Anise and star anise

Anise Vs. Star Anise – Are Star Anise And Anise Plants The Same

Looking for a slightly licorice-like flavor? Star anise or anise seed provide a similar flavor in recipes but are actually two very different plants. The difference between anise and star anise encompass their growing locations, part of plant and traditions of use. One is a western plant and the other eastern, but that is only part of the distinction between these two intense flavorings. A description of anise and star anise differences will reveal their unique origins and how to use these interesting spices.

Anise vs. Star Anise

The pungent flavor of anise adds interest and regional significance to many dishes. Are star anise and anise the same? Not only are they from completely different regions and growing climates, but the plants are very distinct. One stems from an herbaceous plant related to parsley while the other is a 65-foot (20 m.) tall tree.

The herb anise (Pimpinella anisum) is from the Mediterranean region. Its botanical family is Apiaceae. The plant produces umbels of starry white blooms that develop into the flavored seeds. By

contrast, star anise (Illicium verum) is from China and its flavoring agent is contained in the star-shaped fruits.

Both seasonings contain anethole, the licorice flavoring found in minor amounts in other plants such as fennel and caraway. The major culinary difference between anise and star anise is that anise seed is potent, with an almost spicy flavor, while star anise is subtly milder. They can be used interchangeably in recipes, but amounts must be adjusted to accommodate the mildness of the Asian ingredient.

When to Use Star Anise or Anise Seed

Star anise is used much like a dried cinnamon stick. Think of it as a pod that you add to dishes and then scoop out prior to eating. The fruit is actually a schizocarp, an 8-chambered fruit with each containing a seed. It is not the seed that contains the flavor but the pericarp. During cooking, the anethole compounds are released to scent and flavor the dish. It can also be ground and added to recipes.

Anise seed is normally used ground but can be purchased whole. In cases where the seasoning is removed before serving, star anise is easier to use because it is at least one inch across (2.5 cm.) while anise seeds are tiny and can be difficult to remove unless wrapped in a sachet.

Star anise is notable for its role in Chinese five spice seasoning. Along with the star anise are fennel, cloves, cinnamon and Szechuan pepper. This potent flavoring is often found in Asian recipes. The spice may also be part of Garam Masala, a primarily Indian seasoning. The spice translates well in sweet desserts like baked apples or pumpkin pie.

Anise is traditionally used in anisettes such as Sambuca, Ouzo, Pernod and Raki. These liqueurs were used as digestives after a meal. Anise seed is part of many Italian baked goods including biscotti. In savory dishes it may be found in sausages or even some pasta sauces.

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Despite the similarities in their name and flavor, anise and star anise are two very different spices. True anise, an herb in the parsley family, produces small seeds with a potent, licorice-like flavor. Star anise is the star-shaped fruit of a tree — a member of the magnolia family — native to warm-climate areas of southern China and Indochina. The unrelated plants contain the same flavor compound, a substance called anethole.

Different Traditions

Anise is used widely in the Western culinary tradition. It lends its intensely aromatic flavor to sauces, baked goods and liqueurs, such as Greece’s signature ouzo and French pastis. It’s also used as a substitute for licorice in candy-making. Stronger-flavored star anise is widely used in Asian cooking, and it’s a signature ingredient in Chinese “five-spice” powder. Like cinnamon sticks, the hard, woody fruit are often added whole to long-cooking sauces and then retrieved before the meal is served. Sauces combining star anise with onions and soy sauce produce new flavor compounds that accentuate the savoriness of meats.

A Few Substitutions

Conventional and star anise can be used interchangeably when ground, if cooks are careful to allow for star anise’s greater strength. A number of other herbs and spices have similar flavors, including true licorice root. Others include caraway seed and fennel seed, less-pungent cousins to true anise. Pungent tarragon and milder fennel fronds can lend a similar flavor in some preparations if they’re used generously.

Using anise seed instead of star anise

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What’s A Good Star Anise Substitute?

