Star anise is a warming spice that adds a wonderful aroma and sweet-spicy flavor with hints of licorice to meals. Native to China and Vietnam, it’s a seed pod that has a star shape and widespread culinary uses.
If you want to add an exotic flavor to your cooking and star anise is nowhere to be found, don’t worry! There are plenty of star anise substitutes that can lend the same complex and delicate taste.
While both spices create a sweet-savory flavor, allspice also has a hint of cinnamon and clove and is spicier than star anise. Additionally, allspice is packed with nutritional benefits like vitamin B5 and iron, while star anise has fewer micronutrients.
Using allspice in place of star anise gives dishes a distinct flavor without significantly changing the flavor profile. When substituting, use a 1:1 ratio of allspice to star anise. Allspice goes well with meats, marinades, sauces, stews, and even desserts like cookies, cakes, and pies. Add it to slow-cooked dishes near the end of cooking to bring out its warm aromatic flavor to enhance any savory meal.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. star anise = 1 tsp. allspice.
Cloves are a great substitute for star anise as they offer a similar flavor, although the two spices have a few distinctive differences in terms of their nutrients. Cloves contain small amounts of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C and magnesium, while star anise is rich in iron.
Cloves can work as a direct substitute for star anise when they’re grounded. However, if the recipe calls for whole star anise, use half the amount of cloves, as the flavor will be intense. Cloves work excellently in marinades for meats or for adding depth to soups and stews. You can also add it to hot beverages like tea or coffee for enhanced flavor. However, keep in mind that cloves can be quite potent, so start by using smaller amounts and add more if needed.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. star anise = 1 tsp. cloves.
Cinnamon contains many of the same properties as star anise, including a warming and pleasant aroma. It’s also a spice that blends well with a wide range of foods. Cinnamon also offers a lot of health benefits as it contains vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals, including magnesium, zinc, and manganese.
Cinnamon has a distinctive flavor compared to star anise, so it might give an edge to your recipes. It’s best to begin with modest quantities when adding cinnamon and gradually increase to taste. However, in baking recipes that call for star anise, cinnamon can be used in the same proportion.
Cinnamon also makes for a fantastic addition to coffee or tea, as well as breakfast items like oatmeal or pancakes. It also complements fruits and vegetables like apples, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. star anise = 1 tsp. cinnamon.
4. Fennel Seeds
Fennel is packed with essential nutrients, such as vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and iron, as well as dietary fiber. It has a mild licorice flavor, which is similar but less pronounced than star anise, making it the perfect substitute.
Fennel seeds are a versatile spice and can be used in a variety of dishes like soups, stews, curries, and even salads. It also works well when combined with other spices like cumin and coriander to create a unique flavor. You can also experiment with other spices to find the perfect combination for your dish.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. star anise = 1 tsp. fennel seeds.
5. Chinese Five Spice
Chinese Five Spice has a nutty and sweet flavor and a warm aroma that’s comparable to star anise, although it has no licorice-like undertones that star anise is known for. This spice blend is composed of spices, such as cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, fennel, and star anise, making it a versatile ingredient that can provide a depth of flavor to a number of dishes.
Since Chinese Five Spice is made up of spicier elements, it’s best to start with a smaller amount than what the recipe requires of star anise. You can use Chinese Five Spice in place of star anise in marinades, soups, sauces, and glazes. It gives a rich taste to Asian stir-fries and goes well with roasted veggies.
You can also use it in baked treats and pastries, especially when paired with apples and pears. Depending on the recipe, you may also need to add a sweet element to mimic the taste of star anise.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. star anise = 1/2 tsp. Chinese Five Spice.
6. Coriander Seeds
Coriander seeds are an attractive substitute for star anise for a number of reasons. They have a similar flavor profile, and a variety of nutritional advantages and are known to aid digestion and reduce inflammation.
Coriander seeds may simply be used as a direct substitute for star anise in your recipes. To acquire the nutty, spicy taste that works so well in place of star anise, crush the coriander seeds before adding them to the meal. It will work exceptionally well in curries, soups, Asian noodle dishes, and even stews.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. star anise = 1 tsp. coriander seeds.
7. Szechuan Peppercorns
Szechuan peppercorns are quite similar in flavor to star anise, but they’re smokier and citrusy. Nutritionally, Szechuan peppercorns are rich in antioxidants and are thought to help boost metabolism, fight inflammation, and even improve digestion.
If you’re looking for an all-natural spice that adds complexity and flavor to your dishes in place of star anise, Szechuan peppercorns do the job well. Use a teaspoon or two in stir-fries or grind them up and add them to sauces, marinades, stews, soups, or salads. You can even sprinkle powdered Szechuan peppercorns on fish or meat as a seasoning.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. star anise = 1 tsp. Szechuan peppercorns.
8. Anise Seeds
Anise seeds are an excellent substitute for star anise in many recipes. Their mildly sweet licorice flavor and high nutritional content make them a great fit for a variety of dishes. Anise seeds also have a mellower flavor without the bitterness that star anise often has.
Anise seeds are versatile and may be used in a variety of dishes, including baked products, meats and stews, soups, and even desserts. You can also use anise seeds to make herbal teas. Since anise seeds are milder than star anise, you may need to add more to get a more intense flavor.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. star anise = 1 tsp. ground anise seeds.