Homemade Root Beer

Old Fashioned Root Beer Recipe Nourishing and healthy

I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on my homemade ginger ale recipe, so I also wanted to share another favorite at our house: homemade root beer.

This root beer recipe uses the same beneficial culture as the ginger ale: a homemade ginger bug. Homemade root beer is also simple to make and has all the flavor of conventional root beer without the harmful ingredients.

Herbs for Homemade Root Beer

The herbs used in homemade root beer, mainly sassafras and sarsaparilla (as well as wintergreen) have some controversy surrounding them. These herbs contain safrole, which was once found to cause cancer in mice. I personally do not feel that there is a risk when consuming sassafras root in its whole form, as this article from Nourished Kitchen explains:

Wintergreen leaf, though almost always an ingredient in most traditional root beer recipes, replaced sassafras as the prominent flavor in root beer during the 1960s when a study conducted on lab animals implicated safrole, a naturally occurring polyphenol, in liver cancer.  Of course, the lab rats were fed massive quantities of safrole – the human equivalent of consuming about 32 twelve-ounce bottles of root beer a day. After the study was released, the FDA required commercial soft drink makers to remove sassafras from their brews. Of course, cinnamon, nutmeg and basil also contain safrole but this seemed to escape the attention of the FDA.

Interestingly, while massive quantities of safrole caused liver cancer in lab animals, it seems that small doses may actually play a protective role for humans.  Some studies indicate that safrole may actually stimulate the death of cancer cells, particularly oral cancers though it may also do so in lung and prostrate cancers.

Wintergreen, already an ingredient in root beer, offered a flavor profile strikingly similar to that of sassafras, and made a ready replacement.  Most root beers made today contain neither sassafras nor wintergreen and are instead made with artificial flavors.  Even wintergreen extract, the preferred flavoring for many home brewers, is difficult to attain and typically is made with propylene glycol – a petrochemical.

As with all herbs, it is important to consult with a doctor, health care practitioner or herbalist before consuming any herb, especially if you are pregnant, nursing or have a medical condition. I personally stick with homemade ginger ale or homemade Dr. Pepper when pregnant.

How to Make Homemade Root Beer

As I said, I am comfortable using sassafras and wintergreen in this recipe. While a variety of other herbs were sometimes used in traditional recipes (including sarsaparilla, burdock, anise, licorice, astragalus and others), I’ve found that the same flavor can be accomplished with only a few herbs. This simplified version is much more budget friendly as many of these herbs are hard to source and expensive. The rest of the herbs can be used if desired, and 1 tablespoon of each could be added. In many places, sassafras can be wild-sourced, but I would recommend checking with a qualified herbalist or horticulture expert before using any plant.

Before beginning, it is important to have the culture ready to go. I use a homemade ginger bug in this recipe as it gives both the flavor and carbonation, though any type of natural culture could be used.

4.9 from 8 reviews
Homemade Root Beer
 
A simple and nourishing fermented homemade root beer (non-alcoholic) with herbs and beneficial cultures.
Author:
Recipe type: Beverage
Ingredients
  • ½ cup Sassafras Root Bark
  • ½ teaspoon wintergreen leaf (or more- try this to taste but start with a little as it has a very strong flavor)
  • 1 cup unrefined organic cane sugar like rapadura
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 1 tiny dash of ground cinnamon (optional)
  • dash each of coriander and allspice (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons of natural vanilla extract
  • 3 quarts filtered water
  • ¼ cup lime juice (optional but good for flavor)
  • ¾ cup homemade ginger bug or other starter culture like whey or vegetable starter
Instructions
  1. Put the sassafras root bark and wintergreen leaf in a large pot. Add cinnamon, coriander and allspice if using.
  2. Add 3 quarts of filtered water and turn on high heat.
  3. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth to remove herbs.
  5. While still warm, add the sugar and molasses and stir until dissolved.
  6. Let cool until warm but not hot and add the lime juice and then then ginger bug or other culture and stir well.
  7. Transfer to grolsch style bottles or jars with tight fitting lids and allow to ferment for several days at room temperature.
  8. Check after two days for carbonation and when desired carbonation is reached, transfer to refrigerator and store until use.
  9. Enjoy!
Notes
If desired, the following can be added to the original boil but they are not needed:
-2 cloves
-1 tablespoon licorice root
-1 tablespoon grated ginger root
-1 tablespoon hops flowers
-1 teaspoon of anise or fennel

