Homemade Root Beer Recipe (2024)

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 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.

Homemade Root Beer Recipe (1)

Homemade Root Beer Recipe

A simple and nourishing fermented homemade root beer (non-alcoholic) with herbs and beneficial cultures.

Calories 73kcal

Author Katie Wells

Print Recipe Pin Recipe




  • Put the sassafras root bark, wintergreen leaf, and cinnamon, coriander, and allspice if using, in a large pot on the stove.

  • Add the filtered water.

  • Turn the heat on high and bring to a boil.

  • Reduce to medium low and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

  • Strain through a fine, mesh strainer or cheesecloth to remove herbs.

  • While still warm, add the sugar, molasses, and vanilla and stir until dissolved.

  • Let cool until warm, but not hot.

  • Add the lime juice and then then ginger bug or other culture and stir well.

  • Transfer to grolsch style bottles or jars with tight fitting lids and allow to ferment for several days at room temperature.

  • Check after two days for carbonation. When desired carbonation is reached, transfer to refrigerator and store until use.

  • Enjoy!


Nutrition Facts

Homemade Root Beer Recipe

Amount Per Serving (1 cup)

Calories 73

% Daily Value*

Sodium 15mg1%

Carbohydrates 8g3%

Fiber 0.1g0%

Sugar 6.4g7%

Protein 0.1g0%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


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

Like this recipe? Check out my new cookbook, or get all my recipes (over 500!) in a personalized weekly meal planner here!

Are you a root beer fan like me? Ever tried to make your own? Share below!
Homemade Root Beer Recipe (2)

Homemade Root Beer Recipe (2024)


What is the secret ingredient in root beer? ›

The main ingredients in root beer are pretty much the same as any other soda: water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel coloring, and flavoring, both natural and artificial. However, root beer's unique flavor comes from sassafras, a tree root native to the United States.

What is homemade root beer made of? ›

One traditional recipe for making root beer involves cooking a syrup from molasses and water, letting the syrup cool for three hours, and combining it with the root ingredients (including sassafras root, sassafras bark, and wintergreen).

What is the best yeast for homemade root beer? ›

A neutral ale yeast, like Wyeast 1056 (American Ale) or White Labs WLP001 (California Ale) are generally recommended. “From my beer-making experience I'd say you want a low attenuation, low temperature tolerant yeast so it doesn't have a lot of impact on the flavor,” Indrehus says.

What is the best root beer extract? ›

Best Extract for Homemade Root Beer

I won't dissuade you from using widely-recognized brands out there, but I will tell you that my favorite extracts are Watkins root beer extract or Zatarains root beer extract.

What two flavors make root beer? ›

Some describe root beer as an 'adulterated sarsaparilla' because it contains a mix of flavour enhancing ingredients. Most brewers choose to add vanilla, wintergreen, liquorice root, nutmeg, acacia, anise, molasses, cinnamon, clove or honey to their recipes.

What does root beer use instead of sassafras? ›

Supposedly, the flavor of sassafras can be approximated by a mixture of citrus fruits, spearmint, and wintergreen. Another website suggests wintergreen, anise, cloves, lemon oil, and orange oil.

Why was sarsaparilla banned? ›

Safrole was found to contribute to liver cancer in rats when given in high doses, and thus it and sassafras or sarsaparilla-containing products were banned.

How is traditional root beer made? ›

Traditionally, brewers made the drink by fermenting an herbal decoction made with sassafras bark, sarsaparilla root, and other herbs with sugar and yeast to make a naturally bubbly, probiotic soft drink. In this way, it joins the ranks of other traditionally fermented drinks such as kvass and tepache.

Is sarsaparilla the same as root beer? ›

Both beverages are named after their distinct differences in ingredients when they were first made. Sarsaparilla was made from the Sarsaparilla vine, while Root Beer, roots of the sassafras tree. These days, Root Beer recipes do not include sassafras as the plant has been found to cause serious health issues.

How long will homemade root beer last? ›

If you carbonate bottles in 2L bottles, we advise drinking them within 1 week. If the bottles are stored in the fridge longer than that, the risk of over-carbonation increases & alcohol content can increase, making the root beer taste 'off.

How much alcohol is in homemade root beer? ›

Ale yeast can be found at homebrew shops, or you can order it online. Home-brewed root beer has a slight alcoholic content (around 1%). If chocolate mint is unavailable to you, substitute spearmint.

How long is homemade root beer good for? ›

Most recipes I found recommend drinking the root beer within 5 weeks for the best results, but my first batch only lasted 5 days. Cheers!

What is the main flavoring in root beer? ›

Most root beers produced today are flavored primarily with a combination of vanilla and wintergreen, along with small amounts of ginger, licorice, anise, juniper berries, and dandelion, explains Portable Press. To this list of flavorings, BlackTailNYC adds cherry tree bark and nutmeg.

Does McCormick make root beer extract? ›

Customers like the taste, quality and ease of preparation of the root beer extract. For example, they mention it has a great flavor, it's easy to use and creates fantastic recipes.

Is root beer the healthiest soda? ›

These beverages, and other high sugar drinks, are certainly tasty and refreshing, but can have a harmful effect for waistlines or teeth, especially if enjoyed daily. But there's good news! According to recent studies, root beer is the least harmful soda when it comes to your teeth.

Is sassafras illegal in the United States? ›

People used to drink sassafras tea. However, sassafras tea contains a high concentration of safrole, which was about 4.5 times the permissible dose. Thus, in 1976, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sales of sassafras tea. Moreover, the FDA prohibited the use of sassafras as food additives.

Are sassafras and sarsaparilla the same thing? ›

Both beverages are named after their distinct differences in ingredients when they were first made. Sarsaparilla was made from the Sarsaparilla vine, while Root Beer, roots of the sassafras tree. These days, Root Beer recipes do not include sassafras as the plant has been found to cause serious health issues.

What is sassafras used for? ›

Other: Sassafras has been cultivated since 1630 for its leaves, bark, and wood. The plants are used for tea, oil, and soap. The heartwood is orange-brown and course-grained. It is used for purposes requiring lightwood, such as boat construction, because it is soft but durable.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Tyson Zemlak

Last Updated:

Views: 6667

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (63 voted)

Reviews: 94% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Tyson Zemlak

Birthday: 1992-03-17

Address: Apt. 662 96191 Quigley Dam, Kubview, MA 42013

Phone: +441678032891

Job: Community-Services Orchestrator

Hobby: Coffee roasting, Calligraphy, Metalworking, Fashion, Vehicle restoration, Shopping, Photography

Introduction: My name is Tyson Zemlak, I am a excited, light, sparkling, super, open, fair, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.