You have probably heard of star anise, a seedpod shaped like a star. This warm spice has an anise flavor with licorice notes, having numerous uses, particularly in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine.
While you can find star anise in your local grocery store, there are times they don’t carry it. Or, you might have thought you still had a bottle of star anise, only to find out you ran out of it earlier.
Whatever the case may be, you can always use substitutes for star anise without compromising your dish’s taste.
Read on if you’re unsure what a good star anise substitute entails. We have the complete list of ingredients to replace star anise with.
What’s a Good Substitute for star anise?
Star anise is made from fruits of illicium verum trees, commonly grown for commercial use in Asian countries like China, Vietnam and India. It’s known to enhance the flavor of wine and meats with star anise’s licorice notes. (*)
Fun fact: The Japanese star anise is inedible and highly toxic. Do not purchase or consume this variety!
So, if you don’t have any of this popular warm spice, what can you use? Check out any of these star anise substitutes:
1. Chinese Five-Spice Powder
Chinese five-spice powder is the best one among all the different substitutes mentioned here.
Chinese five-spice powder is always the first thing people turn to when they need a substitute for star anise. After all, star anise is one of the five spices included in this ingredient!
Like star anise, Chinese five-spice powder will give dishes that warm and sweet-spicy flavor. We love using it in meat-based dishes, poultry, or braised and roasted fish.
You can even use Chinese Five-Spice powder to replace Allspice of Old Bay Seasoning, especially when preparing Chinese dishes.
Only use half the Chinese five-spice powder a recipe calls for, only adding more if necessary.
2. Anise Seeds
Anise seed is not related to star anise. They even have very different appearances.
Fun fact: like star anise, the anise seed can treat common stomachaches. It symbolizes cleanliness and has been used since ancient times to improve health and clean holy places.
Anise seed and star anise come from the same-named trees, annual herbaceous plants cultivated for culinary and medical purposes.
Even with their differences, anise seed has a licorice-like flavor, tasting sweet, mildly spicy, with a strong aroma.
Because the anise seed’s sweetness can enhance the flavors of drinks, dishes, and even candies, you can also use it in baked goods or ground meat.
When using anise seed as a substitute for star anise, use a 3:4 ratio, respectively.
3. Fennel Seeds
Another good star anise substitute is fennel seeds. It’s one of the spices used in making Chinese five-spice powder!
Just like star anise, fennel seeds bring out sweet and powerful licorice notes.
When using fennel seed as a substitute for star anise, use a 1:4 ratio, respectively. That means, for every one teaspoon of star anise needed, use only 1/4 teaspoon of fennel seeds.
You can also use a combination of fennel seeds and anise seeds. While fennel seeds taste milder than anise seeds, they have the same sweet flavor.
As a result, mixing these two spices gives a unique taste but still has similar flavor notes to star anise.
Mix equal parts of fennel seeds and anise seeds, and use a 2:3 ratio when substituting star anise. For every two teaspoons of star anise required, use three teaspoons of the anise and fennel seed mixture.
Whole and ground cloves make a diverse star anise substitute. Both cloves and star anise contain high eugenol levels, making these spices aromatic with a woody flavor.
Furthermore, cloves taste pungent, having dry, sweet, warm, and bitter notes. That’s why cloves are useful in enhancing the flavors of soups, sauces, rice dishes, and Indian dishes.
You can use an equal amount of whole or ground cloves to replace star anise.
If your dish uses star anise as the main spice, you’ll want to consider another star anise substitute. Whole cloves don’t have the adequate spice flavor to replace the licorice-based spice.
5. Caraway Seeds with Tarragon
This is a great star anise substitute, but note that caraway seeds have a strong flavor and a more bitter taste. That’s why it’s best to use fewer caraway seeds than tarragon. (*)
Caraway seeds offer an aromatic flavor, which we use as garnish and flavoring soups, meatballs, rye bread, and coleslaw. Note that caraway seeds become more pungent when cooked.
As for tarragon, you can compare the flavor to whole or ground star anise. We recommend using French tarragon when replacing star anise, which has the similar flavor and licorice notes of star anise.
Allspice is dried berries from the Pimanta dioca plant. It’s used all over the world and is considered an essential ingredient in many sweet and savory dishes.
This spice looks similar to black pepper but is colored brown. It would bring your dishes a unique and distinct flavor of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
Similar to star anise, allspice tastes warm and has a strong flavor that goes well in many recipes. It can also alleviate an upset stomach, like whole and ground star anise!
If you don’t have any allspice, you can make your own by mixing cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and a little bit of sugar.
However, do note that allspice doesn’t have a licorice flavor, so if your dish needs it, then consider other substitutes.
7. Cassia Bark Powder
Whole or ground cassia bark powder is a flavoring agent you’ll find in pastries, desserts, and meats. It has aromatic, pungent, and sweet flavors.
This spice is best used in meat dishes that ask for star anise. However, if star anise is the recipe’s main spice, you’ll want to go for another substitute.
8. Anise Extract
Another great substitute you can use is anise extract, made from extracting anise seeds. It’s a popular ingredient in baked goods to improve flavors.
Anise extract has a strong and slightly sweet licorice flavor as it contains anethole, an aromatic substance.
We recommend using anise extract in sweet recipes that call for star anise, such as bread, cookies, or biscottis.
When using anise extract as a star anise substitute, double the amount the recipe calls for.
9. Licorice Root Powder
The licorice root powder is an excellent substitute for star anise because of the licorice flavor. It’s used as a sweetener, which is why it’s best used for baked goods and candies.
Both the root powder and star anise have a natural sweetness that makes it a suitable alternative for desserts. In fact, this ingredient might have a sweeter flavor, ideal for desserts like apple pie.
10. Licorice Liqueur
Licorice liqueur will give you the flavors you’ll find from anise seed, which makes it a good substitute for star anise.
However, not all types of licorice liqueur will work well in providing the anise seed-like taste.
We recommend using liqueur-like Sambuca, Pernot, or Pacharan.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are you still wondering about star anise and its substitutes? Check out our frequently asked questions!
1. Does star anise have a licorice flavor?
Yes! Expect star anise to have a mild and fragrant licorice taste. While it’s taught to be sweet, we use star anise in many savory foods.
Fun fact: Star anise plays a crucial role in famous savory dishes, such as Vietnamese Pho, baked salmon, red braised pork belly, among other recipes!
2. Can I substitute ground star anise for a whole one?
Yes, you can! If your recipe calls for whole star anise, you can always use the ground version or vice versa.
Use one whole star anise for every half teaspoon of ground star anise.
3. What are the health benefits of star anise?
Star anise is a primary spice used for cooking and medicinal purposes! Here are a few health benefits that star anise offers:
- It prevents aging and diabetes by containing vitamins A, C, and antioxidants.
- Star anise can support treatments of specific ailments, including flu, cough, an upset stomach. This is because it has anethole, thymol, and terpineol.
- It can improve digestion and reduce stomach cramps thanks to the presence of potassium and magnesium.
- Star anise can increase the GABA neuro-chemical levels in our brains because it has a vitamin B complex.
4. What’s the difference between anise and star anise?
Star anise and anise are from two totally different plants. Anise seeds are small brown seeds, while star anise has 6-8 seeds in every star-shaped pod.
That said, you can still use anise as a star anise substitute, though the latter has a stronger flavor.
Wrapping It Up
There are numerous substitutes for star anise to use, so even if your local supermarket doesn’t carry it, you can still get the licorice-like flavor you need in recipes. You might even have some of these ingredients in your kitchen already!
Did you find the best star anise substitute from our list? If so, let us know what you think in the comments section below.
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