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What Is Anise? (Uses, Best Storage Method & More!)

Ever wondered what is anise and what it’s used for? Don’t worry–we’re here to help! Learn everything about this ancient spice, from its humble beginning to its best storage method! 

While preparing the ingredients to make your newfound dish, you notice that one of the spices required is anise (ANN-iss). 

You’re scratching your head as it’s your first time encountering the spice, but don’t panic–you will get to know this popular spice in this FAQ guide!

Anise, also known as aniseed, is a seed from the anise plant (Pimpinella anisum) native to Egypt and is used to make both sweet and savory dishes. 

Due to their similar licorice nuance, people usually confuse anise with star anise; however, they come from completely different plants. 

Let’s talk more about what is anise, where it comes from, how to use it, and its possible storage method in your kitchen.

Table Of Contents

What is anise?

Anise (Pimpinella anisum) is a fragrant herb that belongs to the Apiaceae family, which also includes carrots, celery, and parsley. 

It is considered one of the oldest spices used in culinary applications, with its appearance way back in ancient Egypt and later in Rome, Greece, and the Middle East.  

The anise plant is mainly cultivated by its oil and seeds (fruits), which are also called aniseed.

Generally, this ancient spice is combined with other spices, like cumin, coriander, cardamom, and parsley, to create a plethora of recipes ranging from sweet to savory. 

Romans use anise in making cakes and sweets, while in India, people incorporate them in creating desserts, curries, and tea

Aniseed features a herbal, sweet taste and has a delicate licorice flavor, but it’s not as strong as black licorice–it’s not surprising that our ancestors were so fond of using the spice in EVERYTHING. 

The anise seeds can be found whole or ground in the spice section of your grocery store and are considered a more expensive substitute for star anise (but worth it!). 

In modern cooking, it’s commonly found in classic French dishes like this Bouillabaisse (French Fish Stew).

It adds a sweet licorice flavor to dishes that help balance out other intense flavors like seafood or meat.

What does anise taste like?

Anise closely resembles the flavor of licorice and fennel. 

It’s used in both sweet and savory recipes, and it has a bright, warm taste that pairs well with other ingredients, like vanilla.

Anise’s flavor comes from anethole—a chemical compound that also gives fennel seeds their distinctive flavor. 

If you’ve ever eaten a slice of baguette with fennel seeds sprinkled on top, you’ve tasted something similar to anise!

How is anise different from star anise?

Anise and star anise are two spices you might come across when you’re cooking, but they’re not the same thing. 

Even though they come from different plants, anise and star anise share a common thing: both feature a sweet, licorice-like flavor.

These spices are commonly used in dishes that call for ingredients like cinnamon or cloves (which is why you might see them together in recipes).

Star anise is often used in Chinese cuisine, particularly in sweet and sour chicken or Pad Thai dishes.

Anise is also sometimes added to savory dishes like meatloaf or pasta bolognese.

But it’s typically used more sparingly than star anise since its flavor can be overpowering if it isn’t balanced correctly with other ingredients.

Ground anise vs anise seed

It’s easy to get confused between ground anise and anise seed.

It’s impossible to get confused between ground anise and anise seed, but one thing is for sure: Both ground anise and anise seed are common in culinary and pastry applications. 

Ground anise is a spice made from the seeds of the anise plant, and it has a pungent licorice flavor popularly used in baking and desserts.

It’s also found in the French liqueur called pastis, which is sometimes considered a substitute for absinthe.

Anise seeds are whole seeds from the anise plant.

They have a milder, sweeter taste than ground anise, but it’s still quite distinct from other spices. 

Anise seeds are most often used in baking bread and cakes, but they can also be added to savory sauces or sprinkled over salads or roasted vegetables.

How to store ground anise

The whole anise can last for 3 to 4 years when stored in a cool, dark place; meanwhile, ground anise can lose its flavor faster than whole seeds. 

In fact, a popular food company, McCormick, tells their consumers that their anise seed product has a shelf life of almost 2 years when correctly stored. 

They added that the spice should “avoid exposure to heat, humidity, direct sunlight and fluorescent light to maintain flavor and color.

Here’s how to store ground anise at home: 

Tools needed:

  • Ground anise
  • Container with a tight-fitting lid

Instructions for storing ground anise at home:

  • Place your ground anise in an airtight container and cover it with a tight-fitting lid. 
  • Store the container in a cool, dark spot in your kitchen, preferably in your cupboard.

