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What Is Star Anise And How Does It Differ From Aniseed?

While the name makes me think of ninja stars, star anise is actually a wonderfully aromatic spice used in cooking and baking to add a depth of warm flavor. 

The “star” comes from the shape of the pod. Ground star anise is one of the ingredients in Chinese Five-Spice powder. 

While star anise does have a similar licorice nuance as anise (also called aniseed), they come from completely different plants. Cool, huh? Nature is so amazing.

Let’s talk about where star anise comes from, how to use it, and how it differs from aniseed.

Table Of Contents

What is star anise?

Star anise is a spice consisting of seed pods from the Illicium verum, an Asian evergreen tree native to China and Vietnam. 

These star anise pods are picked before they ripen then undergo a drying process until they reach a deep brown or rust color. 

It’s sometimes confused with anise, but keep in mind that they’re two different ingredients. 

Star anise is one of the key elements of the Chinese five-spice along with fennel seeds, peppercorns, cloves, and cinnamon sticks. 

It has a distinctive appearance and looks like a small star with six to eight points, each containing a pea-sized seed. 

Also dubbed as Chinese star anise, this aromatic spice offers a sweet, licorice flavor profile and a warmth to meat like roast duck, tea, soup, and baked goods such as cakes and cookies. 

It’s even used to flavor jams, syrups, and cocktails. We consider it a fall flavor.

Famed for its distinct flavor and culinary application, this condiment is also considered a staple in Chinese cuisine.

What does star anise taste like

If you haven’t tried star anise in your recipes, the star anise flavor spice features a sweet and licorice flavor with a warm mouthfeel similar to cloves and cinnamon. 

It works well with a variety of savory and sweet dishes, ranging from roast duck to cookies.

How to use star anise in cooking

Star anise is a highly versatile ingredient that can be used in many ways—you can either use it as a whole or ground. 

Whole star anise can be tossed into soups and stews as well as braised dishes like chicken, beef, or pork. 

Dot hams with whole star anise instead of cloves for a different layer of flavor.

Add whole star anise to a potpourri to scent your kitchen!

Add to recipes where you might use nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, cloves or allspice. Here’s our list of star anise substitutes if you don’t have any on hand.

Meanwhile, ground star anise is more potent than the whole version so it’s advisable to use it in small quantities in your recipes and baked goods.

Anise vs star anise

Is star anise the same as anise? The quick answer is no. 

They may have similarities in name and flavor, star anise and anise are two different ingredients and unrelated. 

Star anise refers to the star-shaped spice from the Asian evergreen tree (illicium verum). 

It’s mostly used in Asian cooking, specifically in soups, stews, braises, and baked goods. 

Meanwhile, anise or aniseed is a small seed from pimpinella anisum plant. 

Like star anise, aniseed spice can be used either ground or whole for baked goods, ground meat, coffee, and even alcoholic beverages. 

It features brownish-gray color with a sweet, mildly spicy, and licorice flavor profile. 

Anise is popular in Italian, German, and Mexican cuisine.

Is star anise a spice

Yes, star anise is considered an aromatic spice. 

It comes from the seed pods from the Illicium verum, an Asian evergreen tree that originated in China and Vietnam. 

The star-shaped pods are harvested before they ripen then dried until their color turns deep brown or rust.

How to store star anise

Exposing your star anise to heat and light can affect its flavor and shelf life. 

The best way to store the spice is in an airtight container, preferably made of glass, in a cool, dark, and dry place like the spice cupboard in your kitchen.

It’s best to use glass containers as storage since plastic and metal containers often transfer their smell onto the spice and vice versa after some time has passed.

Here’s how to store star anise:

  1. Place whole star anise in a glass container. 
  2. Place the container in a cool, dark, and dry place. 
  3. Enjoy the spice for about a year.

Ground spice may start losing its flavor after six months, so it’s advisable to buy whole star anise and grind it when needed.

The bottom line

While we mentioned how star anise and aniseed have similar flavor profiles but come from different plants, they can be interchangeable when necessary. 

We also created a list of other substitutes for star anise when needed. 

Here’s a beautifully depicted recipe for five-spice powder over at Spruce Eats. 

Let us know what you’re making tonight with star anise!

How To Store Star Anise The Right Way

How To Store Star Anise The Right Way

CookingChew shares these easy and essential steps on how to store your favorite spice, star anise.

Ingredients

  • Whole star anise
  • Glass container

Instructions

  1. Place whole star anise in a glass container. 
  2. Place the container in a cool, dark, and dry place. 
  3. Enjoy the spice for about a year.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

jim

Tuesday 1st of March 2022

Is Aniseed used in any medicine for acid reflux.

Andi Reis

Tuesday 22nd of March 2022

Hi, Jim. I'm not sure about that one.

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