How to Use Goji Berries
Get to know the magical goji berry a bit better, for flavor and health benefits, with these top five tips for how to use goji berries.
Mother Nature really did it right when she created a world of flavorful, jewel-tone berries. Beyond their sweet-tart delicious flavors and pretty colors, these tiny edible fruits are one of the most nutrient-packed foods in the plant world, providing an abundance of health benefits. I’m sure you’ve tasted a range of more common berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries, but have you ever spied the exotic-looking goji berry and wondered what to do with it? Well, here’s your answer today! I’m sharing more information on the benefits of goji berries, plus my top 5 ways to enjoy this rich-sweet, deep red berry in a plethora of ways, such as in smoothies, salads, breakfast bowls, trail mix, and baked goods. In fact, summer is the best time to test out this new, refreshing berry, as it’s in peak season now. But when summer is over, look for dried goji berries, which are available year-round in most well-stocked natural food stores.
Goji berries, which are considered to be part of the lycium fruits family, originated in Asia, specifically in the northwest regions of China for both medicinal and edible purposes. However, they grow in other parts of the world, including the US and Canada. I had a goji bush growing in my garden in Los Angeles just last year, and I can find fresh goji berries at my farmers market in the summer time.
Like most berries, goji are packed with health potential. A serving of goji berries (1 ounce) contains 23 calories, which makes them a great low-calorie snack with nutrition rewards. These fruits are also a good source of vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, and fiber. According to numerous studies, lycium fruits have been used traditionally for a variety of health benefits, such as helping to boost the immune system, regulate blood sugar, protect against cancer, and improve eye function. Additionally, their high antioxidant properties may play a role in the maintenance of cell function, prevention of heart disease, and enhancement of overall health.
Goji in the Kitchen
With a bright, dark red color and sweet-tangy flavor, goji berries provide versatility in recipes, whether fresh or dried. When they are fresh and ripe, these juicy berries are soft with perky green stems and look a bit like tiny cherry tomatoes. The chewy texture of dried goji berries is similar to that of raisins and dried cranberries, which makes them a perfect addition to a variety of dishes.
Enjoy them when they are available in season fresh, if you can find them. However, they are typically available in their dried form throughout the year. The unique taste of goji berries allows them to be highlighted in both sweet and savory dishes. I’m sharing my top 5 ways to use goji berries in the kitchen to inspire some new creativity in your kitchen.
Top 5 Ways to Use Goji Berries
1. Blend Up a Superfood Smoothie Bowl. You can never go wrong with a refreshing smoothie that provides you with a ton of nutrients! A goji berry smoothie bowl is a super-nutrient packed treat that’s suitable as a breakfast, meal, snack, or healthy dessert to energize you throughout the day. Just them up with other seasonal fruit of your choice, unsweetened soymilk, and chia seeds, then top it with granola, seeds, nuts, coconut and more fruit. Check out this smoothie bowl recipe for inspiration—just add goji berries in the blend, and topping.
2. Pack up a Healthy Goji Granola Mix. One of the best ways to use goji berries in cooking is by making home-made granola mixes that can be tailored to your liking. You can mix together raw walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, unsweetened dried coconut, dried goji berries, dairy-free chocolate chips, oats, and chia seeds, then bake them into a golden, delicious granola. The best part about making home-made granola is that you can add as many ingredients as you like. Try my recipe for Lavender Blueberry Granola, and just swap out the blueberries for dried goji berries (that’s what I did in the photo above)! This is a super simple, yet nutrient-packed breakfast or snack, which offers a great pick-me-up. It’s also a nutritious portable snack to take along when you’re running errands, on your way to work, or charging out of the house. The combination of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and oats loads this home-made granola with heart healthy fats, omega-3s, fiber, protein, minerals, vitamins, and powerful phytochemicals with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action.
3. Toss Up a Really Fresh Salad. Goji berries make a great addition to refreshing, nutritious salads, which can be made sweet or savory. Here’s one of my favorite simple recipes:
Goji Avocado Walnut Citrus Salad
- Toss together:
- 4 cups lettuce greens
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 1 orange (i.e., blood orange, valencia), peeled, sliced
- ½ cup walnuts
- ½ cup fresh or dried goji berries
- Drizzle with:
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ lemon, juiced
- Sprinkle with:
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon fresh cracked peppercorns
- Serve! Makes 4 servings.
4. Bake Gojis into a Treat. You can whip up a scrumptious sweet treat by incorporating them into a whole grain muffin, such as these millet muffins. Just swap out the blueberries in this recipe—or your own favorite blueberry muffin recipe—for fresh or dried goji berries, and you’re all set. You can also use this strategy for other baked recipes, such as cobblers, bars, and crumbles. Swap out blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries in any baked good recipe for these little gems.
5. Create a Fabulous Parfait. These berries are a great addition in plant-based, dairy-free yogurt. Nowadays you can find wonderful plant-based yogurts made out of plants like coconut, almond, soy, rice, oats, and more. You want to make sure that the yogurt has at least 6 grams of protein per serving so that you can get a good amount of protein from this recipe. Then use your plant-based yogurt as a base for a beautiful parfait—just layer it with granola and fresh or dried goji berries in a glass dish or even mason jar. Check out this easy recipe for berry yogurt parfait, and swap out some of those berries for goji. This is a super simple way to make a delicious snack, nutritious breakfast bowl, or healthy dessert.
Get more tips on cooking with plants in these guides:
Written by Savanna Malki, dietetic intern with Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN
Images by Sharon Palmer