Anise vs Licorice

When exploring the culinary world, you may encounter anise and licorice, two ingredients that are often confused due to their similar flavors.

Despite their comparable taste, which is a sweet and somewhat spicy flavor reminiscent of fennel or tarragon, anise and licorice originate from different plants and have distinct botanical properties.

While anise is derived from the seeds of the Pimpinella anisum plant, licorice comes from the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant.

Your understanding of their unique characteristics can greatly enhance your knowledge and use of these flavors in cooking.

Anise and licorice plants grow side by side, their distinct leaves and flowers contrasting in the sunlight

Each of these ingredients has a rich history and an array of uses in both cuisine and traditional medicine.

Anise, with its aromatic and spicy nuances, is used commonly in baking and the making of liqueurs.

On the other hand, licorice, known for its more potent flavor profile, is prominent in candy-making and various sweet treats around the globe. Additionally, it has been used medicinally, particularly in herbal remedies for various ailments.

In your kitchen, distinguishing between anise and licorice will allow you to select the right ingredient for your recipes.

While the two can sometimes be used interchangeably, their individual qualities could have a significant impact on the outcome of your dish.

Whether making teas, confections, or savory recipes, recognizing the subtle differences will contribute to a more refined palate and a greater appreciation for these aromatic flavors.

Overview of Anise and Licorice

Anise and licorice plants stand side by side, with their unique leaves and distinct aromas

In this section, you’ll gain insights into the unique attributes and uses of anise and licorice, learning about their origins, culinary roles, key flavors, and potential health benefits.

Origin and Botanical Aspects

Anise, scientifically known as Pimpinella anisum, is a flowering plant from the Apiaceae family. Its seeds are the main source of its flavor.

Licorice, or Glycyrrhiza glabra, is a legume that grows from a root system and belongs to the Fabaceae family.

Culinary Uses

  • Anise: Primarily used as a spice and flavoring in baking and cooking. It imparts a sweet, aromatic taste to recipes such as cookies and cakes.
  • Licorice: Used as a flavoring in candies, beverages, and a variety of confectioneries due to its strong, characteristic sweetness.

Key Flavor Components

Anise contains anethole, an organic compound that provides a sweet and very aromatic flavor profile, often compared to the taste of licorice but milder.

Licorice’s potency is primarily due to glycyrrhizin, which is considerably sweeter than sugar.

Traditional and Medicinal Uses

Anise is celebrated for its ability to aid in digestion and its soothing qualities.

Licorice has been employed for its medicinal properties, such as treating coughs or constipation, and sometimes soothing stomach ulcers.

Health Benefits and Considerations

Anise is known for its potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

While licorice offers similar advantages, glycyrrhizin can lead to higher blood pressure, and caution is advised for individuals with hypertension.

Growing Conditions and Horticulture

  • Anise: Thrives in a light, fertile, well-drained soil under full sun.
  • Licorice: Requires deep, fertile, well-drained soils and also prefers full sun or partial shade.


Anise, known for its sweet and aromatic flavor profile, is an herb revered in culinary and medicinal circles alike. The seeds, extracted from the Pimpinella anisum plant, contain anethole, which is responsible for the distinctive taste that is often compared to, but not the same as, licorice.

Distinctive Characteristics

Anise is a flowering plant within the Apiaceae family, similar to fennel, dill, and cumin.

Its seeds are small, ridged, and typically a greyish-brown color. The flavor of anise is sweet with a slight bite and a strong, pleasing aroma.

Culinary Profiles and Pairings

In cooking, your use of anise seeds can elevate a variety of recipes.

They’re especially popular in baked goods like biscotti and often incorporated into spice mixes, including Chinese five-spice. When baking, the seeds can be used whole or ground to release their flavor.

  • Bread and Biscuits: Add a teaspoon of ground anise seeds.
  • Deserts and Sweets: Used in fruit pies, cookies, and cakes.
  • Spice Mixtures: Essential component in five-spice powder and homemade spice blends.

Anise in Herbal Medicine

Recognized for its carminative properties, anise aids digestion and helps relieve bloating.

As a key ingredient in herbal medicine, you’ll find anise used to make soothing teas and preparations aimed at improving digestive health.

Usage in Beverages

Anise stars in a range of alcoholic beverages where its distinctive taste defines classics like absinthe, ouzo, and sambuca.

Its extract is also used in making teas, with anise tea being a popular digestive aid.

Anise as a Substitute

If you need a licorice flavor and don’t have star anise or fennel, anise seeds make a good substitute due to their similar taste profile.

They should be used sparingly as their flavor is potent.

Growing and Harvesting Anise

Anise thrives under full sun in well-drained soil. You should plant your anise seeds as soon as the ground warms in the spring.

