March 25, 2018

What Are Fennel Seeds & Aniseed Used For In Cooking- A Complete Guide

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Is it aniseed or fennel seeds? Not sure, let us fix that. Often people use both these spices interchangeably without even realising as they are so similar to look and taste. This complete guide explains in detail what are fennel seeds and aniseed their uses in cooking. 

fennel-seeds-benefits

For your convenience and ease of understanding, I have classified both the liquorice tasting spices into one category as they are very similar in appearance and taste.

People who frequent Indian restaurants may be familiar with these tiny green seeds served at the end of a meal mostly accompanied by sugar or sugar-coated fennel seeds or aniseed.


Fennel seeds come from fennel plant and it may surprise you to know that it belongs to the parsley family.

They look very similar to cumin seeds but has a character of its own which will become clear to you as you read on.

Very often people refer fennel spice or aniseed simply as anise which can be confused with Star Anise.

Star Anise and Aniseed are two completely different spices and should not be mixed up.

It is best to know that you are using the right one when it comes to cooking.

Other Names For Fennel Seeds and Aniseed

English – Fennel Seeds, Aniseed, Anis, Anise or anise seed

Fennel seeds in Hindi  – Saunf

Fennel seeds in German – Fenchel, Anislikör

Fennel seeds in French – Fenouil, Anis
Fennel seeds in Spanish – Las semilla de hinojo , el anís

What Does Fennel Seeds and Aniseed Taste Like?

Both the spices have similar flavour, that is both are sweet and liquorice to taste.

Their flavour and taste are is similar to fresh fennel bulb.

It is a warm and a sweet spice which gives the dish a fresh herby aroma almost like what tarragon brings to a dish.

The Difference Between Fennel Spice VS Aniseed

Although similar, there are slight differences between the two spices.

These subtle differences between Aniseed Vs Fennel seeds will make it clearer for you to correctly use the spices in cooking.

Many use both the spices interchangeably without really understanding the difference (me included). Hopefully, this will give a clearer picture.

Plant-source – Both have similar tastes and come from the same plant family that is Apiaceae, which makes it difficult to differentiate between the two. However, they come from different plants.

While fennel spice comes from the fennel bulb (which can be used for cooking) and is a fruit, aniseed comes from a bush and it’s only the seeds of the bush that can be used for culinary purpose.

Appearance – Fennel seeds are larger in size and can come in either yellowish-green or light green in colour, while anise is smaller and have a brighter green colour.

Taste – Aniseed is sweeter and sharper to taste when compared to Fennel seeds. Fennel tends to be more delicate and robust to taste.

Uses – Although both the spices can be used to make sweet and savoury dishes, the sweeter taste of anise makes it a better choice for dishes which has a sweet undertone for deserts.

Fennel spice is preferred to make savoury dishes such as bread or sauces.

Aniseed VS Fennel seeds infographic

What Is Fennel Seeds Used For?

Aniseed and Fennel seeds are both extensively used in  Middle Eastern, Italian and Indian cooking. Many French recipes are also made with this spice.

In culinary usage you can use both ground fennel and fennel seeds similarly.

Let us get into some detailed use of both spices.

Using Fennel Spice for Cooking 

Fennel seeds can be used to cook both savoury and sweet dishes.  It can also be used whole, crushed or in powdered form.

Whole seeds can be used for tempering in warm oil for making stir-fries and curries.

You can also use fennel seeds for making drinks such as fennel tea, smoothie, soft drinks and liquor.

Use a mortar and pestle to lightly crush the seeds to release the oils and add it at the end of cooking as a herb to add fresh flavours like in soups, broths, sauces or salad dressings.

Powdered fennel seeds are mostly used to make spice blends and mixes with other spices such as cumin seeds, coriander seeds etc. The spice blends can be used as rubs and marinate for fish or meat.

You can also use it for baking such as bread, fennel flavoured biscuit, cookies, savoury muffins.

Using Aniseed or Anise for Cooking  

Aniseed has similar uses to that of fennel seeds but is a popular option for making sweet dishes such as smoothies, desserts, cookies, cakes and drinks.

Anise is the preferred spice used to add liquorice flavour to candy and liqueur.

Anise is used widely as a flavouring for dairy products, gelatins, puddings, meats, and candies.

