Use Any of These 16 Fennel Seed Substitutes to Save Your Next Recipe

Fennel seeds are one of those spices that give your dishes subtle notes of sweetness. If you love the subtle sweetness and aroma of fennel seed give your meals, you need to have substitutes for the rainy day.

Everyone tries to stock up on their favorite kitchen ingredients, but sometimes getting restocked is not too easy. Other times, you run out of ingredients, and you need a quick alternative. Perhaps you need spices that taste like fennel to enhance its flavor, or you may be allergic to fennel seeds.

For whichever reason you need another spice or herb to substitute for fennel seeds, you picked the right article. Continue reading to see other spices or herbs just as good as fennel seeds.

What Is Fennel Seed?

Fennel seeds are the seeds of the fennel plant, which is both a culinary and medical herb. In the seeds are essential oils that also serve various purposes. The seeds have a licorice-like taste and scent that make meals and drinks taste and smell flavorful.

European, Indian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cuisines use fennel seeds to make flavorful and savory dishes. The seeds are ground as spices for making sauces, soups, fish dishes, curries, bread, pickles, pancakes, condiments, confectionery, and beverages.

Cooking with or using fennel seeds for medicinal purposes offers a lot of benefits. It can help with weight management, increase milk production in lactating mothers, reduce asthma symptoms, clear acne, reduce retention, reduce indigestion and bloating, and prevent cancer.

Fennel Seed Substitutes

1. Licorice Root

licorice root - cheffist

The licorice root powder is probably the first substitute for fennel seeds that comes to mind. Fennel seeds taste a lot like it anyway. The licorice root powder is sweeter than fennel seeds. So, it is a good substitute when the subtle sweetness of fennel seeds won’t suffice for your dishes.

In addition, you should use licorice root powder sparingly because it affects your blood pressure. The licorice root powder is a good substitute for sausage and beverages. Use ½ teaspoon of licorice root powder as an alternative for 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds.

2. Fenugreek Seeds

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Although fenugreek is a legume, it tastes like fennel seeds. However, it is not as sweet as fennel seeds. Therefore, if you’re using it as a substitute, you should double the quantity of fenugreek seed you’re adding to the meal.

Ground fenugreek seeds make great rubs for meat. However, you should pan-roast the seeds first to get rid of the bitter taste. Also, use it alongside other spices like paprika and coriander.

3. Anise Seeds

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For fennel seeds substitutes, if you don’t find licorice, look for anise seeds. Yes, it has a licorice undertone and fennel earthiness, although with a more pungent smell. The close similarities make it easy to use an equal substitution ratio of 1:1 in sweet dishes, desserts, and savory meals.

In addition, if you want to get the best out of anise seeds, grind them into powder before adding them to dishes. Why? Anise seeds are thicker and using them in while form may not give you all the flavor you want.

4. Caraway Seeds

caraway - cheffist

Caraway seeds are close substitutes for fennel seeds. They have undertones just like licorice root and sometimes like anise seeds. If you love the bittersweet taste of fennel, but you’re more tilted to the bitter taste, you can use caraway as an alternative for fennel seeds.

Moreover, caraway seeds also give your meat dishes, savory dishes, cabbage dishes, soda, sausages, sauerkraut, and rye bread the earthiness of fennel seeds. But you’ll like to use the seeds in small amounts compared to the quantity of fennel seed you’ll normally use.

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5. Cumin Seeds

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Cumin seeds are very popular, and it’s easy to lay your hands on them if fennel seeds go scarce. Just like fennel seeds, cumin has an earthy taste but is a little spicier than fennel. Also, you can either use cumin seeds in their whole form or ground them into powder.

Powdered cumin is more potent that fennel seeds. So, if you want more similarity in flavor, use cumin seeds in their whole form.

6. Parsley

fennel seed substitutes - cheffist

If you have a bottle of parsley seeds in your kitchen cupboard, you can use it as a substitute for fennel seeds. The strong aroma, spiciness, and licorice undertone of parsley make it a good spice for soups, stews, and fish dishes. Moreover, it gives your meals the earthiness of fennel seeds.

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7. Celery

Celery stalks are great substitutes for fennel seeds in soups, sauces, curries, and dishes with a vegetable base. If you want the subtle flavor of fennel seeds, use celery powder for desserts. For a more pungent aroma and strong taste, use celery leaves in place of fennel seeds.

These versatile vegetables give your meals a mix of strong and subtle flavors. Use celery as an alternative for fennel seeds in a ratio that suits your meals and preferences.

