Star anise also known as Chinese star anise is a spice that comes from the evergreen tree native to southwest China and northeast Vietnam.
The seed pods of this tree have a star shape and contain 6-8 seeds. The seeds and pods are with strong anise flavor and enhance the flavor of meals. Star anise has a strong, sweet, warm, and spicy flavor which reminds of anise seed, clove, licorice, and fennel seed.
This specific flavor pairs well with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, beef, poultry, or citrus onions. But you should use it in a small amount not to overpower the other flavors. Star anise is also used to add flavor to liqueurs, cookies, cakes, and other baked goods.
Consuming star anise also has health benefits thanks to vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help with certain health problems.
However, what if you don’t have this spice at hand and your recipe calls for it? Luckily, you can use some other spices as a substitute.
Spices that can replace the distinctive flavor of star anise are anise seed, Chinese five-spice powder, caraway seeds, allspice, anise extract, tarragon, chervil, cinnamon, or some of the following substitutes.
Star Anise Substitutes
This spice can be found as a whole and ground. And in each form, it is used differently in cooking. Whole star anise pods work well in many sauces, stews, marinades, soups, and braised dishes to add flavor and they are removed after cooking, whereas ground star anise is added to dishes like other ground spices.
If you want to have a stronger flavor in your dish you can ground the star anise seeds and pods at home and use them when needed.
Ground star anise is also common in sweet dishes like pies, muffins, sweet bread, or baked fruits, and as an ingredient in some spice mixtures like Chinese five-spice powder, and Garam masala.
Few spices can be used as a substitute for star anise. However, if you want to reach a similar flavor, you will have to use the right substitute in the right amount in your dish.
1. Anise seed
Anise seed has a similar licorice flavor and is often confused with star anise, though they come from different plants.
You can use this seed as a whole and ground in meat, pie fillings, baked goods, and to flavor hot chocolate or coffee. You can add these seeds to alcoholic beverages like absinthe, sambuca, and ouzo.
Anise seed has a mildly spicy and sweet licorice flavor. Therefore, it can be a good substitute for star anise. However, since star anise has a stronger flavor than anise seed, use 2 teaspoons of anise seed to substitute 1 teaspoon ground star anise.
2. Chinese five-spice powder
This spice mixture includes star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, and Sichuan peppercorn. However, depending on the region some other spices are also added.
It offers a licorice flavor from the star anise, sweet and warm flavors from the fennel, cinnamon, and peppery note, and a cooling effect from the peppercorns and cloves.
You can use it in marinades, rubs, fish, roasted meat, poultry, and vegetables. Substitute 2 teaspoons of star anise with 1 teaspoon of five-spice powder.
3. Fennel seeds
Fennel seeds have a milder and sweeter licorice flavor than star anise. They perform well in stews, curries, bread, desserts, cookies, sausages, and spice mixtures.
You can use fennel seed instead of star anise, however, your meal will be with a different sweeter flavor. Use 2 teaspoons of fennel seed as a substitute for 1 teaspoon star anise.
4. Caraway seeds
Caraway seeds have an earthy and mild anise flavor with a hint of pepper and citrus. They are used in flavoring soups, curries, vegetables, salads, baked goods, sausages, liqueurs, and for pickling and brining.
Carraway seeds have a strong flavor. Therefore, you should use them in smaller amounts. For 1 teaspoon of star anise use ½ teaspoon caraway seeds.
Cloves are spice with a strong sweet-bitter flavor and are used whole and ground. You can add them to savory dishes, desserts, drinks, sauces, meat, and drinks like cider, mulled wine, and chai.
Cloves have a different flavor than star anise. However, they will give a sweet flavor to your food with bitter notes. For 2 teaspoons star anise use 1 teaspoon ground cloves in your recipe.
Allspice is made of dried berries and has a flavor that reminds of nutmeg, pepper, cloves, and cinnamon. It is a common ingredient in baking and cooking. You can use it to season meat, veggies, soups, baked goods, and desserts.
Allspice doesn’t have the licorice flavor like star anise. However, it offers many other flavors that will make your dish more flavorful. You can substitute 2 teaspoons of star anise with 1 teaspoon allspice.
7. Anise extract
Anise extract made of anise oil, water, and vodka has a specific licorice flavor. This extract adds flavor to baked goods, desserts, cooked dishes, and beverages.
You can add it to your cup of hot chocolate, coffee, or another recipe to get a licorice flavor. As a substitute for 2 teaspoons star anise, you can use 1 teaspoon of anise extract.
Tarragon is a highly aromatic leafy and green herb with a slight licorice flavor, and mint, pepper, vanilla, and eucalyptus hints. All these flavors are combined in one fresh and delicate herb used in many dishes like sauces, dressings, marinades, chicken, and fish.
Tarragon has a slightly bitter licorice flavor. So, you can add it to your dish to boost the taste and give a new flavor. Substitute 2 teaspoons of star anise with 1 teaspoon tarragon.
Chervil is a staple in French cuisine and is also known as French parsley. This member of the parsley family has a similar look to parsley but its leaves are finely shaped and thinner.
This herb has a specific flavor of parsley and tarragon with a weak hint of licorice. You can use it as a seasoning for veggies, seafood, poultry, sauces, salads, or soups. But add it at the end of the cooking. Otherwise, it will lose its flavor if it is cooked longer.
If you want to use chervil instead of star anise you will not get the same flavor. However, you will get some licorice hints. For 1 teaspoon of star anise use 2 teaspoons of chervil as its substitute.
Cinnamon is made from the inner bark of a tree Cinnamomum. There are two main types of cinnamon used cassia and Ceylon cinnamon who is also known as real cinnamon.
It has a sweet, spicy, and woody flavor with a slightly citrusy note. You can use this spice in sweet and savory dishes like bread, cookies, pies, soups, lamb, and chicken meat.
If you have cinnamon at home, you can use it as a substitute for star anise in hot drinks, cookies, cakes, or baked goods. Substitute 1 teaspoon of star anise with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon.
Can I substitute anise for star anise?
Yes, anise is one of the spices you can substitute for star anise. They both have the same licorice flavor. However, star anise flavor is stronger than anise flavor.
Is there a difference between anise and star anise?
Star anise and anise came from two different plants. Anise seed is a small seed with brown color, while star anise has 6-8 seeds in a star-shaped pod.
These substitutes have similar licorice flavor like star anise and you can use them in your sweet and savory dishes to improve their flavor.
However, if you have never used some of these spices to flavor your dishes you can use a small amount, and if you like it add extra. The flavor of your dish depends on the spices you are using.