It requires a long growing season and usually flowers by July, with seeds ready to harvest by August.

Preparing and Storing Anise

For cooking or teas, you’ll often use anise seeds dried.

You can dry the harvested seeds by spreading them out in a warm, airy space. Once the seeds are dry, store them in an airtight container away from light to preserve their aromatic flavor.


Licorice, derived from the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant, is a multifaceted ingredient known for its distinctive sweet flavor. It serves various roles, from culinary uses to medicinal benefits.

Licorice: More Than Just a Sweet Flavor

Licorice root, beyond its sweetness, has a complex profile with notes of bitterness and an earthy aroma. Its unique flavor is due to the compound glycyrrhizin, which is several times sweeter than sugar.

Cooking and Confectionery Applications

Your cooking and baking adventures can benefit from the depth of licorice flavor.

In confectionery, licorice root is most commonly associated with black licorice candies. This flavoring is also used in baking and as a meat rub, particularly with pork, to impart a distinctive sweet note.

Licorice in Traditional Medicine

Historically, licorice has been utilized as a medicinal herb.

It was often prescribed as a diuretic and for digestive issues due to its anti-inflammatory properties. DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) is a preparation that is used to soothe an upset stomach.

Benefits and Potential Risks of Licorice

Licorice root extract, rich in glycyrrhizin, may provide health benefits such as relief from high blood pressure and certain digestive health improvements.

However, it is essential to consume licorice in moderation as high intake of glycyrrhizin can lead to adverse health effects.

Licorice in Drinks and Spirits

In the beverage industry, licorice root flavors are prominent in several alcoholic drinks, such as absinthe and sambuca.

Its presence enhances the overall depth and complexity of these spirits.

Culinary Uses of Licorice Root

The flavor of licorice root is versatile in culinary applications.

It can be used to create confectioneries and is also incorporated as a flavoring in a variety of fruit-based candies, including lemon and strawberry.

Cultivating the Licorice Plant

Licorice plants, Glycyrrhiza glabra, thrive in certain growing conditions.

They require a long and warm growing season and well-drained soil to develop their long taproots from which licorice flavor is extracted.

Harvesting and Processing Licorice

You can obtain licorice root extract through specific preparations involving the harvesting and processing of the licorice plant’s roots.

The roots are carefully dug up, dried, and then ground or steeped to produce extracts or powders used in various products.

Anise vs Licorice

Anise and licorice are commonly confused due to their similar taste profiles, but they originate from different plants with distinct characteristics and uses that you should be aware of.

Comparing Taste and Aroma

  • Anise: This spice comes from the seeds of the Pimpinella anisum plant. It has a sweet and very aromatic flavor profile, with hints of licorice due to the compound anethole.
  • Licorice: Derived from the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant, licorice is also sweet but has a stronger, more powerful licorice flavor than anise because of its higher concentration of anethole.

Health Impact and Medicinal Uses

  • Anise: Recognized for its potential digestive benefits, anise may help relieve digestive issues due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It is also used in the treatment of stomach ulcers.
  • Licorice: Licorice root has diverse medicinal uses, including health benefits for the stomach. Its therapeutic applications range from soothing gastrointestinal problems to serving as an anti-inflammatory agent.

Frequently Asked Questions

Anise and licorice plants stand side by side, their distinct leaves and flowers clearly visible. A sign above them reads "Frequently Asked Questions: Anise vs Licorice."

In this section, you’ll find succinct responses to common inquiries regarding the differences between anise and licorice, ranging from their unique tastes to their individual health benefits and culinary applications.

What are the taste differences between anise and licorice?

Anise and licorice both possess a sweet, aromatic flavor profile. Anise has a sharper, almost spicy taste, while licorice is richer and more bitter.

Can you compare the health benefits of anise and licorice?

Anise is known for its potential to aid digestion and reduce nausea, while licorice may help soothe gastrointestinal issues and possess anti-inflammatory properties.

What distinguishes anise, licorice, and fennel from each other?

Anise and fennel have similar flavors, but anise is often more pungent. Licorice has a distinct taste and is not botanically related to the other two, which are often confused due to their similar licorice-like flavor.

How does the flavor of star anise differ from that of licorice?

Star anise offers a strong licorice flavor with a warm, spicy undertone, which differs from the more straightforward sweetness of pure licorice.

What are the botanical differences between anise and licorice plants?

Anise is derived from the seeds of the Pimpinella anisum plant, while licorice comes from the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant, making them botanically distinct species.

Do anise and licorice have similar uses in cooking and confectionery?

Yes, anise and licorice are both used to flavor a variety of dishes, candies, and beverages due to their sweet, complex profiles. However, they are not interchangeable and will impart different flavors to your recipes.

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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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