Here's What You Can Substitute For Fennel

Braised, roasted, sauteed, or raw, fennel is a flexible root vegetable that can be used in its entirety, from seeds and stalks to fronds and bulb (via Cooking Light). According to The Spruce Eats, fennel is incorporated in cuisines around the world: Its seeds feature in Italian sausage, Chinese five-spice powder, and Middle Eastern delicacies, while the vegetable itself can be used in soup stocks, fish dishes, and salads. And Gourmet Sleuth notes that fennel, alternatively called sweet anise, brings a "sweet, mild licorice flavor" that is beloved in European favorites like osso buco. 

Fennel often graces grocers' shelves year-round, but hits peak flavor in colder months, from the autumn until the onset of spring; warmer weather conditions can lend a bitterness to the vegetable (via The Spruce Eats). However, if you forgot to pick up some of this lesser-used veggie at the store, can't find it in the off-season, or haven't quite learned to love its distinctive flavor, a variety of substitutes can take its place.

How to replace any part of fennel

Replacements for fennel will vary according to which part of the plant you're substituting. If the recipe calls for fennel bulb, Tastessence suggests celery, bok choy stems, or Belgian endive, possibly with the addition of a few fennel or anise seeds to approximate fennel's flavor. Or, if you want only the flavor without the vegetable itself, LEAFtv recommends replacing each pound of bulb with one teaspoon of fennel seed.

Need to find a substitute for those delicate fennel fronds? Diligent Chef advocates parsley, a readily available and tasty alternative, or dill, which lends a similar look and scent. If the recipe requires fennel seeds, those can be replaced with anise seeds for a spot-on switcheroo, or try caraway, cumin, or dill seeds; you can even raid the liquor cabinet to swap in licorice-tasting liqueurs like Pernod. Finally, home chefs can keep a shelf-stable product on hand, fennel oil, for infusing flavor into dishes (via doTERRA).

Just as fennel has myriad uses and forms, there are tons of options for replacing fennel's unique flavors and properties — get creative to find your favorites when the fridge is fennel-less and the recipe calls for its delicate licorice-like kick.