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Anise Seed vs Star Anise Difference Comparison (with Table)

Maria Foster
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by Maria Foster

When it comes to anise seed and star anise, both spices get their licorice-like taste from a chemical called anethole, but the similarities mostly end there. However, these two delicious spices have quite different origins.

Here’s how anise seed vs star anise differ:

  • Origin: Anise seed comes from the Mediterranean and Southwestern parts of Asia, while star anise comes from China and Southeast Asia.
  • Plant Type: While anise seed comes from a flowering, herbaceous plant, star anise comes from a tree. Star Anise is the fruit of that plant, while anise seeds are a part of the fruit.
  • Appearance: Star anise looks like brown eight-pointed stars while anise seeds are little, greenish seeds.
  • Shelf Life: Anise seeds can last for about four years, while star anise lasts for approximately three years. To store spices correctly, keep them in airtight containers and keep these containers in a cool, dark spot.
  • Flavor: Both spices contain anethole, a chemical that tastes similar to licorice. The precise flavors of each spice differ slightly, but they can both be used to add a licorice flavor to a dish. Star anise have a slightly more herbaceous taste while anise seeds have a sharper flavor.
  • Use: Both spices traditionally function in a variety of culinary and medicinal ways. Star anise and anise seeds have quite a few modern uses. These spices work in both sweet and savory culinary ways.

Difference Between Anise Star and Anise Seed

The main difference between star anise and anise seed is that they come from totally different plants from different regions of the world. There are several other ways that these spices are different.

Comparison Table Between Anise Seed and Star Anise

 Anise SeedStar Anise
PlantAnise (Pimpinella anisum)Star Anise (Illicium verum)
Plant PartPart of FruitFruit
Geographic OriginMediterranean, Southwest AsiaChina, Southeast Asia
Flavor TypeLicorice, SpicyLicorice, Herbaceous
Flavor LevelSpicySubtle
UsesCulinary, MedicinalCulinary, Medicinal
AppearanceSmall, GreenishLarge, Brown, Eight-pointed Star

Can You Use Anise Seed in Place of Star Anise?

You can use anise seed in place of star anise in certain circumstances. They both provide that lovely licorice-like flavor that adds a different dimension to your dishes. However, remember that anise seeds have a significantly stronger flavor than star anise. So, you will likely want to use a smaller amount of anise seeds than you may think.

It is also important to remember that these two ingredients are used in different ways, and these different uses can release different levels of flavor. For example, whole star anise will often create a more subtle flavor than ground star anise, and both of these uses will be more subtle than intact or ground anise seeds.

If a recipe calls for whole star anise to be removed later in the process, you will need to plan if you want to use anise seed as a substitute. You may need to contain the seeds in a cheesecloth or a strainer so they are easier to remove. You may also have to opt for a smaller amount of ground anise seed.

In general, you should use about 1/2 teaspoon of anise seeds for every crushed star anise. You can use fewer anise seeds for one crushed star anise with crushed anise seeds. Always keep in mind that spices can lose their potency over time, so you may need to use more of these spices if they are older.

Alternating star anise for anise seed is also possible depending on what you want to do with it. In many cases, such as in baked goods, you may want to grind the star anise so that you do not have to remove the whole star. However, in other cases such as in soups or sauces, leaving the star anise whole is probably fine.

What is Anise Seed?

Anise Seed
Anise Seed

Anise seed comes from the anise plant. Despite its name, anise seed is part of the fruit of this plant. This plant is related to parsley, and most parts of the plant taste like licorice. The stem and roots of this plant are also popular culinary ingredients. It originated in the Mediterranean and southwest Asia, though people now cultivate it around the world.

The etymology of this seed is interesting since its name is the result of mistaken identity. The name “anise” comes from the Latin word “anisum,” and that name was given to the plant after it was mistaken for dill.

How to Use Anise Seed

Anise seed is a popular ingredient in several Mediterranean and Asian dishes, and it also has some medicinal uses. These seeds are a popular way to flavor liqueurs such as absinthe.

While anise seed can be used in both sweet and savory ways, there are many ways that this spice flavors types of sweet food. A popular way to use whole anise seeds is in baked goods. This flavor is common in biscotti, on bread, and in German cookies.

You can use these seeds in many other, more savory ways, including in marinades for vegetables and meat, in spice blends, and as a way to flavor sauces. This ingredient often appears in Italian dishes such as marinara sauce and Italian sausage.

This spice is known for its medicinal uses. For example, it can have a positive effect on digestion, and it is a diuretic. This spice also has some antimicrobial properties that can help prevent the growth of fungi and bacteria. However, there is an indication that anise seeds can make the symptoms of endometriosis worse.

Consume Anise seeds in whole or powdered form for these medicinal properties. Anise seed oil can also be purchased and used for medicinal reasons.

What is Star Anise?

Star Anise
Star Anise

Star anise is a dried fruit that originates from a tree in China and Southeast Asia. It is used to season food and for medicinal purposes. This fruit lives up to its name as it looks like an eight-pointed star. These fruits contain dried seeds. 

The exact etymology of star anise is a bit complex. It is known as star anise in English due to the similarity in flavor to anise seed. In Chinese, this spice is known as bājiǎo, which means “eight horns,” and this name perfectly describes the spice’s appearance. 

How to Use Star Anise

There are a few different ways to use star anise in cooking. It is quite popular in a range of Asian cultures including in Vietnamese and Chinese food. Star anise can also work well for both sweet and savory dishes. Star anise is one of the spices found in the Chinese five-spice blend and some garam masala blends.

Depending on what you are making, you can add it to a dish in its whole form and then scoop it out before eating. You can also choose to grind up star anise before adding it to your dish. The intact spice is often used in mulled beverages and the beginning stages of sauces and soups, while the ground version works great in baked goods.

Star anise is traditionally a popular choice when it comes to creating complexity in savory dishes. This usage is because the flavors of this spice balance out fatty and savory flavors that you may find in meat-based dishes. Use this spice in dishes such as stews, pho soup, braises, and marbled tea eggs.

While this spice was traditionally used in more savory dishes, there are several popular sweet applications as well. Star anise is a popular spice used in mulled wine and other spiced beverages such as chai. There are quite a few dessert dishes that use star anise, including cookies, poached pears, and ice cream. 

This fruit is known to also have many medicinal purposes. It produces shikimic acid, a substance used in oseltamivir that combats the flu. Star anise is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat respiratory infections and digestive issues. In these treatments, the spice is steeped in warm water, occasionally with other medicinal herbs.

The Verdict

Both of these spices are great if you want to infuse a dish or beverage with a licorice-like flavor. They may come from different places, but they have surprisingly similar flavors that work well in soups, stews, and desserts. Try these spices if you want to explore traditional flavors and add some new flavor dimensions to your food. 

While they each have their traditional uses, you can easily use one in place of the other in a pinch. Simply make sure that you are using these spices in the proper ratios. You may even want to try using them in medicinal ways.

About Maria Foster
Maria Foster
Maria Foster is a mother of 3 and she and her husband of 23 years share their home with 2 faithful dogs. Besides being CEO of the household and active in her community, Maria is the lead contributor to Food Champs and loves to try new food ideas and kitchen accessories to make easier and more delicious meals.
Maria Foster
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