The pungent licorice flavor of star anise is central to many Chinese and Vietnamese dishes. Its role is significant enough that you are unlikely to arrive at an authentic tasting dish without it or an effective alternative. Unfortunately, this spice is sometimes difficult to find and can be expensive. If you are without star anise, below are several effective substitutes that you can try.

Your best bet: Chinese five spice powder

Chinese five-spice powder is an excellent substitute mainly because it contains star anise. Not only is star anise one of the ingredients, it is the most assertive spice in the blend. When you taste five-spice powder, you are tasting mostly star anise with the other spices playing a complementary role in the background.

As a result, using five-spice powder in place of star anise can actually improve some dishes since you get the benefit of several other spices that complement the star anise. Use one and a half teaspoons of five-spice powder for every 2 teaspoons of ground star anise that your recipe requires.

A decent second choice: Anise seed alone

Despite the fact that star anise and anise seed have “anise” in their names, they are not related. However, they do add similar pungent licorice notes to dishes.

You should note that star anise has a much stronger flavor when compared to anise seed. Whole anise seeds are particularly mild while the essential oil is the most potent. Anise seed essential oil is about eight times stronger than whole anise seed. When replacing star anise with anise seed, use twice the amount of anise seed that your recipe requires for star anise.

In a pinch: Fennel seeds and anise seed

Fennel seeds are another spice with a licorice-like flavor. Its licorice flavor is even milder than that of anise seed but it is sweeter. The two together may, therefore, be able to make a reasonable approximation of star anise. Since both of these spices are weaker than star anise, you will want to use more when using them as a substitute. Use one and a half times as much of the pair as your recipe requires for star anise.

Other alternatives

Allspice is an option despite the fact that it lacks the licorice notes. It can provide a strong sweetness and an exotic element to your dish and will work in many dishes that require star anise. Using a little sugar to go along with the allspice is a good way to make its flavor more closely resemble that of star anise.

Cloves are another potential star anise stand-in. Like allspice, cloves do not have star anise’s licorice notes; however, adding some can provide a significant amount of sweetness along with some of the bitter notes.

The combination of caraway seeds with tarragon can add a sufficient licorice kick to replace star anise. Note that caraway seeds are strong and can be bitter so be careful when using them. Start with a small amount and work your way up to the flavor you want.

If the licorice flavor is what you want and you have none of these alternatives, consider using some licorice root as your star anise substitute.

Whole Star Anise

Star Anise Pods Q & A

What is the flavor of star anise?

The aroma of star anise is similar to fennel and anise seed and its taste is pungent and sweet with hints of licorice. It has assertive warmth that creates a mild numbing effect in the mouth and the aftertaste is fresh and agreeable.

What can be used instead of star anise?

Because of the similar licorice-forward flavor, both fennel seeds and anise seeds (which are unrelated to star anise despite the fact that both have “anise” in their names) are good substitutes. If substituting for ground star anise, Chinese Five Spice, which contains star anise, is the best choice.

What flavors pair well with anise?

Star anise pairs well with fruit and is often mixed with cinnamon and cloves to poach fruits. Try in combination with other spices like chiles, coriander, fennel seeds, garlic, and ginger.

What is star anise good for?

Whole star anise is preferred when using for presentation purposes. Otherwise, broken or ground star anise provides the same pungent, licorice-forward flavor. Star anise is often used in fruit dishes and can also be used in poaching liquid for chicken and goes well with fish, seafood, and root vegetables.

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Star Anise is a unique spice that has a sweet anise flavour. Learn more about this spice, including where to buy it and how to cook with it!

Star Anise is, by far, the prettiest spice in my cupboard. These fragrant little pods look more like delicate wood carvings than something you would cook with! While they would probably be a lovely addition to potpourri, they have much more to offer than just their looks.