Are you a rootbeer fan like me? Ever tried to make your own? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. Thanks for the recipe! My husband would love this!
    How much of the sugar do you think gets “eaten” during fermentation? (Obviously not looking for a specific quantity, but very little, some, a fair amount…?)
    I’ve made make shift ginger ale in a bind by boiling ginger in water, straining out the ginger, then adding honey to make a syrup. Then, I added that to homemade soda water. Worked pretty well when my family had upset stomachs, but I much prefer your versions for the probiotic benefits.
    Starting a ginger bug now! Thanks again :)

      • Thanks, again! I tried it & it’s delicious! For anyone who doesn’t have access to wintergreen, I accidentally bought spearmint & it was still yummy.
        I can’t wait to try the ginger ale…looks like it would make a delicious Moscow mule!

        • Yes! Great Moscow Mules indeed :) not as sweet as the ginger beer from the grocer but so much more flavorful and cheaper!

      • How much root beer does this recipe yield? :) I’m excited to try it. Just want to know how big of bottles or jars I’ll need.

  2. You mentioned, homemade Dr. Pepper. Do you have a recipe for this! I love Dr. Pepper but I try to avoid soda as much as possible. A healthy alternative would be great! Thanks!

      • I cant seem to find the Dr. Pepper recipe. Did you post it yet? I don’t think I can kick the sugar habit (fruit juices, sodas, southern extra sweet iced tea) without Dr. Pepper. Help!

    • I was actually just going to ask the same question! I’ve been searching online for weeks trying to find an authentic Dr Pepper recipe to try. I got a SodaStream for Christmas and while I like the thought of making my own pop/soda at home, I’m also not too keen on the actual SodaStream Soda Mix flavors. They are still as packed full of artificial flavors and ingredients as name-brand colas and many of the syrup mixes taste funny since they are sweetened with Sucralose. They also contain Acesulfame Potassium, Sodium Benzoate, and some actually contain Phosphoric Acid instead of Citric Acid! I know Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, and Dr Pepper currently all use Phosphoric Acid instead of Citric Acid in their drinks since it is cheaper, but it is far from good for you. I’d rather eat a ton of Safrole than continue drinking Phosphoric Acid!
      In any event though, I like the taste of Dr Pepper, but hate all the nasty chemicals in it that I’m drinking. I’d love to find a recipe for the original Dr. Pepper made with all natural ingredients that actually tastes like Dr Pepper! I can’t wait to hear your recipe!

    • I don’t see a post for Dr Pepper recipes, but I have my own if anyone is interested. I use a soda stream rather than fermentation because I like the fizz better that way, and haven’t had much luck with fermenting sodas.

      The main ingredients are these:

      Tamarind concentrate paste (1 tsp)
      Ginger (a few Tbsp of your Ginger Bug would do, or some boiled ginger water/tea)
      Almond Extract (60 drops or 1/2 tsp)
      Vanilla Extract (60 drops or 1/2 tsp)
      Stevia to sweeten (as much as you desire -I use about 1 tsp clear stevia extract)
      Carbonated water (1 liter)

      Some other ingredients can be added or substituted. I use half cola flavored stevia and half vanilla flavored stevia to sweeten, so then I don’t need vanilla extract or any other sweetener. You can add a dash of allspice to your ginger while steeping, or steep it by itself to add. Perhaps also coriander. Using the Ginger Bug, even when not fermenting the whole soda, is still good for getting the probiotic benefits as well as adding ginger flavor. If you are going to attempt to ferment it for the carbonation, don’t use stevia, but use some good raw turbinado cane sugar; you can add stevia prior to consumption to get the desired sweetness if it is needed. Adding a little other fruit juice can be yummy as well, such as pomegranate. Coconut sugar syrup to sweeten is also pretty good, and works well as it has a natural caramel color and flavor, but it is caloric -low glycemic and full of nutrients, but still has calories. Sometimes I do half coconut sugar, half stevia to sweeten -but obviously have to adjust other ingredients, like the vanilla amount; you want about as much vanilla as almond.

  3. I am so glad to see this post. I tried to introduce my 3 kids to kombucha from our local farmers market and they thought it was revolting. They ALL like root beer so maybe this will be the ticket!

  4. I second the comment by Alannna! I love Dr. Pepper too but only drink it every once in awhile when I break down with a Dr. Pepper craving attack because I also try to avoid soda because it is so unhealthy. So pretty, pretty, please with Dr. Pepper on top post the homemade Dr. Pepper recipe for us! Thank you! P.S. – Love your blog! :)

  5. Where do you get your bottles for this and the ginger ale recipe? Thank you so much for the recipes! Can’t wait to try them!

