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A Fire Cider Recipe That Will Boost Your Immunity

We have the original long-brewed version as well as a quick overnight shortcut.
immune boosting shot

Any time I feel under the weather, I make a large batch of fire cider, an immune-boosting tonic of acidic, spicy things like garlic, ginger, horseradish, chiles, and apple cider vinegar, mixed with fresh citrus juice and honey. I take little shots of it throughout the day, letting its healing warmth run through my body.

Kind of like a shrub or a switchel in flavor, fire cider is often relied upon by herbalists to stop flu and cold symptoms in their tracks. Though a quick version can be mixed up overnight, a proper batch of fire cider takes a few weeks to brew.

As we work through daily life doing our best to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, a combined effort to practice social distancing means you'll have plenty of time to make a big batch of this fire cider. Or hey, make a quick batch for now and a OG slower batch to freeze for later.

What are the health benefits of fire cider?

The spicy components of the drink aid in decongestion and warm the body, citrus brings immune-boosting vitamin C, while garlic and honey offer antibacterial support. Some believe strongly in the antiviral properties of these ingredients as well, but as much less research has been produced in that area, don't put all your faith in fire cider. The drink will still soothe a sore throat, clear out your sinuses, and warm you to your core.

Though humans have made strong brews with natural ingredients to combat illness for generations, the actual term "fire cider" is widely attributed to herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, who wrote about the mixture in the 1980s. In her 1999 book Rosemary Gladstar's Herbs for the Home Medicine Chest, she recommends making a batch of fire cider as soon as cold and flu season hits (her recipe requires the mixture to rest for three to four weeks to reach utmost potency), and recommends taking a spoonful as soon as symptoms arise.

What goes into making fire cider?

To be honest, I often don't wait weeks to drink my fire cider. Because I consider the brew to be a symptom-soother and not my only form of medicine, I find it to be perfectly potent after an overnight steep.

Though you'll find one below, there's no real "recipe" for the mixture. It's more a matter of what I have on hand and which flavors I want to lean into. More acidic spice? Crank up the amount of freshly grated horseradish. Want it super hot? Double the chiles and add all the seeds. And always add freshly chopped garlic and ginger, lots and lots of it. I don't typically use diced onion, but some swear by it. Then the citrus: for a sweeter slant, orange juice and peel; but the puckery lemon is just as welcome. Turmeric, freshly grated or powdered, and cracked black peppercorns are my favorite additions for a dose of anti-inflammatory agents.

Cram everything into a clean jar and cover with apple cider vinegar. At this point, you could pop the mixture in the fridge and let it sit out overnight.

How to properly brew the cider for weeks

If you're interested in letting your fire cider brew for a few weeks, there are a few things to which you should pay closer attention.

  1. Make sure your jar has a lid that can create an airtight seal. This is the time for a Mason jar, and not a repurposed salsa jar. Make sure your jar is fresh-out-of-the-dishwasher sanitized.
  2. Take extra caution to both pack down the solid ingredients and cover them completely with vinegar.
  3. Move the jar to a cool, dark area in the kitchen, like a pantry or cabinet. Let the mixture steep, gently shaking the jar once a day, for three weeks.

Fire cider recipe

Ingredients

1/4 cup freshly chopped garlic
1/4 cup freshly chopped ginger
1/4 cup freshly chopped horseradish
2 dried hot chiles, crushed (freshly chopped will also work)
1 Tbsp ground or freshly grated turmeric
1/2 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
1 orange, washed and quartered
1 lemon, washed and quartered
Apple cider vinegar
Honey

How to Make It

  1. In a clean quart-sized jar, combine garlic, ginger, horseradish, chiles, turmeric, and peppercorns. Squeeze orange and lemon into the mixture and add the rinds. Stir well, then press the solids down to firmly pack them.
  2. Pour in apple cider vinegar until the solids are completely covered (but don't fill the jar to the very brim). If your jar's lid is metal, cover the top of the jar with a square of parchment paper before tightly sealing the lid—metal can react weirdly with vinegar, and no one wants that.
  3. For quick cider: Transfer the jar to the fridge and let steep at least 12 hours. Use a wooden spoon to press down on solids to extract as much flavor as possible. Pour out about 1 shot of the cider and mix in honey to taste. Take a shot (or a half-shot) every morning, or whenever you're feeling under the weather. Finish within 1 month.
  4. For OG slow cider: Transfer the jar to a cool, dark area in the kitchen, like a pantry or cabinet. Let the mixture steep, gently shaking the jar once a day for three weeks. Use a wooden spoon to press down on solids to extract as much flavor as possible, then strain out the solids and mix in honey to taste. Discard the solids and transfer the cider to the fridge. Take a shot (or a half-shot) every morning, or whenever you're feeling under the weather. Finish within 1 month.

Note: If the shot is too potent for your palate, try pouring it over ice and topping with a splash of seltzer. Alternatively, make a tea with a shot or two of fire cider by pouring boiling water over it.

RELATED: The easy guide to cutting back on sugar is finally here.

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Rebecca Firkser
Rebecca Firkser is a food writer and recipe developer. Read more