How to counteract too much fennel?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “How to counteract too much fennel?” and discuss in more detail the possible ways to counteract too much fennel in the recipes and the side effects of eating too much fennel.

How to counteract too much fennel?

To counteract too much fennel, you can:

  • Dilute the recipe by adding liquids
  • Dilute the recipe by adding extra ingredients

Dilution can change the concentration of aroma compounds in the solution. Some aromas tend to be more perceivable and others are less, depending on their characteristic (1).

However, by increased dilution, the aroma compounds of fennel will be less detectable, as the amount of water or other liquids (or solids) increases. This happens because the concentration of the characteristic aroma compounds is reduced.

What are the different ways to counteract too much fennel in a recipe?

To counteract too much fennel in the recipe, it is necessary to dilute the recipe. By adding other ingredients or water, the concentration of the aroma compounds present in fennel, which gives its flavor and characteristic aroma, is reduced for the same volume of the dish (1). 

This is more important than simply masking the flavor with other seasonings, because by masking, the amount of fennel is maintained for the same volume.

You can dilute the dish by adding either liquids and solid ingredients, as following:

Diluting the recipe with a liquid

Diluting the recipe is one of the easiest methods to counteract too much fennel in the recipe. It is necessary to add small amounts of water till the flavor of fennel is no longer intense, or according to your personal preference. 

You can also add another liquid, such as milk or yogurt. Dairy are fine options to counteract flavors in dishes due to the presence of casein (milk protein) in their composition. 

Casein is able to bind to hydrophobic as well as to hydrophilic chemical compounds and that give fennel its aroma. Chemical compounds characterizing the fennel flavor are phenylpropanoids, anethole and estragole and terpenes, such as α-terpineol and fenchone (2). 

Milk and dairy has been also used as taste masking foods for the development of drugs due to its superior carrier properties (3).

Dilute by adding extra ingredients

The dilution effect can be achieved by the addition of extra ingredients in the recipe, especially in the case of carbohydrate-containing ingredients and starch-containing ingredients, such as potatoes, cornstarch and vegetables (4).

Carbohydrates are able to trap aroma compounds, and many other compounds, due to their molecules, which contain many -OH structures. These -OH attract both hydrophobic and hydrophilic molecules, reducing their availability in the solution. 

To counteract the strong fennel aroma released in the dish, add cut potatoes in the cooking dish and cook till the potatoes are soft. Alternatively, dissolve cornstarch in a small amount of water and add to the dish and cook for a few minutes. 

Repeat this procedure till the fennel aroma is lightened. 

Why is fennel aromatic?

Fennel is aromatic due to its compounds, which are very aromatic. The main aroma compounds in fennel are 46 aromatic compounds, in addition to terpenes, oxygen-containing terpenes. 

Fennel is used in the pharmaceutical and perfume industry and possesses antioxidant, antifungal, antimicrobial and insecticide properties (2). 

The compounds characterizing the fennel aroma are fenchone, estragole and anethole, limonene, methyl chavicol, cymene and others. Anethole has a sweet anise-like note and estragole gives a bitter flavor.

What are the side effects of eating too many fennel seeds?

The side effects of eating too much fennel seeds are nausea, vomiting and seizures. Estragole, an aromatic compound found in fennel, can cause cancer when ingested in large quantities and Bergapten (furanocoumarin) can cause skin cancer by its consumption following exposure to sunlight (5).

In addition, allergic reactions related to skin and respiratory reactions are possible, as well as reactions in the uterus, due to its oestrogenic-like action. 

If you are allergic to fennel, consider using another spice, such as cumin.

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In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “How to counteract too much fennel?” and discuss in more detail the possible ways to counteract too much fennel in the recipes and the side effects of eating too much fennel.


  1. Ashmore, P. Layton, et al. Impact of Dilution on Whisky Aroma: A Sensory and Volatile Composition Analysis. Foods, 2023, 12, 1276. 
  2. Milenković, Aleksandra, et al. Essential Oil Yield, Composition, Antioxidant and Microbial Activity of Wild Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.) from Monte Negro Coast. Horticulturae, 2022, 8, 1015. 
  3. Sadiq, Uzma, Harsharn Gill, and Jayani Chandrapala. Casein micelles as an emerging delivery system for bioactive food components. Foods, 2021, 10, 1965.
  4. Naknean, P., and M. Meenune. Factors affecting retention and release of flavour compounds in food carbohydrates. Int Food Res J, 2010, 17, 23-34.
  5. Malhotra, S. K. Fennel and fennel seed. Handbook of herbs and spices. Woodhead Publishing, 2012. 275-302.

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