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The flavor of black licorice is so unique that it’s hard to mistake it for something else. Where that flavoring comes from, however, isn’t as easy to determine. There are several herbs, spices, and seeds that can impart a similar flavor to a recipe. The two that often get confused, though, are anise vs licorice. Are they similar? Are anise and licorice used the same way?
You’re about to find out.
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What is Anise?
Anise (Pimpinella anisum) is a flowering plant that blooms with clusters of small white flowers. Interestingly, anise, or aniseed, is also part of the parsley family. That said, you don’t consume the leaves but the seeds.
You can find anise throughout the eastern reaches of the Mediterranean and Southwest Asia.
Just a quick note: Star anise and anise are often used interchangeably in recipes, but their sources are different. Star anise comes from a separate plant that is found in Vietnam and China.
What is Licorice?
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), also spelled as liquorice in some countries, is part of the pulse (pea) family and grows with a taproot, much like a carrot or parsnip. The licorice that is used in cooking is a dried section of the taproot. Licorice grows naturally in Central and Southern Europe, as well as Asia.
Fun fact: Licorice root isn’t ready to harvest for 3-5 years from the time of planting. The taproot can reach 4 feet (1.2m) deep within that time.
There is a lot to say about licorice, namely about how controversial of a plant it’s become. Although touted for its health benefits, licorice root can also be detrimental—which may be a reason it’s rarely used in licorice candy these days.
Is Anise The Same as Licorice?
No, anise is not the same, nor is it identical to licorice. In shape and form, the plant species are entirely different, with the former being an herb and the latter being a legume. The only thing that makes anise and licorice similar is their flavor and uses.
Does Anise Taste Like Licorice?
Between anise vs licorice, if you were asking which one tastes better, it would be hard to say. Anise and licorice taste like one another. Fennel, star anise, and aniseed all taste like black licorice candy. While licorice root was originally used to flavor said famous sweet treat, many manufacturers have stopped using licorice root in favor of anise.
Where does the licorice flavor come from? A compound known as anethole. Interestingly, anethole is most abundant in anise and star anise, not licorice root.
So, if you were debating anise vs licorice for flavor, it is best to use anise to get the taste you want.
Anise vs Licorice—What’s The Difference?
Anise and licorice aren’t the same thing. Aside from being harvested from two dissimilar plants, there is one other blatant difference between anise and licorice: flavor.
Wait. What? They’re used interchangeably, right? Yes, but there’s a reason anise is used more often than licorice in baking.
Anise is aromatic, spicy yet sweet. In recipes, you get a delightful scent that is backed with a citrus-laced sweetness.
On the other hand, licorice can be overpowering. The root is both bitter and sweet, and you get a note of camphor. You might find licorice root more often in savory recipes incorporating meats.
Can You Substitute One For The Other?
Yes, this is a common practice. You can substitute licorice for anise and vice versa. The flavor is very similar, so if you don’t have a particular spice, another one can take its place.
Sometimes, using anise instead of licorice might be better. Licorice is more woody, meaning it won’t dissolve as well as anise in water. However, both licorice and anise taste better when first ground up then simmered in water (depending on the recipe).
The only time you might not be able to substitute anise for licorice is when a recipe calls for the black licorice color. Anise can’t make up for that!
Anise vs Licorice—How Do You Use Them?
Both ingredients have loads of flavor, and they are fairly easy to use in cooking. Here are ways to use anise and licorice in cooking:
How to Use Anise
Both the seeds, whole or ground, can be added to dozens of recipes:
- Beverages. Originally anise was cultivated as an ingredient for beverages. Many sodas, such as ginger beer and root beer, contain anise.
- Alcohol. Anisette, sambuca, absinthe, and ouzo are all flavored with anise. The flavor makes these drinks popular after dinner or for flavoring coffee.
- Baking. Cakes, cookies, pastries, and bread are given an added punch. Use whole or ground anise seeds in the dough or spice up a fruit-filled pie. Try anise in biscotti, pizzelles, pfeffernusse, and springerle.
- Tea. When brewed as a tea, anise can add with digestion and help increase appetite.
- Savory recipes. Soups, vegetable dishes, poultry, and fish can all be flavored with ground anise. Salads also gain some citrus flavor from anise.
How to Use Licorice
Like anise, licorice is very versatile:
- Chinese Five Spice. Licorice is one of the five spices featured in this popular blend.
- Ginger and mint. If a recipe incorporates ginger and mint, you can add a dash of licorice to make it more delicious.
- Meat rub. Grind up licorice root when cooking pork and rub it on the meat to tenderize and enhance the flavor.
- Chewing the root. You can find dried pieces of licorice root. Pop one in your mouth and chew. You will find it gets more and more sweet. The one caveat is that you shouldn’t chew it for too long, since you don’t know how much licorice you’re consuming.
