I am trying to make root beer using natural ingredients, but sarsaparilla and sassafras root are difficult to get in my area.

I found root beer recipes that used licorice root as an ingredient, and I was able to order some online. However, right from opening the package, it did not smell in any way like licorice or anything remotely evocative of root beer. I tried to boil it as instructed in the recipe, but the aroma did not improve. It actually smells kind of earthy and, in my opinion, kind of gross.

The resulting drink was weak and largely flavourless. So I'm wondering, did I get possibly the wrong type of licorice root, or perhaps a bad batch? Or is licorice root a different thing than the kind of high intensity licorice one might get in a candy?

I did see this other question about making licorice extract, which leads me to believe that licorice root might be inappropriate for making root beer, but then I have to wonder why any online recipes might use it as a main ingredient for root beer.

Is licorice root suitable for making a root beer like drink? If so, are there any special processing or source considerations?

  • IIRC real sarsaparilla and sassafras are considered poisonious
    – TFD
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 5:08
  • @TFD Only sassafras is considered toxic. Wikipedia says that safrole is a possible (but not thoroughly proven) carcinogen. Elsewhere I read that it is liver damaging. What is for sure is that it is banned by the FDA (while sarsaparilla is not as far as I'm aware). Filé powder, which is made from dried sassafras leaves, is neither toxic nor FDA prohibited. It is usually used as a thicken in gumbo though, so I doubt it could be used to make root beer however it tastes. Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 12:21
  • Sarsaparilla root can be order from amazon (I just checked). Natural sassafras flavoring is also available there, but can hardly be recommended if the FDA have seen fit to ban it. If you don't restrict yourself to natural ingredients, then there are some artificial sassafras flavorings there too. Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 12:34
  • @ChrisSteinbach, I live in Asia, and Amazon does not deliver certain food products to my area. Sarsaparilla root is one of the things that they will not send here.
    – Questioner
    Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 5:02

1 Answer 1


liquorice root is suitable for making a root beer drink. It is important to note that most liquorice candy is actually flavoured with aniseed, which is the source of the intense flavour. however in answer to your question the following link will provide you with a natural, healthy recipe that uses liquorice root to create a root beer. http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/licorice-root-beer-recipe-zmaz04djzsel.aspx#axzz3QBIpu06t

  • Hello pandora, and welcome to the site. We are a strictly cooking site, and we don't discuss nutrition or "healthy" food. So I had to remove this part of your answer.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 9:12

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