Anise vs Licorice:

Anise and licorice are both popular ingredients in food and drinks, often imparting a unique and beloved flavor to various treats. While their flavors may seem similar, they have distinct characteristics that set them apart from each other. Knowing the differences between these aromatic substances can help you make better choices when it comes to flavoring your recipes, picking out food, or simply enjoying your favorite candy or herbal tea.

The plant-derived flavorings can be traced back to different sources. Anise, or aniseed, comes from the seeds of the Pimpinella anisum plant, a native of the Mediterranean region. It has a strong, sweet aroma and a mild licorice-like flavor. On the other hand, licorice is derived from the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant, which is native to Europe and parts of Asia. In addition to having a sweet flavor, licorice is also known for its potential medicinal properties. Understanding the nuances of their profiles will allow you to better appreciate their individual roles in various culinary creations.

Key Takeaways

  • Anise and licorice have distinct flavors and origins
  • Anise comes from the seeds of the Pimpinella anisum plant, while licorice is derived from the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant
  • Understanding their differences can help enhance your culinary experience

Anise and Licorice: An Overview

You might have heard of anise and licorice as flavors commonly used in candies, beverages, and even traditional medicines. Though both have a distinct sweet taste, anise and licorice have differences in origin, uses, and health benefits.

Anise, or aniseed, is a plant native to the eastern Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia. It belongs to the Apiaceae family and is scientifically named Pimpinella anisum. The seeds of the anise plant are used as a flavoring agent due to their sweet and aromatic taste. You might have come across anise in various forms, such as in cookies, liqueurs like Ouzo and Anisette, and even teas.

Licorice, on the other hand, refers to the root extract of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant, which is native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. Licorice root has a sweeter taste than anise, and you can find it in candies, beverages, and even as a natural remedy for various ailments. Licorice flavor is often used in confections, cough drops, and traditional medicines.

When it comes to medicinal uses, both anise and licorice have been used for their potential health benefits. Some of the potential benefits of anise include:

  • Relief from digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and indigestion
  • Managing symptoms of respiratory illnesses like cough and congestion
  • Acting as a mild diuretic to promote healthy kidney function

Likewise, licorice has been used for medicinal purposes such as:

  • Soothing an upset stomach and heartburn
  • Reducing inflammation and irritation in the respiratory system
  • Treating skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis

However, it is crucial to remember that while both anise and licorice offer potential health benefits, you should consult your healthcare professional before using either for medicinal purposes.

Now that you have a brief overview of anise and licorice, including their origins and potential health benefits, you can explore these unique flavors even further. Whether you choose to enjoy them in your favorite treats or delve into their medicinal properties, these natural ingredients offer a wonderful world of sweetness and health advantages.

Anise Explained

What is Anise?

Anise, scientifically known as Pimpinella anisum, is a flowering plant native to the eastern Mediterranean region and southwest Asia. The seeds, which have a distinct licorice-like flavor, are the most commonly used part of the plant. Its unique taste is often found in various recipes, and it even offers some potential health benefits for you.

Anise in the Kitchen

You’ll find anise in a variety of culinary applications, from cooking to baking. It is often utilized in both sweet and savory dishes:

Sweet Recipes:

  • Anise cookies
  • Pizzelle (Italian waffle cookies)
  • Biscotti

Savory Recipes:

  • Sausages
  • Curries
  • Stews

In addition to providing your dishes with a unique flavor, anise can also help improve the overall taste experience by enhancing the flavors of other ingredients involved.

Benefits of Anise

Aside from its culinary uses, anise has been praised for its possible health benefits. Containing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it is a popular choice for those seeking natural remedies for various ailments:

  • Digestive Aid: Consuming anise may help with digestion by reducing bloating and gas, while also alleviating symptoms of indigestion.
  • Antioxidant Properties: Anise is thought to be a rich source of antioxidants, which can help your body fight against the harmful effects of free radicals.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Due to its potential anti-inflammatory properties, anise may be useful for relieving minor aches and pains, as well as contributing to overall wellness.

Keep in mind that anise’s health benefits may vary depending on individual factors, and you should consult a healthcare professional before using anise as a remedy for any specific health concerns.

Licorice Unwrapped

What is Licorice?

