Star anise pods are as aromatic as they are visually distinctive. This powerful spice has a warm and sweet licorice-like flavor profile that also reveals notes of mint and clove. The flavor compound anetole is the oil responsible for the spice's licorice smell and taste. Other spices that contain anetole include: anise seed, fennel, and of course, licorice.
Use whole star anise in foods that can be infused (soups, stocks, brines, stews, milks, creams, etc.). You will not need much star anise to make a big impact. Make sure to remove the pods before serving as they don't soften during cooking. An exception to this is if the spice has been added for visual appeal, e.g. to float a top a drink. This presentation can be both decorative and useful in imbuing a licorice flavor and aroma. Whole star anise can also be ground on an as-needed basis for use in confections and baked goods.
Has spicy hints of licorice, anise seed, and fennel with a sweet roundness in its aftertaste.
Licorice-like aroma, warm and pungent.
Star-shaped and brown in color, rust-colored points with a single, shiny, round, light-brown seed in each; woody.
Pair with cardamom or ginger to enhance the pungent eucalyptus notes; pair with baking spices like cinnamon, nutmeg/mace, or allspice to enhance sweetness; add complexity with juniper's citrusy undertones.
Use whole star anise in liquidy foods that can be infused with licorice flavor. Try it as a decorative embellishment in festive holiday drinks wherein its sweet pungency will be appreciated.
PROCESSING / FORM
0.8 oz (23 g) per 1/2 cup
Anise and star anise are not the same spice, nor are they related species despite the similar name and flavor profile. They do both contain the organic compound anethole, which gives them their similar licorice flavor.
Fennel is another spice that contains anethole. It is a seed that is often confused with anise—due to its similar flavor profile and also to its similar appearance. Fennel seed is considerably larger and often brighter in color than anise seed. Anise seed, in addition to being smaller, also tends to have a small bit of stem "tail" attached to one end; whereas this happens only occasionally with fennel, it is much more frequent in anise seed.
Since anise seed is more expensive to produce than star anise, star anise has surpassed anise in production for anethole extraction and for commercial use in flavoring food products. Anethole is reputedly multiple times sweeter than sugar with the distinction of having a pleasant flavor at higher concentrations.
Toasting star anise for a minute or two in a dry skillet before using greatly enhances the flavor and fragrance.
Star anise has a powerful flavor, be sure to use it sparingly so that it doesn't overwhelm your dish.
Star anise yields more anethole than anise and has become a source of anise extract. Anise extract features large in liqueurs across the West: Sambuca, pastis, absinthe.