Star anise, one of the most beautiful spices, is suitable not only for decorating an Advent wreath. Learn to cook and bake with it!

Cinnamon, anise and star anise, a trio of spices that we associate primarily with Christmas.

Star anise are not only a beautiful decoration, but their taste and aroma perfectly make many dishes special.

It is mainly used in Asian cuisines, but not only in them.

What foods and how to use it?

Do you know what ailments star anise tea can help you with?

Come and discover with us what all these aromatic spices can do.

What is star anise?

It is a spice that comes from a tree called true star anise, in Latin Illicium verum. In addition to the name star anise, you can also come across the names star anise, star spice or Chinese anise. On the one hand, these names refer to star anise’s similarity to another popular spice – anise, to its shape – star-shaped with seeds – and to its Asian origin. Star anise is used not only for its distinctive taste, but also for its medicinal properties.

Star anise tree, from which the spice comes.

It is one of the main ingredients of Chinese cuisine, together with fennel, fagara, cloves and cinnamon, it is part of the popular Chinese spice mix of five scents. In Indian cuisine, it is part of the garam masala mixture, and in Vietnamese cuisine, it is used in the preparation of the famous pho soup. In Western cultures, it is more often used to flavor liqueurs and baked goods, such as gingerbread or cookies.

What does star anise smell and taste like?

The whole star anise is characterized by its unusual star shape. These are mostly eight-pointed star-shaped congeners of dark brown or reddish brown color, which contain shiny seeds. The smell of star anise is similar to anise, the reason being the high content of anethole essential oil.

This spice has a distinct flavor that is sweet and spicy, similar to licorice, fennel seed, cloves, and of course aniseed. Although the taste of star anise is generally considered sweet, it is also commonly used in savory dishes. Due to the strong aroma, it is recommended to use it only in small quantities.

Whole star anise fruit.

What is the difference between star anise and star anise?

Because of the similarity in taste and names, star anise (star anise) is often confused with anise, although the two spices are not related. The plants from which spices are derived do not belong to the same plant family. Star anise is from the Asteraceae family, while anise is from the Myraceae family.

Their seeds differ in appearance, star anise seeds are larger and dark reddish-brown in color, while anise seeds are smaller and look more like fennel seeds.

Star anise whole vs. ground star anise

Spices come in two forms that are used differently in cooking.

  • whole star anise – added to stews, sauces, soups or mulled wine to add flavor. It is removed at the end of cooking. Don’t add it to recipes too soon, its strong flavor could easily overpower everything else.

  • ground star anise – used similarly to other ground spices. Unfortunately, it starts to lose its aroma quite soon, so it is best to buy whole star anise and grind it as needed.
The difference between whole and ground star anise.

How to grind star anise?

Some recipes call for ground star anise. In this case, you can grind the whole star anise as it is, i.e. seeds and pods together in an electric grinder. In addition, there is also the option of crushing star anise with a mortar, in which case you usually get slightly larger pieces than when ground.

Star anise origin

Star anise originally comes from southern China, where it has been used as a medicine and spice for over 3,000 years. At the end of the 16th century, it reached Europe through the English sailor Thomas Cavendish. Soon after, it began to be traded along the so-called tea route from China through Russia. Star anise is grown the most in Asia, especially in China, India, Vietnam, Japan, Iran and Pakistan.

What is star anise used for?

Star anise has quite a wide range of uses. It found its application not only in the kitchen and food industry, but also in medicine, cosmetics and the decorative industry, for example as an ornament for Advent wreaths.

  • Star anise liqueur – can be purchased or made at home using star anise, licorice, lemon zest, water, vodka and sugar.

  • Star anise tincture – used to strengthen the body’s defenses or for colds. In addition to internal use, it can also be applied locally, for example in rheumatism. It is star anise infused for two weeks in high-percentage alcohol.

  • Star anise oil – used in perfumery and the pharmaceutical industry, sweets and chewing gum are made from it.
Star anise oil bottle.