Did you know that Star Anise is one of the five spices in Chinese five-spice powder? It’s also one of the predominant flavours in Vietnamese Pho (a noodle soup), and Sambuca (an Italian liqueur). Read on to learn more about this spice, including how to use it in your cooking.

What is Star Anise?

Star Anise is a star-shaped seed pod from an evergreen tree, which is Native to China.

While technically not related to regular anise, this spice does have a similar flavour. This isn’t the strong, medicinal liquorice flavour of black jelly beans though. The flavour of star anise is sweeter – more similar to fennel than liquorice. Although it is more bitter than regular anise seeds.

Where to buy Star Anise?

Star Anise is sold whole, in pieces, and ground into a powder. Packages of whole star anise can be expensive, since it takes a lot of work to gather the spice and keep its shape intact. The packages I usually buy have some whole pieces and lots of broken pieces. These packages are more affordable, and I don’t feel bad about crushing the broken bits (save the whole ones for garnish!).

Ground star anise can lose its flavour quickly, so your best bet is to buy the broken pieces and grind them yourself (you can shave them on a Microplane grater like cinnamon too).

You can usually find this spice at most grocery stores these days. If yours doesn’t carry it, you can try an Asian market or buy it online from Amazon.

As with all spices, you should store star anise is an airtight container, in a cool, dark place.

What to cook with Star Anise?

If you’re just getting started cooking with star anise, you should start adding it to your dishes slowly. Too many pods can overpower a dish, making it bitter and unpleasant to eat. If you’re adding it to a soup or stew, try using one or two pods to start. This can be enough to impart a flavour, without obliterating the rest of the dish.

Try adding whole pods to soups or stews that are made with beef or chicken, like this Pho with beef and noodles, or this chicken soup with shiitake mushrooms. A single pod can elevate a batch of homemade tomato sauce, too.

You can also use the whole pods to mull wine, cider or beer, like in my spiced apple cider recipe. It ‘s also nice in a fruity Christmas punch.

Grated or ground star anise works well desserts like gingerbread, chocolate cake or brownies.

Disclosure:
This is not a sponsored post, but it does contain an Amazon affiliate link.

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From its unmistakable aroma to its unique star-shaped appearance, star anise is truly a one-of-a-kind spice. Plus, not only is it super versatile and chock-full of flavor, but it also contains a number of compounds that can help kick up your health.

Not to be confused with anise seed benefits, star anise benefits include killing off bacteria and fungus, naturally fighting off the flu, boosting heart health, providing a concentrated dose of antioxidants and keeping blood sugar levels steady.

Coupled with a nutritious diet and active lifestyle, adding this powerful ingredient into your diet may be just what you need to bring your health to the next level.

What Is Star Anise?

Star anise comes from Illicium verum, a type of evergreen tree native to certain parts of Vietnam and China. The tree produces a fruit known as star anise that is used as a spice to add flavor to a variety of dishes. The fruit is picked before ripening and then dried in the sun to allow it to harden. It is characterized by its distinct star shape, reddish-orange color and strong aroma.

The star anise taste is often described as sweet and licorice-like. It’s considered a key ingredient in five-spice powder, a spice mixture used in Chinese cuisine that also includes cloves, Chinese cinnamon, fennel seeds and Sichuan pepper, and is also sometimes added to other spice mixes like garam masala. The oil of the fruit is also commonly found in mouthwash, perfume, toothpaste and cosmetics.

Star anise contains many medicinal compounds that contribute to its long list of health benefits. In fact, much of the star anise plant production today is used for the extraction of shikimic acid, the active ingredient in flu medications like Tamiflu. It also contains several other potent compounds, such as linalool, vitamin C and anethole.

