Star anise is a popular spice widely used in Vietnamese and Chinese cuisines. It is a star-shaped dark brown colored pod as the name suggests and obtained from an evergreen tree as a fruit. Its pungent licorice aroma commonly identifies star anise. This unique flavor comes from essential oils found on the inside walls of the anise pod. It’s also a common spice in Malaysian foods.
What is Star Anise Used for?
In native Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese culture, Star anise is mostly used in seasoning foods. There is a wide range of culinary recipes that can be flavored using this spice. These dishes include; beef stew, poultry, beer, etc. Ground star anise is used in baking and liquor production.
Unfortunately, Star anise could be difficult and expensive to find sometimes. This is why most people often use substitutes for star anise. However, this shouldn’t worry you, since you can easily come up with a substitution for star anise by blending a few other less expensive spices available. This article gives you insight on how to do it.
Health Benefits of Star Anise
Star anise is famous not only for its unique flavor and culinary use but also for medicinal benefits. It is rich in strong bioactive composites; It has antiviral capabilities due to the presence of shikimic acid. Star anise contains flavonoid anethole used as an antifungal. It’s also used as an antibacterial, and it contains extracts that inhibit the growth of bacteria.
Star anise contains antioxidants such as caffeic acid, coumaric acid, linalool, thymol, etc. which help in healthy skin, reduce the risk of cancer, promotes respiratory health, boost the immune system, aids in food digestion and blood circulation.
Possible Substitutes for Star Anise
What do you do when you don’t have star anise on your spice rack? No problem! You can use some other available spices like Allspice, fennel seeds, common anise, etc. as a replacement for star anise. However, its unique flavor may be unmatched.
Don’t confuse common anise for star anise, although they both give your dishes that licorice flavor. Common anise is best for baking and flavoring hot beverages. It has several health benefits, which makes it a preferred star anise alternative. However, most people develop allergic reactions using this spice.
Chinese Five Spice Powder
Like the name states, Chinese five-spice powder is a mixture of five different spices; fennel seeds, star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, cloves, and cassia. Since star anise is one of the ingredients, it makes an excellent whole star anise substitute. It is best used for baked foods and vegetables. The downside with this blend of spices is that not all ingredients in this mixture are always required in the food you are making and have less nutritional value.
Fennel seeds originate from the parsley family. They produce a sweet licorice taste; hence they can be crushed into powder and used as star anise substitute. Fennel has a mild flavor and is best for savory dishes, soups, and sauces. It’s a low-calorie spice with plenty of minerals like calcium, iron, etc. Unfortunately, it may cause digestion problems and skin reactions.
Despite its name, Allspice is not an assortment of different spices. It’s a single flavor made from pimento tree berries. It has a unique flavor that goes a long way to emulate star anise flavor. Allspice has several medicinal ingredients that give you a healthy body. Its disadvantages are: slows down blood clotting, lack of the licorice flavor, and in large quantities may cause stomach upset.
Cloves are popularly used in baking; however, they blend well with meat, desserts, sauces, and rice dishes; thus can be a substitution for star anise. Cloves carry plenty of nutritional value with lots of vitamins; however, it also may slow blood clotting.
Tarragon and Caraway Seeds
Caraway has a mild anise flavor while, on the other hand, tarragon has a strong anise flavor. A blend of these two spices produces perfect star anise replacement. This blend has many health benefits like treating digestion problems, loss of appetite, and toothache. On the contrary, too much caraway can reduce sugar levels, and tarragon slows blood clotting.
Star anise is popularly used in both sweet and savory dishes. For those who love its licorice taste will want to have it frequently. However, it’s difficult to find spice and can be expensive too. So, substituting is the best way to go if you want the flavor at a low price.