Fennel is one of those herbs that you either love or hate. It is very common in many dishes, though, so it is used across many kitchens. However, if you don’t like the flavor, it may be hard to cook with it.
Don’t worry! There are some other options for you to try before giving up. Keep in mind that fennel has a particular taste, so most options will give a similar flavor. Still, we’ll make sure you have many options just in case.
What Is Fennel?
Let’s begin with the obvious, what is fennel?
This perennial plant from the Apiaceae family is common to the Mediterranean region but has now become native to many parts of the world. This herb is extremely aromatic, so it is often used to give your meal flavor and aroma.
Some other reasons people rely on fennel is because of its health benefits. Fennel contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, as well as omega 3 and 6, which are all good for your body, especially the nervous system. It is also high in antioxidants, which prevents oxidative stress and damage to your cells (*).
What Can I Replace Fennel With?
These are the best fennel substitutes you can find:
Best For Cooking, Baking, and Salads
#1. Anise Seeds
These seeds taste exactly like licorice, which is a great thing when you’re trying to replace fennel, and other seeds like star anise.
These seeds are very common in Mexican, Italian, German, and Indian cooking. You can use anise seeds as you would use fennel but taste them first, as some people find the licorice flavor too intense.
Anise seeds are common in some grocery stores, but you can also try a local farmer’s market. These seeds are great in bread, baked goods, and even hot drinks, like coffee.
#2. Caraway Seeds
These seeds have a slightly less potent licorice taste, but they work equally well in replacing other seeds, dill seeds, star anise, and of course, fennel.
Traditionally, caraway seeds are used in German, Russian, American, and Indian dishes, like potato salad, coleslaw, or curries. You can usually find caraway seeds at any organic or health store, but sometimes they sell them in grocery stores.
We recommend you to use the same amount of caraway seeds as you would use fennel. In this case, the flavor and aroma aren’t as overpowering, so they should taste great with your other ingredients.
See More: The Best Caraway Seeds Alternatives
#3. Star Anise
This pungent, licorice-like spice comes in a star shape and is very aromatic. This spice is often used in hot drinks like chai tea, or Southeast Asian recipes, like pho. If you want to replace fennel, this is a great idea. Star anise can also work in substituting dill seeds.
Because star anise comes as a whole star, we suggest you use it during the cooking process but then remove it before serving.
Allowing it to submerge will give off the flavors and aroma. You can probably find it in grocery stores, but your organic market will probably have it too.
See More: Star Anise Substitutes
#4. Dill Seeds
Different from regular dill, these seeds have a faint licorice flavor as well as a citrus aroma. They are common in soups, bread, pickles, and vegetable dishes. You can use them in place of other seeds and fennel when cooking and baking.
Dill seeds are not as common as the actual fresh herb, but you can usually find it at your local organic store or the farmer’s market. To start, use the same amount as you would fennel, but you may need to add more, for more flavor.
Related: What can you use instead of dill?
Best For Making Salmon, Soups, Lasagna, and Salads
This vegetable looks a lot like the fennel bulb, with its texture and structure. Celery works well in place of onions too, and in cooking fish soups or stews with salmon. You can buy whole celery anywhere, but check your farmer’s market and organic supermarket for more variety.
To substitute for fennel, use the same amount but consider only adding the stem. Celery is very tough to chew, so it may be best to cook it for a longer time to break down the fibers.
Related: What can be substituted for celery?
This choice also closely resembles a fennel bulb, so it can be a great addition to vegetable soups, broths, and cooking salmon. Yellow onion is the best choice because it is less pungent, but you can use any type in a pinch. To replace fennel, add about one whole onion for one fennel bulb.
Onions are very common in any grocery store, but if you want different sizes and colors, check your local farmer’s market. If you are using fresh fennel, try using red onion instead, for a similar taste.
See more: Best Onion Replacements
This substitute is a great alternative to onions and celery and goes very well with salmon, chicken, and other lean meats.
However, some people find the smell of parsley unpleasant, as they have a genetic predisposition that creates a soap odor. Consider this issue when using parsley, though, you will surely like this herb if you like Mexican food.
We prefer fresh parsley when it comes to replacing fennel. You can use a bunch of parsley and chop it down finely. Every grocery store sells it fresh, but if it is hard to find, you can use dried parsley too.
See More: Best Alternatives To Parsley
The best options to substitute for fennel bulb are celery stalks, onions, bok choy, and leeks. While the flavor and texture are important, these vegetables are a great option for both.
Yes, you can use the whole fresh vegetable, including the bulb, and leaves. However, fresh fennel tastes more citrusy and less pungent. Dried fennel seeds have a very distinct licorice taste, so if you need this flavor, use other seeds like caraway or anise.
The only difference between ground fennel and fennel seed is that the powder version has been ground finely. The flavor is the same, but in the powder, it is more concentrated, so if you are using it, adjust for potency.
Using fennel is a common practice for some people, especially when it comes to making Italian sausage or potato salad in the summer. Yet, sometimes we run out of things right before cooking, and instead of panicking, it is important to know our options. Try any of these seven alternatives instead, for a more flavorful dish.
See more: Difference between anise and fennel
*Photo by AndreySt/depositphotos