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11 Best Fennel Seeds Substitute That You Can Find And Use Easily

There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through cooking a dish just to find out you don’t have one of the required ingredients. It can really ruin the flow you were in and it can also lead to panic. If you have found your way to this article, then you’ve probably started cooking something that needs a lot of fennel seeds, but you don’t have any available.

Luckily for you, there are plenty of fennel substitutes out there that will save your dish so you don’t have to scrap it! 

We’ve put together a list of 11 fennel seed substitutes that are the best next option for your recipes. Each of these substitutes will work really well in your fennel seed-centric dishes. So let’s take a look at them! 

11 Best Fennel Seed Substitutes For Your Recipes

11 Best Fennel Seed Substitutes

Fennel seeds come from the seeds of an actual fennel plant. Fennel itself is a part of the carrot family and the leaves are deeply aromatic. 

Fennel seeds are usually used as a warm spice, so they are quite versatile and pair really well with a lot of other ingredients. 

The taste of fennel seeds is usually described as being earthy, sweet, and a bit like licorice.

They have a very strong taste, but luckily they aren’t too overpowering, so finding the right substitute won’t be a problem! Let’s take a look at the list now. 

1. Anise

Anise

Kicking off this list, we have anise. We’ve started with this substitute because it is one of the ones that are most similar to fennel seeds.

It’s so similar fact that lots of people actually confuse the two quite commonly.

The stems and the leaves are the part of the anise plant that is most commonly used as herbs and ingredients in dishes.

It is important to note that anise is actually different from the star anise plant, so don’t use that one! 

Anise usually comes in seed form, but you can also get it in the form of oil or extract. If you want it to be a bit more concentrated, then one of these forms will suit you better. 

Anise has a very licorice flavor, as well as a warm spicy taste, and they are also very sweet and aromatic. This is a great substitute for fennel seeds if you want something that tastes really similar. 

How To Substitute

You can substitute fennel seeds with anise. Fennel seeds are often used in Italian and Mexican cooking, while anise is used in many French recipes. These spices can be used interchangeably in many recipes because of their similar flavor and texture.

2. Licorice Root Powder

Licorice Root Powder

Another great substitute for fennel seeds is of course licorice root powder. This is the best substitute to use if you especially want to emulate the licorice taste. 

The licorice root powder is very pungent in both taste and smell, and it is also sweet and peppery with some delightful earthy notes. 

The beauty of this substitute is that it’s incredibly versatile and works well in both sweet and savory dishes. It will really bring out and compliment the other flavors in your dish. 

How To Substitute

Licorice has a versatile and more robust flavor. To substitute licorice root powder for fennel seeds, you’ll need to use about three tablespoons of the licorice root powder, about the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds.

3. Fennel Seed Powder

Fennel Seed Powder

The difference between standard fennel seeds and their powdered form is basically the powder is the crushed version.

The powder is a lot easier to use in cooking, especially in terms of measurements and blending it in with the rest of your dish. 

Just like licorice root powder, fennel seed powder is very versatile and works beautifully in both sweet and savory dishes. 

This is also a great fennel seed substitute because the powder is much more subtle in taste, so you don’t have to worry about it overpowering the rest of your dish. 

Even though the flavor will be a bit more subtle, fennel seed powder still tastes very much like the real thing!

How To Substitute

Fennel seeds powder is the crushed version of fennel seeds. The best thing about it is that you don’t have to worry about taste because it will give you a similar flavor. It can be used as a substitute for fennel seeds but is less potent, so you have to use a little higher quantity than your recipe calls for fennel seeds.

4. Cumin Seeds

Cumin Seeds

Cumin seeds resemble fennel seeds in their color and shape. Also, like fennel seeds, you can use cumin in both its seed and powder form. 

When it comes to taste though, cumin seeds are a lot stronger and more pungent in flavor. Cumin is usually used in hotter, spicer dishes, so you can expect a bit of a kick if you use this substitute.

There is a little bit of sweetness to cumin seeds though, and they also have lovely earthy tones. 

This is a great substitute if you want something that resembles fennel seeds, but you want it to have a stronger and spicier flavor. 

How To Substitute

Fennel seeds are an essential ingredient in Indian cooking. You can substitute fennel seeds with cumin seeds or use fennel and cumin together. Cumin seeds are more pungent in taste with a spicer touch that would give your dish heat.

RELATED: The Best Alternatives To Annatto Powder For Flavor, Color, and Spice

5. Caraway

Caraway

Though caraway is usually referred to as seeds, they aren’t actually seeds at all! They come from the dried fruit of the caraway plant and they are incredibly aromatic. 

Caraway is a great substitute for fennel seeds because it is almost like a blend of some of the other substitutes.

It is like a lighter version of anise, and it has a beautiful hint of licorice. They are also very earthy, and even have a bit of a citrusy flavor to them. 

Caraway is one of the more complex substitutes in terms of flavor because the profile is so vast. But this complexity is actually why it’s a great substitute for fennel seeds. 

The different hints of flavor will allow you to pair it with other ingredients perfectly and you can use it in the place of fennel for multiple dishes. 

Caraway is extremely popular for soup-based dishes, as well as both sweet and savory dishes. It is a very versatile spice that you won’t get tired of using. 

How To Substitute

Caraway is perfect if you don’t have fennel seeds. The aroma resembles anise and has a beautiful licorice hint with an earthy citrus flavor. They will work great in soup-based dishes.

6. Anisette Liqueur

Anisette Liqueur

Liqueur of any kind might seem like a bit of a strange choice for a substitute, but once you get your hands on some Anisette liqueur, you will understand why it’s a good fennel seed substitute. 

If you have never used it before, Anisette liqueur is a French liqueur that is made with aniseed, and although it is alcohol-based, it has a very sweet flavor. 

Anisette liqueur is also a great choice because it is incredibly convenient. You just grab the bottle and add what you need without worrying about having to prep it as an ingredient. 

This is a great substitute if you are making sweeter dishes that call for fennel seeds. The sweetness of the liqueur will pair perfectly with other ingredients and spices, and the aniseed flavor will blend wonderfully. 

How To Substitute

Anisette is an anise-flavored liqueur made from anise, star anise, and fennel. This product is excellent for various cocktails, including the classic French Martini. It has a slightly sweet flavor and will add ideally to your recipes.

7. Mahlab

Mahlab

Mahlab is a spice that is very commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine. It can be used in both its seed and powder form and it is very aromatic. 

If you opt to use mahlab in its seed form, the aroma is going to be more intense and the flavor will be stronger, but you will have to make sure they are precooked first. 

The reason you have to precook mahlab seeds is that when they are added to your dish, they are quite bitter.

By precooking them, you allow their other flavors time to shine. Some of the other flavors you will find in mahlab seeds are very earthy and sweet. 

Though mahlab is usually used for sweeter dishes, it also works incredibly well in savory dishes too. It is a great substitute for fennel seeds, especially if you want something strong in sweet flavor. 

How To Substitute

Mahlab is an herb that has a distinctive licorice-anise flavor and is used in North African cooking. You may find it in Middle Eastern markets. It makes a great addition to savory dishes with an earthy and sweet taste.

8. French Tarragon 

fennel seed substitutes French Tarragon 

French tarragon is another great fennel seed substitute because it also falls into the licorice category of flavor.

If you really enjoy the licorice part of the flavor in fennel seeds, then this is the perfect substitute for you. 

The best type you can use is fresh French tarragon. The fresher it is the more aromatic and stronger it will be. The dried form of French tarragon is still good, but it won’t be as potent as its fresh form. 

French tarragon is extremely potent in flavor and along with the licorice flavor, it also has a small hint of eucalyptus and pepper in its aroma and taste.

It is one of the nicest smelling substitutes on this list, and a popular choice used as a fennel seed substitute. 

How To Substitute

The French tarragon herb has a fresh and mild anise-like flavor with a hint of pine. It has the nice smell you would love to acquire in your recipe instead of fennel. It is often used to flavor white sauces and light chicken or vegetable dishes.

9. Celery

fennel seed substitutes Celery

This might seem like an odd choice to begin with, but once you try using celery as a fennel seed substitute for yourself, you will see why it’s made its way onto this list. 

Celery has a very interesting and complex flavor, and it is incredibly versatile, so it works with most other ingredients and in plenty of dishes.

Depending on what you mix it with, you will be able to create some beautiful flavors. 

If you do use celery and you want it to have the strongest flavor and aroma, the best form you can use is celery leaves. Celery is incredibly herby in flavor, as well as being earthy and slightly sweet. 

Celery is a great choice for a fennel substitute because of its versatility, but it’s also subtle enough that it won’t be too overpowering. 

How To Substitute

Celery is a versatile and popular herb used in various dishes. It is also used in herbal teas and candies. Celery is commonly found in many dishes, such as soups, salads, and stews, and has a strong, bitter taste that is somewhat similar to fennel.

10. Parsley

fennel seed substitutes

Parsely is a very popular herb that is used in lots of different dishes and cuisines.

More often than not, parsley is one of the easiest herbs to get hold of as well, so if you don’t have access to the other herbs on this list, you can very easily get hold of parsley. 

If you really need a substitute for fennel seeds and you don’t have time to get anything else, parsley is the best option for you. 