  6. Well this is cool. I’ve made root beer with yeast and root beer -flavored kombucha, but not a real probiotic root beer. I’ve got a question though- one time I made root beer and forgot about it… for a LOOONG time. I had tried corking the bottles (instead of capping) and they popped off (due to carbonation from the yeast) inside the cooler. A few months later I opened the cooler and each bottle had a little mushroom growing inside, like a vinegar mother or scoby. Do you think I could use these as starter cultures, like the ginger bug? (Sorry the picture is so big… you can take it off if you want…I couldn’t get it smaller.)

  7. Root Beer was one of my favorite sodas before switching to a more natural lifestyle. We now brew water kefir, and I was wondering if there was a way to alter this recipe to flavor the second brew of a batch of water kefir? If so, how much of each ingredient for a quart sized batch? Thanks. :)

    • Yes, you’d have to play around, but you’d still need the sugar for the carbonation and probably in a higher concentration with the herbs since it would be diluted. Let us know if you try it!

  8. I’ve got my “bug” going in the kitchen window, I was going to try the ginger ale, but given how much my kids like root beer, I’m going to try this instead. And may I just add my voice to the chorus of pretty pleases for the Dr Pepper recipe! Pleeeeeeeease post it soon!

  9. Thanks for the recipe! I’ve got you ginger beer recipe carbonating right now and will probably try this one too. I went to American spice’s website and the sassafras is pretty pricey if ordering more than 2.5 ounces. Do you know how many ounces = 1/2 C of this ingredient? Just don’t want to spend $40 and have to throw it away if I can get away with spending $10-20.

  10. Will the bug thrive on coconut sugar? Maybe u could use it in place of molasses? Thanks for the recipe!!

  11. Your link to the Sassafras Root is broken. Are you using a dried product. I see Amazon has a variety of them.
    I just found your blog and FB today – loving it. I’m planning on getting a ginger bug going, then try the ginger ale, then the root beer. Those (sodas) are my favorite evening drink. I’d love to make my own.

  12. Cant wait to make this! Your first two ingredient links aren’t working. Are the root bark and wintergreen dry ingredients or fresh ingredients? LOVE YOUR SITE! Keep it coming.

  13. This recipe looks amazing! I tried making a ginger bug once but it started growing mold within two days and I have no idea why. I used organic cane sugar but I think it might’ve had something to do with the ginger. Any idea on why it would grow mold?

    • There could have been mold on the ginger or it could have been too hot or contaminated with something in the air. fermentation is definitely an art not a science sometimes…

      • You can say that again, I’ve had some batches of kombucha that come out perfect. Others with a taste that make me wish I was never born. Kiss your little one for me and I wish you a happy session of nursing :)

        I remember about a year ago I ask for your advice on what to do about my major. I’m a nutrition major with an emphasis in dietetics and you told me that I should start my own blog about nutrition and whatnot. A year or so later, here I am doing it! Thanks so much for the encouragement and inspiration. What you do is phenomenal and truly inspiring. I admire all that you do. Thanks again.

  14. Katie, thanks so much for a great recipe! I let mine ferment for two days and the flavor of the fermentation and carbonation seemed just right! I have a question, I find the molasses flavor to be a little overpowering, and am finding it difficult to taste all the subtleties of the other ingredients. Do you think the amount of molasses could be cut back or swapped with some other more subtle tasting sugar?

  15. I’m making ginger bug 1st time…I used coffee filter to cover container, didn’t work so well, switched to a metal strainer as a cover and it took off. Maybe needed more air? What is the recommendation for covering the container while the bug is in the fridge?

  16. HI I made the ginger bug and ginger ale successfully, then rested the bug. I forgot to get it out of the fridge and feed again before adding it to the root beer, and now itthe root beer doesn’t seem to be fermenting. It’s been sitting on the counter 1 1/2 days, no bubbles. Any suggestions? Can I add something now to make it ferment?

  17. Confused about the term sassafras root bark. Do we buy root or bark? And is there a good substitute, such as sarsaparilla root (and what amount?)

  18. Katie,
    awesome recipe. everything went well however the root beer has been fermenting for three days. there is a slight pop to the rubber top when opened (i am using the same bottles you used) but not too much more carbonation. i know the ginger bug was good because it was bubbly (it took longer to ferment too). could the fermentation process take longer?

