Spices and herbs like fennel seeds offer flavor, aroma and potential health benefits. Whether you use fennel seeds for pickling vegetables, seasoning sausage or making a crust for fish or beef fillets, you'll soon realize that these aromatic seeds can elevate the most basic recipes. They also offer vitamins, minerals and fiber, so you can feel good about working them into your weekly meal plan. Read on to find out what fennel seeds are, their benefits and how you can use them in your dishes.
What Are Fennel Seeds?
Fennel seeds are harvested from the plant's flowers and then dried. They tend to be pale green to tan in color with an oval shape. Like the fennel bulb, they have a sweet, licorice-like flavor that can lend an earthy, sweet taste to dishes, and they pair especially well with seafood and pork.
Are Anise and Fennel the Same Thing?
Fennel is sometimes confused with anise and although both are part of the parsley family, anise is a separate species entirely. Anise is grown mainly for its seeds, while fennel has the bulb, fronds and seeds to offer. Anise also has a stronger, sharper licorice flavor compared to fennel. And just to make things a bit more complicated, the strong, distinctive-tasting star anise—a main ingredient in many Chinese dishes—is from a completely different plant family than both fennel and anise.
What's a Good Substitute for Fennel Seeds?
If you need a swap for fennel seed, you can use anise seed since their tastes are similar. But remember, you will want to use less anise, as it tends to be more pungent. Depending on your preferences, other seeds will work as well, such as dill, caraway, cumin or coriander.