fennel vs anise seeds

Anise vs. Fennel – What Are The Differences?

Although they smell and taste similar, anise and fennel are not the same things. You should know this before you choose one or the other when cooking. These two ingredients can either ruin or improve your dish.

Stay tuned to know what anise and fennel have in common and how they are different. You can use the right kind next time you cook.

What Is Anise?

Anise is also called aniseed, and it is a flowering plant in the Apiaceae kind. The seed is native to Asia and the Mediterranean. It is often confused with star anise, fennel, licorice, and more because of its flavor.

You can use anise as a seed, whole, or ground for culinary purposes. The flavor is strong, and most recipes only call for a tiny amount. You can also make oil from the seed, but it is mostly part of aromatherapy as an essential oil.

These seeds are brown to gray in color and small in size, and they smell strongly of licorice. Europe, Egypt, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean regions have cultivated anise for centuries. The flavor in anise comes directly from the compound anethole.

Aside from the licorice flavor, anise also has sweet and mildly spicy notes. The anethole in this spice is slightly soluble in water, which is why it can turn drinks cloudy when you add it. In many cases, anise is an ingredient in bread, pies, ground meat, and other baked goods.

Anise is still the number one spice in alcoholic beverages, including sambuca and absinthe. It might also be part of candy-making for its particular flavor. In some recipes, anise can be part of coffee.

For many centuries, anise has been part of alternative medicine as many believe it can help treat gastrointestinal discomfort. It has also been used as an anti-anxiety medication and diuretic. It is also traditionally added to some root beers due to its medicinal properties.

anise seeds

Nutrition Facts

One tablespoon of anise (6.7 g) has the following nutritional content (*):

  • 22.6 calories
  • 1.18 g protein
  • 1.06 g fat
  • 3.35 g carbohydrate
  • 0.978 g fiber
  • 43.3 mg calcium
  • 2.48 mg iron
  • 11.4 mg magnesium
  • 29.5 mg phosphorus
  • 96.5 mg potassium
  • 1.07 mg sodium
  • 1.41 mg vitamin C
  • 1.07 µg vitamin A

Is Anise Healthy?

Anise seed is very healthy and brings a ton of health benefits. It also contains a good amount of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. You can enjoy anise without much problem and see its benefits quickly.

As mentioned earlier, anise is good for indigestion. While the evidence is limited, you can use this seed to prevent heartburn, ulcers, and nausea. Taking it after a meal, or when you feel full, can help treat your symptoms.

There is some evidence that anethole in anise can help lower blood sugar levels. (*) Although most studies are on animals, eating this seed could promote better glucose management and insulin sensitivity. You can include it in meals or beverages to help treat high blood glucose levels.

Other studies show that anise, specifically essential oil, can act as a powerful antioxidant. (*) Since it can stop free radicals and toxins, it will protect against cell damage, inflammation, and chronic illnesses. Taking it will not harm you and will likely protect you from harmful substances.

The same research found that anise could be used to protect against bacteria and infection. While the research is still small, there is some evidence that points to its relevance. Using it in your morning routine as an essential oil or in your food can help boost your immunity.

Finally, some individuals do have a sensitivity to anise. Those allergic to similar plants and seeds, such as fennel, parsley, celery, or dill, might also react to this one. In some cases, because it can behave like estrogen, anise can cause interactions in treatment for hormonal treatments or illnesses.

What Is Fennel?

fennel seeds

Fennel is a plant in the carrot family that can grow flowers. This plant is originally from the Mediterranean region but now grows worldwide. It tastes much like licorice, and it can be a substitute for anise.

At the base of the stalk is a large bulb that grows above the ground. There are long and light leaves that resemble dill on the stalk. Once it matures, fennel might grow yellow flowers that are also edible.

Although you can eat the whole plant, most recipes only call for fennel bulb. When this part is raw, it has a crispy texture and a strong licorice taste. Fennel caramelizes and tastes sweeter when you cook it.

You can use the fennel leaves too, but these are mostly regarded as a garnish or for salads. Many cultures use fennel, including Middle Eastern, French, Mediterranean, and Italian. Most fennel comes from India, China, Bulgaria, Iran, Mexico, and Syria.

This food also has some antioxidant properties that come from its phytochemical content. These substances are antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. In fennel you can find rosmarinic acid and luteolin.

Fennel or fennel leaves are present in many fish, egg, and vegetable dishes. Fennel seeds are also part of Italian sausage. The leaves might also be in herbal teas due to their strong flavor and aroma.

