Anise, The Spice that Smells Like Licorice: Bolivian Food & Recipes

by BoliviaBella
(Santa Cruz, Bolivia)



Anise (also called aniseed) is a plant that produces tiny, aromatic seeds that smell like black licorice. The seeds are dried and used in recipes (either whole or ground), giving baked goods, alcoholic beverages, and meals a very distinctive flavor.

It’s important not to confuse anise (scientific name Pimpinella anisum) with star anise (scientific name Illicium verum) as anise is used primarily in foods and star anise is used primarily as a fragrance oil. Although the use of star anise to flavor food and drinks is increasing, some varieties of star anise (especially the Japanese variety) is actually highly toxic. While both anise and star anise contain anethole (which causes them to smell of licorice) the two plants are not related.

In Spanish, anise is anís (pronounced ah-NIECE). In Bolivia, whole anís seeds are typically used in artisan breads and savory foods, herbal teas and infusions, while ground anise is more commonly used as a spice in sweet baked goods, such as cookies and cakes, and in some candies, cough drops and even cereal. Alcoholic beverages are also sometimes infused with the flavor of anise and it is infrequently, but sometimes used to flavor side dishes, such as quinoa.

However, the single most common use for anise in Bolivia is... the huminta! Humintas are a simple morning or teatime snack made of ground corn and wrapped in corn husks. They are very similar to Mexican tamales. They are an easy Bolivian recipe to make and are made two ways: a la olla (boiled) or al horno (baked). Give one of these Bolivian recipes with anise a try:

Humintas a la Olla - Boiled in the Husk

Humintas al Horno - Oven Baked in the Husk

A few other easy-to-make Bolivian foods that use anise are:

Buñuelos - Deep Fried Sweetbread

Picana – A traditional soup we eat at midnight on Christmas Eve

Tantawawas – Bolivian bread babies that we eat on Day of the Dead

Aniseed Plant:

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