probably want to chop them down smaller, especially for pastries.
Watch out for dried cherries with added sugar, which can greatly change the taste of a savory dish.
Even though they’re also a berry, blueberries diverge more from the flavor profile of currants more than some other substitutes.
Blueberries are sweet and can be acidic, especially before fully ripening. However, they have floral notes that you don’t find in currants, so the taste will be fairly different.
Fresh, under-ripened blueberries will have a flavor that will come closest to fresh currants. However, dried blueberries and dried black currants match each other to a reasonable degree.
Try using blueberries as a black currant substitute in sauces and spreads, tarts, cookies, stuffing, or savory dishes.
You can use the same volume of fresh or dried blueberries to replace fresh or dried currants.
Like blueberries, fresh blackberries tend to have a more floral flavor profile than currants. However, they do match for sweetness and tartness.
Blackberries can have a range of flavors, with some being more tart than others, but the more tart they are, the closer they can match fresh currants in a recipe.
Blackberries are most commonly cooked into desserts while fresh. However, they could pair nicely with roasted meats as well.
You may also find that fermented blackberry drinks taste similar to fermented black currant drinks. Thus, any recipe calling for a currant liqueur or cassis can substitute blackberry liqueur.
You should use an equal volume of blackberries or blackberry liqueur when replacing currants or currant liqueur in a recipe.
Dried apricots have more of a musky, sweet taste than other currant substitutes.
They’re closer in taste to a fresh plum or peach than a berry or raisin. Thus, you shouldn’t expect them to approximate the flavor of currants, but they work okay for texture.
Apricots can stand in for dried currants in pastries, bread, or desserts. They also fare well in roasted meat dishes.
Since dried apricots are larger than dried currants, you will want to cut them into smaller pieces first. Then, replace dried currants in your recipe with an equal volume of dried apricots.
What Fruit is Similar to Red Currant?
Gooseberries, cranberries, jujubes, blueberries, and blackberries are similar to fresh red currants in recipes.
Meanwhile, dried plums, dates, grapes, cranberries, jujubes, cherries, apricots, and blueberries are similar to dried currants in recipes.
What Can I Substitute for Fresh Red Currants?
The best substitutes for fresh red currants are gooseberries or cranberries. However, you will need to add more sugar if substituting cranberries.
Can I Use Sultanas Instead of Currants?
Golden raisins or sultanas make an excellent substitution for currants. Since they have a richer and slightly more tart taste than black raisins, they can taste a little closer to currants.
Are Red Currants and Cranberries the Same?
Red currants are not the same thing as cranberries and are not even from the same genus. In flavor both are tart, but currants are sweeter.