Seasoning & Healing Effects of Fennel Seed

Fennel is a fantastic vegetable.

You can find it at the market as fresh produce, but what about the seeds that are used for seasoning?

Fennel seed is a fantastic addition to your spice rack. It can be used to season lots of dishes, whether meat, fish, or vegetarian. Read more now on Foodal:

While we’ve already taken a look at the bulbs and fronds of fresh fennel in this article, let’s focus now on fennel seed as a spice!

Despite the innate difference between using the bulbs, fronds, and seeds, all parts of the fennel plant share a similar flavor. The seeds provide an anise-like aroma with fresh and sweet nuances, just as the bulb does.

A Pinch of History

Fennel is possibly one of the oldest known spices in the world. We can follow its traces back to 3000 B.C.

This means that if we travelled back in time, we would find the Mesopotamians using it for culinary and medicinal reasons already. People from the Middle Ages also appreciated its taste and healing powers for digestive troubles, just as we do nowadays.

In fact, products that include fennel as an ingredient today are incredibly versatile. You can find it in cough drops and lozenges as well as in toothpaste, soap, liquor or even – really popular as a European delicacy from the south – fennel salami.

Fennel seed is a flavorful, aromatic spice that makes a wonderful addition to cured meats, and a variety of other dishes. Read more on Foodal:

Preparing and Storing Your Seeds

What’s the best way to work with this spice in your kitchen? Grind the whole seeds directly before use. This way, you can achieve full flavor in your dish, since they will release their essential oils right at that moment.

With a suitable mortar and pestle set at hand, you are able to enjoy all the benefits that freshly ground spices can offer. Don’t have your own set already? Check out Foodal’s informative post.

When storing the seeds, be sure to keep them in a dry, cool place away from direct sunlight. For storage, it is best to use a small glass jar that can be sealed airtight.

Looking for a new spice rack to store these, along with the rest of your seasoning collection? Take a look at Foodal’s review of the best models on the market today.

Flavor Combinations

Fennel makes a great combination with many other flavors and foods. Since fennel is such an ancient spice, there are already many well-known traditional blends and combinations

Fennel seeds are part of the famous Chinese five spice powder that includes star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, cinnamon, and cloves. This mixed spice has a wonderfully balanced yet intense flavor, with warming notes.

Fresh Fennel and Seed |

A second famous combination: the Bengali blend called panch phoron. It is made of fennel seed, black mustard, fenugreek, nigella, and cumin seeds.

Some variations might substitute black cumin for the nigella, also known as black caraway. The sweet notes of fennel with the heat of the mustard, along with the bitterness of fenugreek, make this mix exceptional.

Indian cuisine often utilizes these seeds as an ingredient, too. Beyond seasoning curries and chutneys, it is also common to chew on fennel seeds to freshen up your breath after an Indian meal, sometimes seeds that have been candied or coated with pastel-colored sugar.

Did you know candied fennel seed makes an excellent digestif, and breath freshener? Read more about the culinary and healing benefits of fennel seed on Foodal:
Sugar-coated fennel seeds make an excellent breath freshener and digestif.

In some recipes, fennel seed can be used as a substitute for the fresh variety, if it’s not available in your local grocery store or farmers market.

At home, try combining the spice with vegetables like carrots, pumpkin, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, red cabbage, or cucumber. It pairs very well with these foods – but really, it goes great with almost all kinds of savory dishes.

For example: fish is not only a perfect dish to serve fresh fennel with, it also makes a wonderful flavor combination with the seeds.

Flavoring meatballs is another fabulous and classic way to try out this spice. Or, use it to jazz up marinades, dressings, and barbecue or dipping sauces, by adding some coarsely crushed seeds.

A great recommendation for bread-baking friends: put some fennel seeds into the dough of your rye, whole wheat, or sweet quick bread, to give it a special added touch of flavor.

Fennel seed can be used in sweet or savory culinary applications, like this delectable fennel bread. Read more on Foodal:

Fennel seed can often be used interchangeably with anise, and it’s sometimes used to flavor sweet Italian Easter bread, along with citron or other candied fruits, and crunchy blanched almonds.

