A variety of cuisines use star anise pods, which add a sweet licorice flavor to dishes. The pods are often used in poached fruit, but can be ground and added to soups, stews or vegetable dishes. Star anise adds warmth to a dish without overpowering it. If you do not have star anise pods on hand, you can use several other herbs and spices to substitute.
Chinese Five-Spice Powder
Chinese five-spice powder utilizes the five spices commonly used in Chinese cooking -- cloves, fennel seeds, Szechuan peppercorns, ginger and star anise. Since the powder contains star anise, you can certainly use this as a substitution for star anise pods to flavor a dish. Substitute approximately equal amounts five-spice powder for star anise.
Cloves have a spicy and sweet flavor. Commonly used in baking, cloves pair well with meat and are used to season many Christmas hams. Cloves add warmth to a dish and can substitute for star anise in many dishes. Cloves are best in their whole form and ground when necessary for the optimal freshness and taste. Because cloves have an intense flavor, use sparingly.
Caraway Seeds with Tarragon
Caraway seeds have a mild anise flavor, making them a perfect substitute for star anise pods. Caraway seeds are commonly found in rye bread. Adding tarragon, which has a strong anise flavor, along with caraway seeds will further enhance the flavor. Tarragon is commonly used to in French cooking or to flavor pickled vegetables. This spice-herb combination creates an ideal substitution for star anise. Use a two-to-one ratio (caraway to tarragon) when substituting in this fashion, as the tarragon has a much more intense flavor than the caraway seeds.
Fennel seeds have a sweet licorice flavor and is a member of the parsley family. Fennel seeds can be ground into a powder and used to flavor dishes in lieu of star anise. Use double the amount of fennel seeds as star anise in recipes, since fennel has a mild flavor. The fennel plant was long believed to bring eternal life to those who ate it, and it is still used today as a digestive aid and breath freshener.
Allspice, contrary to its name, is not a combination of every spice. It has the flavor of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, which are similar flavors to star anise. You can buy allspice in a ground or whole berry form. The whole berry form is preferred, since the berries have an almost indefinite shelf life and can be ground up when needed. Be sure to use this spice sparingly, as it has a strong flavor and can easily overpower your dish.