Licorice is a flavor derived from the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant. This perennial legume, commonly known as licorice plant, is native to southwestern Asia and southern Europe. The key compound responsible for the sweet and distinct taste of licorice is glycyrrhizin, which is up to 50 times sweeter than sugar.

Licorice in Culinary

In cooking, licorice is frequently used as a flavoring agent in baked goods, candies, and beverages. Here are a few ways you can incorporate licorice into your recipes:

  • Baking: Use ground licorice root or licorice extract to add a sweet, complex flavor to cookies, cakes, and pastries.
  • Candy: Licorice is a popular ingredient in confections like salted licorice, chewy candies, and pastilles.
  • Beverages: Brew licorice root tea for a soothing, naturally sweet drink, or use licorice syrup to flavor cocktails and mocktails.

Benefits of Licorice

Licorice is not only a delicious flavoring but also offers numerous health benefits. Some common medicinal uses for licorice include:

  • Digestive support: Licorice has a long history of use as a digestive aid, helping to alleviate symptoms of indigestion, heartburn, and stomach ulcers.
  • Immune system boost: The glycyrrhizin in licorice shows potential antiviral and antimicrobial properties, which can help support your immune system.
  • Respiratory relief: Licorice has been used to treat respiratory ailments such as coughs, sore throats, and bronchitis, thanks to its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.

Keep in mind, it’s important to consume licorice in moderation due to the potential side effects of excessive glycyrrhizin consumption. Always consult your healthcare provider before using licorice root or supplements as a complementary treatment.

Comparing Taste and Flavor

When it comes to the taste and flavor of anise and licorice, you might find some similarities, as well as several differences between the two. Both are known for their unique flavors, often used in a variety of sweets and treats.

Anise has a distinct taste, which is typically described as sweet and spicy, with a hint of mint. This flavor is primarily due to the presence of anethole, an essential oil found in anise seeds. Despite its sweetness, anise also has a strong licorice flavor. In fact, it’s this licorice taste that makes anise a popular ingredient in many candies, liqueurs, and baked goods.

In contrast, the flavor of licorice root is a bit more complex. While it still possesses a recognizable licorice taste, it’s not as sweet as anise. Licorice root has earthy and woody notes, along with a touch of bitterness. The sweetness present in licorice root is due to glycyrrhizin, a compound that can be up to 50 times sweeter than sugar. However, the overall flavor of licorice is milder and less intense than that of anise.

When comparing their sweetness, it’s important to note that anise and licorice have different sources of sweetness. Anise’s sweetness comes from its essential oil, while licorice derives its sweetness from the compound glycyrrhizin. This difference in sweetness levels might influence your choice, depending on the intensity and type of flavor you’re searching for.

Now that you have a better understanding of the taste and flavor profiles of anise and licorice, you can make more informed decisions when selecting the right ingredient for your recipes. Just remember, the key to getting the desired result lies in knowing the distinct characteristics of each and how they’ll bring depth and richness to your creations.

Differentiating Health Benefits

When it comes to the health benefits of anise and licorice, there are some key differences to consider. Both herbs have medicinal uses, but they can offer distinct advantages for various health concerns.

Anise has a long history of being used as a digestive aid. This spice can help reduce bloating, gas, and stomach discomfort. It works by relaxing the muscles in your gastrointestinal tract, promoting digestion and easing discomfort. If you suffer from indigestion or other stomach issues, incorporating anise into your diet may provide relief.

Licorice, on the other hand, contains a compound called glycyrrhizin which contributes to many of its health benefits. Among these benefits is its ability to soothe a sore throat and relieve cough. Gargling with or consuming licorice-infused beverages can help alleviate throat irritation and reduce cough frequency.

Both anise and licorice possess antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are critical in maintaining your overall health, as they protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals. Incorporating these herbs into your diet can boost your antioxidant intake and potentially enhance your immune system.

It’s important to note that, like with any natural remedy, moderation is key. Consuming excessive amounts of licorice, for example, can lead to adverse effects, such as high blood pressure or low potassium levels. As always, consult a healthcare professional before using any herb as a form of treatment or self-care.

In sum, anise and licorice showcase different health benefits that can be helpful for various ailments. Whether you’re seeking to improve digestion or soothe a sore throat, these herbs can offer natural remedies to consider.

