9 Best Star Anise Substitutes

Star anise is a common spice in Asian cuisine, but it’s not easy to find. It’s a shame that this flavorful and versatile ingredient isn’t more widely available.

Star anise is a delicious, warm, and sweet-and-spicy flavor that is frequently paired with pork, beef, chicken, and curry. It’s not found in many kitchens outside of Asia, but it’s still worth keeping on hand for certain dishes.

Although star anise can be used when making meatballs or pot roasts, there are other options you can try to achieve the same warm and spicy taste without using star anise.

Some amazing star anise substitutes include Anise seed, Fennel seeds, Chinese Five Spice Powder, Cloves, Caraway Seeds, Anise extract, Allspice, Tarragon, and Licorice root. 

Keep reading to know how you can use these handy substitutes and some more interesting information about star anise.

What is Star Anise?

Star anise is a star-shaped seed pod that belongs to the evergreen tree Illicium verum. This tree grows natively in China and Southeast Asia, where people have been using its oil to flavor dishes for centuries.

Star anise is often used in savory dishes because it pairs well with onion, cabbage, pork, beef, chicken, etc. It’s also a great addition to baked goods like cakes and biscotti. This distinctive spice consists of many layers that are each filled with a seed.

These seeds are then dried until they become brittle enough to break into segments, which are then ground into star anise powder or left whole.

You should not eat the actual pods because these contain toxic chemicals that can cause serious stomach problems. Keep this in mind when you’re cooking with star anise spice because it’s easy to not be aware of what you’re eating.

Many people enjoy star anise because it is easy to grow and the plant produces fruit every four years, which means there’s plenty of seed available to be used as a spice.

It’s traditionally added during the beginning stages of cooking because it needs time to slowly release its flavor.

9 Best Star Anise Substitutes

1. Anise Seed

Anise has a similar taste to star anise but is not quite as warm or spicy. If you have never eaten anise before, it’s best to start with a small amount so you don’t overpower your dish.

Anise seed is typically dried and ground before being used in cooking. You can use this in place of star anise when making meatballs, pot roasts, stews, or soups.

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2 teaspoons of anise seed can replace 1 teaspoon of star anise. Using this substitution will make your dish slightly less aromatic, but it’s still delicious.

2. Fennel Seeds

Fennel Seeds

Fennel seeds are bright green in color and have a long, thin shape that is similar to star anise.

The seeds are similar to star anise in that they have warm, sweet aromas with hints of licorice or black pepper. The flavor is also very similar to star anise, but it’s not quite as strong.

Fennel is a popular herb that ranges from sweet to slightly bitter in taste, depending on the variety of fennel you’re cooking with.

Many will add these seeds whole during the beginning stages of cooking. This allows the flavor of the fennel to become infused into your dish while preventing the crunchy texture of the seeds from being eaten.

2 teaspoons of fennel seeds can be used in place of 1 teaspoon of star anise to add a deeper flavor that pairs well with beef and chicken.

3. Chinese Five-Spice Powder

Chinese five-spice powder is a popular seasoning in Asian cuisine.

It is a blend of spices that typically includes star anise, cloves, Sichuan peppercorns, fennel seeds, and cassia or cinnamon bark. The resulting flavor is warm and slightly sweet with a spicy kick flavor.

The first time I cooked with Chinese five-spice powder, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. This blended spice is slightly sweeter than star anise and pairs well with pork, chicken, beef, or duck.

Like star anise, the flavors of this blend become more prominent as it cooks longer so adding it during the beginning stages of cooking is ideal.

You can use this in place of star anise by adding 1 teaspoon of the powder for every 2 teaspoons of star anise.

Unlike other flavors, this blend is typically added at the very end of cooking to preserve as much of the flavor as possible.

4. Cloves

Cloves are a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern and African cooking, but they can also be used to enhance dishes from Southeast Asia.

Cloves are similar in taste to star anise, which makes them a great substitute. Like many other flavors that share this similarity, cloves are warm and sweet with just a hint of bite or pungency.

If you’re using whole cloves, this substitution will be seamless as long as you have an awareness of how much of the ground spice you’re adding. If you use too much at once, the pungency of the cloves can overpower your dish.

You can use this in place of star anise by adding 1 teaspoon of ground cloves for every 2 teaspoons of star anise.

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5. Caraway Seeds

Caraway seeds are similar to star anise because they have a slightly pungent taste that is warm, earthy, and slightly sweet. They are smaller than star anise and have thin, long pods that resemble celery seeds in appearance.

