Red currant jelly adds a delicious tartness to many recipes. Made of red currants, rosemary, and a hint of sugar, this jelly adds flavor to any dish. People cooking a Sunday roast or festive holiday dinner will love how red currant jelly elevates meats like lamb, turkey, or goose.
The rosemary is key to the jelly because of its combination mint, lemon, and pepper flavor profile that works so well with meat. On its own, rosemary is an herb sparsely used to add depth to a recipe. When combined with red currants and sugar, rosemary strengthens the sweetness of the fruit to make it stand out.
To further increase the flavor strength of red currant jelly, you can add red wine, white wine, or port. Enhance the tartness by adding orange zest for a citrus flavor or mustard for additional bitterness.
Red currant jelly is very common in traditional English recipes, but it might not be something you keep in your pantry. It’s also difficult to make your own red currant jelly because red currants are a rare grocery store find. The berries are so sensitive that they damage easily during shipping.
You can grow red currant plants in an outdoor garden if you have space and partial sun. Harvest the berries before they’re fully ripe to capitalize on their natural pectin levels. That helps you get a great texture for your homemade red currant jelly.
If you want to make something that calls for red currant jelly, try a substitute. Not only can you use several other flavors of jelly in place of red currant, but you can also use dried fruit and cranberry sauce.
Top 5 Red Currant Jelly Substitutes
The most important thing when looking for a substitute for red currant jelly is how to balance the tart with the sweet. While you could add a dash of lemon juice for tartness, you’d still be missing the sugar from the jelly.
When you’re looking for a currant jelly substitute, the key is to balance that tartness with a natural sweetness. It sounds like a unique flavor combination, but these top 5 red currant jelly substitutes will have your taste buds singing.
Using a different flavored jelly as a red currant jelly substitute is an ideal option because you’ll automatically get the right texture. All jellies have the best gelatinous consistency, so you won’t have to worry about adding any pectin or gelatin on your own.
Grapes look and taste very similar to red currants, but you’re more likely to have grape jelly on hand than you would red currant jelly. Grape jelly is more widely available because you can find concord grape jelly or muscadine grape jam. Both have the gelatinous texture of red currant jelly with a similarly tart flavor profile.
Since grape jelly tastes so much like red currant jelly, you can use it as a straightforward replacement in recipes. There’s no need to factor in any equivalencies because both jellies use the same ratios of fruit, sugar, and pectin.
However, as you’re adding grape jelly to your recipe, you might want to taste it along the way, just as you would with red currant jelly. Though both jellies have similar flavors, they add a fair amount of tartness and sweetness to your recipe. You don’t want it to overpower any other aspect of your dish, so add it a teaspoon at a time and taste it as you go.
Apple jelly is another substitute for red currant jam that you might have on hand. The slightly sweet apple flavor has a small measure of tartness, and of course, the jelly has the same texture as red currant jelly. To highlight the tartness, you might want to add a splash of lemon juice to the recipe.
Make sure you’re using apple jelly for this substitution, not apple butter. You might find apple butter more readily on your grocery store’s shelves, but the flavor profile is quite different. Apple jelly is much sweeter than apple butter, which has a rich apple taste.
Despite its name, apple butter has a consistency closer to applesauce than butter or jelly, which can change your recipe’s texture, as well. It’s best to not try using apple butter as a red currant jelly substitute.
If you can’t find apple jelly at the store, you can try your hand at making it. Boil apples until they’re tender, then crush them and drain all of the liquid into a pot. Add water, sugar, and lemon juice to get the perfect flavor.
When replacing red currant jelly with apple jelly, you can use the same measurements for a straightforward exchange, just like with grape jelly. The flavors of apple jelly also nicely accentuate other meats, especially pork and chicken.
With red currant jelly being so commonly used in traditional English dishes, you might think of cranberry sauce as the American alternative. Many people make their own cranberry sauce for holiday dinners, while others use a can of already-jellied cranberry sauce.
The flavor of cranberry sauce makes it such an ideal red currant jelly substitute. Cranberries are naturally tart, and this tartness is only slightly cut with sugar when made into sauce or jelly.
There are different types of cranberry sauce, so you should read the can or jar carefully before you choose to use it as a red currant jelly substitute. Some cranberry sauces have cinnamon, citrus, or allspice added. Though these additions are never enough to overpower the cranberry flavor, they can impact the outcome of your recipe, so use them with caution.
For traditional Thanksgiving dinners, people often add cranberry sauce to the turkey when they’re serving plates. But just as you use red currant jelly as a glaze, you can use cranberry sauce in the same way. Brush pork chops or chicken breasts with cranberry sauce five minutes before they’re completely cooked for a pop of flavor, or cover it earlier and longer for a caramelized crust.
Dried fruits might seem like a strange substitute for red currant jelly, and it’s true they won’t give your dish the same texture as one of the previous options. However, you can mix different dried fruits to get the exact right flavor profile for your dish.
The most common dried fruits to substitute for red currant jelly include raisins, dried apricots, dried blueberries, and dried cherries. You might find that a few of each give your recipe a more robust flavor than you’d get using just red currant jelly.
When you add dried fruit to your recipe, you need to chop it down to a smaller size. Since the fruits are dry, you’ll need to add more water or liquid to your recipe. You can also make dried fruits into jelly before using it in a dish. Simmer the dried fruits in water for two hours and let them sit overnight.
Add pectin or gelatin powder to get the same texture as red currant jelly. Pectin is a fiber found naturally in fruits, which gives red currant jelly its gelatinous texture. When you add liquid to the flavorless pectin, it becomes more viscous, so you can get the ideal texture for your recipe.
Gelatin powder is another flavorless option to thicken liquids in a dish. Keep in mind gelatin comes from animal collagen, so pectin would be the vegan option for thickening your ingredients. Once the dried fruits simmer in the water, you’ll have a fruity juice to combine with pectin or gelatin to get the same consistency as red currant jelly.
Honey makes this list because it’s one of the most common pantry ingredients. You can substitute honey for sugar if you’re making jam, so you know the sweetness is very similar to most jellies.
The flavor profile is naturally sweet, but honey doesn’t have the tartness of red currant jelly. To get this taste, add a dash of lemon juice. You can also mix in some of the dried fruit, as mentioned above.
Red currant jelly often plays off other ingredients in recipes, which honey does well. If the dish calls for other spices and herbs, then the honey will be a great accompaniment. The viscosity of honey also closely resembles red currant jelly, so you’ll have a similar texture in the final product.
Because honey’s sweetness tastes different from red currant jelly, you’ll want to add it slowly, a teaspoon at a time. Taste the recipe as you go if possible. For recipes that need a tart flavor, add a dash of lemon juice for each teaspoon of honey until you reach the right taste.
If your recipe calls for caramelization, such as on meat, honey is the ideal substitute. Honey breaks down the protein on the meat’s surface to tenderize it as it cooks, imbibing it with a slightly sweet flavor. The honey that remains on the outside of the meat crisps up for a delightful texture. Pomegranate molasses is another option for recipes using red currant jam as a glaze.