Anise Vs Fennel – Which Spice Holds the Key?

Anise and fennel, two plants with a striking resemblance, often leave people confused. While their appearance and flavor might be similar, they are indeed distinct. Anise has a strong licorice flavor, whereas fennel offers a delicate sweetness with a hint of licorice. Despite the mix-up, knowing the differences between Anise vs fennel is essential, especially regarding culinary and medicinal uses. Let’s delve into the world of anise and fennel to understand their unique characteristics and dispel any confusion.

What Are The Key Differences Between Anise Vs Fennel?

Anise and fennel may look and taste similar, but they have distinct differences. 

  • Origins: Anise, scientifically known as Pimpinella anisum, is native to the Mediterranean region and parts of Southwest Asia. It has been cultivated for centuries in Greece, Egypt, and Turkey. On the other hand, fennel, known as Foeniculum vulgare, also originates in the Mediterranean region. It is commonly found in countries like Italy, France, and Greece.
  • Appearance: Anise has long, slender seeds that are typically used for culinary purposes. These seeds have a dark brown color and a curved, oblong shape. On the other hand, fennel has broader, flatter seeds that are often used as a spice or for medicinal purposes. Fennel seeds have a light greenish-brown color and a more oval shape. When it comes to the overall plant, anise has feathery, fern-like leaves that grow in clusters, and its stems are thin and delicate. On the other hand, Fennel has feathery leaves that appear similar to dill. The stems of fennel are thicker and more robust.
  • Nutrition: Fennel is a good vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin A source. These nutrients contribute to maintaining a healthy immune system, promoting good vision, and supporting proper heart function. On the other hand, anise is a good source of calcium and iron. Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth, while iron is crucial for producing red blood cells and oxygen transport in the body.
  • Calories, Fiber: Both of these plants are low in calories and fiber, making them great choices for a healthy diet. However, fennel is actually a better source of fiber compared to anise. It contains more dietary fiber, essential for digestion and maintaining a healthy weight. Anise, on the other hand, has a slightly lower fiber content.
  • Seeds: Anise seeds impart a heavier licorice taste when added to dishes, bringing a bold and pronounced flavor to bread, cakes, and cookies. Fennel seeds can add a subtle licorice note to dishes, enhancing the overall taste profile.
  • Flavors: Anise is sweeter and stronger in taste, with a heavier emphasis on the licorice flavor. On the other hand, fennel has a milder taste with woodier and greener notes, making it less pungent.
  • Culinary Uses: Fennel can be roasted, grilled, or raw in salads. The bulb of the fennel plant can be thinly sliced and added to salads for a crisp and refreshing taste. Fennel seeds are commonly used in spice blends, sausage-making, and baking, such as rye bread. On the other hand, anise is primarily used for its seeds, known for their intense flavor. Anise seeds are commonly used in desserts, beverages like flavored liqueurs, and savory dishes like curries.
  • Shelf Life: Anise seeds can be stored for three to four years if kept in a dark, cool place, while fennel seeds have a slightly shorter shelf life of two to three years under similar conditions.
  • Can Be Used Interchangeably In Recipes? While anise and fennel seeds are not identical in flavor, they can be used interchangeably in recipes without a significant difference in taste. 

However, each seed has its own unique qualities that shine through in certain recipes. Fennel works well with heavier and savory dishes, while anise is great in desserts, bread, and even dairy products. So even though they may seem alike, anise and fennel have their own special uses in cooking and medicine.

Read more:

Similarities Between Anise And Fennel

similarities between anise and fennel

As a chef with experience and expertise, I can tell you that anise and fennel are strikingly similar. Firstly, both plants have a distinct licorice-like flavor that differentiates them from other herbs and spices. This flavor adds a unique and aromatic element to dishes.

Secondly, anise and fennel share a similar appearance. They both have long, slender stalks with feathery leaves, resembling the dill look. This resemblance can sometimes lead to confusion between the two plants.

Lastly, anise and fennel can be used similarly for culinary uses. Their seeds, in particular, are highly valued for their intense flavor. Both anise and fennel seeds are commonly used in spice blends, and they are often added to baked goods like bread, cakes, and cookies to impart their distinctive taste.

While anise and fennel may have similarities, it is essential to note that they are not interchangeable. Each plant has its unique flavor profile that shines in different dishes. As a chef, it’s crucial to understand these nuances and use the right ingredients to achieve the desired culinary outcome.

What is Anise?

what is anise

Anise is a plant that grows in the Mediterranean and Southwest Asia. Its seeds have a sweet and licorice-like taste that can be used in many different foods and drinks. You can add it to desserts like cakes and cookies to make them smell and taste amazing.

Anise also works well in meat and vegetable dishes to make them more flavorful. It can even make drinks like tea, cocktails, and liqueurs. Anise is different from star anise, so be careful when you’re buying it. It’s a spice that adds a special touch to any dish, so give it a try!

What is Fennel?

what is fennel

Fennel is a plant with feathery leaves and yellow flowers. It has a sweet taste like licorice and can be used in many dishes. Fennel is great in salads because it adds a crunchy texture and goes well with citrus fruits. You can also roast, sauté, or grill fennel to bring out its sweetness.

Fennel seeds are used as a spice and add a warm flavor to dishes. Besides tasting good, fennel is good for digestion and has vitamins and antioxidants that are good for your body. So, if you like to cook, give fennel a try in your recipes!

anise vs fennel seeds

Anise Bulb Vs Fennel Bulb

Let me explain the difference between an anise bulb and a fennel bulb. Anise bulb, also known as anise root, is not a commonly used ingredient in culinary preparations. It is primarily the seeds of the anise plant that are used in cooking and baking, thanks to their intense licorice flavor. On the other hand, fennel bulb is widely used in the culinary world, especially in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. The

The Fennel bulb has a mild licorice flavor with an added hint of woody notes. It is often roasted, grilled, or raw in salads, soups, and stews. Additionally, fennel seeds are popularly used in spice blends, sausage-making, and baking. So, while both anise and fennel bulbs share a licorice-like taste, the fennel bulb is the clear choice for cooking, as anise bulb is not commonly used in culinary applications.


In conclusion, when it comes to anise vs. fennel, it ultimately boils down to personal preference and the intended use. Experimenting with both herbs can open up a world of flavors and benefits in your culinary endeavors. So, the next time you’re at the grocery store, why not grab a bottle of anise seeds and a bulb of fennel and embark on a flavorful journey of exploration? Anise vs fennel – two herbs, each with distinct charms, waiting to enhance your dishes and improve your well-being.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *