Schisandra Berry (Omija)

by Emily
An overhead shot of dried omija berries in a bowl. The interior of the bowl is green. A wooden spoon sits in the bowl with the dried berries.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details at the bottom of this page. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases on this article about the Schisandra berry in Korean cuisine. I hope you enjoy learning about Schisandra berries, otherwise known as omija!

What Is Omija (Schisandra Berry)?

The Schisandra Chinensis, commonly known as the Schisandra vine, magnolia vine, or Chinese magnolia vine, is a type of plant native to the forests of Northern China, the Russian Far East, and the Korean Peninsula. While the vine is rarely consumed, the leaves and berries are frequently used in both Chinese and Korean traditional cooking and medicine. 

In English, the berries are commonly known as the Schisandra berry, five-flavor fruit, five-flavor berry, magnolia berry, and more. In South Korea, people refer to this fruit solely as ‘omija’ (오미자). When translated literally, this means ‘five flavors.’ 

In this article, I will discuss some of the uses of the Schisandra berry in Korean cuisine and answer any questions you may have about this ingredient. 

Note: All omija berries photographed for this post are dried and preserved!

Schisandra Berry (Omija) in Korean Cuisine:

As stated above, in South Korea, people refer to Schisandra berries as ‘omija’ (오미자). In Korean cuisine, people use this ingredient in both fresh and dried forms. 

Below, I list a few popular ways people use Schisandra berries (aka magnolia berries) as an ingredient: 

  • Omija-Hwachae (오미자화채): In English, we can translate this to ‘Schisandra berry punch.’ To make this traditional Korean punch, you soak your omija berries in water for an extended period before sweetening the liquid with honey or sugar. Then, you serve the punch combined with different delicious bites, such as mung bean jelly, cut Asian pears, pine nuts, etc.  
  • Dasik (다식): In English, we can translate this to ‘traditional Korean pressed cookies.’ Often, people use the omija berries to flavor and color these cookies. 
  • Omija-Cha (오미자차): In English, we can translate this as ‘Korean Schisandra berry tea.’ This tea is used to make the omija-hwachae dish mentioned above. Learn how to make it via my recipe article on the subject!

Note: Further uses of this berry include preparing it for medicinal purposes. In traditional Korean medicine, the five magnolia berry flavors are connected to five organs in the body. These berries help keep the organs healthy and functioning. 

A photo of omija berries sitting in a bowl with a green interior. The berries are dried. A wooden spoon sits in the bowl with the dried berries.

Omija Frequently Asked Questions:

Now that we learned about omija in Korean cuisine, I want to answer some questions you may have about this ingredient! If I do not answer your question, feel free to leave a comment in the section below or email me at [email protected]

What Does a Schisandra Berry Taste Like?

Famously, this berry has ‘five flavors,’ which are sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness, and spiciness (also described as pungency). You can truly taste all these flavors in this unique fruit!

Where Can I Buy This Ingredient?

You can buy this Korean ingredient at your local Korean or Asian grocery store as well as online! Typically, outside of China, Russia, Korea, and Japan, you can only find these berries dried in both the whole and powdered form. 

In South Korea, you can also buy this ingredient fresh. If you find fresh omija at your local Asian grocery store, make sure to buy some! It is a rare find!

A photo of omija berries sitting in a bowl with a green interior. The berries are dried. A wooden spoon sits in the bowl with the dried berries.

How Do I Properly Store Dried Schisandra Berries?

I recommend storing dried Schisandra berries in a cool, dry place such as your pantry unless the packaging states to refrigerate them. Once opened, make sure to place it into a sealed container with the air removed (such as a Ziplock). 

Fresh berries need to be stored in the refrigerator until used. 

What Is a Good Omija Substitute?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a substitute for this famous five-flavor fruit. As stated above, this fruit tastes sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and pungent. Some would describe it as tasting medicinal. In other words, nothing quite tastes like this unique fruit.

I would wait until you can buy the berries before making a dish that requires them rather than looking for a substitute. 

Where to Buy Korean Ingredients Online? 

Nowadays, there are many online options to choose from to order Korean food online. These websites are not limited to but include:

  • Amazon
  • H-mart
  • Hanpoom
  • Wooltari 

I Hope You Enjoyed Learning About Ojima!

In the end, I hope you enjoyed learning about the uses of omija (Schisandra berry) in Korean cuisine. If so, let me know in the comment section! 

If you would like to read more about cooking, you can find recipes as well as further Korean ingredient articles on my blog. I listed some of our favorite Carving A Journey Korean recipes below! For reference, many recipes are influenced by my family’s blended Korean and Southern heritage.

Korean Ingredient Articles: 

Further Carving A Journey Recipes:

If you have any questions or comments, you can also email me at [email protected]. And, finally, I would love to hear from you through our social media as well! You can follow me at @carvingajourney on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. I also started a vlog YouTube channel with my husband! Or, if you would like more articles like these, you can subscribe to the blog by joining the mailing list. Let me know if you try using dried or fresh omija while cooking! Thank you so much for stopping by!

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