9 Best Substitutes For Star Anise You Can Try

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Looking for star anise but suddenly realize you are out of it? No problem! I’m here for you with some of the best substitutes for star anise that will provide you with a similar flavor.

star anise

Honestly, star anise with its star-like shape always fascinates me. Sometimes, apart from its culinary and medicinal uses, I get tempted to use it for ornamental purposes for Christmas. Imagine the warm fuzzy feeling it would lend to those chilly winter days. But for today, let’s just stick to its uses and alternatives.

Chinese five-spice powder, anise seeds, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, cloves, anise extract, cinnamon, and licorice root make for the best substitutes for star anise.

Before we explore these alternatives, let’s first understand this star-shaped spice whose flavor you are trying to replicate.

Quick Peek: Star Anise

star anise

This section will help you understand all about star anise, where you will get to know about its flavor, texture, uses, and nutritional information. Read on to find out more.

What Is Star Anise?

Native to China and Vietnam, star anise is a spice that comes from the Chinese evergreen tree Illicium verum and is aptly named after its shape. It is picked just before ripening and kept in the sun for drying. This spice not only consists of a flavor profile that is complex but also contains several compounds that can be beneficial for your health.

Describing Star Anise: Flavor And Texture

Star anise is a spice that lends warmth to recipes with its sweet and licorice-like flavor. It has a tough texture and comes in a rust color. This spice aptly takes its name from its star-like structure of carpels, which are about 6 to 8 in number, placed around a central axis. Each carpel is 1.5 cm long and encloses a single seed.

Star anise is easy to find in Asian markets, and you will also find it in the spice section of many supermarkets. Although split or broken pods work just fine, when purchasing star anise, one should prefer to buy undamaged pieces to retrieve their full flavor.  

While buying this spice, one should also check for its freshness. You can break off star anise to test the amount of aroma it releases. The stock is likely to be stale if you come across a faint fragrance and the color is faded. Lastly, always store this spice in an airtight container to retain its freshness and quality.

Uses Of Star Anise

Typically, star anise pods are simmered in soups, stews, and braises, much like other whole dry spices. Due to its delicious aromatic profile, star anise can be used in both sweet and savory delicacies. You will find the presence of this spice in the Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine as these countries are the major commercial producers of star anise.

Star Anise On The Health Radar | Looking Through The Wellness Telescope

Star Anise is rich in antioxidants, vitamins A and C, and other minerals such as iron, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Packed with so much goodness, this spice provides incredible health benefits. Some of the medicinal uses of star anise include the treatment of cold, cough, bronchitis, and viral flu. 

It also helps with digestive problems like stomach pain, nausea, flatulence, and indigestion. Sipping star anise tea after a meal helps aid digestion and prevents bloating.

Why Use Substitutes For Star Anise?

With its above-mentioned properties, you may wonder why we would use substitutes for star anise. Well, a few reasons can make you find its alternative.

As star anise is indigenous to SouthEastern China and Vietnam, its availability in some parts of the world may be difficult. Moreover, while it may contribute to enhancing the flavor of recipes, its flavor might not be suitable for you to use. So, let’s find out the best option for you as a substitute for star anise.

Other Food Substitutes You Can Try

7 Best Substitutes For Star Anise

This section will help you understand the best substitutes for star anise, their flavor profiles, and uses in various recipes.

1. Chinese Five-Spice Powder

star anise

The Chinese five-spice powder is a combination mix made of spices such as cloves, fennel seeds, star anise, and cinnamon. With the star anise itself as one of the main ingredients in the mix, the Chinese five-spice powder makes for the best substitute for the star anise. It lends a similar but stronger flavor to recipes with a bittersweet taste and peppery notes.

The Chinese five-spice powder can be used as dry rubs for meat, fish, or poultry. In particular, it brings out the best flavors in pork. When used in roasted vegetables and fruit salads, it gives a spicy kick to the palette.

