The 5 Best Star Anise Substitutes

Chris Starks
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What is star anise?

Star anise is maybe the most important spice in Chinese cuisine. It's not only used in stir-fried dishes, pot-au-feu, and braised dishes but also in soups, broths, and baked goods. The spice is commonly used in Cantonese BBQ and noodle dishes, as well as in many dim sum recipes.

The dried fruit of the Chinese star anise tree (Illicium verum) is star-shaped. Its taste is more delicate than regular anise, and it's slightly sweet. Star anise tastes like anise, cloves, and cinnamon and is often used as a substitute for regular anise.

Because it's a dried out fruit, it's not easily attainable in the U.S. So, if you're looking to use star anise as a substitute, you should look for other dried fruit or spice options. What are the best star anise substitutes? Here are the best options.

How healthy (or unhealthy) is it?

Star anise has been associated with a number of alleged health benefits, most of which comes from various studies conducted in rats. The tree’s essential oils have been shown to treat liver problems, improve memory, treat colds, reduce ulcer size, lower high blood pressure, and improve heart conditions.

The Chinese call star anise “eternal happiness,” and they’ve referred to the tree as an herb of immortality.

Nutritional Breakdown

Star anise is most commonly used to replace the Vietnamese spice, anise seed. Star anise can be used in place of anise seed in most recipes. Unlike anise seeds, the flavor profile of star anise is more complex due to the nuts and oil of the seed.

Star anise is considered by many in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia to be a good luck charm. The star shape and sweet vanilla-like aroma is commonly used in many Asian dishes. It gives a strong licorice type of taste and smell when the outer covering is broken, because the interior contains compounds that are similar to those that give the licorice root its character.

Not all star anise is created equal. If you’re shopping for it, note that Chinese star anise is much stronger than Japanese star anise, which is sweeter. To substitute, you can use either star anise or anise seed. The flavor profile and aroma of star anise is more complex and a bit stronger than anise seed, but you can usually use it interchangeably in most recipes.

What recipes are star anise used in?

Star anise is used in sweet liqueur and Chai tea for its rich and aromatic flavor. It is also used in Chinese, French, Japanese, and Vietnamese cooking. In the West, the primary use of star anise is in cooking as the cornerstone ingredient for Chinese five-spice powder.

Star anise is a distinguishing ingredient in a few recipes that cannot be substituted. However, some other recipes do allow substitution. If you’re trying to make a recipe that calls for star anise, you may be able to find an alternative that is local and readily available.

Here is a list of suggestions for common swaps that can be used in recipes calling for star anise.

Why do we need star anise substitutes?

Star anise is a major flavor component in Chinese and Vietnamese cooking. I use it frequently in cooking curries, stews, soups, Asian vegetables, Asian meat, Chinese tea and even my tea blends. It is also used in the production of the popular liquor brands like Anise and Poppy. It has a strong, sweet and brilliant aroma and it is widely used to make liqueurs.

You’ve probably stumbled upon star anise at your local grocery store or Asian market. Up until now, you’ve probably been using it as is. Unfortunately, star anise is a bit of an important ingredient in many cuisines, it is relatively difficult to find substitutes for it.

Common anise🌱

The common anise (Pimpinella anisum) is an annual herb plant of the Apiaceae species, originating in south-west Asia. Its common name comes from its strong anise scent, with a sweet yet licorice flavor. Like the herb, the fruit of the plant is widely used in cuisine. The fruit is called anise, the plant star anise, and the whole plant, aniseed.

Following is a list of 5 options to common anise that will help you make all of your favorite recipes.

Anise Seed

Chinese five-spice🌱

I have always found it incredible that you can take the same amount of five different ingredients, put them in a pot, add water and come out with a unique taste each and every time. The secret is in the combination. This brings me to Star Anise, one of the main ingredients in Chinese five-spice.

It is used mainly in soups, stews and slow-cooked dishes and is one of the main components of Chinese cooking, but it’s also ubiquitous in Indian cooking. It is said that eating the seeds can help with bloating and flatulence, and may even help alleviate morning sickness.

Star anise is a popular spice in Asian cooking and is generally used whole. However, since it has a very strong licorice-like flavor, a lot of home cooks usually opt for it in ground form. Unfortunately, it is really expensive and is omitted from a lot of Asian recipes for this very reason.

For many home chefs who love cooking Asian food at home, star anise has become a staple. It gives a warm, sweet flavor to many popular Southeast Asian dishes such as curries, chicken dishes and soups. Just a small amount of star anise in your dish will give it a strong flavor that even your kids will love. But do you know how many recipes star anise can replace?

Star anise is the most popular substitute in many recipes because it is similar in taste to the original star anise spice. One of the most popular recipes that use it is hot and sour soup. However, it’s also a secret ingredient in many recipes for it’s ability to release the essential oils of other spices in a dish.

There are a lot of people who are allergic to star anise or just don’t eat it because it is too expensive. But you don’t have to worry, here are 5 common spices that you can use to replace star anise.

Fennel seeds🌱

Fennel seeds have a similar licoricy and anise flavor as star anise. While they don’t have the same impact, they’re the perfect substitute if a recipe doesn’t specify a specific amount of star anise or if there is none available. Use one-eighth of teaspoon of fennel seeds to replace one whole star anise or one-quarter teaspoon for each star anise broken up into four pieces.

