The sweet and exceptionally intense flavor of anise fruits is a little like fennel and licorice. Anise has been used as bread seasoning since ancient Roman times.
Anise as a Spice
The sweet, bitter flavor of anise is reminiscent of licorice and leaves a pleasant taste on your tongue. Kitchens around the world are filled with the spicy aroma of anise — but the fruits are particularly popular in bakeries, as anise has been used as seasoning for bread and cakes since ancient times. They are also hugely popular outside of the culinary world and numerous alcoholic drinks get their flavor from anise. Whether it’s Greek ouzo, French Pernod or Turkish raki, anise is used to flavor spirits around the world with its characteristic spicy taste.
Virtually no other spice is as versatile as anise. It gives soups, compote, vegetable, lentil and meat dishes a spicy sweet note, while breads, cakes, cookies and other baked goods also benefit from its characteristic flavor. Anise really shines when combined with caraway, fennel or coriander. Anise can quickly become the dominant spice in dishes, so be careful how much you add — a small quantity will usually suffice. Before adding the fruits to a dish, briefly toast them in a dry pan before crushing them with a pestle and mortar to unlock the most flavor.
For some baking recipes, anise is soaked in wine and then strained out. This is what helps to give sweet treats like traditional Austrian Easter bread their delicious flavor.
Anise is originally from the eastern Mediterranean region, but Russia, Africa, Central America and Italy are all important producing countries today. Anise is not to be confused with star anise — though they are similar in flavor, the two spices come from different plants that are not related to one another. The annual anise plant grows to up to 60 centimeters tall, and its relatively small, white flowers are in bloom from June to September. It’s actually the fruits that are used as a spice rather than the seeds, as is often incorrectly assumed. Anise fruits are oval shaped and around three to five millimeters long.
- Scientific Name
- Pimpinella anisum L.
- Parsley family (Apiaceae)
- Other Names
- Aniseed, sweet cumin
- Eastern Mediterranean region