This unique ingredient is hard to replace, but there are a few options! Here’s the best fennel substitute to use for fresh and the dried seed.

Fennel substitute

Making a recipe but don’t have fennel? Fennel is a vegetable that’s a member of the carrot family, but it looks more like a cross between an onion, celery and dill! It has a large bulbous root, stalks, and leafy fronds at the top. The bulb can be eaten cooked or raw thinly sliced, and it has a black licorice or anise flavor. Dried fennel seeds are also used in recipes to add a savory, hearty flavor.

Fennel is very unique, so we highly recommend seeking it out! This is especially improtant if you’re making a recipe with fennel in the title, like Fennel Salad or Roasted Fennel. But using it as a backup ingredient and don’t have time to run to the store? Here’s the best fennel substitute for fresh and dried fennel seed.

How many cups is 1 fennel bulb chopped?

You can use this substitution ratio for chopped or sliced fennel:
1 fennel bulb = 1 to 1 ½ cups diced or sliced

Best fennel substitute

Follow the instructions in parentheses that specify the usage for each type of substitute.

1. Celery (raw in salads)

A good fennel substitute when it’s used raw? Celery. Celery doesn’t have the same licorice-y flavor as fennel, but it has a similar crunch. Make sure to thinly slice it to get a similar fennel-like vibe. This would work well in a fennel salad.

Use this substitution ratio: 1 fennel bulb (1 to 1 ½ cups chopped) = 2 to 3 medium celery stalks

3. Yellow or white onion (fennel bulb that’s cooked)

The best fennel substitute for cooked dishes like soups and stews? Onion. Fennel does add a complexity in flavor that onion lacks, but it works similar to onion. If you’d like, you can add ½ teaspoon or so of fennel seeds if you have them. This works well in soups and stews like Tuscan White Bean Soup.

Use this substitution ratio: 1 fennel bulb (1 to 1 ½ cups chopped) = 1 medium to large onion

5. Leek (fennel bulb that’s cooked)

Another cooked fennel substitute? Leeks. You can use chopped leeks to substitute to chopped fennel. Again the flavor doesn’t have the savory, anise essence, but you could add a bit of fennel seeds as well.

Use this substitution ratio: 1 fennel bulb (1 to 1 ½ cups chopped) = 1 large leek

5. Caraway seeds (fennel seed)

The best fennel substitute for the dried seeds? Caraway seeds! Caraway seeds have a similar peppery, subtle black licorice flavor: because they’re also in the carrot family! In fact, they’re often used in the same way as fennel seeds in Eastern European recipes. It’s a great 1 for 1 substitute!

6. Anise seeds (fennel seed)

A final fennel substitute? Anise seeds. Anise seeds are smaller and much more potent: they have a very strong anise flavor. Because they’re so strong, we recommend caraway seeds as a better flavor match for fennel. But if that’s all you have, it will work! Use half the amount of anise seeds.

Here are some of our favorite fennel recipes:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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