Is Star Anise Good for You? 6 Benefits of Star Anise

  1. Kills off bacteria
  2. Rich in antioxidants
  3. Wards off fungal infections
  4. May boost heart health
  5. Natural flu fighter
  6. Can help regulate blood sugar

1. Kills Off Bacteria

Pathogenic bacteria can cause a variety of ailments, ranging from ear infections to urinary tract infections and beyond. Star anise has been shown to possess powerful antibacterial properties and may be beneficial in protecting against these harmful strains of bacteria. (1)

One test-tube study demonstrated that star anise extract was able to help block the growth of E. coli, a type of bacteria that can cause a broad array of symptoms, such as diarrhea and pneumonia. (2) Another test-tube study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food demonstrated that this spice exhibited antibacterial activities against 67 strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. (3)

Additionally, this spice also contains several compounds that have been shown to be antibacterial as well. Anethole, linalool and shikimic acid are all compounds found in star anise that are reported to help fight against bacteria. (4, 5, 6)

2. Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances that can protect against the formation of harmful free radicals in the body. Getting enough antioxidants in your diet can also combat oxidative stress, which can prevent the progression of chronic disease. (7)

Thanks to its high antioxidant content, some studies have even found that star anise may be effective against cancer cells as well. In one animal study, it was found to reduce tumor burden and oxidative stress, plus increase levels of specific enzymes that play a role in cancer prevention. (8) However, research is limited, and more studies are needed to determine how the antioxidants found in star anise may impact human health.

3. Wards Off Fungal Infections

In addition to killing off pathogenic strains of bacteria, some research also shows that star anise pods could possess powerful antifungal properties as well. Fungal infections are often more difficult to treat and can present in a variety of forms, from yeast infections to athlete’s foot and jock itch.

According to a test-tube study published in the Korean Journal of Medical Mycology, star anise extract and essential oil were effective against Candida albicans, a type of fungus that is responsible for causing yeast infections. (9)

4. May Boost Heart Health

Ranked as the leading cause of death and accounting for nearly one-third of all deaths in 2013, it’s clear that heart disease is a massive health concern for millions around the world. (10)

Brimming with potent antioxidants, star anise may be able to help reduce oxidative stress, prevent the buildup of harmful free radicals and help enhance heart health.

Although research is limited, some studies have turned up promising results on the potential benefits of this spice on heart health. In a 2015 animal study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, an ethanol extract of star anise was found to help normalize changes in weight, blood pressure and lipid levels in mice fed a high-fat diet. Not only that, but it also reduced the buildup of plaque in the arteries and decreased several markers of inflammation as well. (11)

Keep in mind that further research is needed, but adding star anise to a healthy diet and lifestyle may be able to keep your heart in good shape to protect against issues like heart disease and stroke.

5. Fight the Flu

Chills, fever, muscle aches and fatigue — if you’re like most people, you’re probably all too familiar with the dreaded list of symptoms that start to pop up right before a full-blown case of the flu. Next time you find yourself feeling under the weather, you may want to consider brewing up a cup of star anise tea for a quick boost of flu-fighting power.

Star anise contains a compound called shikimic acid, which is commonly found in medications used to treat influenza, such as Tamiflu. A test-tube study published in the Journal of Medical Virology found that combining shikimic acid with quercetin, a type of natural plant pigment, was able to significantly increase the production of immune cells compared to treatment with Tamiflu. (12)

6. Could Help Regulate Blood Sugar

High blood sugar can cause a long list of diabetes symptoms, from increased thirst to difficulty concentrating, fatigue and even unintentional weight loss. Left untreated, high blood sugar can even contribute to more serious issues long-term, such as kidney failure and nerve damage.

Adding star anise to your routine may help keep your blood sugar in check, thanks to the presence of anethole. Some studies have found that this powerful compound could be beneficial in maintaining normal blood sugar levels. In a 2015 animal study out of India, for instance, treating rats with anethole was found to improve blood sugar by regulating some of the key enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism. (13)

Of course, it takes more than simply a sprinkle or two of star anise pods each day to regulate blood sugar levels. For best results, try pairing a serving or two with a balanced diet and active lifestyle.