8. Coriander Seeds

Use coriander seeds powder to give your meals the earthy aroma fennel seed gives but with an intense pungency. If you opt for coriander seeds powder to replace fennel seeds, use it sparingly.

9. Dill Seeds

fennel seed substitutes - cheffist

If you need a more pungent and somewhat bitter substitute for fennel seeds, use dill seeds. They are not as flavorful or sweet as fennel seeds. It is why they are good replacements for fennel seeds in savory dishes. Dill seeds give a tangy zest when you use them as rubs for meat and fish.

Furthermore, if you love to pickle fennel seeds, you can do the same with dill. When using dill, be careful with the quantity you add to your meals because it is s little spicier than fennel. You can use ½ or ¼ teaspoon of dill seeds in place of 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds.

SEE: Alternatives for Dill That Taste Just as Delicious

10. Leeks

Leeks and fennels are both in the carrots family. However, by themselves, they cannot fully give the licorice undertone that fennel seeds give. The best way to use leeks in recipes that call for fennel seeds is to pair them with other herbs or spices that taste like licorice.

11. French Tarragon

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Another of the many fennel seed substitutes is French Tarragon. This herb is closely similar to fennel seeds; it also has the licorice root flavor. This is one of the things that makes it a great alternative for fennel seed. Moreover, it makes it easy to make an equal substitution ratio (1:1).

Additionally, this herb gives your dishes a complex aroma with a peppery taste.

SEE: Tarragon Substitutes and How to Use Them

12. Mahlab

fennel seed substitutes - cheffist

If you love dishes with a complex taste, use mahlab seeds. It gives meals a combination of sweet and sour. Although they do not share a lot of similarities with fennel seeds, they make good substitutes still.

When you add mahlab seeds to cookies, dairy puddings, and baked goods, they taste like you used fennel seeds. Additionally, mahlab seeds taste like cherries and this aroma lends sweet and savory dishes a hand.

Pro tip: precook mahlab seeds before you add them to sweet and savory dishes.

13. Pernod Absinthe

pernod absinthe

Pernod Absinthe is a French liqueur that has notes of anise and licorice. It’s great for fish dishes and making steaks. You can also use Pernod as a substitute for fennel seeds when baking and making seafood dishes.

14. Anisette Liqueur

anisette liqueur

Adding alcohol to dishes isn’t a new trend. You can use anisette liqueur as a substitute for fennel seed. This liqueur is an aniseed-flavored liquid with low alcohol content. It makes a good alternative for fennel seeds in meals that need liquid flavor.

For instance, you can use it to cook meats instead of water to give the meat a licorice flavor. It’s also a good option for creams and sauces, especially when you don’t want the grainy texture of fennel seeds, but you want the flavor.

15. Fennel Oil

If you have fennel oil, it’s almost as good as having fennel seeds. The oil is extracted from the seeds. Use fennel oil to replace fennel seeds when you need to flavor beverages, pastries, and sweets.

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16. Mustard Seeds

fennel seed substitutes - cheffist

Mustard seeds have anise undertones but with a pungent smell. They are spicy with the earthiness of fennel seeds. In all, the seeds are great substitutes for fennel seed when making rubs for meat and almost any recipe.

Why Does Fennel Seed Need Substitutes?

For some delicacies, you will need more than the subtle sweetness and bitter taste fennel seeds have to offer. For such dishes, you need substitutes that smell like fennel will make your dish sweeter.

Moreover, you’ll need to have substitutes for fennel seeds stocked somewhere against the days of scarcity. Sometimes, stores run out of items, and you may need these items before they are restocked. With fennel seed substitutes available, you don’t have to suspend great meals.


Why are fennel seeds called cumin seeds?

Fennel seeds are sometimes mistaken for cumin seeds, but they are not the same. Both seeds look alike, but on closer observation, you’ll find that they have their differences. Fennel seeds are green, while cumin seeds are brown.

Can you use a fennel bulb as a substitute for fennel seeds?

Yes, you may replace fennel seeds with fennel bulbs if you don’t mind the bulb changing the texture of your dish.

What are the best fennel seed substitutes for curry?

For curries, you can substitute fennel seeds with cumin and celery seeds to enhance taste and aroma.

What is the best fennel substitute for soup?

If you run out of fennel seeds when making soup, replace them with celery seeds or parsley. Either of these will help you achieve the mild flavor you want to get with fennel seeds.


If you run out of fennel seeds, you don’t have to stop making that dish. If you have licorice root, fenugreek, coriander seeds, or any of the listed substitutes, you can use them to make a nice dish.

When next you go grocery shopping, remember to add these fennel seed substitutes to your list. They’ll help in emergencies.

Thanks for reading.

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