6 Substitute For Fennel Seeds You Need To Know Before You Cook

There’s no doubt how essential fennel seed can be to several dishes, from French to Spanish and every dish in between.

However, there will always be times that we can’t use it, whether because it is not available in our local grocery store or just because one of your family members is allergic to it.

But there’s nothing to worry about this, there is plenty of substitute for fennel seeds available in the market, and they work quite well.

So for today, I’ve listed them all for you. If you want to know what are these great substitutes, then please keep on reading below.

Top 6 Fennel Seed Substitutes

These amazing fennel seeds are a great addition to your diet. They are not only an excellent spice, but they can also give you a wide range of health benefits.

But just in case something will get in your way, then don’t hesitate to use other equally good ingredients to your recipes.

Below are some of the ingredients you can use instead of fennel seeds.

1. Anise seed

Anise seed is the closest substitute. Many people say you can quickly switch fennel and anise as long as you will use the same amount, but this is not correct.

Anise seed
Substitute For Fennel Seeds – Anise seed

People might have been confused because these two plants are part of the Apiaceae family, and both are referred to as anise. But the truth is, even if both plants are comparable, they are very different, and their seeds come with variations in size, flavor, and texture.

Here are the key differences that you need to know!

  • Fennel is being considered as a vegetable, but anise belongs to the spice
  • Fennel seeds are a bit thicker than anise, hence it is best used for meats while anise comes in smaller seeds, so it works great with lighter dishes where fennel seed might strongly stand out.
  • Both are pungent, but anise is a little stronger

2. Caraway seeds

If your local grocery store keeps on running low with their fennel stock, then I suggest rather stock up some caraway seeds.

Substitute For Fennel Seeds - Caraway seeds
Substitute For Fennel Seeds – Caraway seeds

Caraway seeds have been commonly used for sauerkraut, rye bread as well as a range of sausages. You can pair it nicely with cabbage; if your recipe calls for any cabbage, this could be the best substitute.

If you run out of fennel while cooking for soda bread, cakes and biscuits, you can use caraway seeds to fill it with an earthy flavor. Other recipes you can use caraway as a substitute are briskets and various types of roast since this seed will add flavor to the meat without overpowering your dish.

3. Dill Seeds

Dill has a very similar taste to caraway. It has been commonly used in making dill tea and dill oil. It is also one of the most favorite seasons in America, and there are so many people I know that love to eat their chips and pickles with dill.

But do you know that though this seed comes from the brown part and flat oval of the herb’s flower, it is still related to parsley, cumin, carrot, and coriander? This is why it can often be used as a replacement for these.

Substitute For Fennel Seeds - Dill seeds
Substitute For Fennel Seeds – Dill seeds

Anyway, for your fish dishes, dill seeds can also be a good substitute for fennel seeds. All you have to do is sprinkle some chopped dill all over trout or salmon for balancing flavors.

So many cucumber dishes require dill, too, since dill goes better with acid foods, but you’ll be pleased to know that you can use dill on eggs too and even for rice, stews, and casseroles. 

But I have to warn you. Dill is not as aromatic as fennel seeds. However, these seeds come with a good amount of calcium content, better than milk. It is also a great source of magnesium, iron, and flavonoids, an antioxidant with antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

Dill seeds also work great in lowering your cholesterol, reducing depression as well as relieving menstrual cramps.

4. Cumin

No Mexican, Indian and Latin dish would ever be complete without cumin. It is one of the most famous spices all over the world.

When compared to fennel, cumin has this spicy taste but is gentler than chili and earthy scent, which makes both spices a bit different in terms of flavor.

Substitute For Fennel Seeds - Cumin
Substitute For Fennel Seeds – Cumin

People are also not using these two spices in the same way.

While fennel seeds are popularly being used in seasoning food while you cook, cumin seeds, on the other hand, often act as a garnish that can add texture to your sauces, salads, tortillas, soups and several other dishes that are already cooked.

Cumin is also being sold in powder form, which is great since it can easily blend with other seasonings like fajita seasoning and taco seasoning.

But the good news is, both cumin seeds and cumin powder is available in the mark all through the year, making them an easy-accessible substitute for fennel seeds.

When it comes to nutritional value, cumin also has something to boast. This herb can help your digestive system, improve your immunity, and even prevent cancer cells’ development.

A study also shows that cumin can treat insomnia and some respiratory disorders.

5. Licorice

Well, there’s no surprise to this. Of course, the best way to substitute a spice with a slight licorice flavor is by using an actual licorice powder.

This powder works best in both savory and sweet dishes, simply like fennel. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you can use these two spices in the same way.

Substitute For Fennel Seeds - Licorice
Substitute For Fennel Seeds – Licorice

You should know that licorice has a stronger flavor than fennel seeds, and since it has a high content of 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 only ½ teaspoon of licorice powder to bring the same flavor.

Also, licorice is being sold in raw root form. If you’re thinking of using it this way, you might need a bit of hard work to steep the roots in a hot liquid to bring out its flavor; you will use the liquid to season your dish.

The longer you will steep the licorice, the more intense the flavor will be.

So what benefit can you get from licorice? It has been named one of the best spices for modern diets because of its high content in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

6. Mahlab

This staple in most Mediterranean cuisine is widely be used in cookies and bread. This is because the seeds of Mahlab come with a taste that wonderfully combines sourness and sweetness, and its aroma is subtle.

Although this is not the best substitute for fennel seed, it can still be a good choice if supplies are running low. 

Substitute For Fennel Seeds - Mahlab
Substitute For Fennel Seeds – Mahlab

Mahlab is available in seed and powder form. If you are going to use the seeds, you will need to cook them before 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 well with various sweet dishes.

If you want to extract all the flavors of the whole 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, it would help if you noted 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. 

Final Thought

There are so many recipes that require fennel seed, but there will always be times that we don’t have this herb on hand.

So I suggest you shake things up and don’t limit yourself from exploring something a bit different.

Don’t hesitate to try out new cooking methods and substitute fennel seeds with your favorite dishes.

Sometimes the best dishes can be done when we run out of something and test new things.

How about you? Do you have a particular herb you use as a substitute for fennel seeds?

Let me know in the comment section below.

I would love to hear from you.

2 thoughts on “6 Substitute For Fennel Seeds You Need To Know Before You Cook”

  1. Hi there Nancy! Thanks for sharing this article about fennel seeds substitute. Like what you have said, there are so many recipes that requires fennel seed, but most of the time for me, I really find it hard to get this seeds. This is a very informative post so great read indeed!


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