You can get parsley in both its dried and fresh form. Fresh parsley is always going to be stronger in taste and aroma, but it might surprise you to know that many people prefer to use the dried form instead. 

The dried form is easier to get hold of and it’s also much easier to store. You can also use it for longer than its fresh form. 

In terms of its flavor, parsley is very earthy, a bit peppery, and it also has a subtle hint of licorice to it. This is a great fennel seed substitute if you want your dishes to taste more on the herby side. 

How To Substitute

Parsley is a prevalent herb with a nutty, peppery taste and a refreshing, slightly minty smell. It is a spice in many dishes and a popular tea you can brew with or without milk. In addition, it is one of the most popular substitutes for fennel seeds.

11. Dill Seeds

fennel seed substitutes

And finally, we have dill seeds. They are extremely similar to caraway in how they look. Dill seeds are most popularly used in acidic foods, but you can use them for whatever fennel seed dish you want. 

The best type of dill that you can use is of course the fresh version because they will be more flavorful and potent than the seeds.

The seeds are still a great option though because they are a bit more subtle in flavor, so they will blend with the rest of your dish really well. 

When it comes to flavor, dill seeds is another herb that is incredibly earthy and it has subtle sweet hints. The aroma is extremely strong and herby.

This is a great fennel seed substitute for you to use if you want something subtle, with dominant herby flavors. 

How To Substitute

Fennel seeds are sometimes hard to find, especially in the US. Dill seeds are an easy substitute for fennel seeds and can be used in many recipes, including salads and main dishes.

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How To Choose The Right Fennel Seed Substitute

So now you know about the best fennel seed substitutes, you might be scratching your head trying to work out which one is actually the best one to use for your current dish. 

Choosing the right substitute will mainly come down to personal preference. You will have to experiment with the different substitutes for yourself to see what sort of palette works best for you. 

There are some guidelines you can follow to make the choice a bit easier though.

For example, things like licorice root and French tarragon are very similar in flavor to fennel seeds, but they have a completely different texture. 

So, if you are after taste similarities, these are a great choice, but if you want the texture to be similar to fennel seeds, maybe try a different substitute. 

If you want the taste to be as close as possible to fennel seeds, the best substitutes on the list to use are cumin seeds, anise, dill seeds, and caraway. 

If you are making a dish that is more on the sweeter side rather than savory, then the best fennel seed substitutes are Anisette liqueur and mahlab.

The other substitutes work well too, but these two are the best for any sweet dishes that require fennel. 

It really depends on what recipe you are making and what part of the fennel seeds you want the substitutes to emulate the most. 

SubstitutesCalories 
Anise7.1 
Licorice Root Powder17 
Fennel Seed Powder7
Cumin Seeds8
Caraway0.3
Anisette Liqueur341
Mahlab345
French Tarragon295
Celery14
Parsley36
Dill Seeds6.4


Conclusion

There are plenty of options out there that work really well as a substitute for fennel seeds, and this list really proves that! 

Whether you are making a sweet or savory dish, each of these substitutes works wonderfully, and they are extremely versatile. In most cases, you won’t even be able to tell the difference. 

Try some of these fennel seed substitutes out for yourself and see which one you like the most!

Remember, experimenting with different flavors and herbs is fun, and it’s the best way to work out what works best for you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Flavor Similar To Fennel?

Fennel is a type of herb with a sweet and tangy flavor commonly used in Italian cooking. The taste of fennel is similar to licorice. The flavor is reminiscent of cardamom and fennel seeds, with a hint of anise. It makes your recipe the exact flavor and texture of fennel.

What Spice Can I Use Instead Of Fennel?

Plenty of substitutes bring a similar flavor and texture to your recipes to replace fennel. Some common alternatives are anise, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and star anise. However, star anise closely resembles fennel seed with an intense flavor.

What Else Looks Like Fennel Seeds?

Fennel seeds have a round, slightly cone-shaped body, a narrow base, and a long, thin stalk. Dill seeds and fennel have the same characteristics that make them resemble each other and have similar textures and flavors.

11 Best Fennel Seeds Substitute That You Can Find And Use Easily

5 from 6 votes
Prep time

30

minutes
Cooking time

2

minutes
Total time

32

minutes

Have you run out of fennel seeds and don’t know what to use instead? Click here to learn about 11 of the best fennel seed substitutes you can use in your recipes!

Ingredients

  • Anise

  • Licorice Root Powder

  • Fennel Seed Powder

  • Cumin Seeds

  • Caraway

  • Anisette Liqueur

  • Mahlab

  • French Tarragon

  • Celery

  • Parsley

  • Dill Seeds

Directions

  • Choose your favorite substitute from the list given above
  • Follow the directions given in the recipe after having substituted the ingredient in the correct ratio

Recipe Video

Jess Smith