Beautyberry Jelly

Beautiful jelly comes from tiny berries.

Beautyberry Jam
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox
Active Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
1 day 1 hrs
4 6 (four-ounce) jars of jelly

American beautyberries are tiny berries that make a beautifully-colored, delicately-flavored jelly. Green and white in the spring, the flowering branches turn brilliant purple with the ripening of the clusters of berries. Around the size of a large pinhead, the berries grow on shorter shrubs to larger tree-sized bushes with purple-colored beautyberries ripening in late summer or early fall.

The beautyberries are indigenous to the Southern United States but flower and ripen at different times by growing zones. The further south you are, the earlier beautyberries will ripen.

For example, Florida beatuyberries ripen in mid-August while Tennessee beautyberries may not be ready for picking until late September or early October.

Making jelly from beautyberries is a magical process. Because they are small berries, making jelly is a small batch process, too; you only need six small Mason jars.

In the jelly-making process, the berries move from their original, brilliant purple color to a brown tone after boiling and mashing. And then the magic happens: Adding sugar and pectin turns the mixture back into a lovely pink-purple hue.

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

What Is a Beautyberry?

A beautyberry is a tiny berry with a brilliant purple exterior when ripe. There are many different variations of a beautyberry. In the United States, the main variety is the American Beautyberry, but the Japanese variety is also grown.

Tip: If you don't have wild beautyberry bushes growing in your yard or nearby, check with your local nursery or grower in the South. Many will either carry mature bushes or be able to source one.

Where Can I Find Beautyberries?

Because beautyberries are tiny and grow wildly, it may be hard to spot them. To find them with crowd-sourced locations, try searching with this Inat map for sightings by the local community.

Remember to be respectful of beautyberry locations. Just as you wouldn't pick other berries without permission, don't pick beautyberries in state parks or someone's yard.

Tip: Check with friends in warmer growing zones. Because the berries are hardy, shipping is a great option.

Can I Eat Beautyberries Raw?

While it may be tempting to eat beautyberries, it's best not to consume them raw. Birds and wild animals do eat the beauty berries and leaves. The fruit and leaves aren't poisonous, but their uncooked flavor is bitter and may cause stomach issues.

How Can I Store Beautyberries?

Beautyberries are resilient and can be stored after being picked in a zip-top plastic bag either at room temperature, in your refrigerator, or in the freezer. Watch the berries for any color or texture changes, and try to use them up as soon as possible.

Tip: If you want to make jelly later on, place your late-summer, early-fall ripe beautyberries in a freezer-safe container, or bag and keep in the freezer.

Beautyberry Jelly
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Can I Freeze Beautyberry Jelly?

Beautyberry jelly can be frozen. However, the texture may change.

Because the jelly is made most often in small batches, keeping it in the refrigerator for quick usage is the best to preserve the color and taste.

How long does beautyberry jelly last in the refrigerator if it hasn't gone through heat canning?

If you store beautyberry jelly in the refrigerator, you should use it up within two weeks. Remember to note this when gifting it as well. The ingredients are all stable, but the jelly itself can change taste and texture if it stays in the fridge too long.

What Does Beautyberry Jelly Taste Like?

Looking at the tiny beautyberry with its big bright coloing, you might expect a bold jelly flavor. However, beautyberry jelly has a milder flavor, similar to a grape jelly. When spread on toast or English muffins, it makes a lovely rose red treat for your eyes.

What Can I Do if My Beautyberry Jelly Doesn't Set Up?

Sometimes, the jelly-making process fails. If your jelly doesn't set up, use it as a syrup or glaze instead. Try it over meatballs, in cocktails and mocktails, as a donut or cake filling, or over ice cream.

What can you do with beautyberry jelly besides spreading it on bread or English muffins?

Beautyberry jelly can be used in the same recipes as any other fruity jelly thumbprint cookies, as a glaze, to fill donuts, or in baked goods like jam cakes. You can also use it as a cheese plate accompaniment.

Why do you need to make beautyberry jelly instead of jam? Because beautyberries are basically a small inedible seed with a smaller amount of fruit around them, making a jam won't be as tasty or as usable as a jelly. By mashing, boiling, and straining beautyberries, you can create a smooth seed-free jelly.

Thank you to Jones Valley Teaching Farm for donating the beautyberries used for these photos.


  • 2 cups beautyberries, removed from the branches

  • 2-4 cups water

  • 1 (1.75-oz.) pkg. pectin, like Sure-Jell

  • 2 cups sugar


  1. Remove beautyberries from shrub branches. Rinse, dry, and place in a large bowl. Mash beautyberries with a potato masher, ground beef masher, or mallet. Add two cups of water.

  2. Place beautyberry and water mixture into a large saucepot, and heat over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Watch for burning, and scrape down the pot sides to prevent any sticking. Boil the mixture until the berries soften. Note: The beautyberry mix will have changed from the original bright purple-pink color to brown. The liquid produced will also be brown. Don't be concerned. The original berry color will return.

  3. Place a piece of cheesecloth over a large bowl. Pour the boiled beautyberry mixture over the cheesecloth, lift the cloth out of the bowl, and push liquid through the cloth with a spoon or other utensil. If the juice is slow to come out, let the berry mixture cool, then make the cheesecloth into a pouch and squeeze liquid out with your hands or mashing device.

  4. Leave any seeds or debris in the cheesecloth, and discard the cloth and debris. Then, add enough water to the strained liquid to make two cups of berry-infused liquid. Place a second piece of cheesecloth in a large bowl, and strain the liquid through it.

  5. Pour the two cups of beautyberry liquid into a saucepan over medium heat. Add one package of pectin (like Sure-Jell) and two cups of sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar and pectin. The liquid will begin to thicken and change color. Remove any foam, if possible.

  6. Boil the jelly mixture for 10 minutes. Remove from the stove, and spoon into 4-ounce mason jars, leaving around a ¼ inch open at the top. Add the ring and lid to the jars. Note: If you don't have 4-ounce mason jars, this recipe should net one large mason jar of jelly.

  7. Let the jelly cool, and store in the refrigerator for two weeks. Alternatively, you can use the water-bath canning method to seal and can the jelly for longer storage.

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