Anise and Licorice in Drinks

When you’re looking for a unique flavor in your beverages, both anise and licorice can bring delightful twists to your taste buds. These two distinct flavors, derived from different plants, found their way into a variety of drinks, from teas to alcoholic concoctions.

Anise is derived from the Pimpinella anisum plant, while licorice comes from the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant. Their flavors might be similar, but you’ll notice the differences once you delve into the world of drinks they enhance.

Starting with tea, anise tea is a popular brew enjoyed for its soothing and aromatic qualities. To make anise tea, simply steep crushed anise seeds or a teabag in hot water for a few minutes. The result is a warm, sweet, and slightly spicy beverage that not only tastes great but also offers potential digestive benefits. Licorice root can also be used to make tea, providing a mildly sweet, earthy flavor. It is often combined with other herbs such as peppermint or chamomile to create a more complex blend.

In the realm of alcoholic beverages, both anise and licorice play starring roles in various drinks from different cultures. For example, ouzo, a Greek anise-flavored liqueur, is a traditional drink served as an aperitif, often diluted with water or ice. Similarly, arak, common in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean, is an anise-flavored spirit, typically mixed with water and ice and sipped alongside a leisurely meal.

Those fond of licorice flavors also have plenty of options to explore. Salmiakki Koskenkorva, a Finnish vodka-based liqueur, features a strong salty licorice flavor that might seem unusual at first but often becomes an acquired taste. Another licorice-infused delight is absinthe, originally a Swiss elixir, which derived its anise and licorice flavors from the herbs used in its green or clear varieties.

Mixologists also get creative in using anise and licorice in cocktails. Anise has found its way into classics like the Sazerac and Corpse Reviver No. 2, while licorice root gives a delectable twist to drinks such as the Licorice Latte Martini.

Whether you enjoy these flavors in your tea or as part of an evening indulgence, anise and licorice are versatile ingredients that can elevate your drink experiences.

Anise and Licorice in Cooking

When it comes to incorporating distinct flavors in your cooking, both anise and licorice can offer unique tastes to elevate your dishes. Though they might seem similar, these two spices have differing characteristics that make them stand out in the culinary world.

Anise, known for its sweet and aromatic flavor profile, is derived from the seeds of the Pimpinella anisum plant. This spice is a popular choice to enhance the flavors of various sweet and savory dishes. You can find anise as a key ingredient in several recipes, such as cakes, cookies, and bread. Not only does it work well in desserts, but it also adds a delightful touch to savory meals, such as sausages, stews, and even some seafood dishes.

On the other hand, licorice comes from the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant and has a somewhat similar flavor to anise. Nonetheless, licorice has its own unique, sweet, and earthy taste. It is commonly used in candies and sweets, as well as a flavoring agent in beverages like root beer and some herbal teas. Additionally, it provides a subtle complement to savory dishes, such as braised meats and sauces.

Here are a few tips on using anise and licorice in your cooking:

  • To incorporate anise into your recipes, you can use it in its whole seed form, ground into a powder, or even as an essential oil.
  • When using licorice, you can opt to utilize it as a powdered form, dried root sticks, or an extract.
  • As both anise and licorice have strong flavors, make sure to start with small amounts and adjust according to your taste preferences.
  • Don’t be afraid to get creative and use these spices in various dishes, as they can bring an exciting layer of complexity to your culinary creations.

By exploring the use of anise and licorice, you’ll be able to enhance your cooking with their delightful and intriguing flavors. Give them a try in your next recipe, and discover the unique tastes and aromas that they can bring to your dishes.

Anise vs Licorice: Key Differences

When it comes to anise and licorice, you might find yourself wondering what sets these two ingredients apart. Although they share a similar flavor, there are a few key differences to keep in mind as you use them in your cooking or enjoy them as treats.

Firstly, anise and licorice come from distinct plants. Anise, scientifically known as Pimpinella anisum, is an annual herb that belongs to the Apiaceae family. It’s native to the eastern Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia. On the other hand, licorice is a perennial legume that grows in Europe and Asia, and its scientific name is Glycyrrhiza glabra. Even though both plants provide that characteristic sweet, aromatic flavor reminiscent of black licorice candy, they do so through different compounds.