- Tea. Add more depth to your tea with a few licorice leaves.
Can You Make Anise Extract at Home?
Tired of running out to the store in search of anise extract? You can make your own at home. You will need a Mason jar or something similar, a cheesecloth, vodka, and anise seeds.
From there, it doesn’t take much to get anise extract:
- Clean and sanitize the jar. Make sure nothing can contaminate your extract.
- Add 1 tablespoon of anise seeds to the jar.
- Pour in a ½ cup of vodka.
- Place the jar somewhere dark and cool for about 2-3 months.
- When the extract is ready, unscrew the lid, use the sieve or cheesecloth, and strain the seeds from the liquid.
- You’re done!
Now you can go crazy making sweet treats from across the globe.
How To Make Anise Tea
Want something warm, sweet, and orange-y? Try homemade anise tea. One warning before you start: Measure out your anise carefully. Too many seeds or leaves can make the tea taste bitter.
Here is how you make anise tea:
- For every cup of boiled water, measure out 1-2 teaspoons of aniseed. Let the boiled water cool slightly before adding the leaves and seeds, so they don’t lose their medicinal benefits.
- If you have a leaf filter, use it. That way, you can place the leaves inside and let the flavors develop more slowly in the tea.
- You can make the tea more flavorful with milk, honey, or a dash of ground ginger or cinnamon.
- Let the tea brew in the teapot (or mug) for about 5 minutes before you take a sip.
You might be worried about drinking the seeds or leaves, but it’s safe. Anise in all its forms is safe for consumption.
Anise vs Licorice—Which is Better for Health?
Cooking up healthy food is, without a doubt, a form of medicine. That is why it’s important to weigh the health benefits of anise vs licorice when deciding what to use.
Both anise and licorice have medicinal uses:
The Health Benefits of Anise
Remember anethole? The compound plays a role in relieving asthma and menstrual pain. It’s one small reason why anise is seen as a vital seed in both culinary and health communities.
Aniseed also have high amounts of iron (and many other nutrients), can improve digestion, and help you fall asleep. According to some studies, anise may also help lessen the effects of depression. While more research has to be done, what’s known right now is promising.
If you experience bloating or stomach issues, drinking anise tea or adding some into your diet could help.
The Health Benefits of Licorice
Licorice is commonly used as a digestive aid. Across the globe, people have used licorice for:
- Calming heartburn
- Easing stomach pain
- Soothing ulcers
- Toning the respiratory system
- Antimicrobial and antiviral properties
As with all good things, you don’t want to have too much licorice. The glycyrrhizic acid found in licorice can cause side effects when consumed in excess.
In the worst scenario, eating too much licorice will deplete the potassium in your body and disrupt your metabolism. You might also feel muscle weakness. Blood pressure can also increase. Some people have also experienced leg swelling, heart attacks, headaches, and kidney problems.
If you have diabetes, hormone-sensitivities, liver, heart, or kidney diseases, avoid eating more than 30 mg of licorice a day.
Is Licorice a Laxative?
You may have heard that black licorice is good for constipation. Or, those who don’t know the difference between anise vs licorice may fear that both can cause gastrointestinal issues. However, anise doesn’t have the same effects on the body as large amounts of licorice.
Remember, you should never go over 30 mg of licorice per day. Nasty effects could occur if you go overboard.
Ending the Great Anise vs Licorice Debate
You wanted to know which is better: anise vs licorice? Hopefully, you now have an idea. Anise doesn’t carry with it the same safety warnings as licorice, but both can be used safely in most cases. Anise and licorice can both be used in desserts, tea, alcohol and more hearty meals. Depending on the other ingredients, one might be a better compliment for your meal. However, whichever one you choose, you are bound to be in for a delicious treat!
Does anise taste like black licorice?
Black licorice tastes like anise because it is flavored with anise extracts, not licorice root. In the past, black licorice candy used to be flavored with licorice, but many manufacturers have switched to anise, since it has a slightly sweeter profile.
Is anise in black licorice?
Yes, anise is an ingredient that is used to flavor black licorice candy. This is why anise is often confused for licorice root. Anise is also used to flavor licorice-flavored teas. However, the anise and licorice plants are not related.
Does anise smell like licorice?
Yes, anise does smell like licorice. The scent is related to a chemical compound present in both plants called anethole, making them also similar to star anise and fennel.
Why is anise bad for you?
Presently, there is no scientific evidence to conclude that anise is bad for anyone. If you have an allergy to celery, asparagus, fennel, coriander, or something similar, you could have a reaction to anise. That said, anise is safe to consume in the amounts regularly used in food. Licorice, on the other hand, comes with several health warnings, especially for those over the age of 40.