Sunday, July 10, 2011

Licorice-Flavored Herbs and Spices

Not many are indifferent about whether or not they like the flavor of licorice. Opinions are as strong as the taste of it. Those who dislike it hate it with a passion, and that is only the beginning of a hostile rant that quickly descends to loathing. They describe the flavor of licorice as disgusting, revolting, and much worse. They want to scrape their tongue at the very memory of ever having tasted the stuff. It’s licor-ISH.

The flavor of licorice is very distinct and can easily dominate a whole dish. Given the highly opinionated reactions to this flavor, I thought it would be a good idea to group all licorice-flavored herbs and spices together. That way, if you or the loved ones you cook for dislike the taste of licorice, you’ll have this whole definitive list to completely and utterly avoid like the plague. Don’t even use a smidgeon of any of these. On the other hand, if you love the taste of licorice or enjoy a subtle hint of it here or there, you might see something here you’d like to try.


Licorice is a legume native to Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean. The flavor is extracted from its roots.
  • The licorice flavor is from the anethole compound it contains. Its sweetness is from glycyrrhizin, a compound as much as 50 times sweeter than sugar.
  • Licorice root is used as a flavoring for a wide variety of products including candy, beer, soft drinks, cough drops, and medicines; although most licorice candy is now flavored with anethole extracted from star anise.
  • Does anybody cook with licorice root? I had a hard time finding any recipes. Even the folks over at Chowhound were stumped about what to do with a piece of licorice root except for this intriguing beef stew. Not only does this concoction contain four inches of licorice root but also balsamic vinegar, prunes, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, rosemary, and…malt beer. Oh, and the prunes must be macerated, but only slightly, in brandy. So far, one person has indicated they like it, but its only been posted for a year.


This spice is the best known licorice-flavored spice in North American cuisine, most commonly teamed with cinnamon in spicy cakes and cookies.
  • Also known as anise seed or aniseed.
  • Not really a seed but rather the dried whole ripe fruit of Pimpinella anisum, a flowering plant native to the Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia.
  • Licorice flavor is from the anethole it contains.
  • Flavor is sweet, but fennel is considered milder and sweeter.

Star Anise

This spice is widely used in Chinese (5-spice), Indian (garam masala), Malay, and Indonesian cuisine.
  • The dried whole ripe fruit of Illicium verum, an evergreen tree native to China.
  • Not at all related to anise.
  • Licorice flavor is from the anethole it contains.
  • The most flavor is in the pod, not the seeds.
  • You can either grind the pods or add whole pods to a dish and then remove them (and any loose seeds) before serving, as you do with bay leaves.
  • Flavor is hotter, stronger, more pungent, more bitter, and less sweet than anise.
  • Also contains safrole, which gives it a faint aroma of root beer. 


This spice is used a lot in Indian cuisine, known as Saunf, which is sometimes translated as fennel and sometimes anise.
  • The entire plant is an edible vegetable from the parsley family.
  • Fennel seeds are the dried whole ripe fruit of the plant.
  • Licorice flavor is from the anethole it contains.
  • The flavor is milder and sweeter than anise.
  • Fennel seed and anise seed are so similar in flavor and appearance that many regions of the world do not distinguish between them very well or at all.


This herb is an essential ingredient of fines herbes, a combination of fresh herbs used extensively in French and Mediterranean cuisine, containing parsley, chives, tarragon, and chervil.
  • An herb from the daisy family, which are known for their volatile oils such as wormwood used to flavor vermouth and vodka.
  • Native to a wide area of the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Licorice flavor is due to estragole, which is similar to anethole.


This herb is also an essential ingredient of fines herbes.
  • A parsley relative.
  • Mostly used in salads.
  • The taste is also said to be peppery.


This herb is sometimes included in fines herbes.
  • A parsley relative.
  • Also known as Sweet Cicely, Aniseroot, Licorice Root, and Wild Anise.
  • Like fennel, the entire plant is an edible vegetable.
  • Leaves are very sweet and may be used as a sugar substitute in some recipes (as long as you don’t mind the licorice flavor that goes along with it).

Thai Basil

This herb is a variety of sweet basil native to Southeast Asia.
  • Three other aromatic basils popular in Thai cuisine are lemon basil, cinnamon basil, and Holy basil, which tastes like cloves.
  • Thai basil is used both fresh and cooked. The flavor holds up under high temperatures.

If reading this article made you hungry for licorice, you may enjoy browsing Licorice International. They offer nearly 160 types of licorice from 12 countries. Or try some Licorice Spice Herbal TeaLicorice Spice Herbal Tea!
12/48 This article earned 8 points!


  1. Very Helpful! Thanks!

  2. how great is this; thanks so much for the info!
    very cool
    will be busy picking herbs!

  3. Herbs and spices are good to heal the health problems in a natural way. So the terms on this are very helpful and also highly preferable to know, Thanks for sharing with us.

  4. Informative and well presented. Thanks.

  5. Love licorice flavor in all its forms! Thx.