Fennel is a flowering plant related to parsley. The root and stalk are used as vegetables, but the seed is commonly used as a spice. Fennel seeds have been used in many different kinds of dishes, or even to freshen the breath after lunch or dinner. This spice is prevalent in Italian and French cooking, but also used in Indian and African cuisines. Fennel seed is also used in Chinese five-spice powder.
The flavor of this spice is described as sweet and mild, akin to licorice or anise. They are oval in appearance and greenish to yellow-brown in color. They are also used in many pasta sauces, pork dishes, and sausages.
Fennel Seed Substitutes
Despite coming from entirely different plants, anise and fennel have a very similar flavor profile and are even mistaken for each other. Take note that anise seeds are smaller and more pungent than fennel seeds. When using this spice as a substitute, use equal amounts as to what your recipe calls for. This can be used whole or ground.
Since Licorice has a similar flavor to fennel, it makes a good substitute for both fennel and anise. This ingredient can be used in sweet and savory dishes. Take note that licorice root is an actual root so you may need to steep this in liquid as you would with tea and use that to flavor your dish. Some may also use licorice powder. When using powder as a substitute, use half a teaspoon for every teaspoon that your recipe calls for.