With a wonderful aromatic flavour reminiscent of a combination of liquorice, clove, fennel seed and aniseed, star anise is associated with Asian dishes, but has also been used in Europe for centuries, often in sweet preparations, with the aromatic compounds found in Star Anise 13 times sweeter than sugar! These compounds dissolve in alcohol – not water – and creates the cloudy appearance of the popular French drink Pastis.

What is Star Anise?

A dried fruit of a small Asian evergreen tree, Illicium verum, whose name comes from the Latin illicio meaning “entice”. The fruit is harvested when it is still green and unripe, then dried in the sun to develop its red-brown colour and unique flavour profile.

The Chinese symbol for star anise (Bajiao) means ‘eight horns’, which perfectly describes the shape of the star anise pod.

Star Anise has been used in traditional Eastern medicine for thousands of years and contains many  bioactive compounds that are thought to have health benefits, whilst in traditional Chinese and folk medicine practices, star anise is steeped in water to make a tea used to treat respiratory infections, nausea, constipation and other digestive issues.

The origins of Star Anise

Originally native to Southern China and North Vietnam, star anise has been used as a medicine and spice for more than 3,000 years, with one of the earliest records appearing during the Tang Dynasty (608 – 906 CE) in medical journals.

During the late 1500s, star anise came to Europe via English sailors and soon after was traded along the tea route from China through Russia and also in Persia.

In Europe, because of its sweet flavour, star anise was initially used in jams, syrups, and puddings and later substituted in commercial drinks for anise seed, in the production of the liqueurs Galliano and Pastis.

Throughout Asia, it has been a key ingredient in making some of the world’s most distinctive spice composites and is blended in the famous 5 spice seasoning in China, where it is still used in marinades for rich meat dishes such as Peking duck.

How is Star Anise used in cooking?

Whole pods are added to braised dishes, soups, and stews to infuse flavour, whilst ground star anise powder is used in savoury dishes and pairs well with citrus, tomatoes, onions, poultry, beef, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. It also makes a great addition to sweet dishes and desserts, such as baked fruit, poached pears, pies and muffins.

In the Indian sub-continent, Star Anise is used as a spice in preparation of Biryani and Masala Chai and is widely used throughout Asia, including Malay and Indonesian cuisines.

A single pod of star anise adds a really warm, spicy undertone to tomato-based sauces and stews and to braised beef dishes – from stews to chilli to oxtail soup, star anise is the secret ingredient that can elevate your dish to a whole new level!

We have a range of products including star anise in our online Spice Larder Store.

Valhalla – Ginger Beer

Alcoholic Ginger Beer infused with orange, cinnamon and star anise – 5% ABV