Pernod is a liqueur from France with a strong anise flavor, used in a variety of different recipes or drank on its own. Its taste can be an amazing addition to a dish, especially when paired with fish, but Pernod is not always easy to find.
Maybe you run out of this liqueur, or maybe you just didn’t found it. Here are a few Pernod substitutes you can use in case you need it.
The best substitutes for Pernod
Pernod is an adaptable, anise-flavored liqueur that originates from France and that has been used in dishes and cocktails for more than 200 years.
This liqueur belongs to the family of alcohol drinks whose flavor is tied to a few particular plants’ distillation: in this case star anise, fennel, coriander, and several other different herbs. Other members of this family are Ouzo, anisette, and pastis. The main difference between these liqueurs is actually in their alcoholic strength and sweetness.
The characteristic aroma of anise-flavored liqueurs comes from an organic compound called anethole. Anethole is distinctly sweet, sweeter than sugar, and contributes a large component of the odor and taste of anise and fennel, licorice, and star anise. Anethole is stored in plants and acts as a repellant to insects.
Using Pernod as an ingredient in dishes brings two different features: the anise flavor, which works well with seafood and meats, and is worldwide appreciated, and alcohol as an ingredient. Alcohol is a great asset in the kitchen because it can form new flavors and enhance those already present in a particular dish.
Pernod has a particular affinity with seafood dishes but it can also be a nice addition to any kind of meat, soups, or desserts. Pernod is a delicate ingredient, and it’s better to treat it gently.
Boiling it like a wine (to remove its alcohol and concentrate the flavor) doesn’t work, as Pernod ends up being less flavorful, so it’s better to add it at the end of the cooking or to heat it slowly and carefully with other ingredients.
Pastis is a French anise-flavored spirit that belongs to the same family as Pernod. It contains the additional flavor of licorice and is bottled at a minimum of 40% alcohol by volume.
The name of this liquor derives from the French word pastisson (mixture) as the drink is a mix of different aromas and tastes. The primary flavor comes from star anise or from the seeds of the Mediterranean anise plant. Other ingredients are licorice, melissa, sage, and other Mediterranean herbs.
Being part of the same family as Pernod, pastis can be a perfect Pernod substitute when cooking and the high percentage of alcohol can be reduced to better suit your recipe.
Absinthe is a highly aromatic, distilled spirit that is derived from a mix of different plants: the flowers and leaves of wormwood are the main ingredients, together with anise, angelica root, fennel, dittany leaves, hyssop, juniper, nutmeg, and other culinary herbs.
The color of this spirit varies in different bottling styles and it can go from very clear to a really bright green. The coloring is added through the steeping of different herbs or by adding artificial coloring.
Absinthe has a long and complicated history: it was a really popular spirit and it was banned in a lot of different countries until recently, due to multiple instances of harmful effects that were mainly due to too frequent use. There’s no actual proof that absinthe is more dangerous than other spirits.
Absinthe is bottled at very high levels of alcohol by volume. For this reason, it’s generally diluted with water before its consumption. Absinthe can be a good Pernod substitute for cooking because it has a very similar taste and because the strong alcohol content evaporates while cooking.
3. White wine
There is a wide variety of white wines, with different colors (from straw-yellow to yellow-gold) and different tastes. White wine is produced by the alcoholic fermentation of the grapes’ pulps and has been a favorite ingredient in cooking for a long time.
This large number of varieties comes from different methods of winemaking and different wine grapes. White wine is usually made from green or yellow grapes, but it can also be made from grapes with darker skin.
White wine can be a good substitute when cooking with Pernod because it pairs really well with seafood and, more in general, with the majority of cooked dishes. If you’re looking for something with the same exact flavor as Pernod, though, white wine isn’t the best choice.
Dry wine, smooth wine, and sweet wine are all good substitutes for Pernod when cooking. Keep in mind that the acidity of the wine grows with its strength.
Ouzo is a dry anise-flavored liquor produced from grape must and widely consumed in Greece. It belongs to the same family as the other anise liquors like Pernod and Pastis.
