Best Substitutes For Fennel: Guide To Delicious Alternatives

As a chef, I’ve experimented with countless ingredients over the years, and fennel is one of the most versatile ingredients I’ve come across. However, there have been times when I’ve run out of fennel while cooking, and I’ve had to improvise.

I’ve found that celery is my go-to substitute as it has a similar texture and subtle flavor that doesn’t overpower the dish.

Read on to explore all of my best substitutes for fennel from many years of tinkering in the kitchens of insanely busy restaurants.

What Is Fennel?

Fennel and tomatoes at a market stall in Toronto.
Fennel and tomatoes at a market stall in Toronto.

Fennel is a herb and vegetable with a bulbous white or pale green base and feathery, aromatic leaves. It belongs to the carrot family and has a distinct anise or licorice-like flavor.

Fennel is commonly used in cooking, both for its bulb, which can be sliced, roasted, or used raw in salads, and its fronds, which can be used as a garnish or herb.

It adds a unique flavor and crunch to dishes and is popular in Mediterranean and Indian cuisines.

Fennel is also recognized for its potential health benefits, such as aiding digestion and providing essential nutrients.

Best Substitutes For Fennel

Fennel is one of those ingredients that’s not always easy to find, so I’ve put together a list of the best substitutes for fennel to help you make your favorite dishes without it.

From anise seeds to bok choy, I’ve got you covered.

Anise Seeds

Anise seeds are the most obvious substitute for fennel as they both have that distinctive licorice taste (a characteristic flavor of fennel).

Anise seeds are much smaller than fennel seeds, but they can be used in equal amounts as the recipe calls for.

If you don’t have anise seeds, you can also use star anise as an alternative.


Celery is another close relative of fennel, and it can be a great substitute, especially in soups and stews. It has a similar texture to fennel, but the taste is milder.

You can use celery in equal amounts as fennel.


Dill is another herb that can work as a substitute for fennel, mainly because the leaves of both plants look similar.

However, the flavor of dill is not as sweet as fennel, so it’s best to use it in smaller amounts.

You can also use dill seeds, which have a more potent flavor.

Bok Choy

Bok choy is a great substitute for fennel bulbs as it has a similar texture and is also crunchy. Use it in recipes where fennel is cooked, such as stir-fries.

You can also use Chinese cabbage if you can’t find bok choy.


Cardamom is a spice that’s used in sweet and savory dishes, and it can be a substitute for fennel seeds as it has a similar flavor profile.

Use it in equal amounts as the recipe calls for.


Can I Substitute Fennel Seeds With Anise Seeds?

Yes, you can use anise seeds as a substitute for fennel seeds as both have a similar flavor profile.

What Can I Use Instead Of Fennel In Soups And Stews?

Celery is an excellent substitute for fennel in soups and stews.

Can I Use Dill As A Substitute For Fennel In Salads?

Dill is not the best substitute for salads as it has a different flavor profile. Consider using bok choy or celery instead.

Norah Clark

Norah Clark

Norah Clark, the founder and editor of YummyTasteFood! She's a seasoned food writer and editor with over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry as a former pastry chef, sous chef, and barista. When not writing about food, she explores new recipes or travels the world for culinary inspiration.