A Sprinkling of Health Benefits

Fennel seeds contain healing essential oils that release the moment you grind, chew, or crush them. These oils can have a positive impact on your digestive system. This has to do with the fact that the seeds contain – just like anise – the essential oil anethole, plus another compound known as fenchole.

Fenchole works as an anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, as an expectorant and for easing coughs (1).

That is why fennel can be useful as a natural cough remedy during a cold. Plus, the essential oils are calming in the case of gastrointestinal troubles, and can help with bloating related to digestive or female complaints.

A Spoonful of Fennel Seed |

Valuable substances like calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium make it a nutritious choice, too. Whether you season your dishes with the seeds or you have them as a tea, you can be sure to add some potential for healthy improvements here.

An herbal tea mixed with fennel, anise, and caraway can improve the conditions listed above too, because of the interaction of essential oils.

As anethole, the main essential oil in anise, has similar qualities to fenchole and works as an anti-bacterial, with the capability to positively influence the intestinal motility, the helpful effects can be of even greater use (1).

However, you can also enjoy the pure version of fennel tea. You’ll find an easy recipe for a homemade brew below.

Drink some of it in case you suffer from cough during a cold, or from light stomach problems – or just because you enjoy the flavor.

Make Your Own Homemade Brew

Making your own fennel seed tea doesn’t require lots of time or equipment. All you need is one teaspoon of fennel seeds per cup of tea.

Did you know fennel seed's beneficial properties can help with various health issues, like digestive complaints? Read more now on Foodal, and get the recipe to make your own homemade fennel seed tea:

1. Bring water to a boil and pour over the seeds. Leave to infuse for 7-10 minutes.

2. Strain and pour the tea into your cup or mug. Enjoy on its own, or with a dash of honey if you like.


In summary, fennel seeds are a great choice for all kinds of dishes, sweet as well as savory.

Mediterranean and the Indian cuisine make use of it quite often, and the seasoning is well-suited for use in dishes that include fish, meat, or vegetables.

Plus, when used medicinally as a tincture or tea, it can help to relax the throat or stomach.

What do you think? Have you ever used fennel seeds before in a tea? How do you combine the spice in recipes? Or don’t you like its distinct flavor?

Let me know if these are part of your seasoning routine, and what you like to use them for. Share your thoughts and comments below!

Dish of Fennel Seed |


1. Werner, Monika and Ruth von Braunschweig. “Praxis Aromatherapie. Grundlagen – Steckbriefe – Indikationen.” Haug Verlag: Stuttgart, 2014. Pp. 80, 125.

The staff at Foodal are not medical professionals and this article should not be construed as medical advice. Foodal and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet, or using supplements or manufactured or natural medications.

Photo credits: Shutterstock.

About Nina-Kristin Isensee

Nina lives in Iserlohn, Germany and holds an MA in Art History (Medieval and Renaissance Studies). She is currently working as a freelance writer in various fields. She enjoys travel, photography, cooking, and baking. Nina tries to cook from scratch every day when she has the time and enjoys trying out new spices and ingredients, as well as surprising her family with new cake creations.

24 thoughts on “Seasoning & Healing Effects of Fennel Seed”

  1. Interesting! I can’t make a pizza sauce without it. Really adds to the authenticity of the pie. What a great excuse to make some pizza from scratch tonight.

      • Yeah, you’re both right about this. It’s just a perfect addition! I hope you enjoy a homemade slice with some spicy sauce 🙂

  2. Excellent article. The only place I really use fennel in my cooking is for meatballs, especially for those slow cooked in sauce, it gives them a great flavor. For the health benefits, especially when talking about coughs, it is important to know that the oils from Fennel Seed act as an expectorant, which means it should be used for wet coughs that produce phlegm. For dry, hacking coughs, expectorants can actually make things worse as they can make a dry throat even more dry. Expectorants for wet coughs, suppressants for dry coughs.

    • Thank you for your additional information. You’re right about this, the different between wet/dry coughs is a relevant factor. You explained this very well, thanks for this!

  3. For various flavor combinations and seasoning, I think this is great. But healing effects? I’ll reserve judgement. I need to see a clinical study from a reputable organization and publisher or be told by my doctor. Historical use, common knowledge or public belief isn’t enough for me. There are to many claims and fads out there for me to take it at face value.

