Substitute for Fennel Seed

Substitute for Fennel Seed
Substitute for Fennel Seed

Fennel seeds have become a sort of an integral part of Mexican and Spanish cuisines. It’d be a hard thing finding a cuisine or any Mexican or a Spanish dish for that matter, that won’t have fennel seeds in it. Primarily Fennel is a flowering plant that has both parts of a plant that is; the vegetable part and the seed part. They are not very spicy when it comes down to flavor, but they are very aromatic.

Fennel is a very typical plant regarding environmental conditions for its cultivation. Prior to the 21st century, it was grown only in some specific parts of the planet, especially in the subcontinent. But since the advancements of technology in the field of Agriculture, it can be grown pretty much anywhere, given that land is fertile, dry, and solid. Many countries that weren’t eligible to grow it first, even those countries, now can Naturalize the plant. Indian continent is a very rich and fertile continent. Perhaps that’s why they produce the highest percentage. Even here in the United States, Fennel seeds are grown in Numbers to meet the requirements.

Given its classification, it can be used as a vegetable and for oil. People in the Indian continent use its vegetable part as a Vegetable and the seeds for Oil. However, In the Western Hemisphere, it is used in cuisines and continental dishes for aroma and flavoring.

But what if we find ourselves out of fennel seeds, what if your local grocery store doesn’t have it anymore? Or do we host a guest who is allergic to fennel seeds? These are some basic problems that could come our way as part of life. To deal with such situations, we have brought you some alternatives that can be served in place of Fennel seeds. These alternatives will serve as a substitute for the Fennel seeds; they will have their flavor and aroma to the two things the fennels are famous for.

Here’s the list of Natural products that can be used as a substitute for fennel seed.


1.    Anise seed

Let’s start with Anise seed; many people get confused between fennel seed and Anise seed; they consider them the same thing. However, there is a major and fundamental difference between the two seeds.

Both Anise and Fennel have the same size, flavor, and texture. Even in countries like United states they are attributed with the same name, but there is a difference between these two seeds.

One of the major differences between Anise seed and Fennel seed is that Fennel Seed is considered as Vegetable while Anise Seed falls under the category of Spices.

Fennel seeds are a bit thicker in size and carry a lot of weight as compared to the Anise Seed while Anise seed is light in both weight and size. Perhaps that is the reason why Fennel Seed is used in dishes that involve meat and big stuff while Anise Seed is used in Light dishes so it could dissolve into it rather than gets stand out like Fennel Seeds.

Both seeds carry a pungent smell, but Anise seeds are little stronger compared to the Fennel

Anise seed is commonly used in Desserts and sweet dishes served after a meal, while Fennel seeds are used in the meals like lunch and supper.

The stem of Fennel seed is used as a sauce, it has a spicy flavor which is used in dishes that carry meat and pork

So as described earlier that it is a replacement for the Fennel Seed, but sometimes it can be mistaken as Anise Seed. Many times, people use the same amount of Anise Seed, taking it as Anise seed, that’s wrong. Anise can be used as a substitute for Fennel seed but with its own limitations and appropriations.


2.    Caraway seed

If you run out of Fennel seed or couldn’t use it for some reason then you better have Caraway seed. It has a great flavor and taste, its about a quarter-inch in size with very low weight. Its seeds are very dry has a great smell and a bit sour in taste if taken separately.

It can be used as a substitute for Fennel Seed, as described earlier it has a bitter taste, bitter Florence and quite the similar flavor as Fennel seed itself. Just like the Fennel seed, it has Licorice flavor in it, but if compared to the Fennel seed the Caraway seed easily beat out the Fennel seed in terms of having a Licorice flavor. Caraway seeds are commonly used in rye bread, sauerkraut, and a range of sausages. It pairs nicely with cabbage, so this is the right substitute to choose if you have any cabbage in your dish. So in case you are cooking cabbage, then this could be an ideal choice.

These seeds are also used in Biscuits and soda, and sausages. They have a great aroma, and that’s why they are widely used.


3.    Dill seeds

Dill seeds are also very familiar to Fennel seeds and Caraway seeds. They are used in tea and people in the united states also use them for pickles and chips. It has a very tangy flavor and can be stored in dry stores in your own home. A number of grocery stores are now presenting fresh dill seeds, and this can lead you to find that this adds a considerable amount of flavor and depth to your dishes. Wrap it in a paper towel and store it into the refrigerators and freezers to preserve their freshness. Keep in mind that dill only lasts for two days.

But about dill seeds it must be noted that they do have a very pungent unpleasant smell, they are not as aromatic as the fennel seeds. Although they do have a considerable amount of calcium even more than milk, it has also got magnesium, iron, and a lot of antioxidants that can enhance the anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. They can also be proven very effective in dealing with cholesterol level in your body, it can also help relieve menstrual cramps and can reduce depression.

