Star Anise Substitute – Here Are 6 Alternatives You Can Use

With its pungent licorice flavor, Star anise is a key ingredient in many Vietnamese and Chinese dishes. Its unique flavor is outstanding enough that you are unlikely to find an identical match for it in any spice.

This spice is only readily available in some parts of the world and can be expensive.

If you have no star anise at hand, this article will tell you a few of the adequate substitutes you can try in its place.

What is Star Anise?

Many think that star anise and common anise are the same, but that isn’t true.

Illicium verum is a medium-sized evergreen tree native to northeast Vietnam and southwest China. Star anise is also known by names such as star anise, star anise seed, Chinese star anise, or badian. It closely resembles the common anise in flavor.

Row or ripe star anise is picked off the tree, and it turns into a brown hard seed after drying. It’s aptly named for its star shape, which has about six to ten pods on each star, each with a single seed.

Popular recipes with star anise

Star anise is used in various dishes, especially in Vietnam and China. It’s’ used in both savory and sweet dishes.

Mainly, the grated or ground seeds of anise are used in cooking. Some of the best-known recipes incorporating star anise seed include mulled wines, beer, stews made of poultry or beef, and homemade sauces.

It’s a fantastic addition to stews, soups, and braising broths, adding a sweet-licorice-peppery flavor.

You’ll love the wonderful flavor that anise seeds bring to desserts, such as gingerbread, chocolate cake, and brownies.

Best Star Anise Substitutes

This spice is not readily available in general grocery stores, especially in the Western world. Besides, it can be costly due to import duties and tariffs. For any reason, here are a few good alternatives if you are looking for a close substitute for star anise.

1. Chinese five-spice powder

It encompasses all five tastes—sweet, bitter, salty, sour, and umami—and uses five different spices. Star anise is the most assertive ingredient used in this spice blend.

Other ingredients in this Asian seasoning are cloves, Chinese cinnamon, fennel seeds, and Sichuan (Szechuan) peppercorns.

So, when you don’t have star anise, use a Chinese five-spice spice mix instead. It is advantageous as other ingredients in it also help enhance your recipe’s flavor.

As a replacement, you can use one and a half teaspoons of five-spice powder for every two teaspoons of ground star anise.

2. Fennel seeds and anise seeds

Fennel seeds are a spice from the flowering plant called fennel, part of the carrot family. It has a mild licorice taste with a bit of sweetness. Anise also has a mild flavor of licorice minus the sweetness of the fennel.

Using a blend of fennel seeds and anise seeds can approximately mimic the pungent licorice flavor of the star anise. Use the bled of these two spices in a little more quantity than the amount of star anise required in the recipe.

3. Anise seed

Anise seed and star anise are not the same, although the names of both sound the same. However, they have a similar pungent licorice flavor. Therefore, anise seed is a natural choice in place of star anise.

Star anise has a more robust and dominating flavor profile than anise seeds.

When using anise seed instead of star anise, use it in more quantity. For every teaspoon of ground star anise, use two teaspoons of ground anise.

If substituting anise extract for star anise, use 1 teaspoon of anise extract for 1 teaspoon.

4. Allspice

Allspice doesn’t have licorice notes, but it can still work as a suitable replacement for star anise because allspice can add a note of pungency to your dish as star anise does.

Adding a little sugar and allspice to your recipe works best instead of star anise.

Use it in a 1:1 ratio while substituting.

5. Tarragon and Caraway Seeds

Caraway seed has a nutty, bittersweet sharpness with a hint of citrus, pepper, and anise (mild licorice). Similarly, tarragon has a spicy, licorice-like taste due to the presence of estragole present in it.

When caraway seeds and tarragon are used in a recipe, this mixture produces a similar flavor to star anise. Make sure to use caraway seeds in less quantity for their bitterness.

Use two parts of tarragon and one part of caraway seed while making this spice blend.

6. Cloves and Cassia Bark Powder

Cloves don’t have any taste of licorice. Even so, as the star anise does, it can provide a mild sweetness and pungency to your dishes.

Cassia bark has an earthy tone and a sweet finish reminiscent of licorice.

A mixture of equal amounts of ground cloves and cassia bark is a tasty alternative to star anise. This mixture provides a hot and spicy smell like the star anise.

Whole cloves work best instead of star anise in fruit preserves and compotes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the substitute for star anise in mulled wine?

Try using a quarter teaspoon of anise seed or fennel seed for each star anise pod. They're similar in taste, though anise seed has a more intense flavor.

Can you substitute anise extract for anise seed?

Absolutely! Anise extract is potent, so use less. Here's a guide: 1 teaspoon of extract equals 1-1/2 teaspoons of dry anise seed or 2 teaspoons of ground anise seed.

How much anise extract equals anise seed?

Anise extract is stronger than anise seed. Use 1 teaspoon of extract in place of 1-1/2 teaspoons of dry anise seed or 2 teaspoons of ground anise seed.

Can you use anise seed instead of star anise?

Definitely! But since anise seed is milder, you'll need to double the amount for each star anise pod your recipe requires.

Is anise seed the same as star anise?

No, they're different. Both have a licorice taste, but anise seed comes from the Mediterranean anise plant and is small and brown. Star anise is star-shaped, from a Southeast Asian tree, and has 6-8 pointed sections.

How much anise seed equals one star anise?

You'll need 2 teaspoons of anise seed to match one star anise pod. Remember, anise seed is less intense, so consider tweaking the quantity for the perfect flavor.

The Bottom Line

Star anise adds to your recipe a licorice flavor with a note of mild pungency and sweetness. Unfortunately, this spice is not amply available in Europe and North America. It’s costly as well. Thus, it becomes necessary to find a substitute for star anise.

I recommend you use equal measures of anis and fennel seeds as the most effective replacement for star anise. The second best option is the Chinese five-spice powder.

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