6 Amazing Fennel Seed Substitute Will Make You Surprised

Fennel is used both as a spice and as a vegetable. It is a flavorful and healthy addition to a variety of dishes, such as meats, fishes and sauces. In many recipes, fennel seeds are something that you cannot leave out.

However, we cannot always have them on hand or even buy them from local stores. This is the time that fennel seed substitutes bring into play.

But trying to go a different path to get the same destination is not easy. If you go wrong, you might destroy everything. That’s why we created this article for you.

Not only do we introduce you to a variety of fennel seed substitute that you can put your faith upon, but we also teach you how to use them correctly to get the best result.

Top 6 Ingredients That Used As Fennel Seed Substitutes

1. Anise

Anise and fennel seeds are quite similar in flavor that they are sometimes mistaken for each other. They’re both pungent, but anise is a bit stronger. In terms of size, anise seeds are a little thinner. This means these seeds can easily be switched out with an equal amount when used as a substitute for each other.

While fennel is commonly used in meats as a vegetable, anise is more suitable for adding flavor to desserts and pastries as a spice. Their seeds can be used either whole or ground. No matter which one you choose to season your dishes, they both create a distinct licorice-like flavor.

In addition, anise seeds boost your food’s nutritional value. That’s because they’re full of microelements, including calcium, zinc, iron, potassium, copper, etc. They’re also a rich source of antioxidants and vitamins.

2. Caraway

In spite of being called seeds, they’re actually fruits but very small (about 1/4 inch) and look slightly like fennel seeds. In terms of flavor, fennel seeds and caraway seeds are similar. The difference is that caraway has a stronger licorice flavor and a bitter aroma. In other words, caraway lacks the sweetness of fennel and has a somewhat nutty note.

Caraway seeds can be a great substitute for fennel seeds when you make rye bread or soda bread. Besides, you can put them into almost all types of roasts as they add flavor and aroma to the meat without causing overpowering. In several dishes, such as sausages or briskets, they’re also the good choice.

Vitamin C in caraway is an effective antioxidant that is proven to aid congestions and colds. Caraway seeds are also able to prevent constipation since they’re a rich source of dietary fiber; each 100g of seeds provides 38g of fiber.

3. Dill

Dill seeds are most commonly used to make dill oil and dill tea. They’re also a favorite seasoning in the USA, and many people love eating chips and pickles will dill. In terms of flavor, they’re similar to caraway and can be utilized in many similar manners. Although they’re tangy (the same as coriander), they’re not as aromatic as fennel seeds. The licorice flavor of dill is also more subdued.

Dill seeds are considered a good fennel seed substitute when it comes to fish dishes, including salmon. Besides, dill is great for making sauces or salad dressings. They can come in two forms: dried and fresh. While the dried spice lasts long, the fresh one only lasts for two days even when it’s stored in a fridge.

This seed contains more calcium than milk. It’s also an excellent source of iron, magnesium, as well as flavonoids – an antioxidant offering anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Other benefits of dill seeds include lowering cholesterol, relieving menstrual cramps and reducing depression.

4. Cumin

Widely used as an important ingredient in plenty of Latin, Indian and Mexican dishes, cumin is one of the most popular spices in the world. In comparison with fennel, cumin has a spicy taste (more gentle than chili) and earthy scent, which makes them slightly different in terms of flavor.

The way people use these seeds in cooking is also not the same. While fennel seeds are commonly used to season the food while cooking, cumin seeds usually act as a garnish to add texture to salads, sauces, soups, tortillas and some other dishes which are already cooked.

Cumin is also available powder form which easily blends with other seasonings, such as taco seasoning and fajita seasoning, to produce distinct new tastes. Both cumin seeds and cumin powder are sold all year round, which makes them an easy-accessible fennel seed substitute.

In terms of nutritional value, cumin aids the digestive system enhances immunity and prevents cancer cell development. It’s also able to treat some respiratory disorders and insomnia. You might need some substitutes for Cumin

5. Licorice

It’s not surprising that a spice having a slight licorice flavor can be substituted by actual licorice powder. It can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, just like fennel. But this doesn’t mean you can use these spices in the same way.

Licorice is stronger in flavor and extremely sweet because of containing a high content of glycyrrhizin – an active component 50 times sweeter than sugar. Therefore, it’s necessary to use a lesser amount of licorice to replace the fennel. For example, half a teaspoon of licorice powder brings a similar flavor to a full teaspoon of fennel seeds.

Also note that licorice is also available in raw root form. If you want to use it in this way, you have to do a little hard work that is steeping the roots in hot liquid to bring out the flavor, then using this liquid to season your dishes. The longer you steep, the more intense flavor you can get.

Along with turmeric, licorice is considered one of the best spices in modern diets due to its high content of minerals, antioxidants and vitamins.

6. Mahlab

Mahlab is the staple in Mediterranean cuisine, which is widely used in breads and cookies. Its seeds have a taste that combines between sweetness and sourness, and have a subtle cherry aroma. Although they’re not the best fennel seed substitute, they can be the choice when supplies run low.

Mahlab comes in forms of seeds and powder. If you use seeds, you should cook them before adding them to sweet and savory dishes. This way, you can get rid of the bitter aftertaste as well as release the rich and fruity flavor that blends well with a variety of sweet dishes.

Another way to get all the flavors of whole Mahlab seeds is to grind them down with a pestle. This task seems to be effort-wasting, but if you find the right tools on hand, it will become easy. Also, keep in mind that mahlab seeds have oils that dissipate quickly after getting contact with the air, so you should do that right before adding them to your dishes.


I did several trials to come up with this list. Now, it’s your time to explore by yourself. Whether you intend to replace funnel with them or simply add them to your favorite dishes, don’t hesitate to do that as soon as you can.

Do you enjoy these fennel seed substitutes? We hope that you will be confident when your next recipe calls for fennel seeds. Don’t forget to let us know which seeds you tried. 

There are many ways to cook better if you know about food substitutes in specific cases. You also can try some in my blog: goat cheese substitute, gochugaru substitute.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the box below. If you like our post, share it with others. Thank you for reading!

Kevin Richard

Hi all! I’m Kevin. I spend plenty of time in the kitchen every day because I love cooking healthy and delicious foods for my family and friends. Cooking gives me a chance to be creative and fun. It’s also one of the most meaningful ways to express my love and take care of my little family.

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