It’s best to use caraway seeds whole during cooking because this allows the flavors to infuse your dish. If you grind them too early, they can become bitter quickly.

You can use this in place of star anise by adding 1 teaspoon of ground caraway seeds for every 2 teaspoons of star anise.

6. Anise Extract

Anise extract is made from star anise, but it has a stronger and sweeter flavor that can easily be overdone when added to your dish.

The extract is a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine because it can be used as a direct substitute for ground star anise.

The best way to substitute is by using the same amount of anise extract if your recipe specifically calls for it instead of star anise. Otherwise, add 1 teaspoon of anise extract per 2 teaspoons of star anise.

7. Allspice

Allspice is a powerful spice that adds an incredible depth of flavor to dishes. It has hints of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, but on its own, it can be overpowering.

Allspice is similar to star anise in taste because they’re both warm with just a touch of pungency. It’s not quite as sweet as star anise, but it has a similar bite and can be used in place of ground star anise.

It’s best to add the allspice toward the beginning of cooking so its flavor becomes more subtle.

You can use this in place of star anise by adding 1 teaspoon of ground allspice per 2 teaspoons of star anise.

8. Tarragon

Tarragon Substitutes

Tarragon is an herb commonly found in French cooking. It’s also the primary ingredient in tarragon vinegar.

It tastes similar to star anise because it’s warm, slightly sweet, and moderately pungent with just a touch of bitterness at the end. The flavor of tarragon can be quite strong so it works best in dishes that are robust enough to tame it down.

This herb can be added toward the beginning of the end of cooking, but don’t add too much at once or its flavor can become overwhelming.

You can use this in place of star anise by adding 1 teaspoon tarragon for every 2 teaspoons of star anise.

9. Licorice Root

Licorice root is a sweet, earthy flavor that works well in multiple different types of dishes. It’s not as pungent or warm as star anise, but it has a similar sweetness to it and works well when used sparingly.

Grinding the licorice root beforehand can help release its complex flavors more easily. Licorice root is only used in very small quantities, so it’s best to add it toward the end of cooking.

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You can use this in place of star anise by adding 1 teaspoon of ground licorice root per 2 teaspoons of star anise.  

What does Star Anise Taste Like?

Some people describe the taste of star anise as tasting like black licorice or a strong, sweet anise flavor. It’s similar to fennel seed in taste, but it has a more delicate sweetness that brings out flavors in meat and vegetables.

When cooked in dishes, it can help transition flavors from sharp to sweet where needed. It has the ability to bring out the best in meats without masking their flavor.

Star anise can be used in sweet and savory dishes alike, but it’s most common to see it as a cooking spice in desserts or as a star ingredient among meat dishes.

Is There a Difference Between Anise and Star Anise?

While both spices are very similar in taste, they do have a few specific differences that make them both unique and delicious. There is a major difference between anise and star anise.

Anise is from the same plant as fennel, but it’s most commonly used in baking. It has a sweeter flavor than star anise does and can be found ground at any grocery store.

Star anise has a pungent, licorice flavor to it and is not as sweet. It’s usually found at specialty grocers or Asian markets, but a small amount can also be ordered online.

Star anise has a slightly more intense flavor than anise does, and it doesn’t taste anything like fennel.

Can I Substitute Anise for Star Anise?

Yes, it’s possible to substitute anise for star anise, but it might work better in some cases than others. In most cases, there isn’t a big difference between the two spices and they can often be used interchangeably.

In general, if a recipe calls for one or the other then use whichever is specified. However, if you’re trying to replace one with the other then it’s best to keep some general guidelines in mind.

Star anise has quite a bit more flavor than anise does, but anise can be used in place of star anise if you’re worried about its licorice-like qualities.

How Much Star Anise Is in a Pod?

A single pod of star anise contains around eight seeds, and it’s generally considered a safe amount for a dish to have.

When used as a cooking spice, 1 teaspoon of ground star anise is usually the right amount to use for two servings.

However, it can vary depending on what you’re cooking and how strong you want the flavors to be. Since star anise is such a strong spice, it’s best to add it slowly instead of all at once.

Final Words

So there you have the 9 best star anise substitutes, hope this helps! If you found this article useful, please consider sharing it with your family and friends by clicking the share button below. Thank You 🙂

I’m a passionate food blogger on a journey to become a go-to person who can help others prepare delicious foods. I share recipes, food substitutes, and other cooking tips. Read more about my journey...

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