Anise powder is a staple ingredient in many cuisines around the world.
With its distinct licorice-like flavor, anise powder adds a sweet warmth to both savory dishes and baked goods.
What is Anise Powder?
Anise powder is made by grinding dried anise seeds into a fine powder. The seeds come from the Pimpinella anisum plant, which produces small greenish-brown seeds with an oblong shape.
Anise seeds and powder have been used for centuries in Mediterranean, Mexican, Middle Eastern, German, and Indian cuisine. The seeds contain an essential oil called anethole, which gives anise its characteristic licorice-like aroma and flavor.
Some of the common uses for anise powder include:
- Baked goods like cookies, cakes, and breads
- Savory dishes, sauces, soups, and stews
- Tea, hot chocolate, and other warm beverages
- Candy and other sweets
- Potpourri and aromatherapy oils
Anise powder has a very intense, concentrated flavor, so you only need to use a small amount to make an impact. It brings a sweet, warm, and slightly spicy licorice taste to foods and drinks.
Why Use an Anise Powder Substitute?
There are a few reasons you may need a stand-in for anise powder:
- You've run out of anise powder and need it for a recipe.
- Anise powder isn't readily available where you live.
- You or someone you're cooking for is allergic to anise seeds.
- You want to avoid the licorice flavor of anise powder.
- You're looking for a lower-cost alternative ingredient.
Fortunately, there are many spices, seeds, extracts, and other seasonings that can approximate the sweet, aromatic qualities of anise powder.
Let's take a look at some of the best options.
Top Anise Powder Substitutes
One of the best direct substitutes for anise powder is fennel seeds. Like anise, fennel seeds offer licorice notes along with a sweet, earthy aroma.
Fennel and anise seeds come from plants in the same botanical family, which explains their similar flavors. Use a 1:1 ratio to replace anise powder with fennel seeds.
If you only have whole fennel seeds, grind them to a powder before using to match the texture of anise powder. Fennel works especially well in savory dishes and sauces that traditionally use anise powder.
Star anise makes an excellent anise powder substitute thanks to its intense licorice flavor. Though they come from unrelated plants, star anise and anise seeds share many comparable flavor compounds.
You can substitute 1 teaspoon of star anise for every 1 teaspoon of anise powder called for in a recipe. Use a spice grinder to grind whole star anise into a fine powder.
Keep in mind that star anise has a much stronger flavor than anise powder. Use a light hand until you become accustomed to the intensity of its licorice taste.
Chinese Five Spice Powder
This warming Chinese spice blend already contains anise powder as one of its core ingredients. The other spices in five spice powder - cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, and Sichuan pepper - also have a sweet, aromatic flavor that works as an anise powder substitute.
Replace anise powder with an equal amount of Chinese five spice powder (1:1 ratio) for balanced results. Since five spice powder blends multiple spices, it gives a more complex flavor compared to anise powder alone. But it approximates the licorice notes nicely.
Five spice powder makes an especially good anise powder substitute in Asian recipes. It's a staple in dishes like stir fries, braised meat, rice, curries, and dipping sauces.
Tarragon is an aromatic fresh herb with an anise-like flavor thanks to the presence of the chemical estragole. When dried, tarragon has a bittersweet, licorice-anise taste that can stand in for anise powder.
Use about 1/2 teaspoon of dried tarragon in place of 1 teaspoon anise powder. It may seem like a lot, but dried tarragon has a milder flavor than anise powder.
Tarragon is best used at the end of cooking since prolonged heat can diminish its flavor. It enhances seafood, chicken, dressings, and sauces, lending an anise aroma.
Anise extract offers the pure, concentrated flavor of anise seeds in liquid form. It makes an easy 1:1 swap for anise powder in most recipes. You may just need to reduce other liquids in the recipe slightly to account for the extract.
Since anise extract is very potent, start with 1/4 teaspoon for every 1 teaspoon anise powder at first. Add more extract to taste if you want a stronger anise flavor.
Anise extract works especially well in baked goods, hot cocoa, cider, cocktails, and candy - anywhere you want intense anise flavor.
Licorice Root Powder
True licorice root powder shares the same botanical genus as anise, meaning the two plants are fairly closely related. Licorice root powder has a milder licorice-anise flavor than anise powder. But it approximates the sweet, warm taste well.
Use about 1 teaspoon licorice root powder to replace 1 1/2 teaspoons anise powder. It adds nice flavor to baked goods, sauces, soups, and lentil dishes among others.
Just like anise powder, licorice root powder pairs nicely with fruits like apples, pears, and figs to contrast the sweet-spicy flavor.
Caraway seeds add peppery, nutty flavor to recipes along with hints of anise. Since caraway seeds have a more mild anise taste, use a slightly higher ratio when substituting - about 1 1/2 teaspoons for every 1 teaspoon anise powder.
Grind whole caraway seeds to a powder for the best results. Caraway tastes excellent in savory European recipes, especially German, Austrian, Hungarian, and Russian dishes.
Warm and peppery allspice offers a slightly different but complementary flavor profile to anise powder. Thanks to its cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg notes, allspice has a sweet and spicy aroma that stands in nicely for the licorice flavor of anise.
Use a 1:1 ratio to replace anise powder with allspice in recipes. Allspice enhances fruit desserts, cookies, pies, cakes, hot cider, barbecue sauces, jerk seasoning, and mole sauce among others.