    Roberta

    • Sometimes this happens to me when I make this root beer. If I wait one day, the carbonation is much more potent. Most of the time this is what happens when the soda is not carbonated by the second day.

  19. I have the same questions as beechwdmdw…

    I had a fizzy sounding ginger bug (when swirled or stirred, although there weren’t too many bubbles). But, my rootbeer never fizzed up very much…After a week or so, one of them looked fizzy, and I tried it, but I think it has fermented and turned alcoholic. Throwing out this batch and starting over. Any suggestions?

  20. Hello there! Great blog, great recipe(s)!
    Im new to the root-beer-brewing.
    Do you know what the Hops would do for the recipe? I’ve seen hops here-and-there in recipe, and don’t really understand. Ginger bug and hops together? are they both doing the same thing? Or do they have different functions??
    Thanks so much!!
    -Jake-

  21. Hello there!
    I made the root beer!
    It isn’t as carbonated as a bottle from the store. Is that because the store-bought root her uses forced carbonation?
    There are bubbles in the bottle, but this soda doesn’t make me burp at all. Its thick, DELICIIOUS, but barely carbonated, if at all!

    Thanks so much for the great blog :)

  22. Hi. I tried your ginger ale recipe, which turned out very nice. Thanks for all the freat ideas. I was just wondering if there is a big difference between using sassafras and saspirilla. I want to try and stick to the later, which is easier on my budget, but wanted to hear your advice.

  23. I tried this, but it was too bitter and tasted too strongly of molasses. I’m going to play with it a little.

  24. Hi Katie, Have you ever used essential oils in place of some of the herbs recommended. I have lots of essential oils handy compared to having it in the form of dry bulk. Looking forward to trying this recipe out!

  25. Will it hurt this to use a soda stream to add carbonation? It has a wonderful flavor but not much carbonation.

  26. Thank you so much for posting this recipe. I have never made a ‘ginger bug’ before and find it fascinating. I’m making the root beer for the 3rd time tonight. The first time I opened one bottle on the second day, but I left the other two unattended. I was surprised when I opened them on the fifth day and had root beer everywhere! On the second batch, I opened them on the third day and put them in the fridge. There was a lot of carbonation. I took a video of it and posted it. For those looking for the bottles, amazon.com does carry them, but Hobby Lobby has them as well, and they are dirt cheap there.

  27. I have the ginger bug growing now, and I was wondering if I should strain the ginger bug before adding and the lime juice to the sassafras mixture?

  28. Hello, I am also wondering about the essential oils, someone asked but it looks like the question may have been overlooked. I can’t get wintergreen leaf where I live, but I do have wintergreen essential oil.

  29. I love the idea of making our own root beer. I live in a rural area and bone of these items can be found at my local grocery store. Do you have a suggestion as to which chain grocery store might carry this, or where you purchase yours?

  30. Crazy question….. The root bark said not to use while pregnancy (right on the front of the package), which i am. So can i use it to make root beer while pregnancy? and is it okay to drink kombucha tea while pregnancy?

  31. Trying this recipe out this sunday. 90 ounces is quite a bit for my GF and I, will it last in the fridge for over a week?

  32. I’m thinkin about making this for Christmas gifts to go with some mugs that I am etching. How many bottles would this make? Would I just put it in the bottles I am gifting and refrigerate them until I give them away? I saw that the longer it sits the less sweet it is, so when it hits the carbonation I like and I refrigerate it how much time to I have to give it away where it will still taste good?

    I need to look up your ginger ale recipe, would it be better for gifts?

    Thank you so much for sharing your recipe’s, I am really excited to try this!

  33. Be careful folks sassafras root contains safrole wich is dangerous for human consumption, and could causes kidney’s cancer,commercial root beers are made of artificial sassafras flavour and are totally safe for humans, i dont mean to support industrial products, but i guess its better make a ginger beer for your recipes

    • Actually, this was a test done on rats, and the results would be the equivalent of a human being drinking 3 gallons of root beer made from sassafras root every day. Too much of anything is probably not good for us even if it is good in small amounts. I like root beer a lot, but I don’t think I could drink that much every day!

      • Susan, I agree with you about the fact that too much of anything isn’t good for us, but if you take a look at the amazon’s inserction of sassafras roots bark you can see how they clearly say “For external use only”, so I can’t recommend anyone to use it, unfortunely I like root beer too, but since i know that I’ll never drink it anymore,
        cheers

    • Rob, add 1-2 Tbsp of Burdock Root when doing the initial brew, and it will add to the flavour while also adding the health benefits. Also common in Root Beer: Spikenard Root, Juniper Berries, Dandelion Root, Wild Cherry Tree Bark, Valerian Root, Cinnamon, Clove, Star Anise, and Licorice Root.