Pro tip: Ensure air can circulate each container—this will also help prevent spoilage!

How to store anise seed

Anise seeds are one of the most versatile spices in your pantry. 

They’re great for various dishes, from desserts to main courses.

But how do you store anise seed? 

And where should you keep it? 

Here’s how to do it: 

Tools needed:

  • Anise seed
  • Airtight container

Instructions for storing anise seed at room temperature:

  1. Place your anise seed in a tightly sealed container. 
  2. Store it at room temperature, away from heat, humidity, and direct sunlight.

Pro tip #1: You can also store anise seeds in your freezer, but ensure they’re tightly wrapped, so they don’t become freezer burnt.

Pro tip #2: If you’re planning on storing your anise seed for more extended periods, consider buying vacuum-sealed bags for storage.

Ways to use anise in cooking

Anise is a magical spice that you can use to add depth and complexity to many dishes. Here are some of the tried and true ways to use anise:

Anise has a lovely warm licorice flavor that goes well with cumin, paprika, and cinnamon. 

Try adding just a pinch of anise powder to your next batch of chili powder or taco seasoning!

Anise is a natural complement to vanilla, so this is a great way to make your vanilla extract at home without any artificial flavorings or additives. 

Just add 1 cup vodka and 2 cups sugar to 1/4 cup whole anise seeds in a jar and shake every day for two weeks before straining out the solids and using as needed!

Anise can add sweetness while allowing the other flavors in these baked goods to shine through! 

Add 1/4 teaspoon of anise extract per cup of flour in any recipe where you’d like an extra boost of sweetness without making things too cloying—maybe try going with just half.

Ways to use anise

Have you ever tried Italian anise cookies? 

They’re a treat that’s worth the trouble of taking out different pots and pans.

The cookies are also rolled around in some powdered sugar prior to baking.

This step ensures that the cookies come out satisfyingly crisp.

These Anise Seed Cookie Rings are a sweet treat that will make your mouth water as soon as you set eyes on them.

They are perfect for both breakfast and dessert, and they’ll impress your guests at holiday parties, too. 

No one will be able to guess that the ground-up seeds are what give these cookies their unique flavor!

The best way to make these cookies is to use a sheet of baking parchment to create round, circular shapes with the dough.

Then, cut out rings with a pizza cutter or large cookie cutter. 

Bake them at 350°F for about 10 minutes or until they turn golden brown.

Let them cool before you decorate them with melted dark chocolate and sprinkles!

These Anise Seed Sugar Cookies are a great recipe to try if you want to spice up your next bake sale.

While they might not be an everyday kind of treat, they’re definitely worth the effort if you want to make something special for a holiday or special occasion.

Anise seed sugar cookies are made with a simple dough that’s rolled out into thin sheets and cut into fun shapes before being baked. 

While the dough is cooling on a rack, you can prepare your icing by beating together powdered sugar, butter or shortening (or another type of fat), and milk or water until it reaches your desired consistency. 

Once the icing has been prepared, simply use a pastry brush to paint each cookie with icing and allow them to dry completely before serving. 

Throw in some sprinkles or other decorations after they’ve dried but before decorating them with more icing for a more fun and festive look.

If you’re feeling ambitious, try making these for Christmas as well by using red sprinkles instead of green ones!

Anise Biscotti are the classic Italian cookie, made from anise seeds and almonds. 

They are crunchy, crumbly cookies that are ideal for both sweet and savory dishes alike.

It’s made from flour, eggs, and sugar, and it has a crunchy texture that makes it perfect not only for dipping into your coffee or tea, but also with savory dishes like soups, stews, and sauces.

It’s important to note that anise biscotti is not the same thing as “anise seed” cookies—the latter are usually made with spices like nutmeg or cinnamon instead of actual anise seeds. 

If you want to make sure your anise biscotti tastes exactly like the ones you get at the bakery, make sure to use ground-up anise seeds instead of whole ones!

The bottom line

Anise is something you can incorporate into almost any dish.

So if you’re looking for a new spice to try, it’s worth adding anise seeds or ground anise to your pantry. 

You can find both of these items in most grocery stores, but if you’re having trouble locating them, try buying them online!

How To Store Anise

How To Store Anise

The best way to store anise is at room temperature. Learn how to keep your favorite spice at home in this FAQ.

Ingredients

  • Anise seed
  • Airtight container

Instructions

  1. Place your anise seed in a tightly sealed container. 
  2. Store it at room temperature, away from heat, humidity, and direct sunlight.

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