Both Fennel seeds and Aniseed spice is used as breath fresheners.

fennel spice and Aniseed - difference and uses

Best Spice Substitute for Fennel Spice and Aniseed

Since both fennel and aniseed have similar flavour profile, they can be substituted one for the other without any problem.

There are other spices or herbs that you can use instead of fennel seeds. These are star anise, tarragon, dill, cumin seeds and caraway seeds.

You may also like to read about the Best Spice Substitutes for Hard to Find Indian 
Spices 

Benefits of Fennel Spice and Aniseed

You may ask why do I need to use them and what are fennel seeds good for?

Apart from lending a fresh aromatic taste to the dishes, there are health benefits of adding fennel seeds and aniseed to your dishes, or simply chewing raw aniseed once in a while.

Some of the benefits are:

Aids digestion – Both Fennel seeds and anise are rich in fibre and have antispasmodic and carminative effects, which helps in digestive dysfunction such as heartburn, intestinal gas (and infant gas), bloating, and even colic in infants. Chewing on the seeds after eating heavy spicy meals helps in digesting it better.

Helps to eliminate respiratory problems and Asthma  – The expectorant properties of aniseed and fennel spice help in the management of cough and asthma.  It also helps with cold, bronchitis and sinusitis.

Improves Lactation –  Fennel seeds contain a compound called anethole, which is said to help increase milk secretion in women. This is particularly helpful for lactating women to maintain a good flow of milk during breastfeeding.

Helps Maintain Healthy Body Fat and Lose Weight  – Fennel is excellent for combating obesity as it suppresses the appetite and creates a feeling of fullness. Drinking fennel seed water or fennel tea helps to flush out toxins and excess fluid from the body as it works as a diuretic ( frequent urination).

An Instant Breath Freshener  – Just like chewing on a chewing gum, munching on fennel seeds or aniseed instantly freshens breath and disguises bad oral odours. The antimicrobial properties of the seeds fight germs that cause bad breath. 

Where to Buy Fennel Seeds and Aniseed

Most supermarkets these days store one of the spices, either fennel seeds or aniseed.

It is unlikely to find both in a large superstore as not many know the difference between the two and use one or the other.

However, both can be found in a health food store, specialist spice and herbs store or a local Indian grocer and of course online.

The tips to buy either fennel spice or aniseed is the same.

Since both are similar in appearance look for bright green coloured once as opposed to pale green or yellowish-green once.

Stale fennel seeds or aniseed has a much lighter and paler colour so best not to choose them.

Also, smell for freshness. Fresh seeds should have a strong fresh aromatic smell and sweet to taste.

Stale once becomes slightly more pungent and have less of a punch.

The seeds should be crisp and plump and not have dry and shriveled skin.

Buy Fennel spice and Aniseed from The spice House by clicking on the link below.

Buy fennel seeds online
Click image to buy online

How to Store Fennel Spice and Aniseed

As with all spices store the seeds in an airtight container away from direct light or heat.

If stored well, the spice will keep its character and flavour from 6 months to a year.

Best Food and Spice Combination

Fennel seeds and aniseed can be used for both savoury and sweet dishes.  It goes well with most vegetables, meat, legumes, dairy products and other spices.

Best food pairing: cauliflower, beans, cabbage, beetroot, peas, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, orange and red vegetables curry, egg, ginger, lamb, fish, lentils, rice, soups, stews, stocks and flour

Best spice pairing:  cumin seeds, mustard seeds, bay leaves, green cardamom, cinnamon,  cloves, coriander seeds, dry chilies, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds , caraway seeds


Easy Recipes with Fennel Spice and Aniseed to Try

CANDY – COATED FENNEL SEEDS COOKIES 

INDIAN MEATBALL CURRY RECIPE IN FENNEL SEEDS FLAVOURED SAUCE

LAMB PLUM ANISE CURRY 

Buying Spices Online

Avail the convenience to get a range of spices, special ingredients and regular grocery delivered straight to your door without any hassle.

UK and Rest of Europe Residents  –  British Corner Shop, the official partners of Waitrose UK with economic worldwide delivery

US Residents –  Buy freshly blended organic range of spices from The Spice House.

Your Views and Recipes 

Please do leave your comment if you think I may have missed out on something.

I love to hear your kitchen adventures so please share any recipes made with either Fennel Spice and Aniseed that you love or have tried.

And as always if you think this article deserves more eyes then please do share by clicking the share and/or save buttons.


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