Anise Powder Substitution Ratio
If you don't have exact measurements for substituting anise powder, use these general guidelines:
- Fennel seeds: Use the same amount as anise powder
- Star anise: Use 2/3 the amount of anise powder
- Chinese five spice: Use the same amount as anise powder
- Tarragon: Use 1/2 the amount of anise powder
- Anise extract: Use 1/4 the amount of anise powder
- Licorice root powder: Use 2/3 the amount of anise powder
- Caraway seeds: Use 1 1/2 times the amount of anise powder
- Allspice: Use the same amount as anise powder
Always taste your dish after adding an anise powder substitute and adjust any spices as needed. It may take some trial and error to find the perfect balance. Start with less and add more if you want a stronger anise flavor.
Certain liqueurs can also provide an anise flavor when anise powder is unavailable. Use them sparingly since their alcohol content dissipates during cooking.
- Ouzo: Greek anise-flavored liquor. Use about 1/2 teaspoon per 1 teaspoon anise powder.
- Sambuca: Italian anise-flavored liqueur. Use about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per 1 teaspoon anise powder.
- Absinthe: Anise-flavored spirit. Use about 1/4 teaspoon per 1 teaspoon anise powder.
- Pastis: French anise-flavored liquor. Use about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per 1 teaspoon anise powder.
- Anisette: Spanish or French anise-flavored liqueur. Use about 1 teaspoon per 1 1/2 teaspoons anise powder.
These liquors make good substitutes in baking recipes, marinades, dressings, and any dish where you want alcohol to cook off, leaving behind anise flavor.
Anise Powder Substitute Recipes
To give you an idea of how these substitutes work in real recipes, here are a couple recipe ideas that traditionally use anise powder:
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon anise extract
- 1/2 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds
- Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat sugar and eggs until smooth and slightly thickened. Stir in anise extract.
- Add dry ingredients to egg mixture and mix just until a stiff dough forms. Fold in pine nuts or almonds.
- On prepared baking sheet, shape dough into a 12x2 inch rectangular loaf using lightly floured hands.
- Bake 30-35 minutes until firm and lightly golden. Cool 15 minutes on sheet.
- Using a serrated knife, carefully slice loaf diagonally into 3/4-inch thick slices. Arrange slices cut-side down on sheet.
- Bake 10 minutes more until lightly toasted. Flip biscotti and bake 10 more minutes. Cool completely before storing.
For an anise powder substitute, use 1 teaspoon fennel seeds or 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder instead.
Red Lentil Soup with Anise Powder
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon anise powder
- 1 cup dried red lentils
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pot over medium heat, warm olive oil. Add onion and sauté 5 minutes until translucent.
- Add garlic and sauté 1 minute more until fragrant.
- Stir in cumin and anise powder (or sub of choice). Cook 30 seconds until toasted and fragrant.
- Add lentils, broth, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 25-30 minutes until lentils are tender.
- Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Try licorice root powder, fennel seeds, or tarragon as an anise powder replacement in this recipe.
Tips for Using Anise Powder Substitutes
- Grind whole spices like fennel seeds and star anise into a powder to match the texture of anise powder.
- Add substitute toward the end of cooking if possible to retain flavor.
- Start with less substitute and add more to taste until you achieve the right anise flavor balance.
- Reduce other liquids slightly when using anise extract to account for the added moisture.
- Combine fennel seeds with caraway seeds or tarragon for more complex anise flavor.
- Toast fennel seeds before using to intensify their flavor.
- Remove whole star anise before serving a dish to avoid accidentally eating it.
Is fennel the same as anise?
Fennel and anise are not the same, though they share some similarities. Both come from flowering plants in the Apiaceae family. They also both contain anethole, the compound that gives them their distinctive licorice flavors.
However, they come from different genus and species within that family. Anise seeds come from the Pimpinella anisum plant, while fennel seeds come from Foeniculum vulgare.
Though not identical, fennel makes one of the closest substitutes for reproducing the flavor of anise powder. Their tastes are comparable enough that the two spices are sometimes confused.
What's a good substitute for anise extract?
When you're out of anise extract, fennel extract is the next best option for mimicking that pure licorice flavor. You can replace anise extract in a 1:1 ratio with fennel extract.
For a more affordable and accessible substitute, use anise seeds. Grind them to a powder and use about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon for every teaspoon of anise extract called for.
Another substitute is star anise infused in hot water to make an anise-flavored simple syrup. Simmer 2-3 whole star anise pods in 1 cup hot water and 1/2 cup sugar for 5 minutes. Cool and strain out the pods. Use 2-3 teaspoons of the syrup per teaspoon of extract.
Can I use fennel fronds as an anise substitute?
The feathery green leaves of the fennel plant, called fronds, do contain a mild anise-like flavor. However, they are much more delicate than anise powder with grassy, herbaceous notes as well.
For the closest match, use fennel seeds rather than the fronds. But if you have an abundance of fresh fennel fronds, try chopping them very finely and adding to dishes for a subtle anise essence. Use about 2 tablespoons chopped fronds for every 1 teaspoon anise powder.
They work nicely mixed into salads, seafood recipes, and sauces at the end of cooking. Just don't cook the fronds too long or the flavor will dissipate.
With this thorough guide detailing your best options, you can confidently replace anise powder in recipes even when you've run out or can't find it.
Fennel seeds, star anise, and Chinese five spice powder offer the closest flavor match. But spices like tarragon, caraway, licorice root, and allspice can mimic anise in a pinch too.