Star Anise Nutrition

In addition to its strong flavor, star anise is also packed with beneficial compounds that can have a powerful effect on health. A few of the compounds found in this spice include:

  • Linalool: This naturally occurring terpene alcohol has been shown to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. (14)
  • Vitamin C: Besides being high in antioxidants, vitamin C supports immune health and protects against infection and disease. (15)
  • Shikimic acid: Not only this compound a common ingredient in many flu medications, but it may also have potent antibacterial properties as well.
  • Anethole: Also found in anise seed and fennel, this aromatic compound is believed to help fight off cancer, diabetes and inflammation while preserving brain health. (16)

Star Anise vs. Anise Seed

Star anise is often confused with anise seed, due to both its similar name and flavor profile. Because both contain anethole, they share a licorice-like taste and aroma. However, these two spices belong to completely different families of plants and have many differences that set them apart.

Anise is a type of plant that belongs to the Apiaceae family and is native to both the Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia. The plant produces white flowers as well as an oblong fruit known as the anise seed, which is commonly used to flavor everything from teas to desserts and liquors.

Star anise, on the other hand, comes from an evergreen tree that originates in Vietnam and China. In addition to its culinary uses, star anise and its oil are also found in toothpaste, mouthwash, skin cream and even certain medications.

Despite their differences, these two ingredients can be used interchangeably in some recipes. Anise seed can be used as a suitable ground star anise substitute, for example, as it shares a similar taste and smell.

What Do You Do with Star Anise? Star Anise Uses

Highly versatile and flavorful, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve tried star anise before, even if you didn’t know it. It’s one of the main components of five-spice powder, it gives Vietnamese pho its signature flavor, and it’s even a secret ingredient in some baked goods and desserts.

There are limitless star anise uses if you’re just getting started. You can try brewing a soothing cup of hot star anise tea next time the temperatures dip, add it to your favorite Chinese-inspired dishes or throw it into a bubbling pot of stew to infuse its powerful taste.

It can be ground up and used as a spice or used whole to deepen the flavor and aroma of soup, stew, coffee or broth. Plus, its sweet undertones can balance out savory dishes or even help amp up the flavor of sweets and desserts.

Star anise oil is also available and is commonly used as a natural preservative and to help ease digestive issues.

Where to Find Star Anise + Star Anise Recipes

Wondering where to buy star anise? Thanks to its growing popularity, you can often find this versatile spice at many major supermarkets in either the spice or Asian cooking aisle. It’s also widely available at Asian specialty stores as well as online.

Once your spice rack is fully stocked and ready to go, you can start adding it to your favorite soups, hot beverages, desserts and more. Here are a few star anise recipes to get you started:

  • Star Anise, Cardamom & Cinnamon Buns
  • Sweet Potatoes with Star Anise, Ginger and Lime
  • Chai Spiced Coconut Milk
  • Sticky Star Anise Honey Duck
  • Butternut Squash Soup with Star Anise

History

Star anise has been a staple ingredient in China for centuries as a result of its medicinal and culinary properties. It was used to treat an array of issues, providing relief from everything from flatulence to fluid retention.

By the 17th century, this spice had made its way to Europe, where its unique flavor was used to enhance the taste of syrups and fruit preserves.

Today, it is primarily grown in China and Japan, but it is used around the world as a flavoring agent for many classic dishes. Its oil can be found in a variety of commercial products, and it is prized for its multitude of medicinal properties.

Precautions and Side Effects

Although linked with many health benefits and generally considered a safe way to add flavor to foods, star anise should be used in moderation to prevent negative side effects.

Make sure that you are using Chinese star anise and not Japanese star anise. The Japanese version is inedible and actually poisonous if consumed by mouth.

Some products containing star anise, such as teas, are believed to be contaminated with small amounts of Japanese star anise. For this reason, this spice is not recommended for infants and children as it has been associated with a number of adverse symptoms, like vomiting and seizures, due to contamination. (17)

There is also not enough evidence to determine the safety of this spice in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Stay on the safe side and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns. (18)

Finally, if you experience any negative side effects or food allergy symptoms after consuming star anise, discontinue use immediately and consult with a trusted health care practitioner.

