What spice tastes like licorice?

In this brief guide, we will address the query, “What spice tastes like licorice?”. We will also discuss the different spices and herbs that taste like licorice. Moreover, we will also talk about why they taste like licorice.

What spice tastes like licorice?

Spices like anise, star anise, and fennel have a licorice-like taste. Licorice has a combination of salty, sour, bitter, and sweet flavors which makes it a very unique and versatile spice on its own. 

Let us discuss some of these spices that taste like licorice:


Sweet cumin is another name for anise. They’re pungent and sweet, with floral undertones. Anise is primarily grown for its fruits, which are known as aniseed. It has a sweet, mildly spicy, and aromatic licorice flavor. Do not confuse anise with star anise or fennel; they are three distinct spices.

The taste of star anise is somewhat similar to that of anise, fennel, or licorice but not exactly the same. It has a powerful, distinct flavor profile with warm, sweet, and spicy notes. Despite being classified as a sweet spice, they are more often used in savory foods.

Star anise

This star-shaped spice is very similar to anise, fennel, or licorice in terms of their flavors and aroma. Its resemblance to licorice is uncanny; it is perhaps the spice that tastes and smells the most like licorice. It has very strong, distinct warm, sweet, and spicy flavors. 

The flavor of star anise is generally considered sweet, but it is more commonly used in savory dishes than in sweeter ones. It pairs especially well with citrus fruits, onions, poultry, beef, and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.


Fennel is mostly associated with star anise and licorice in terms of their flavors. Out of the different parts of fennel that are used for culinary purposes, the fennel bulbs are the most similar to licorice. Similarly, fennel has the same flavors as black licorice as they both contain a compound called anethole, which is responsible for their identical flavor profiles. 

What herbs taste like licorice? 

Like spices, many herbs like chervil, and tarragon,  also share similar flavors with licorice. Let us discuss them in detail:


Chervil closely resembles both parsley as well as licorice flavors. It is also popularly known as french parsley due to its close resemblance with parsley. Just like its name indicates, it is mostly used in French cuisines. Talking about the taste of chervil, it has the delicate and subtle flavors of anise. It is also often considered the milder version of parsley, tarragon, and fennel.

It can be used as both a herb as well as a spice. In French dishes, it is mostly used as a herb but you can also incorporate it as a spice and garlic in varieties of dishes. Though it has to be noted that chervil tastes better when they are raw than when they are cooked which explains its popularity as a herb.


Another herb that has a close resemblance with licorice flavors is tarragon. It is a versatile spice considering its diverse flavor profile. Bittersweet is the perfect way to describe the taste of tarragon, but it also has hints of mint, pepper, vanilla, and eucalyptus. 

As I already said, it has a diverse flavor profile, as a result, some people will love it while others will despise it; there is no real middle ground. You can use tarragon in your dishes in both dry as well as fresh forms, although dried ones are slightly milder than the fresh ones.

Why do these herbs and spices taste like licorice?

These herbs and spices taste so similar to licorice because they all have identical chemical elements. Some chemical compounds are found commonly in a wide range of plants, resulting in similar flavors and aromas. In the case of licorice, the chemical compounds responsible for the similar flavor of these spices are namely estragole and anethole.

Anethole is a terpenoid found in anise, tarragon, and fennel while Estragole is a phenylpropene found in anise, chervil, and tarragon. Anethole is very similar in structure to estragole, so spices that have either one of these are similar but not identical. However, spices that have at least one of these chemical components commonly have the same flavors.

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In this brief guide, we have addressed the query, “What spice tastes like licorice?”. We have also discussed the different spices and herbs that taste like licorice. Moreover, we have also talked about why they taste like licorice.


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