Star anise in the kitchen

As we have already indicated, the use of star anise in the kitchen depends on its form, it is different for whole star anise, different for ground star anise.

  • It is advisable to add whole star anise to stews made from fattier meat. You can use it, for example, in various recipes for pork belly .

  • Ground star anise is a common spice in Indian cuisine, you will appreciate it, for example, when preparing tikka masala , pieces of marinated chicken in curry sauce.

  • The winter season also includes mulled wine or grog, which you can also make special with star anise.

  • How to bake the best gingerbread if you don’t have gingerbread spices at home? Mix star anise with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ground allspice, ginger and nutmeg.

  • This spice is also often used in the production of apple or pear compotes and orange marmalade.
Bun flavored with star anise.

What to replace star anise with?

You can easily replace star anise with regular anise. Fennel seeds can also be used, but they will not have such a strong licorice flavor.

Storing star anise

Store whole and ground spices in an airtight container away from moisture, heat and sunlight. Whole star anise will keep fresh and with a distinct flavor for approximately one year, ground spices will begin to lose their flavor after approximately six months. Roasting ground spices before use sometimes enhances the flavor and aroma.

Medicinal effects of star anise

Star anise is rich in a number of flavonoids and polyphenolic compounds that contribute to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

In general, it supports the proper functioning of the immune system, helps with flu and colds, relieves digestive problems, muscle spasms and rheumatism.

Among the main health-promoting substances contained in star anise are linalool, quercetin, anethole, shikimic acid, gallic acid and limonene.

  • Antiviral abilities – one of the pharmacologically significant properties of star anise is its shikimic acid content. Shikimic acid is a compound with strong antiviral properties that is the main active ingredient in Tamiflu, a well-known flu drug. Some test-tube research has also shown that star anise essential oil can treat other types of viral infections, including herpes simplex.

  • Antifungal properties – this spice is a rich source of the flavonoid anethole. This compound is not only responsible for its distinctive taste, but also has strong antifungal effects.

  • Antibacterial effects – another important medicinal benefit of star anise is its ability to suppress the growth of bacteria that are involved in a number of common diseases. Some research has revealed that star anise extract is as effective as antibiotics against many drug-resistant pathogenic bacteria. This may be especially useful for the future development of new antibiotic drugs. Star anise extract is also somewhat effective in reducing the growth of E. coli bacteria.

The so-called Japanese star anise has a similar appearance to star anise, but its fruits are poisonous.

Nutritional values, vitamins and minerals in star anise

Like other spices, star anise is relatively high in calories, but due to the fact that only a very small amount of it is always used, this fact does not represent a significant problem. Star anise (100 g) contains:

Calorie Proteins Fats Carbohydrates Fiber
337 calories 17.6 g 15.9 g 50.02 g 14.6 g

This spice also contains many different minerals and vitamins.

Potassium Phosphorus Magnesium Calcium Iron Vitamin A Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin C
1441 mg 440 mg 170 mg 646 mg 36.96 mg 311 IU 3.06 mg 0.797 mg 21 mg

Star anise tea

In traditional Chinese and folk medicine, star anise is made into a tea that is used to treat respiratory infections, sore throats, nausea, constipation and other digestive problems. In addition to star anise tea itself, you can also add this spice to other types of tea, they will acquire a pleasant aroma and a more pronounced taste.

A cup of star anise tea with pieces of spice.

How to prepare star anise tea?

One star of whole star anise is enough to make one cup of star anise tea. Crush it in a mortar and pour 250 milliliters of hot water. Leave to infuse for approximately 8-10 minutes. Then strain the tea and flavor it with honey. The maximum recommended amount is three cups a day.

Milan & Ondra

We are both fans of good food and enjoy cooking. On this website, we want to inspire you with traditional, but also less common recipes. We will be happy if you try our recipes and let us know how you liked them. Bon appetite! :)