This spice mix is easily available in supermarkets, or else you could also make it yourself by toasting all the spices mentioned in equal ratios and then grounding them in a mortar and pestle.

Are you thinking of recipes to use this flavorful mix? You can use the Chinese five-spice powder in several recipes like Dan Dan noodles, Szechuan chicken, tofu, beef, chicken fried rice, steaks, and stir-fries.

2. Anise Seeds

star anise

Although they sound similar, there is a major difference between anise seeds and star anise. Unlike star anise, this spice is widely used in Middle Eastern, Indian, Mexican, Italian, and German cuisine. They can be used in-ground or in the whole form. The seeds come from the Pimpinella anisum plant, which are cultivated in Egypt, the Middle East, and Europe. They are small, brownish-gray, having the aroma of licorice. 

These seeds also resemble fennel seeds as they belong to the same family; however, they shouldn’t be confused. The anise seeds release a mildly spicy, sweet, and aromatic fragrance.

So, if you are thinking of the best suitable recipes for anise seeds as a substitute, they work great in flavoring alcoholic beverages and even coffee.

Anise seeds can be used in baked goods such as bread, cookies, and biscotti. In savory foods, these seeds can be used in flavoring sauces and braises and go well with meat, chicken, or fish rubs. They also make for a great flavoring in pickle brine.

3. Fennel Seeds

star anise

Fennel seeds make for another great substitute for star anise. These seeds have a herbal and sweet taste and make for a powerful flavor similar to licorice. Although they look similar to anise seeds, fresh fennel seeds are green in color and provide a milder taste.

Fennel seeds can be used in sauces, curries, soups, and as a pork rub. They also make an apt match for fish recipes. These seeds give that extra oomph of flavor that elevates the recipes. Unlike other spices, fennel seeds can also be chewed raw to aid digestion and freshen breath. 

4. Caraway seeds

star anise

If you are looking for nutty, bittersweet flavors with a hint of citrus and peppery, then caraway seeds would make for a great substitute for star anise. Caraway seeds are highly aromatic and come with a subtle hint of licorice. Mostly, these seeds are used as a whole, however, to draw its distinctive flavor, which is more potent, ground caraway seeds can be used as a replacement.

While using whole instead of ground caraway seeds, you can substitute one teaspoon of the whole caraway for 3/4 teaspoon of the ground version. Caraway seeds are one of the favorite ingredients for bakers. These seeds are found in most types of rye and soda bread and British seed cake. 

Apart from baked goods, caraway seeds are also used in flavoring soups, curries, vegetables, and even liqueurs. They’re sometimes used for pickling and in brine. You can even add cheese dip, pork chops, or any tomato-based sauce.

5. Cloves

star anise

Cloves are intensely aromatic spices having a strong, astringent-like flavor that provides sweet and bitter notes. They add intense warmth to any dish. With such a distinctive flavor profile, cloves make another great substitute for star anise but should be used sparingly.

Much like other spices, cloves are commonly used in spice blends. They make a great ingredient to flavor meat and marinades, and are also used in flavoring hot drinks, like mulled wine, tea, coffee, and hot apple cider. Cloves also go very well with sweet dishes such as pumpkin pies, Dutch poached pears, gingerbread, and apple stews, clove cookies.

Other recipes include Spice-Roasted Squash, honey-baked ham, and chorizo tacos, to name a few.

6. Cinnamon

star anise

Having a sweet and woody flavor with subtle citrusy notes, cinnamon works well as a substitute for star anise. It comes from the inner bark of the genus Cinnamomum tree and can be used in both ground and whole forms.

Cinnamon, being a versatile ingredient, welcomes itself into a variety of recipes, right from breakfast to dinner, and even makes its way into beverages. You could make cinnamon pancakes, apple cinnamon baked oatmeal, cinnamon muesli, and muffins for breakfast. 

