Soapberries (Shepherdia canadensis) are an acquired taste. They contain compounds called saponins that give them a bittersweet flavour which to me is a cross between tomato paste and bitter cherries. When mixed and whipped with water they produce a soapy foam (hence their name). This foam is a traditional food known as “Indian ice cream,” and you can sometimes find it served at pow-wows. Traditionally, the soapberries are whipped by hand using the fingers as a whisk, which takes patience and arm strength. The berries are too intense for me to eat fresh but whipped like this into a foam, I find them a perfect topping for sweet wild strawberries, raspberries, or saskatoons.

When I was visiting Gingolx, B.C., and getting my hand-poke tattoo from Nakkita Trimble- Wilson (see page 214), she hand-whipped canned soapberry juice into a foam for me. The technique I describe below is hers, as is the recipe, handed down to Nakkita from her grandmother Jean (Trimble) Fitzgerald, whom she calls Mom, and her great aunt Colleen Barton, whom she calls Gigi. It is important to acknowledge where these recipes come from, for both Nakkita and me.

  • Combine the soapberries and soapberry juice in a medium bowl. Using your hands, squish the berries until all of the additional juices have been released. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the liquid into a large (8-cup/2-L capacity) non-reactive metal or glass bowl. Discard the pulp. Add the water. With your hand hanging loosely in the bowl and your fingers spread apart slightly to form a whisk, whip the berry juice — quickly and continuously — until it forms stiff peaks, about 15 minutes (the foam should be dense).


  • Add the honey and whip for another minute or two. Taste and adjust sweetness, if you like, whipping after each addition of honey. Set aside.


  • Divide the fresh seasonal berries evenly into small serving bowls or glass cups. Top with a tablespoon of soapberry foam. Serve and eat immediately.


1 tbsp /15 mL fresh soapberries 1 tbsp /15 mL soapberry juice from canned soapberries (or another 1 tbsp fresh soapberries; if you don’t have fresh, you can use 2 tbsp /30 mL canned soapberries and juice)

5 tbsp / 75 mL water 1 tbsp /30 mL good quality organic honey, or to taste

4 cups/1 L fresh seasonal berries, such as
saskatoons, raspberries, strawberries
or blueberries

What do you think?

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