Dill seeds can also make a great substitution for fennel (as well as tarragon) when it comes to fish dishes. You can simply scatter some sliced dill seeds over your salmon or trout for complementary flavors. While you may have plenty of cucumber dishes that call for dill, you’ll be pleased to learn that you can also use dill on eggs.


4.    Cumin (spices)

There would hardly be any Mexican or Spanish that will not have Cumin in it. In fact, if to be correct the cumin is the most used spice in the world. In caparison with Fennel seeds cumin is a spice in taste and flavor but it is less chill as compared to the Fennel seeds. It has an earthy flavor which makes it a bit different from Fennel Seed.

However, these two cannot be used in the same way. Where fennel is popularly used in seasoning the food while you cook, while cumin seeds often act as a garnisher which can add texture to the sauces, salads, soups and several other dishes that are already cooked.

cumin is sold in powder form which is great since it can easily blend with the other seasonings like fajita seasoning and taco seasoning. But the even better news is, both cumin seeds and powder is available in the market entire year, making them an all-time available spice, a better substitute for fennel seeds.

This Spice can also be used as a herb too, it can help your digestive system, enhance immunity against an imminent disease and can even prevent the development of cancer cells. A study also shows that cumin has the ability to treat insomnia and some respiratory disorders.


5.    Mahlab with Delight

This staple is often found in most Mediterranean cuisine is, widely used in cookies and bread. One of the major reasons why Mahlab is used so widely in cuisine and cookies is because of it seeds that has a seed and sour flavor also its aroma is magical. Although it doesn’t qualify to be the best substitute for fennel seed, still it can be a good choice just in case supplies will be running low.

Mahlab is available in seed and powder form. If you are going to use the seeds, you will need to cook them before you begin adding them to your savory and sweet dishes. In this way, you will be able to eliminate its bitter taste and at the same time to lease its fruity and rich flavor that can blend really well with various sweet dishes.

If you want to extract all the flavors of the entire Mahlab seeds, I suggest you grind the seeds down with a pestle. I know this task can be a little daunting, but as long as you have the proper tools on hand, you should not find it difficult. Also, you should note that the Mahlab seeds come with oils that quickly dissipate once exposed to the air, so make sure you quickly add them to your dishes.


6.    Licorice Roots

Well, there’s no surprise to this. Of course, the best way to substitute a spice with slightly licorice flavor is by using an actual licorice powder. This powder works best in savory and sweet dishes, like fennel. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you can use these two spices similarly.

You should know that licorice has a stronger flavor than fennel seeds and since it has a high glycyrrhizin, a type of active component that is 50 times sweeter than sugar, this herb is extremely sweet. So I suggest you use a smaller amount of licorice when using it as a substitute for fennel. For instance, if your recipe calls for one teaspoon of fennel seeds, use an only ½ teaspoon of licorice powder to bring the same flavor.

Also, licorice is being sold in raw root form. Now, if you’re thinking of using it this way, you might need some hard work to steep the roots in a hot liquid just to bring out its flavor; you will be using the liquid in seasoning your dish. The longer you will steep the licorice, the more intense the flavor will be.

Facts Summary Table

Substitute Flavor Profile Texture Best Used In Source
Anise Seed Strong, sweet, licorice-like Small, crunchy Baking, beverages, seasoning Seeds of Pimpinella anisum plant
Caraway Seed Warm, earthy, slightly citrusy Small, crunchy Breads, pickles, sauerkraut Seeds of Carum carvi plant
Dill Seeds Grassy, slightly tangy Small, crunchy Pickles, breads, seasoning Seeds of Anethum graveolens plant
Cumin (Spices) Earthy, warm, nutty Small seeds, ground Curries, stews, spice blends Ground seeds of Cuminum cyminum plant
Mahlab with Delight Sweet, nutty, cherry-like Ground powder Baked goods, pastries Ground pits of Prunus mahaleb cherry
Licorice Roots Sweet, intensely herbal Woody, dried Teas, candies, herbal remedies Roots of Glycyrrhiza glabra plant


Can I use fennel instead of cumin?

Fennel has a distinct anise-like flavor, so it might not be the best substitute for cumin, which has a warm and earthy taste. They have different flavor profiles.

What spices can I substitute for fennel?

If you need a substitute for fennel, you can consider using anise seeds or star anise, although they have their own unique flavors as well.

Can I use coriander instead of fennel?

Coriander has a different flavor from fennel, as it has citrusy and slightly sweet notes. While they are not the same, you might be able to use coriander in recipes that call for fennel, but the flavor will be different.

What does fennel taste similar to?

Fennel has a flavor reminiscent of licorice or anise, with a slightly sweet and aromatic quality. It’s unique and might not have a direct match in terms of taste.

Ji Eun Kim

Written by Ji Eun Kim

Don't listen to anyone who says you can't be vegan and do well in sports and fitness. Vegans can do great, look good, and feel awesome!

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