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I've noticed that in some recipes Anise seeds can be used interchangeably with Fennel seeds. I understand their taxonomical differences but in regards to taste, can they be used interchangeably without any big difference in taste?

For example, I've found a lasagne recipe which calls for fennel seeds. I do not have any but I do have Anise seeds (not star anise). Could I use the Anise seeds in the recipe without much noticeable difference?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I thought this was an interesting question, so I went into the kitchen and had a comparative chew. Anise Seed (or aniseed where I come from) is smaller, darker and gives a more immediate anise hit, but it fades quickly. Fennel seed is two or three times larger and paler. When you chew it, there's little flavour at first, but then a wash of anise flavour comes in. I think fennel tastes a bit softer, smoother, "greener" and more rounded.

If I had to substitute anise for fennel, I'd probably use a third or even a quarter of the original quantity. Although you might just want to leave it out. I agree with bikeboy - the great joy of fennel in Italian food is biting on fennel seed and getting that green-spicy hit in a meat dish (oh! I have a pasta dish with sweet Italian sausage, tomato, cream and fennel that is to die for). I don't think you'd get the same effect with anise.

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Kudos for doing a direct taste-test and describing it well! –  bikeboy389 Feb 16 '11 at 22:29
    
Thanks for sharing the results of your kitchen experiment! (That pasta dish sounds delicious! Is it online anywhere?) I posted a link in bikeboys comments if your interested in some other literature on the same subject :) Ps - your username is my father's name + initial so that was a bit of a laugh when it looked like my dad had responded to my question :P –  justinl Feb 16 '11 at 22:31
    
Soften a couple of sliced red onions to golden in a good splosh of olive oil. Stir in four large italian sausages (remove the skin and crumble them in), two cloves of sliced garlic, four sprigs of rosemary finely chopped, 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds and a half-teaspoon of chilli flakes. Cook over a low heat until sausage is well browned (about 15 mins). Stir in a (400g) tin of tomatoes, chopped and simmer while you cook 1lb pasta (penne is good). Add 5fl oz heavy cream and some grated parmasan to the sauce. Toss the sauce with the drained pasta and serve with more parmasan. Enjoy. –  Paul L Feb 17 '11 at 7:41
    
I think it's originally from The River Cafe in London, who produce a range of superb books if you like simple, gutsy Italian food. –  Paul L Feb 17 '11 at 7:44
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I found a bread recipe that called for fennel seeds, but I only had anise seeds available. I used the anise seeds and the bread came out quite well, with a nice smell and taste of anise, but not over powering. I do not know what the bread would be like with fennel seeds.

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I would not say that those two are directly interchangeable. While their flavors/aromas might remind you one of another when tasted separately, are really pretty different when compared directly.

Fennel seed is milder, sweeter and less astringent compared to anise seed, in my experience, so you'd have to adjust for potency and while biting into a fennel seed can be "exciting" biting into an anise seed would be much more so.

You could try it, but I would not do a 1-to-1 substitution, and I would really expect a very different result than if you just used fennel seed. Maybe I'm wrong here, but that's my $.02

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Thanks for the info bikeboy. I just found this article on the net that specifies Anise Seed as an "ideal substitue" for fennel. I'm not trying to argue against your thoughts, but would you in general disagree with what they say? buzzle.com/articles/fennel-seed-substitute.html –  justinl Feb 16 '11 at 22:28
    
@justin: All I can say is that their summary doesn't really agree with my own taste experience. I admit that I read that before posting my answer and kind of rejected it out of hand because they seem to suggest that caraway, cumin or dill seeds are equally good (or nearly so) substitutes for fennel seed, though they differ VERY significantly in flavor in my book. They might be good in the same dishes, but they are nothing like each other. –  bikeboy389 Feb 16 '11 at 22:33
    
thanks for your excellent responses. I do agree that I felt some of their choices didn't make sense to my taste experience as well, which sort of discredited the article in my mind as well. Thanks!!! –  justinl Feb 16 '11 at 22:35
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