The recipe varies from company to company, but ouzo is usually distilled in copper stills of 96% alcohol by volume and then flavored with anise seeds and other ingredients such as cardamom, mint, clove, coriander, fennel, and cardamom.
In 2006 the Greek heritage of this beverage was recognized and received and EU-approved Protected Designation of Origin, meaning that every part of the production process must take place in the specific place of origin.
Ouzo is another good Pernod alternative when cooking because it adds the same distinct anise flavor to seafood dishes and to every other recipe you might want to try.
Sambuca is an anise-flavored liquor that originates from Italy. The most common variety is generally colorless and it’s often referred to as white sambuca when other varieties with different colors are called black sambuca or red sambuca.
Sambuca in Italy is mostly used as a digestif drink, usually drank straight after a big meal, but it can also be used in a variety of different cocktails and recipes. This liquor is flavored with essential oils obtained from anise (usually star anise, but green anise can be used too) and other herbs and spices such as licorice and elderflower.
Sambuca is part of the same family as Ouzo and Pastis, so it can be a perfect Pernod substitute in cooking, especially if you’re looking for something with the same flavor as the other liquor.
Whiskey is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from different types of fermented grain mash (corn, wheat, rye, and barley, for example.) It is usually distilled in copper stills and then aged in wooden casks.
There are a lot of different types of whiskey, but almost every one of them can be used as a peculiar Pernod liqueur substitute. The taste won’t be the exact same, since whiskey lacks the distinctive anise flavor of Pernod, but it can be a good choice if you want a more unique flavor and a sweet but smoky taste in your dish.
You can add the liquor in the beginning and let the alcohol evaporate (much like white wine) or add it towards the end (like you would do with Pernod) if you want the taste of alcohol to be a little bit stronger.
7. Citrus fruits
There are a lot of different alcoholic Pernod substitutes, but if you are looking for a non-alcoholic substitute lemon or lime can be a really good alternative.
The downside of this particular alternative is that lemon doesn’t offer the same anise and licorice flavor: if you really want to be able to taste the light addition that Pernod provides to the taste of a dish, you can always add lemon and then check in your spice rack.
There are a few different combinations you can try, with herbs and spices like fennel or star anise: just mix them, try it and adjust according to your taste.
Vodka is a distilled alcoholic beverage that originates from Poland, Russia, and Sweden. It is traditionally made by distilling the liquid from fermented grains or from potatoes and is composed primarily of water and ethanol.
Vodka is one of the most popular liquor and it’s available worldwide, so it makes for a cheap and easy-to-find Pernod substitute. Just like whiskey, vodka can be an excellent ingredient for seafood dishes. It lacks the distinctive anise flavor that Pernod has, but it works really well with shrimp and fish, and you can always mix in other herbs and spices to reach the flavor you’re looking for.
Anisette is another anise-flavored alcoholic beverage that belongs to the same family as Pastis, Ouzo, and Sambuca. It’s used in many different Mediterranean countries (like Spain, Malta, Greece, Albania, Italy, and Lebanon) and it’s usually colorless. Anisette is produced by distilling anise seeds, much like Sambuca, and tends to be sweeter than the other anise-based liquors.
The high content of sugar in Anisette makes it almost syrupy, so while Anisette can be a really good substitute for Pernod, keep in mind the added sweetness. A good rule of thumb is to always taste the dish you’re cooking so that you can adjust the flavor and control the balance of the tastes.
How to choose a Pernod substitute
There are a lot of different alternatives to Pernod, but when looking for a Pernod substitute it’s better to keep in mind the differences between all of these possibilities.
Pastis, Absinthe, Anisette, Ouzo, and Sambuca all have a similar characteristic anise flavor, so they’re probably the closest substitute for Pernod you can find.
White wine, vodka, and whiskey are all good alternatives if you don’t really care about the distinctive flavor. If you want a non-alcoholic Pernod substitute, lemon and a mix of different herbs and spices can be a good idea
Whatever you choose, go slowly when substituting and always taste your dish while you are cooking it.