Star anise is an ingredient you might need in your Chinese cooking, but it isn’t easy to find in most grocery stores.
If you can’t find star anise, you can use some other spices and ingredients as substitutes instead. This is to help you get the flavor you want from your food.
Most of these options have similar flavors as star anise, but remember that there will be slight differences in taste depending on which substitutes for star anise you choose.
Here are the best substitutes for star anise if you can’t find star anise at your local market or online store.
What Is Star Anise?
Star anise is a spice that comes from the fruit of an evergreen tree. The star-shaped fruit is dried and then used whole or ground. It has a licorice-like flavor with a hint of sweetness.
Star anise is used in sweet and savory dishes, a critical ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder. If you can’t find star anise, there are several suitable substitutes for star anise.
Substitutes for Star Anise
If you’re making a savory dish, ginger is one of the best substitutes for star anise. It has a similar flavor profile, with a bit of heat and sweetness.
Plus, it’s easy to find and relatively inexpensive. To substitute, use about one-third as much ginger as you would star anise.
For example, if your recipe calls for two teaspoons of star anise, use two teaspoons of grated fresh ginger. The best part is that there are no concerns about allergies or whether the recipe will turn out well!
2. Anise Seeds
Anise seeds stand out among the closest substitutes for star anise in terms of flavor. If you have these on hand, you can use them in equal measure to star anise.
To use anise seeds as a replacement, add them early on in the cooking process so they have time to infuse their flavor into the dish.
3. Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds are the best substitutes for star anise. They have a similar anise-like flavor and can be used in sweet or savory dishes.
To use fennel seeds as a substitute for star anise, add them to your dish early in the cooking process so they have time to release their flavor.
You may need to use more or fewer fennel seeds than called for in the recipe, so taste as you go and adjust accordingly.
4. Black Sesame Seeds
If you’re looking for substitutes for star anise, black sesame seeds are the best option. They have a similar flavor and can be used in many dishes.
To substitute, use one teaspoon of black sesame seeds for every star anise called for in the recipe. Keep in mind that the roots will need to be ground before use., Add them to a spice grinder or mortar and pestle along with other spices in the recipe.
5. Sichuan Peppercorns
Sichuan peppercorns have a similar shape to star anise. They also have a licorice-like flavor. If you can’t find star anise, Sichuan peppercorns are the best substitute.
Just be careful not to use too many, as they can be pretty spicy! Other substitutes for star anise include anise seeds, fennel seeds, and licorice roots.
6. Cinnamon Sticks
When it comes to flavor, cinnamon sticks are among the best substitutes for star anise. They have a similarly warm and sweet taste that can be used in sweet and savory dishes.
If you’re looking for a substitution in a dish where star anise is used for its licorice-like flavor, then anise seed is your best bet. However, cloves or allspice would be better if you need a substitution for star anise in a dish with essential aromatic properties.
7. Bay Leaves
Bay leaves are an excellent substitute for star anise. They have a similar flavor profile, with notes of licorice and anise. Plus, they’re easy to find in most supermarkets. If you can’t find bay leaves, try one of these substitutes for star anise.
They have a similar flavor profile, warm, spicy, and slightly sweet taste. Plus, they’re readily available in most supermarkets.
To substitute cloves for star anise, use a one-quarter teaspoon of ground cloves for every one-eighth teaspoon of star anise in your recipe. Keep in mind that cloves are more potent than star anise. So, start with less and add more to taste.
When it comes to baking, few spices are as versatile as nutmeg. This warming spice can be used in sweet and savory dishes, making it the perfect stand-in for star anise.
While the two spices share many of the same flavor notes, nutmeg is slightly sweeter and less intense than star anise.
If you’re looking for a one-to-one replacement, add nutmeg to your dish at the same time you would start anise. You may need to adjust the amount depending on your personal preferences.
10. Cassia Bark Powder
It has a similar flavor profile, with a slightly sweeter taste. Cassia bark is also a good source of essential oils, adding depth of flavor to your dish. If you can’t find cassia bark powder, you can also use ground cinnamon or cloves as substitutes for star anise.
11. Licorice Liqueur
When it comes to licorice liqueur, only one can be used as a substitute for star anise, and that’s Sambuca. Sambuca has a similar flavor profile to star anise, with notes of anise, fennel, and licorice.
It’s also got a nice sweetness to it that can help round out a cocktail. You could try anise extract if you’re looking for a non-alcoholic substitute. Though, it won’t have the same sweetness as Sambuca.
12. Licorice Root
Licorice root is also among the best substitutes for star anise. It has a similar flavor profile, with anise, fennel, and licorice notes. Plus, it’s easy to find and relatively inexpensive.
To use it as a substitute, grind it into a powder and use it in place of star anise. You may need to adjust the amount you use, depending on how strong you want the flavor to be.
Allspice is a common baking spice you likely already have in your pantry. It has a similar flavor to star anise, with hints of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Allspice can be used whole or ground and is typically added at the beginning of cooking to give dishes a deeper flavor. If you don’t have any allspice on hand, you can also try substituting with equal-sized cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
If you can’t find star anise, your best bet is to find substitutes for the star, a similar spice like anise seed or fennel seed. These spices have a similar flavor profile to star anise, so they’ll work well in most recipes.
Just be sure to use a little less than the recipe calls for, as these spices are more potent than star anise. If you’re looking for a more exotic substitute, try Chinese five-spice powder.
This spice blend contains star anise. It will give your dish the same flavor without tracking the individual spice.