Star anise is often used in savory dishes, since the aromatic spiciness can break up an oppressive salty or meaty flavor, leading to a more complex meal. If you’ve run out of star anise in your kitchen, there are other star anise substitute you can use! In this article, we’re going to talk about just that.
9 best substitutes for star anise
Star anise is a wonderful ingredient because there’s not really anything that tastes quite like it. The pungent, powerful, and intense flavor of star anise is totally different from other flavors – it tastes almost like licorice, and is commonly used with other spices to give dishes an authentic flavor.
Here are the 9 best star anise substitute that I think you’d really enjoy!
1. Chinese five-spice powder
Chinese five-spice is very commonly recommended to replace star anise in a dish since star anise is one of the spices within the powder itself. It serves a very similar purpose since the spices work together to break up the salty, savory notes of a dish.
Furthermore, as with star anise, five-spice is an ingredient that will bring authenticity to Chinese cooking in your kitchen.
Generally speaking, you should use half as much five-spice powder as you would star anise. Once that’s totally mixed in, taste the meal that you’re cooking, and season it to your taste.
2. Anise seeds
Interestingly, anise seeds and star anise actually have very different flavors to them. This is because they’re quite different in their origins and appearances, with anise seeds looking quite a lot like fennel seeds.
Anise seeds are from anise trees, which have long been cultivated for both good and medicine. Star anise is from star anise trees – while the two trees are related, they’re not precisely the same. Anise seeds are sweet, a little spiced, and exceptionally aromatic.
Because anise seeds are sweeter than star anise, they are used in a wider range of things. For example, they’re used in savory dishes, like star anise, but they’re also used in drinks and sweet desserts.
When using anise seeds, use around three-quarters as much anise seeds by weight than star anise.
3. Fennel seeds
Fennel seeds are likely something that you might consider to make a star anise substitute since fennel seeds do look quite similar to the seed pods within star anise. The thing that makes fennel seeds ideal for the job of substitution, here, is that they have a sweet, potent flavor that’s quite similar to licorice.
If you’re going to replace star anise with fennel, use a quarter as much fennel by volume.
4. Anise seeds and fennel seeds
A combination of anise and fennel seeds will create something very similar to five-spice, though with only two spices, of course. Fennel seed is quite mild compared to anise seed, though they’re both quite sweet and spiced.
If you mix together anise seeds and fennel seeds in equal quantities, it should replace star anise in a two to three ratio. That is to say that for every two teaspoons of star anise, three teaspoons of this spice mix should be used.
Cloves and star anise are both exceptionally woodsy and floral, as well as being delightfully aromatic. The flavor of cloves is also very pungent and warm, which is ideal.
Replace ground star anise with an equal quantity of ground cloves in your recipes. It doesn’t have a licorice flavor, however, so it may be worth using cloves only in situations where the star anise flavor is relatively unimportant.
6. Caraway and Tarragon
Caraway and tarragon combine to create an interesting flavor. It’s not too similar to star anise, but it does have the spiced note that makes it ideal for use in marinades and dressings. Caraway has quite a bitter taste and strong flavor, so we would recommend using more tarragon than caraway.
Tarragon is very commonly compared to star anise, though it’s typically a little lighter. Adding caraway will bring the spice blend down a little to be earthier. This will lead to a tasty spice blend! Replace star anise with this mix in a 2:3 ratio, as with the anise seed and fennel seed mixture.
The allspice berry is a complex, flavorful thing that I’m entranced by – it has such a complex powerful flavor! The mixture is a blend of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg, with just a little warmth to it, too.
Allspice does lack the licorice flavor that you might be looking for, however. To that end, replace the star anise with allspice, and perhaps add caraway for bitterness to create a facsimile of the licorice flavor.
8. Cassia bark powder
Cassia bark is similar to cinnamon, having a pungent, sweet, and aromatic flavor. It works well in meat-based foods, as the combination of cassia and meat is a relatively star-anise-like flavor.
Use a similar amount of cassia bark powder to replace star anise.
9. Anise Extract
You can purchase anise extract at a number of stores, and it’s a great option for bakes. It has a sweet licorice and star anise flavor, meaning that it will work well in recipes that are already fairly sweet.
Generally speaking, use double the amount of anise extract that you would use of star anise.
What flavor is star anise?
The most identifiable flavor that star anise has is probably that of licorice. There’s an intense licorice flavor that’s generally made a little more palatable for savory dishes by virtue of the spiciness of star anise.
I don’t mean that in the same way that chili pepper is spicy, instead, I mean to say that star anise is spiced, like fruit cake or mulled wine.
Therefore, we would argue that star anise has a spiced licorice flavor – it’s very complex, and can be a bit of an acquired taste in cooking.
What can I substitute anise seed with?
A great option for substitute anise seed is to use fennel seeds – the two have similar flavors and are often cooked in similar ways.
Can I use anise extract instead of star anise?
Yes, you can. This swap generally works best when you’re using it in baking, since the sugars mask the extra sweetness of anise extract, compared to star anise.
Can you make your own anise extract?
Yes, you can. The simplest way to do this is to crush anise seeds a little and submerge them in vodka for around a month. After that, strain out the seeds, and the remaining liquid will be anise extract. When cooked, any alcohol present will evaporate, leaving only powerful flavors.
9 Best Star Anise Substitutes You’ll Love
- Chinese five-spice powder
- Anise seeds
- Fennel seeds
- Anise seeds and fennel seeds
- Caraway and Tarragon
- Cassia bark powder
- Anise extract
- Choose one of your favorite star anise substitutes from above
- Prepare your dish as usual!
- Bon Appetit : )
Wrapping it up!
Star anise is a great ingredient used an awful lot in Chinese cooking. If you’ve run out, it can be a nightmare! Thankfully, the five-spice powder is usually there to save the day. If not, then there are plenty of other star anise substitute you could use, too.