  34. Can’t wait to make this. A couple of questions though. Do you need to fill the bottle all the way to the top or should there be some head space? And do you need to strain the ginger bug before putting it into the recipe? I saw that some one else asked about straining the ginger bug, but I didn’t see a reply to that question.

    Thanks!

  35. What of I don’t have unrefined sugar? Mine is organic, but I’m not sure if it is unrefined. Is it 100% necessary for the success if the recipe or just better health wise to use unrefined sugar. Thanks for the great recipe! I’m excited to try it! My ginger bug is ready and waiting to be used for this and ginger ale!

  36. Getting Ginger is hard where I am located. In the directions it states other cultures would water kefir work for this recipe. My daughter is a huge rootbeer fan and I would love to make something I can feel good about giving her.

  37. Hello again, I know this has been asked but still haven’t seen an answer and I’m wondering the same thing. Do you strain the ginger bug before adding it to the other mixture?

  38. Would you share the Dr. Pepper recipe? I’m trying to help my husband have healthier options–he loves Dr. Pepper, so it would be wonderful to have the recipe.

  39. At $40 a bag for the sassy root bark, I was wondering if you knew how I could make use of all the sassy that grows in my side yard. We pull up the roots and love to smell them, but that is about as much as they get from us. I am wondering if I could clean and remove sassy bark and use to make this this rootbeer?

    • I know amazon has it for like $40-$50 most of the time, but, the price fluctuates. It seems I got it at a reasonable price, but the price changes continually. What I did was to place it in my cart, then ‘save it for later’. Whenever you go to your cart, it gives information on price changes on the products you have in your cart, even the saved for later ones. I imagine you could hit it when it comes down in price again. For a while, it was in the $30s, but today it was up to $50, then it went down again. Just check it often. For getting something as good as sassafras, it might be worth checking the price daily, or several times a day.

  40. This sounds amazing but idk if I can justify spending $50 on sassafras for a soda recipe! Lol I am going to check my local health food store to buy a smaller quantity to try and save $$. On a side note if anyone wants to introduce probiotic drinks to their kids, try apple kvass or add the ginger bug to bottled juices. Big hits at my house!! :-)

  41. I want to make this recipe but we don’t had wintergreen leaf, is it required or it will taste horrible. if it will are there and substitutes for it, like spearmint?

  42. So, concerning the homemade root beer, can I bottle it in used pop bottles and cap and new bottle caps?

  43. Hi,
    The ginger bug seemed very strong when I added it to the root beer mixture. It has been on the counter for one day and when I opened it there was no pressure under the cap at all. If it doesn’t have pressure in the morning do you think it would be ok to add a little more of the ginger bug to it?

  44. I have a ginger plant that I’ve been making the ginger soda/beer. It makes approximately 1 quart and can be done aerobic or anaerobic. Can I use this ginger plant to make root beer and can it be made with an air lock or does it have to be sealed?

  45. Hi there! I tried making your root beer and it doesn’t taste quite right. My ‘bug’ was perfect and I let the root beer sit out for a few days, but all I can taste is the molasses and sassafras. ???! It has a weird after taste. Do you know if I could’ve done something wrong? If I could add or subtract a flavor? I want to make it again but dont know what to do different. Any advice would be great!! Thanks

  46. Just made this recipe looking forward to tasting it. I did notice the recipe asks for vanilla extract but does not say when to add it. So I added where it asks for the lime to be added. Is this were you add the vanilla? Could not believe how hard it was to gather the ingredients for this. Even made my own whey from your post.

  47. I haven’t finished making this yet, but I tasted it after I added my sugar and molasses. It is extremely bitter. Does that bitterness go away after it ferments or is that the way it’s supposed to taste? I ended up altering the recipe by adding more water and sugar/molasses, and I finally got it to be drinkable. I’d like to try the recipe exactly as written, but I need to know if the bitterness goes away after it has brewed, otherwise I don’t think we’ll be able to drink it. Any tips would be helpful.

    Jenelle Abram

  48. A friend recently mentioned root beer (I am sending him your recipe). I told him, that although I have no desire to drink soda pop, if I did it would be root beer or ginger ale. And now I’ve found recipes for both as probiotic drinks. Kismet!

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