Star Anise is a unique spice that has a sweet anise flavour. Learn more about this spice, including where to buy it and how to cook with it!
Star Anise is, by far, the prettiest spice in my cupboard.
These fragrant little pods look more like delicate wood carvings than something you would cook with! While they would probably be a lovely addition to potpourri, they have much more to offer than just their looks.
Did you know that Star Anise is one of the five spices in Chinese five-spice powder?
It's also one of the predominant flavours in Vietnamese Pho (a noodle soup), and Sambuca (an Italian liqueur).
What is Star Anise?
Star Anise is a star-shaped seed pod from an evergreen tree, which is Native to China.
While technically not related to regular anise, this spice does have a similar flavour. This isn't the strong, medicinal liquorice flavour of black jelly beans though. The flavour of star anise is sweeter - more similar to fennel than liquorice. Although it is more bitter than regular anise seeds.
Where to buy Star Anise?
Star Anise is sold whole, in pieces, and ground into a powder. Packages of whole star anise can be expensive, since it takes a lot of work to gather the spice and keep its shape intact. The packages I usually buy have some whole pieces and lots of broken pieces. These packages are more affordable, and I don't feel bad about crushing the broken bits (save the whole ones for garnish!).
Ground star anise can lose its flavour quickly, so your best bet is to buy the broken pieces and grind them yourself (you can shave them on a Microplane grater like cinnamon too).
You can usually find this spice at most grocery stores these days. If yours doesn't carry it, you can try an Asian market or buy it online from Amazon.
As with all spices, you should store star anise is an airtight container, in a cool, dark place.
What to cook with Star Anise?
If you're just getting started cooking with star anise, you should start adding it to your dishes slowly. Too many pods can overpower a dish, making it bitter and unpleasant to eat. If you're adding it to a soup or stew, try using one or two pods to start. This can be enough to impart a flavour, without obliterating the rest of the dish.
Try adding whole pods to soups or stews that are made with beef or chicken, like this Pho with beef and noodles, or this chicken soup with shiitake mushrooms. A single pod can elevate a batch of homemade tomato sauce, too.
You can also use the whole pods to mull wine, cider or beer, like in my spiced apple cider recipe. It 's also nice in a fruity Christmas punch.
Grated or ground star anise works well desserts like gingerbread, chocolate cake or brownies.