Nutrition Facts

One tablespoon of fennel seed (5.8 g) has the following nutritional content (*):

  • 20 calories
  • 0.916 g protein
  • 0.864 g fat
  • 3.03 g carbohydrate
  • 2.31 g fiber
  • 3.57 g sugar
  • 69.6 mg calcium
  • 1.07 mg iron
  • 22.3 mg magnesium
  • 28.2 mg phosphorus
  • 98 mg potassium
  • 5.1 mg sodium
  • 1.22 mg vitamin C
  • 0.406 µg vitamin A

Is Fennel Healthy?

Like anise, fennel is very nutritious. It contains a lot of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Using it can be safe and even bring some benefits to your health.

Fennel has some vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, but it also promotes the absorption of iron, the production of collagen, and boosts metabolism. Magnesium is important in calcium absorption, and potassium plays an essential role in heart rhythm.

As mentioned above, fennel is also high in phytochemicals, which have powerful antioxidant properties. Some of these include rosmarinic acid, chlorogenic acid, quercetin, and apigenin. Evidence shows that these phytochemicals can protect against heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases. (*)

Other studies reveal that fennel might be an appetite suppressant. Using this plant and seeds is safer than taking diet pills or other medications. Fennel can be used as a seed, in food, or in oil to help keep you satisfied longer. (*)

Because of its ingredients, fennel can also keep your heart healthy. It is high in fiber, which can keep your body clean of cholesterol plaques. It also has magnesium, potassium, and calcium, which keep your heart working well.

As with anise, fennel can have estrogenic properties, making it dangerous for certain women. Also, high levels of fennel oil can be dangerous for the development of the fetus. Pregnant women should avoid taking fennel-containing supplements but can consume this food through diet.

See more: What can I use instead of fennel?

What Are The Key Differences Between Anise and Fennel?

Are fennel and anise the same? The short answer is no.

The main difference between these two similar ingredients is how they are used. Anise is mostly used as a spice because only the seeds are valuable. When people use fennel, they can use the whole plant, including the bulb, leaves, and seeds.

Although many cannot tell their flavor apart, and that is why many confuse the two, they are not the same. Anise has a very sweet and powerful licorice flavor that does not change. Fennel is milder, and the flavor profile can change when you cook it.

These two foods are not part of the same cultures and cuisines. On the one hand, anise is key in many liqueurs, as well as Italian and German cuisines. Fennel can be found in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Chinese foods.

Nutritionally they are also different. Anise is lower in fiber and phytochemicals but contains a good amount of vitamins and minerals. Fennel contains more fiber and is very high in certain phytochemicals, making it a strong antioxidant.

Since their nutrition profile is not the same, their health benefits are not either. Anise is great for indigestion and relaxation. Fennel is great for bone and heart health and might even have some appetite suppressant properties.

One final difference is how you can eat these two foods. Anise is not usually eaten raw, as it is too strong, so you will likely only feel its flavor once mixed in with the food. Fennel can be cooked on its own and is consumed as a vegetable.

Anise vs Fennel Main DifferencesAniseFennel
Origin Egypt and the Middle East  Southern Mediterranean  
Cultivation Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Africa, China, Chile, Mexico, and the United StatesIndia, China, Bulgaria, Iran, Mexico, and Syria
Taste Sweet, spicy, aromatic, and string licorice notes Mild licorice flavor and sweet notes 
UseFlavoring in beverages, meat, candy, and bread Salads, relish, braising, stuffing, pizza, soups, and Italian sausage  
Cost$0.79 to 9.99 per container  $2.49 per bulb or $1.04 to 8.95 per container of seeds 
Calories per tablespoon 22.6 calories 20 calories 

Is Anise or Fennel Healthier?

Both anise and fennel are healthy and nutritious. Anise has a powerful flavor, which means you will likely not need the same amount as with fennel. However, fennel is more versatile and has a milder flavor.

Choosing fennel might be a better idea, given its fiber and antioxidant content. It is also cheaper since you can use every part of it. You can choose the bulb and cook it for a salad, the leaves for garnishing, or the seeds as a spice.

Either way, anise or fennel have a similar flavor profile, so you can choose whichever is easier. Keep in mind that you will not need the same amount whenever you substitute. Also, both of them offer different health properties depending on what you need.


Although you might be inclined to think these two foods are the same, do not make the mistake of confusing them. Anise and fennel are similar in flavor but do not share the same properties. Be sure to choose the correct ingredient next time you cook! 

*image by PantherMediaSeller&YAYImages/depositphotos

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