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 rainy days.

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.

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 - millenora

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.

However, you should use it sparingly because it can raise 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

fenugreek seeds - millenora

Fenugreek is a legume but it tastes like fennel seeds. However, it is not as sweet as fennel seeds.

Therefore, when using it as a substitute, double the quantity of fenugreek seed you’re adding to the meal.

Ground fenugreek seeds make great rubs for meat. 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

anise seed - millenora

For fennel seed substitutes, look for anise seeds if you can’t find licorice. 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, 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 the whole form may not give you all the flavor you want.

4. Caraway seeds

caraway seed - millenora

Caraway seeds are close substitutes for fennel seeds. They have licorice and anise seed undertones.

If you love the bittersweet taste of fennel, but you’re more tilted to the bitterness, you’ll prefer caraway as an alternative for fennel seeds.

Moreover, caraway seeds also add the earthiness of fennel seeds to your meat dishes, savory dishes, cabbage dishes, soda, sausages, sauerkraut, and rye bread.

But you have to use the seeds in small amounts compared to the number of fennel seeds you’ll normally use.

5. Cumin seeds

cumin seed - millenora

Cumin seeds are very popular, and it’s easy to lay your hands on them if fennel seeds become 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 than fennel seeds. So, if you want more similarity in flavor, use cumin seeds in their whole form.

6. Parsley

parsley seed - millenora

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.

7. Celery

fennel seed substitutes - millenora

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

coriander seeds - millenora

Use coriander seed powder to give your meals the earthy aroma fennel seed gives but with an intense pungency. However, use coriander seeds sparingly because of their pungent smell.

9. Dill seeds

dill seeds - millenora

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. Use ½ or ¼ teaspoon of dill seeds in place of 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds.

10. Leeks

fennel seed substitutes - millenora

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

french tarragon - millenora

Another of the many fennel seed substitutes is French tarragon. This herb is closely similar to fennel seeds because it also has a licorice root flavor.

This is one of the things that makes it a great alternative to 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.

12. Mahlab

fennel seed substitutes - millenora

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 use 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

fennel seed substitutes - millenora

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 for baked goods and seafood dishes.

14. Anisette liqueur

fennel seed substitutes - millenora

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 cook meats in this liqueur instead of water to add a licorice flavor. It’s also a good option for creams and sauces, especially when you want the fennel seed flavor but not the grainy texture.

15. Fennel oil

fennel oil - millenora

Fennel oil at hand is almost as good as having fennel seeds. The oil is extracted from the seeds. Use fennel oil in place of fennel seeds when you want to flavor beverages, pastries, and sweets.

16. Mustard seeds

fennel seed substitutes - millenora

Mustard seeds have anise undertones but with a pungent smell. They are spicy with the earthiness of fennel seeds.

These seeds are great substitutes for fennel seeds 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 and will make your dish sweeter.

Moreover, you should have substitutes for fennel seeds stocked somewhere against the days of scarcity.

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.


You don’t have to stop making a great dish because you run out of fennel seeds. 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.

Also, see a list of annatto seeds, powder, paste, and oil substitutes to help your next dish.

Thanks for reading.