Recipe: Swiss Elderberry Compote

With elderberries ripening in the late summer, I have an easy recipe that you can serve as an accompaniment to savory or sweet dishes.

Known as Hollermües in the Haut-Valais, its name combines two German words: holunder (elderberry) with mus (purée or mush). Furthermore, versions of this elderberry purée also exist in other cantons, including parts of St. Gallen and the Appenzell regions. Outside of Valais, people also refer to it as Holderbrägel and Holderzonne. Recipes for this dish generally call for the elderberries to be cooked and thickened with a roux made from milk and butter. Some of the sweeter Hollermües recipes include Pain de seigle (rye bread), the cantonal bread for Valais, as an ingredient. In the lower regions of Valais, this dish goes by the name of Sii.

A few things to remember about picking wild elderberries:

  • Make sure you actually have elderberries. In Switzerland, you will find other similar-looking berries that ripen around the same time.
  • Elderberries must be cooked. The uncooked berries contain lectin and cyanide, two types of toxins.
  • Watch out for stains. I recommend wearing an apron when working with elderberries.
Elderberries (baies de sureau)

Swissmilk’s recipe, which I have adapted below, suggests serving the elderberry compote with boiled potatoes (Gschwellti) and cheese. For example, as it contains a half teaspoon of salt, this compote has a bit of a savory touch. If you would prefer a sweeter compote, you should instead add a pinch of salt and increase the sugar.

Elderberry Compote

  • Difficulty: easy
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Recipe adapted from Swissmilk


1 tablespoon all-purpose flour 
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
– 3 1/2 cups elderberries
– 2/3 cup red wine
– 2 tablespoons sugar
– 1/2 teaspoons salt


1. First, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour until the mixture is smooth. Continue stirring and cooking until it becomes lightly browned.
2. Add the elderberries and wine to the saucepan. Stir in the sugar and salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for at least 15 minutes with the cover on. Continue cooking without the cover, as necessary and stirring frequently, until the mixture has thickened. Finally, serve with potatoes or Rheintaler Ribelmais, and cheese.


Updated: January 9, 2023

3 replies »

    • Thanks so much, Jennifer! I cooked with elderberries years ago, but haven’t since. I had been wanting to try using them again, and thankfully I stumbled across this Swiss recipe last week! 😉

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