Star anise is a popular spice in Asian cooking and is generally used whole. However, since it has a very strong licorice-like flavor, a lot of home cooks usually opt for it in ground form. Unfortunately, it is really expensive and is omitted from a lot of Asian recipes for this very reason.

For many home chefs who love cooking Asian food at home, star anise has become a staple. It gives a warm, sweet flavor to many popular Southeast Asian dishes such as curries, chicken dishes and soups. Just a small amount of star anise in your dish will give it a strong flavor that even your kids will love. But do you know how many recipes star anise can replace?

Star anise is the most popular substitute in many recipes because it is similar in taste to the original star anise spice. One of the most popular recipes that use it is hot and sour soup. However, it’s also a secret ingredient in many recipes for it’s ability to release the essential oils of other spices in a dish.

There are a lot of people who are allergic to star anise or just don’t eat it because it is too expensive. But you don’t have to worry, here are 5 common spices that you can use to replace star anise.

Allspice🌱

One of the most common spices is the star anise, which is used as a spice in many Asian cuisines. Today, it is grown in Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, China, India, Brazil, Guatemala, and Mexico. It gets its name from its star shape, which is formed by eight fruits that grow together on the same stem. Star anise can be found both whole, in ground form, and as its oil, which is extracted as a by-product during the production of soy sauce.

It may be tempting to use star anise to substitute for other spices in your kitchen, but keep in mind that, if used too much, star anise can easily overpower the other flavors. Therefore, it should be used in moderation or, if you can’t stop after just one sprinkle, pick a different substitute.

If you still want to try using star anise in lieu of other spices, here are five spices you can substitute it with.

Clove🌱

Star anise has a sweet, licorice-like scent and flavor, and it’s one of the more common cooking spices in these parts. If you’ve ever used it as a twist on a cup of fresh tea, you’ll quickly realize it’s one of the more potent spices, and its strong qualities work well in a variety of dishes.

The Bottom Line

Star anise is a perennial shrub that is native to Vietnam and Southern China. Its fruit has been used medicinally, as a spice, and as flavoring since ancient times. However, star anise is not widely used in the US. You may have to visit an Asian or Indian market to obtain it. The whole fruit has a star-shaped pod with shiny brown seeds that resemble anise seeds. Star anise is commonly used in curries, meats, fish and rice, and also in liqueurs, such as vermouth.

While star anise has a licorice flavored scent, its taste is more pungent than anise. While you can find star anise easily in a large supermarket, finding a replacement may be tricky. They have similar aromas, but anise and star anise are not the same. The main difference is in taste. Asian storeowners use brown seeds and cinnamon for cinnamon-flavored foods.

Top vegan picks

I do not like the taste of Star Anise. It's not that they have a bad taste, they just have a strong licorice taste. And as a lover of sweet & sour type food, I just do not like this taste at all. I often find myself making something with an anise in it for my other half, but I'll just not eat it.

I hate playing favourites. But I have to admit, I love star anise because it tastes like Christmas (pimmbles). For most people, they don't have a place in the kitchen – they're a novelty that you add to certain recipes at Christmas time, maybe keep a plastic container of the stuff in your cupboard so you can add it to your Christmas eggnog.

A bit of clarification is needed at this point. This isn’t the same star anise that makes bubble tea or is used in 4th of July fireworks.

Here are the best substitute flavors:

Five spice powder

I love 5 Spice powder, as it's so much easier to find in local shops, as opposed to star anise, and it's so versatile. You can use it to add flavour to sauces, side dishes with beef or duck, to add a curry flavour to foods or even in marinades.

Top healthy picks

Star anise is a spice that is used in a lot of Mediterranean and Asian cuisines, and it really lends a lot of wonderful flavor to various dishes and teas. However, if you are following a diet that has you eliminating certain foods and ingredients from your diet, you are probably no longer able to include star anise. Thankfully, there are several spices that are good substitutes for star anise and that can mimic its flavor profile, making your favorite dishes more available to you … as long as you can trade the recipe around a little bit.

These five healthy picks are all equal in the flavor department, but they have different colors and shapes that lend each of them a unique flavor and texture. This makes them all ideal for playing around in the kitchen and adding a bit of a different flavor to your recipes, and that makes them good star anise alternatives.

Top convenient picks

Let’s look at the best five star anise substitutes that you can use.

[1.] Cloves

Considered the best substitute for star anise, cloves are also used as part of certain medicinal mixtures. In fact, they are often compared to Anise and Star Anise because they are also used in cooking. However, you should know that their flavor and aroma are very different from that of the former two spices.

[2.] Cinnamon

Another spice that is both used in cooking and medicinal remedies, cinnamon is often presented as pungent. At first, it might seem to you that it’s not a good substitute for star anise. But, you might want to think again because their flavors are very different.

[3.] Fennel seeds

A powerful and a well-loved spice, fennel seeds can be a good star anise substitute. They can be used either in a dish or as part of an herbal preparation, and you can always replace them one-for-one.

[4.] Ginger

This is a favorite in many recipes. It’s a root that can be used to replace star anise. What makes it a good choice is that its unique flavor and aroma will surely add a new feel to your food.

Top convincing picks

Star anise is popular spice used in Chinese cuisine and cooking. The star-shaped fruit is used to make a licorice flavored liqueur. It’s also a common ingredient in beef stew, in many soups, and in pork.

But star anise has no substitute, so if you have a recipe that calls for it, you have to procure it through alternative methods. You can buy star anise online or at your local Asian grocery store. You can also order it over Amazon if you have a hard time locating it in your area.