Anise vs. Licorice: What’s the Difference?

by Charlie
Anise and Licorice

Anise and licorice have a similar taste and fragrance. Other than that, they are very different. The main differences between anise and licorice comes down to their botanical properties and classification. Anise is a fruit, while licorice is a root.

People commonly call them anise seeds because they seem to be seeds but they are fruits. And the proper name is actually aniseed, not anise seeds. Aniseed is a fruit from the Anise herb plant, while licorice is a root from the Licorice plant.

Anise plant has very aromatic fruits (aniseed). Others in the same plant family (cumin, dill, fennel, etc.) bear aromatic fruits as well. Although aniseed bears the flavor of licorice, it is not related to licorice in any way.

Anise and licorice belong to different plant families and genera. Anise (Pimpinella anisum) comes from the Family Apiaceae and Genus Pimpinella. On the other hand, licorice or licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) comes from the Family Fabaceae (Subfamily Papilionoideae) and Genus Glycyrrhiza.

Anise comes from the celery or parsley family. These are called umbellifers, which are fragrant flowering plants. They are abundant in North America and were introduced first within Continental US.

As for the licorice plant, this plant comes from the legume or bean family. It is also a flowering plant family mostly recognized for their fruit (legume). Now, the sweet extract of the licorice legume plant is particularly found on the root. Moreover, the root contains 4% Glycyrrhizin. They say that this sweet-tasting acid is 50 times sweeter compared to sucrose or cane sugar.

Do Anise and Licorice Taste the Same?

No. Although thse have the same basic flavor and fragrance, they have slight differences in taste. To the sensitive tongue, anise is a bit sweet and spicy, while licorice can be bitter, sour, and salty.

Why Do Anise and Licorice Have the Same Taste?

Although they are different botanical parts and belong to entirely different families, anise and licorice taste and smell similarly because of the presence of anethole. It is an organic flavoring compound that is also present in star anise and fennel. And likewise, they also have similar taste and scent profiles to anise and licorice.

What is Anise Commonly Used For?

Anise is cultivated and used as a base for making beverages. You can taste it in sodas like root beer and ginger beer. Anise is also harvested for its essential oils. Lastly, it is sold as a cooking spice or herb.

Anise also makes a good cup of tea on its own. Try it.Measure out 1 or 2 teaspoons per cup of freshly boiled water. Steep for 3 to 4 minutes. Add milk or honey, or even both, if you like.

Besides pure anise tea, you can flavor your hot cocoa, chai tea, and mulled wine with some aniseed.

You can add anise to any dish. It blends well with sweet or savory food, even soups. More commonly, bakers use anise to make spiced cookies, cakes, and bread in combination with cinnamon or nutmeg.

What is Licorice Commonly Used For?

As with anise, people harvest licorice for its essential oils. Licorice is also used for cooking, to spice up dishes. Licorice is popularly used for confectionery. You’ll find a lot of licorice candies from Northern Europe. Some tobacco manufacturers use licorice to flavor their products and sweeten the smoke.

Do Anise and Licorice Have Medicinal Uses?

Yes, both anise and licorice have medicinal uses. They foster a healthy gut and helps the intestinal tract move waste out of the system. They can reduce bloating and relieve the discomfort of constipation. They also act as an expectorant and may help relieve cough and phlegm buildup.

In saying that, licorice consumption should be monitored since too much of it can mess with your potassium levels and even elevate your blood pressure.

Is Anise the Same as Star Anise?

No. Anise is different from Star Anise. And even though it also smells like licorice, it is not related to licorice in any way. Star Anise (Illicium verum) belongs to the Family Illiciaceae and Genus Illicium. People sell its essential oils and likewise sell Star Anise as a cooking spice or culinary herb.

Is Red Licorice the Same as Black Licorice?

If you think that color is the only difference between the two, then you are wrong. Red licorice is not true licorice, while black licorice is true licorice. Red licorice is a type of confectionery that is artificially flavored. It is not licorice in any way.

Black licorice candy, however, is true licorice. It is sweetened by the licorice ingredient that it contains. In saying that, however, some companies nowadays do make black licorice using aniseed as its licorice-flavoring ingredient. So check labels before you buy and consume black licorice.

Now, if you are eating real black licorice, limit the amounts you consume. Besides the side effects we mentioned above, too much intake of licorice can also lead to toxicity. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should watch how much black licorice they eat.

Is Licorice and Liquorice the Same?

Yes, they’re one and the same. American English spells it licorice, while British English spells it liquorice.

Can You Substitute Anise for Licorice in Recipes?

Yes, since they taste very similar, you may substitute anise in place of licorice and the other way around. However, if you are after the strong black color and taste of licorice, it is better to follow the recipe as is. You can only intensify the licorice taste when you use anise, but you cannot replicate the dark color.

Final Thoughts

  • Anise is a fruit from the Anise herb plant, while Licorice is a root from the Licorice plant.
  • Anise plant comes from a celery or parsley family, while licorice plant comes from a legume or bean family.
  • Anise (Pimpinella anisum) comes from the Family Apiaceae and Genus Pimpinella.
  • Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) comes from the Family and Genus Glycyrrhiza.
  • Red licorice is not the same as Black licorice.
  • Aniseed is a fruit, not a seed. Hence, it is wrong to call it anise seeds.

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