Ground Star Anise: Flavor & Uses

star anise ground
Ground star anise has a sweet and spicy flavor reminiscent of licorice, clove, and fennel. People in the west traditionally use it in flavoring pastries, while those in Asia use it as marinades and spice rubs.

What is ground star anise?

Ground star anise
Ground star anise

Ground star anise is the powder form of star anise pods from the Illicium verum evergreen tree. Star anise is not the same as anise seed, which is part of a different family, parsley. However, thanks to their anethole essential oil component, they both contain licorice notes.

OriginNative to southern China and grows in Indochina
AppearancePods with six to eight points
Flavor profileHas a warm flavor and boasts a robust sweet-and-spicy combination that resembles licorice, fennel, and clove

Origin

Star anise is native to southern China and grows in Indochina, Laos, and Vietnam. Across the Asian continent, people use star anise powder as an ingredient in braises and stews. 

In Chinese cuisine, Chinese star anise is a part of the Chinese five spice powder, which also contains cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorns, and fennel seeds. These ingredients represent sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami flavors. The spice blend is perfect for marinades and spice rubs.

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Meanwhile, Vietnamese people use star anise to add a licorice-like flavor and bittersweet notes to their traditional soup, pho. On the other hand, Indians use it in garam masala, curry powder, and drinks like chai. 

In Western culture, people use star anise seeds to flavor baked goods and liqueurs. It has a reddish-brown color.

Appearance

Star anise earned its name because its pod looks like a star (most pods have six to eight points). The pod contains a tiny seed responsible for the signature flavor this spice gives recipes. 

Flavor profile

Star anise has a warm flavor and boasts a robust sweet-and-spicy combination that resembles licorice, fennel, and clove. You can use it to enhance both sweet and savory dishes. They also go well with other spices, such as cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

Nutritional Benefits of ground star anise

Ground star anise not only has a strong flavor but also has medicinal properties. It has flavonoids and polyphenols, which have antioxidant, antifungal, and anti-mycotoxigenic (toxins produced by fungi or certain molds) properties. 

Another good thing about star anise is that it has no glycemic index and no significant amounts of calories and carbohydrates.

potential risks of using ground star anise

While star anise has esteemed culinary and medicinal uses, there are few reports of allergic reactions. 

Moreover, you must be careful not to confuse it with its highly toxic relative, the Japanese star anise (Illicium anistatum). People can experience hallucinations, nausea, and seizures once they consume its neurotoxins. 

This is also why experts don’t recommend people consume star anise as a tea, as it could contain the said star anise relative.

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What is ground anise seed good for?

You can use both whole and ground star anise for cooking. However, the star anise ground version is a more versatile ingredient. You can use it when making soups, stews, and braising broths.

This spice takes the spotlight in liqueurs and pastries in the US and other western countries. It’s also a common flavoring in root beer.

Note that ground star anise is more potent than whole star anise, so you only need to use it sparingly. When substituting 1 qty of whole star anise, only use 1 tsp of its ground counterpart. People commonly use whole star anise in slow simmers and braises (alongside onions, soy sauce, and Sichuan peppercorns). Then, they discard it before serving.

Can you buy ground star anise?

You can purchase ground star anise in grocery stores, especially those specializing in Asian or Indian cuisine. If buying from Amazon, read customer reviews first to ensure you get the best anise you can.

What part of star anise do you grind?

You can powderize both the pod and the seed of star anise. Experts recommend using a grinder because it can be difficult to grind using the traditional mortar and pestle. Also, remember that when buying whole star anise, choose ones with intact pods.

What can I use instead of ground star anise?

You’ll have several options if you’re looking for other ground spices to use as a ground star anise alternative:

  • Chinese five spice
  • Anise seeds
  • Fennel seeds

Since star anise is an essential component of Chinese five spice blend, you can use it as a swap in a smaller proportion (follow a 1: ½ ratio). Using this replacement will give your recipe that spicy-sweet flavor you want.

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As stated, star anise and anise have a flavor similar to licorice. Its sweetness is a great enhancer of baked goods and ground meat. If substituting ground star anise, use a 1:1 ratio. If you’re using it as an alternative to whole star anise, use ½ tsp for every 1 whole star anise.

Following a 1:¼ ratio (1 tsp of star anise is equivalent to ¼ fennel seeds), you can use these sweetly flavored seeds to mimic the taste of star anise. You can use it when making soups or marinara sauce.

How to store ground star anise?

Ground star anise is an ingredient every chef should have in their kitchen. Store it in a tightly sealed container in a dark, dry place to make the most of its flavor. It can last 2 to 3 years but will begin losing its flavor within half a year.

Randell

Randell loves experimenting in the kitchen (with his family and friends as willing victims). He sees cooking as a great adventure. To enjoy that, he believes this is the recipe: a tad of creativity, a dash of courage, a pinch of humility, and a ton of love.

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