With a beautiful, rose color and a refreshing taste, Aka Shiso Juice (Red Perilla Juice) is a popular homemade summer drink in Japan made of red perilla leaves. It brings out your appetite on hot days and helps with recovery from exhaustion, digestion, anti-aging, and more!!
My family loves our summertime drinks and we often have jugs of ume juice, cold brew hojicha, and iced buckwheat tea ready on the kitchen countertop to keep us refreshed all day. Aka Shiso Juice (赤紫蘇ジュース) is another favorite of mine. With a vivid rose color, this herby drink will energize you even in the muggy, hot Japanese summer.
Now that I have a lot of aka shiso in my backyard (Thanks to JOC fan Bobby in Cupertino!), I made a batch of Aka Shiso Juice to stay cool & healthy.
What is Aka Shiso Juice
Aka Shiso Juice is a juice made of aka shiso, which is red perilla leaves. You basically make the juice with homemade Aka Shiso Syrup and (sparkling) water. It’s mildly minty, fruity, refreshing and sparkling all at once.
Aka Shiso Syrup is made with 4 ingredients – red perilla leaves, water, sugar, and apple cider vinegar (or rice vinegar).
What Are Aka Shiso (Red Perilla Leaves)
Red perilla leaves have a unique taste. Some may describe it with a mildly minty and earthy aroma. If you like umeboshi or red/green shiso, you are familiar with the taste already. It could be an acquired taste for many non-Asian palates.
Unlike green shiso leaves, red shiso leaves are mostly used for coloring purposes, mainly for making umeboshi and red pickled ginger.
Health Benefits of Aka Shiso
In addition to its deep, beautiful merlot color, Aka Shiso (red perilla leaves) are also known for their many great health benefits:
- High in iron
- Calcium and carotene
- Good for the respiratory tract and those with asthma
- Improves immune function
- Excellent for stomach aches and digestive upset
How to Make Aka Shiso Syrup
Ingredients You’ll Need
Since everyone has a different number of aka shiso plants in the yard and each year may yield an irregular amount, I’ve made my recipe flexible and easy to adjust.
- Aka shiso leaves
- Sugar (for making syrup, AND this is for preservation purpose)
- Apple cider vinegar (lemon juice works too)
Yep, that’s it! Very easy, and you really have to give it a try!
Overview: Cooking Steps
- Rinse and boil aka shiso leaves.
- Drain to reserve the cooking liquid.
- Add sugar and apple cider vinegar to the cooking liquid (this is the syrup).
- Let cool slightly, then put the syrup in a jar.
- Store in the fridge for up to 6-12 months!
2 Important Tips
- Don’t reduce sugar – I know, it’s tempting to reduce the amount of sugar, but if you plan to preserve the syrup for a long time, try not to adjust the amount too much. Sugar helps to keep the syrup safe for a long time without mold growth.
- Use mild vinegar – The purpose of the vinegar is to impart the syrup with a bright purple color. You will see the ‘magic’ as soon as you add the vinegar to the shiso cooking liquid. The darker purple changes to a beautiful brighter purple. You won’t taste the vinegar much as long as you use a mild vinegar like apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, or lemon juice. Adjust the amount accordingly.
How to Make Aka Shiso Juice
There are few ways to enjoy Aka Shiso Juice.
Some use alcohol to dilute the syrup and make a cocktail with it, while I enjoy drinking the juice with ice water, club soda, sparkling water, etc.
The syrup to water ratio is really up to you, but I recommend 1:1 or 1:2.
What to Do with Used Aka Shiso
You may wonder what to do with the used red shiso leaves. Don’t worry, we are not wasting anything. We usually make Yukari Japanese rice seasoning with the used shiso and I included the recipe below.
If you have more fresh red shiso leaves, you can look for Japanese ume plums and make Umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums).
Aka Shiso Juice (Red Perilla Juice)
For Aka Shiso Syrup
- 3.5 oz red shiso leaves (perilla) (1 leaf (roughly 3"x3") is about 1 g)
- 4 cups water (for cooking red shiso)
- 1 cup sugar (adjust to your liking; however, if you use less sugar, it may not be preserved for a long time)
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar (adjust to your liking)
For Aka Shiso Juice
- cold water or sparkling water
For Yukari Rice Seasoning
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (or umezu (red plum vinegar), which I used today)
To Make Aka Shiso Syrup
- Gather all the ingredients. Today I used ¾ of the recipe shown above based on what I could harvest from the yard. Here I use 75 g (2.6 oz) red shiso leaves, 150 g (¾ cup) sugar, 90 ml (⅜ cup) apple cider vinegar, and 720 ml (3 cups) water.
- Rinse the shiso leaves under cold running water.
- On a medium-high heat, bring the measured water in a medium pot to a boil.
- Once boiling, add the shiso leaves and let them submerged in the water.
- Cook for 5 minutes on medium heat.
- The cooking liquid will start turning darker purple while the leaves turn green.
- Once you're done cooking, turn off the heat and reserve the cooking liquid. Drain the shiso leaves by either scooping them up into a sieve (as shown in the picture) or drain into a sieve over a bowl.
- Press and squeeze the leaves with a wooden spoon or metal ladle (something hard) to get the additional cooking liquid from the leaves. No wasting!
- Turn the heat back on, add sugar, and let it dissolved completely.
- Add apple cider vinegar. Turn off the heat and let cool.
- Meanwhile, sterilize the jar, or wash the jar really well and wipe with alcohol (I used shochu).
- Pour the cooled syrup into the sterilized jar.
To Store the Syrup
- If you don't change the amount of sugar, it should be kept well in the refrigerator or freezer for up to 6-12 months. Always use a clean utensil to scoop up the juice.
To Make Aka Shiso Juice
- Mix the syrup and water/sparkling water roughly 1:1 or 1:2 or to your liking.
To Make Yukari Rice Seasoning
- Add apple cider vinegar to the reserved shiso leaves. You can also use umezu (red plum vinegar) from making umeboshi, if you have any (I have it so I used it in this recipe). Gently loosen the leaves.
- Spread the leaves as much as you can and place it on a wire rack lined with the baking sheet.
- I used the dehydrator mode (140ºF/60ºC) in my oven to let the leaves dry for 2 hours. You can also dry in the breezy air outside (I recommend this drying rack net).
- Put the dried shiso leaves in the food processor and process it until powdered.
- Put in a container and add salt to your liking. Sprinkle yukari rice seasoning over the steamed rice and make rice balls with it. Enjoy!
To Store the Yukari
- You can keep in an airtight container and store in a cool dark place for up to a year.