In anise, the primary component responsible for its distinctive taste is anethole, which is also found in other plants such as fennel and star anise. Meanwhile, licorice owes its flavor to glycyrrhizin, a compound known to be 30-50 times sweeter than sugar. These distinct compounds explain why the flavors of anise and licorice may taste similar at first, but can be distinguished upon closer examination.

Another notable difference between the two lies in their culinary applications. Anise is frequently used in its seed form to flavor a variety of dishes and beverages, including liqueurs like anisette and ouzo. Its sweet, aromatic taste lends itself well to baked goods (such as cookies, bread, and pastries), as well as savory dishes like soups and stews. In contrast, licorice is often used in candies and confectioneries, particularly the traditional twisted black licorice ropes. Additionally, licorice root extract is often employed in herbal medicine due to its purported health benefits, such as soothing sore throats and aiding digestion.

In summary, the key differences between anise and licorice are:

  • Anise and licorice come from different plants.
  • The primary flavor compound in anise is anethole, while licorice derives its taste from glycyrrhizin.
  • Anise is commonly used in various cuisines, while licorice has more applications in candies and herbal medicine.

By understanding these differences, you’ll be able to make the best choice for your recipes and personal tastes. Happy cooking and enjoy the unique flavors of both anise and licorice!


In the great debate of anise vs. licorice, you’ve learned that while these two ingredients share similarities, they are distinct in taste, source, and use. Anise comes from the seed of the Pimpinella anisum plant, whereas licorice is derived from the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant.

Adding either anise or licorice to your recipes can enhance and complement other flavors, but remember that they can taste quite different. Anise has a sweeter, more subtle flavor, while licorice carries a stronger, more bitter taste. This means you can experiment with both ingredients to find your preferred balance and discover the unique qualities each brings to your dishes.

As you incorporate these flavors into your culinary adventures, keep in mind that they are often featured in different cuisines. Anise is commonly found in European and Mediterranean recipes, while licorice plays a more prominent role in traditional Chinese medicine and other Asian recipes.

So go ahead, embrace the flavorful world of anise and licorice, and enjoy the varied taste sensations they can bring to your culinary creations. In doing so, you’ll discover new twists on classic dishes and perhaps even invent some fantastic new flavor combinations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main differences between anise and licorice?

Anise and licorice are two distinct plants which might seem quite similar at first glance. Your first main difference is that anise (Pimpinella anisum) is an herb in the parsley family, while licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is a legume, related to beans and peas. They both have sweet and aromatic flavors, but the compounds responsible for these flavors differ – anethole in anise and glycyrrhizin in licorice.

Is there a difference in flavor between anise and licorice?

Yes, there is a difference in flavor between anise and licorice. While they both have a sweet and aromatic taste, anise tends to have a warm and spicy flavor reminiscent of fennel and star anise. On the other hand, licorice has a sweeter and slightly bitter taste that is unique to glycyrrhizin, its primary compound.

Are aniseed and licorice derived from the same plant?

Aniseed and licorice are not derived from the same plant. Aniseed comes from the fruit of the anise plant, which is in the parsley family, while licorice is derived from the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant belonging to the legume family.

How do star anise and licorice relate to each other?

Star anise and licorice relate to each other through their similar flavor profiles. Star anise (Illicium verum) is an entirely different plant, belonging to the magnolia family, but its seeds share the same sweet, aromatic, and warm taste as anise due to the anethole compound. Although licorice has a somewhat different taste, their flavors are often used interchangeably in recipes or together in products like tea blends and candies.

What are some popular anise and licorice flavored candies?

Some popular anise and licorice flavored candies include:

  • Aniseed balls: hard candies with a strong anise flavor.
  • Black licorice twists: classic candies with a sweet and slightly bitter licorice taste.
  • Licorice allsorts: a colorful mix of licorice candies in various shapes and flavors.
  • Salted licorice: a popular Nordic treat that combines licorice flavor with a salty taste.
  • Anise bear-shaped gummies: soft, chewy gummies with a delicious anise flavor.

Do fennel and anise contribute to the flavor of black licorice?

Fennel and anise can contribute to the flavor of black licorice, but not all black licorice products contain these ingredients. The main flavor in black licorice typically comes from licorice root extract. However, some candy manufacturers might use anise, fennel, or anethole as flavor-enhancing ingredients, imparting a similar taste to licorice.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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