Star anise, a unique spice with a unique eight-pointed star shape, comes from Vietnamese- and Chinese-native evergreen trees and has been used for cooking and medicinal purposes since 100 BC. Star anise has a spicy, somewhat bitter licorice flavor and is used to enhance many poultry and beef dishes. It is also used often with seafood and pears. Star anise is used in many dishes around the world, so you can enjoy an entire day’s worth of star anise–inspired recipes from all four corners of the globe.

 Breakfast: Greece

Grilled Pink Grapefruit with Star Anise

This sweet and sour breakfast is a Greek favorite. It’s very simple and takes about 15 minutes to prepare. Along with being refreshing and healthy, it starts your day with a sweet and spicy kick. 

Grilled grapefruit with star anise is a Greek favorite.
Photo by Jill Bickham


2 pink grapefruit

1 teaspoon ground star anise (pods from about 4 stars)

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

3 cups Greek yogurt


  1. Halve the grapefruit and shave a thin slice from the bottom of each half, so it sits flat. Cut between the dividing membranes so later you can spoon out the fruit easily using a grapefruit knife. Place the halves on a lightly greased baking sheet—cut sides facing up.
  2.  Mix the star anise, light brown sugar, and cinnamon together. Sprinkle the star anise mixture on top of the grapefruit halves.
  3.  Place the baking sheet in the oven to broil for three to five minutes, or until the star anise mixture caramelizes.
  4. Scoop out the grapefruit sections and place them on top of the Greek yogurt.

Yield: 2–4 servings

Ready in 15 minutes


Lunch: Vietnam

Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

This traditional Vietnamese soup with its many spices and delicious beef has a warm, delectable flavor. And it has enough substance to fill you up.

Traditional Vietnamese  pho bo made with star anise.
Photo by Jill Bickham


8 cups rich beef stock

1 pound beef sirloin

1 cup basil leaves

½ cup Sriracha

3 limes

1 lemon

2 tablespoons star anise seeds (pods from about 8 stars)

1 package Thai rice sticks (10–15 ounce size)

2 cups bean sprouts

6 green onions

½ bunch cilantro


  1. Bring beef stock to a boil. Squeeze juice from the limes and lemon into the beef stock. Add the star anise. Let stock boil for 15 minutes.
  2. In a separate pot, cook Thai rice sticks according to package directions.
  3.  Cook beef sirloin in a pan.
  4. Prep the other ingredients: Slice green onions. Chop cilantro. Thinly slice beef. Rinse and dry basil.
  5. When noodles are cooked, drain and divide among six bowls. On top of noodles, evenly divide the bean sprouts, sliced green onions, and cilantro. Top herbs with beef divided evenly between the bowls. Remove the star anise from stock. Ladle hot stock into each bowl of noodles and beef.
  6. Season individually with basil and Sriracha.

Yield:6 servings

Ready in 45 minutes


Dinner: Polynesia

Polynesian Chicken

Seafaring Polynesians brought their domesticated chickens to the Americas three thousand years ago, and chicken is still a major staple in their diets. This star anise chicken dish serves many people, so it’s easy to see why it’s popular with the highly social Polynesian people. The spicy blend of chicken and rice fills you up without weighing you down. 



Polynesian Chicken
Photo by Jill Bickham

1 package white rice (10–15 ounces)

4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced

3 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon pepper

2 tablespoons sesame seed

½ cup low sodium soy sauce

⅓ cup honey

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

2 teaspoons ground star anise (pods from about 8 stars)

2 tablespoons peeled and grated fresh ginger

10 green onions, sliced

1 cup chopped, fresh cilantro leaves


  1.  Preheat oven to 375º F.
  2.  Mix diced chicken, soy sauce, honey, hoisin sauce, star anise, ginger, salt, pepper, and sesame seed in a baking dish. Bake 30–40 minutes.
  3.  Prepare rice according to package directions.
  4.  Serve chicken on top of rice. Sprinkle green onion and cilantro on top.

Yield: 4–6 servings

Ready in 45 minutes


Dessert: Middle East

Moghli (Spice Pudding)

 This Middle Eastern dish is traditionally served after the birth of a new son, but tastes great any other day as well. It can be a fun tradition to make this whenever a baby is born or to have a unique dessert to share with your friends. 

Moghli is traditionally served after the birth of a new son, but tastes great any other day as well.
Photo by Jill Bickham


3 cups water

1 cup rice flour

¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground caraway seed

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground star anise (pods from about 4 stars)

½ cup shredded coconut

1 cup chopped walnuts



  1. Bring 2 cups of the water to a boil.
  2.  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining cup of water with the rice flour until smooth.
  3.  Combine the star anise, sugar, caraway seed, and cinnamon in another bowl and set aside.
  4.  Add the rice flour mixture to the boiling water, stirring well, and reduce the heat to medium. Pour in half of the sugar mixture, continuing to stir until combined, then add the remaining sugar mixture and keep stirring.
  5.  Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens.
  6. Chop walnuts.
  7. Serve in small bowls with coconut and walnuts on top.

Yield: 2–4 servings

Ready in 35 minutes

—Kelly Haight