    • Well, the effect of fennel shouldn’t replace seeing a doctor. It’s just that many herbs or spices offer more than just flavor. Especially, when essential oils are involved. For sure, they are not medicine. I think this is more about well-being and see what you could use it for. From my experience the tea, for example, is always helpful to my throat. But I think using the spice for its aroma is still the most spread method 🙂

  4. Nice article, fennel is an often overlooked herb that can be used all year round to help alleviate basic cold and flu symptoms. It also provides a nice taste alternative to staples such as garlic and ginger.

    • So right! I also think that it’s wonderful to have a choice of different spices and herbs. The variety makes it fun to cook. What I love about it is that you can adjust it to many different cuisines. Fennel can be part of Asian, Italian, or Arabic recipes (just to name a few). It’s great to have this kind of all-rounder at home!

  5. I’ve never actually tried using fennel seeds as a cooking ingredient before. Are the anti-cough benefits really that potent? I’m considering cooking chicken in a sauce with fennel mixed in, as I’ve had a rather wet cough for days now. I’m really hopeful that the fennel could help even a little bit.

    • Well, I think it’s a good idea to use it then. It can’t replace a doctor or actual medicine, but why not include it for its natural effect? Plus, it just provides a wonderful flavor! Enjoy it.

  6. Yes, I’ve had fennel tea and those little sugar-coated seeds in an Indian restaurant. These seeds are also a great source of fibre and good to incorporate into a diet if one has high cholesterol.

    In our house we love a simple tomato tart sprinkled with fennel seeds whilst it’s still warm.

    • I agree with you, and I have to say that your tart sounds great. The seeds work perfect with tomatoes. Using spices like this, as a final seasoning on top of pies or tarts, is what I really like. The spices keep their full flavor and provide an aromatic twist.

  7. They say you crave what your body needs. I guess that’s why I crave Italian sausage when I feel.. bloated. It’s the seasoning my body needs! This is all very interesting.

    I might try making the beverage with it as well. Thanks for the good info.

    • I think it’s right what you say. This applies to many situations I guess. I hope you enjoy the tea, I like having it for my well-being and it’s such a warming and soothing drink.

    • Absolutely, if you haven’t tried it yet, I encourage you to include it to your spice rack. Like some of the readers above suggested, it’s also amazing in homemade pizzas and tomato sauces, too. Enjoy!

  8. Another fantastic property of fennel and fennel seeds is that it acts as a mild appetite suppressant, so it’s great for those embarking on a diet as well! Of course, if you’re embarking on a diet, this is not the kind of website you should be on! Haha – there are far too many delicious dishes and inspiration here, but a lot of them super healthy too. Thanks for the article, I love learning about the medicinal properties of common kitchen herbs.

    • You’re probably right about the diet-warning for Foodal 😉 We’ll try to keep the balance with posts like this, haha 😉 You’re right about this quality of the spice, it can be helpful to include when trying to lose some pounds. I’m happy to hear that this article was interesting to you.

  9. Well I got a pretty laugh at my own expense here, but I learned something that I can use so I am okay. I laughed because I thought to myself that I enjoy foods that aid in the digestive system, so I got all excited there, and then I remembered the main time I happen to use fennel is when I am making fennel sausage, and that kind of just has its own effects on the old digestive system, and they are not that great. That said, though, I am glad to hear the benefits so I will just need to find other ways to work it in. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Very useful! Thank you for posting this. I didn’t know about the tea, but I have used it in Indian recipes. Many Indian groceries sell the candied fennel seeds, and they do work very well to calm some of the rebellious stomach issues that spicy food can cause. I’ll have to try some with roasted carrots and potatoes sometime.

  11. Hmm, I’ll have to look out for panch phoron as it sounds really good!

    I do use fennel seeds a little in my cooking but my family doesn’t tend to like the flavour so I use it sparingly (and hope I get the full seeds if I haven’t crushed them!) I often sprinkle the whole seeds over carrots when roasting hem – yum!

    But thanks for all these suggestions on how to use them as I may find other ways my family will like, especially if it has all those nutritional benefits.


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