Final Thoughts

  • Star anise is the fruit of Illicium verum, a type of evergreen tree native to China and Vietnam.
  • With a licorice-like taste, it is one of the primary ingredients in five-spice powder and is also featured in many traditional dishes, such as Vietnamese pho.
  • Star anise contains compounds like linalool, vitamin C, shikimic acid and anethole, which contribute to its many health benefits.
  • Packed with antioxidants, this spice may help improve heart health, steady blood sugar, ward off bacteria and fungi, and help fight the flu.
  • Add it to your favorite hot beverages, stews, baked goods or savory dishes for a boost of flavor and health benefits.

Read Next: Is Chai Tea Good for You? Chai Tea Benefits & Recipes

5 health benefits of star anise, aka chakra phool, you didn’t know about

Star anise has been used in Asian and Eurasian cooking for many, many years. This age-old spice is not only known as a culinary expert, but is also famous for its medicinal properties.

Also read: Kesar aka saffron: 6 reasons to include more of this expensive spice in your diet

The star-shaped spice originated in south China and posses licorice-like flavour and is called by the name of ‘chakra phool’ in India.

Anise is frequently used as an exotic spice in Indian as well as in Chinese cuisines. Because of its strong, delightful fragrance, it is mostly used in biryanis, chicken, sea food and other vegetarian dishes.

But it’s time to think ‘outside of the kitchen’. This small flower-like fruit is also a storehouse of some key ingredients, which can help combat several illnesses apart from imparting flavour to dishes.

Also read: Better digestion, a glowing skin, and other benefits of eating papaya

Before using, star anise is dried in the sun until it become greyish-brown in colour. Once dried, anise can be ground to a powder or can be used as it is.

Following are the five benefits of consuming star anise.

  1. Star anise is rich in antioxidants and vitamin A and C, which help fight free radicals that are responsible for early ageing and diabetes.
  2. The oil produced from star anise contains thymol, terpineol and anethole, which is used for treating cough and flu.
  3. Anise also helps improve digestion, alleviate cramps and reduce nausea.
  4. Consuming star anise tea after meals helps treat digestive ailments such as bloating, gas, indigestion and constipation. Anise is one of the main ingredients in your favourite masala chai also.
  5. Drinking one glass of water infused with the crushed seeds of star anise at night can increase one’s sex drive!

What is Star Anise – and How To Use It

Michelle Arnold / EyeEm/Getty Images

Star anise might be the most unappreciated, underused spice. If you have a jar of these dark brown, flower-shaped seed pods in your spice rack, chances are, you probably don’t know what the heck to do with them.

Open the jar, take a sniff, and—if they’re still fresh—you’ll be reminded of black licorice. Many people compare star anise to anise seeds or fennel seeds, and while they have a similar aroma and flavor, star anise is stronger and sharper. Botanically speaking, these three spices are all very different—star anise comes from an evergreen tree, anise seeds come from a bush, and fennel seeds come from a bulb.

Watch: How to Make Pumpkin Spice Magic Cake

Star anise is most commonly sold in whole pieces, but you can also buy it in broken pieces (which are usually cheaper) and in ground form. If you have Chinese five-spice powder, ground star anise is one of the five spices in this classic blend.

When cooking with star anise, a little bit goes a long way so use a light hand. (Which is why Chinese five-spice powder is a great way to cook with star anise, if you’re unfamiliar.) Add a pinch of ground star anise to your favorite apple pie or pumpkin bread recipe to give it extra depth and warmth. It often pairs well with dishes that have cinnamon or cloves.

Whole star anise looks lovely floating in a punch bowl or inside a jar of pickled fruits or vegetables. It can also be used as a mulling spice, or to make a spiced simple syrup.

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