Fennel is known for its sweet and mild flavor which is similar to licorice. It’s both used as a vegetable and spice. The seeds and the bulbs are both useful in cooking, and they’re one of the few stars of my kitchen along with a couple of spices.
I use the stalks and as vegetable and the seeds as the herb. In most of the Italian dishes I cooked, I add fennel as an herb to sauces and meat balls, and in my experience, it goes well with seafood and fish too.
That’s why it’s such a burden if I ran out, of fennel in my kitchen. That’s why I find it necessary to share with you a list of fennel substitutes. The fennel bulb, especially, has a unique flavor that people hate or love. A lot of people ask me if there are substitutes for fennel bulb or fennel as a whole, and fortunately, there are many. Just read on.
Fennel Bulb Substitute
Dill leaves are similar to that of fennel leaves. It has a unique feathery flavor with a warm and mild flavor which is opposite to fennel with a stronger anise flavor. Its aroma is almost the same of that anise seed. This is wonderful to cook with carrots, eggs, and seafood.
When we talk about structure and texture, celery is a great substitute for fennel bulb because of its extra crunch. Celery might be your best choice if you don’t like the fennel bulbs anise flavor. I find this substitute the most accessible because you can buy it in every supermarket.
The aromatic flavor of celery can enhance your vegetable soup; its crunchy texture is also good in vegetable stir-fries.
3. Bok Choy
Bok choy has the same texture with that of fennel but with a stronger bite. It works well with savory recipes. It can be used in several dishes like soups, braising and stir-fries. In Asian countries, Bok choy is popular and known as a white cabbage.
4. Mexican Avocado Leaves
If you ran out of fennel leaves, you could use Mexican avocado leaves for a surprising creamy flavor. You can use the leaves in its dried and fresh forms, like what cooks do in Mexican cuisine. Avocado leaves are popularly toasted before you use it and then add the leaves when you’re almost done the cooking. They have a very mild anise flavor and are often used to season grilled meats, broths and soups.
5. Hoja Santa
Hoja Santa is your best option if you prefer a peppery taste. It also resembles the flavor of fennel bulb leaves. It’s mostly used to wrap fish, meats, and tamales. Just chop them if you want to add them to soups, stews, and scrambled eggs.
Parsley is another accessible substitute for fennel. If you also want a cooler flavor, then you can use this in your dish. Chop the parsley into fine pieces if you want a subtle. Chop them coarsely if you want a flavorful effect on your salads.
Most people, including me, prefer the flat leaf over the curly one because of the difficulty of cleaning. But like what we always do with vegetables, just wash and chop the leaves properly.
Artichoke won me with its subtle lemony taste. I use it in preparing my salads by steaming it. Other people might experience some hassle in preparing them but you can just remove the artichoke hearts.
8. Mild Onion
Mild onion is another great substitute for fennel bulb. It has the sweet flavor when you grill or sauté it. You can try the red onion because, among other varieties, it has the mildest taste. Because of its sweet taste, it’s a great substitute for sandwiches and salads. In my experience, I don’t use mild onion in cooked dishes because it will lose its flavor.
Fennel Seeds Substitute
Fennel seed, just like fennel bulbs, is a great spice with many health benefits. It contains antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol. It is used for making savory and sweet dishes. However, if you don’t have them in your home, there are substitutes you can call for.
1. Anise Seed
Anise seed is the closest alternative with the similar licorice flavor. Anise seeds have iron, calcium, copper, zinc, potassium and more. Other health benefits include curing of stomachache and remedy for colds. You can make a powder or oil out of these seeds.
2. Cumin Seeds
Though they don’t have similarities in flavor, cumin seeds are delicious and beneficial. You can use cumin easily by mixing it with sauces, seasonings, and soups. They have a lot of vitamins, iron, carbohydrates, protein and fatty acids.
3. Caraway Seeds
Caraway seeds can be easily mixed with sorts of foods. Its strong flavor is not as particular like those of fennel or anise seeds which make it easy to mix and experiment with other dishes. With its aroma, caraway seeds are used to make distinct soup, bread, and tea.
4. Dill Seed
When it comes to taste, dill seeds have similarities with caraway seeds. It goes well with acidic foods especially with recipes that use beets, cucumber and fish. It also goes well in stews, casseroles, and rice. It can also be a substitute of cumin, carrot, parsley, and coriander because it’s related to them.
5. Coriander Seed
If you can’t use anything else, you can try coriander seed. However, it is such a bold choice because its flavor is different from that of fennel seeds. Coriander is rich in dietary fiber and a great source of copper, iron, potassium, and calcium.
Those are the substitutes for fennel, whether bulb or seeds. The listed items can be found in your kitchen and will speed things up especially if you’re in a rush with your dish. Certainly, running out of herb or spices is a panicking thing but thank God for substitutes that are easily available.
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