4 Best Fennel Seed Substitutes [Easy Ingredient Alternatives]

Easy fennel seed substitute ingredients for cooking. Find the spice and herbs you can use to match the flavors of fresh and ground fennel seed.

best fennel seed substitute alternatives

Fennel seed is a unique herb best known for its use in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine, offering a beautiful layer of flavor to Kashmiri skewers, Lebanese kebbeh, or spiced biryani.

The fresh version of the fennel plant is used for garnish, but the seed is where the real magic lies. It has a mild and sweet flavor that makes it a key ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder.

But how do you replicate this special herb ingredient if you don’t have any at hand? These four easy fennel seed substitutes will help you avoid disaster.

The Short Answer

The best fennel seed substitute is anise seed. The two ingredients have remarkably similar flavors, with the two herbs often confused for one another. If you find the licorice flavor of anise seed too overpowering, try caraway seeds for a milder taste.

Anise Seeds

fresh anise seed

Anise seeds make for an ideal fennel seed substitute because it shares a really similar flavor profile. This is actually surprising because both anise seed and fennel seed originate from two different plant families. However, their taste profiles are so similar that they are often mistaken for one another.

One important thing to note though is that while their flavor profiles are almost identical, anise seeds are actually slightly smaller yet pack in a more pungent taste. In fact, if you cook fennel is a great substitute for star anise or anise seed for this reason. That said, you have to be careful not to use exactly the same weight of anise seeds as you would fennel seeds, otherwise you will completely overpower your dish. Anise seeds can also be used either whole or ground.

Liquorice Root

Liquorice root

Also with a very similar flavor profile is liquorice root. Just like anise and fennel seed, it can be used in savory and sweet dishes alike.

Why does this come second as a runner up then? Put simply: Its form. While anise and fennel seed are both in seed form, liquorice root often comes in either the form of woody roots or powder.

If you have it in root form, then you will have to steep it in hot water. This water is then used to flavor the dish. If you need it stronger, you will have to steep the root for longer.

However, if you’re using liquorice powder then be warned: It’s much stronger in flavor than fennel seed. As a result, be sure that for every teaspoon of fennel seed that a recipe requires, only use half a teaspoon of liquorice powder.

Caraway Seeds

caraway seeds

Your choice aren’t just limited to anise seed and liquorice though! Caraway seeds are quite similar in flavor profile to fennel seeds. However they do also contain a few other notes of flavor (particularly a nutty taste), and it also differs in its sweetness.

As a result, while it can make an ample replacement, it probably can’t be used in every recipe like-for-like. If a recipe calls for fennel seed then try to use your intuition. If a nutty taste profile is unlikely to go well, then steer clear of using caraway seeds.

It does however have a similar liquorice like taste to it, and it can still often be used interchangeably with fennel seeds. Rye bread recipes, for example, often say that you can use either caraway or fennel seeds.

Dill Seeds

dill seeds

Last on our list is a relative of fennel seeds that are an outside shout if you do not have any liquorice or caraway at hand.

Fennel seeds actually have a very similar taste to caraway seeds, and therefore can be used in a very similar way. However just like caraway seeds they do not pack in the same amount of flavor as fennel seeds.