Or, if you are looking to add this spice to your lunch meals, you could use it in salad dressing, soups, roasted lemon chicken, sweet potatoes, and more! Lastly, when infused in desserts, cinnamon, with its warming nature, turns out to be a party in the mouth. From cakes, cookies, pies, and muffins, you can add cinnamon to just about anything. 

Besides amping up the flavor in the above-mentioned recipes, cinnamon comes with many health benefits when dipped in hot beverages such as tea, coffee, or hot water. You can also make smoothies using it.

7. Licorice Root

star anise

A flavoring agent by nature, licorice rice makes a good substitute for star anise as both contain a compound called anethole which provides a similar striking flavor. Licorice root can be used both as whole or ground. This woody root provides the most flavor when steeped in hot liquid.

So, think of adding distinctive star anise notes with the help of licorice roots in teas, sauces, custards, and syrups. Moreover, licorice powder can be added straight in recipes like cake batters, custard, pork rubs, or Red Wine Sauce.

DIY Substitutes For Star Anise

While you have quite a few substitutes available for star anise, you could also use some DIY options to derive the similar flavor you are looking for. Come, let’s take a look.

1. Anise Seed And Fennel Seed

star anise

As we explored in the above section, anise seeds and fennel seeds come quite close to each other’s and star anise’s flavor and texture. We can combine the two to work our way up. Both these seeds impart sweet notes and would make for a unique taste.

When used in combination, the ideal proportion of this blend in comparison to star anise should be taken as 2:3. That means, to use anise and fennel seed as substitutes for star anise you would need to use three teaspoons of this combination as it comes with a moderate taste. It can be used in a plethora of recipes.

2. Caraway Seeds Mixed With Tarragon

star anise

A mix of caraway seeds and tarragon can also do wonders for your recipe as an alternative for star anise. While caraway seeds bring along an intense taste, tarragon provides a licorice flavor, just like star anise.

As a substitute for star anise, you can use half a teaspoon of tarragon and caraway seeds for one teaspoon of star anise.

Short Recap For Star Anise Substitutes

Ever thought of so many substitutes for star anise? Now, while you gear up to try all these options to experiment with your recipes, you might be wondering which one is the most suitable for you. Allow me to help you.

Most Suitable Substitute For Star Anise:

The most suitable substitute for star anise is Chinese five-spice powder.

Most Easily Available Substitute For Star Anise:

  1. Caraway seeds
  2. Fennel seeds
  3. Cinnamon

Best Flavor Profile:

Licorice root will give the best flavor profile when used as a substitute for star anise.

How To Substitute Star Anise In A Recipe

star anise

Star Anise Substitutes

Honestly, star anise with its star-like shape always fascinates me. Sometimes, apart from its culinary and medicinal uses, I get tempted to use it for ornamental purposes for Christmas.
5 from 4 votes


  • Chinese Five-Spice Powder
  • Anise Seeds
  • Fennel Seeds
  • Caraway Seeds
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon
  • Licorice Root
  • Anise Seed And Fennel Seed
  • Caraway Seeds Mixed With Tarragon


  • Select the most suitable substitute for star anise.
  • Purchase your substitutes in the required amount.
  • Add the substitue according to recipe requirement.
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Final Word

As we come to the end of this article, I hope you are happy with the alternative you have found for yourself. However, one thing you should keep in mind is that although most spices come with their fair share of substitutes, not all come with a precise taste or flavor. 

Also, while using these alternatives, it’s always good to know if someone might be allergic to any of the substitutes or may have health problems due to which they must avoid certain spices.

Having said that, be open to experimenting with your cooking as you may just discover some unique and delectable flavors.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does Anise Seed Taste Like Star Anise?

Although both these spices provide an intense licorice taste, in comparison star anise has a much stronger flavor profile than anise seeds.

Can I Use Cloves As A Substitute For Star Anise?

Yes, cloves can be used as a substitute for star anise, however, they don’t have the licorice taste of star anise. They will provide a bittersweet flavor profile.

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