Recipe: A Refreshing Strawberry-Vanilla Shrub

This recipe for a strawberry-vanilla shrub infuses flavors of ripened berries with vanilla and vinegar for a deeply refreshing summer drink.

by Stephanie Thurow
PHOTO: KristinaSh/Shutterstock

One of the sweetest treats of spring and early summer? Strawberries! The berries we pick up at the grocery store over winter in Minnesota do resemble strawberries visually. But the flavor is somewhat more like water in a strawberry guise.

They look like strawberries, but there isn’t much strawberry taste.

Our homegrown strawberries won’t be ready to harvest here until sometime in the middle of summer. And our frozen stash is gone by now, so by late winter, we have a hankering for them. By March/April, when strawberry season is already underway in California and Florida, things start getting a bit tastier in Minnesota.

That’s when I begin incorporating them back into our meals. 

My daughter prefers to snack on strawberries by the bowlful. I prefer to blend them up into a strawberry-banana smoothie. But my husband always requests a strawberry shrub. It is the very best and most simple shrub there is (in my opinion).

Today I’m sharing my twist on the classic, with a strawberry-vanilla shrub recipe. Garden fresh berries make the absolute tastiest shrubs. But this early spring treat does the trick for us until we can harvest our own.  

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Last spring, I shared my recipe for rhubarb shrub. There are multiple methods for making shrub. I, however, prefer this no-heat “slow method” as it retains the fresh-fruit flavor versus a cooked-jammy flavor.  

Yield: 2-3 cups finished shrub 

Read more: Plan ahead to mix up a batch of rhubarb shrub!

Strawberry-Vanilla Shrub Ingredients 

  • 1.5 cups strawberries, quartered  
  • 1.5 cups white granulated sugar 

Days later:  

  • 1.5 cups organic apple cider vinegar (or other drinking vinegar of choice) 
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract 


Clean berries and remove stems, as well as any flawed or bruised spots. Combine with sugar in a clean pint canning jar. Shake jar to mix sugar and berries well.

Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean dampened towel. Apply the canning jar lid and tightly screw on the ring. Store the jar at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, and allow the mixture to macerate over a couple days—until a thick syrup is made.

A few times per day, vigorously shake the mixture to speed up the process (or you can use a clean spoon to stir well). 

After two to three days, once the sugar has dissolved and a syrup is made, use a fine mesh strainer to strain out the solids, reserving the syrup in a measuring cup. Use the back of a spoon to push out any excess syrup. Once strained, measure the amount of syrup that was collected and add that same amount of vinegar to the syrup (it will be 1-1.5 cups of vinegar) and vanilla extract.

Stir well to mix. Store in a clean airtight jar and refrigerate. Enjoy within a few months for best flavor. 

Read more: Do chickens really need apple cider vinegar?

To Serve 

Mix about a shot of the shrub mixture with water, or carbonated water. Serve over ice. Shrubs also make delicious and unique cocktail mixers. 

Side Notes 

You can also use brown sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup or other sugar alternative in place of white granulated sugar for this strawberry-vanilla shrub. 

In place of vanilla extract, you could use a half of a vanilla bean. Just add the bean with the fresh fruit and sugar on day 1 and follow the directions otherwise.  

Because raw apple cider vinegar “with the mother” is fermented, you also get the probiotic benefits of fermentation in this drink.  

This method of making a shrub can be applied to any fruits and herb combinations.  

Fresh or frozen fruit can be used when making shrub. 

Don’t toss the strained out fruit solids! They are delicious mixed into plain yogurt or oatmeal, or blended into a smoothie. 

This recipe was adapted from WECK Small-Batch Preserving (2018) with permission from Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. 

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