Licorice root - Glycyrrhizin glabra

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  • Description

  • Sweet and spicy taste
  • Enhances broths, sauces, and stews

What is Licorice Root?

Licorice root, scientifically known as Glycyrrhiza glabra, is the root of the licorice plant. This perennial plant belongs to the butterfly flower family (Fabaceae) and is native to Eurasia, the Mediterranean region, India, China, and Eastern Europe. It features long taproots and an extensive underground system of root runners that can give rise to new plants.


Licorice plants thrive in warm climates and can be found in Eurasia, the Mediterranean, India, China, and Eastern Europe. They can be propagated from seeds or by planting offshoots, although growing from seeds is more time-consuming. It takes approximately three to four years for the licorice plant to reach maturity and be ready for harvest. Plants grown from offshoots reach maturity in the first year.

Harvest Time

The mature licorice plants are harvested in autumn. The roots and their outriggers are carefully dug out and cleaned. The licorice root typically measures between 25 cm and 100 cm in length and can have a diameter of up to 3.5 cm.

Processing After Harvest

After the harvest, a significant portion of the licorice is processed by either grinding it directly or extracting its essence with hot water and evaporating it to create the well-known licorice extract. Only a small portion of the root is cleaned and cut to be sold as licorice root. Whole sticks of licorice root are rare in the market, occasionally found in select spice shops, such as those in France.

How to Use Licorice Root?

In Chinese cuisine, licorice is used as a spice to enhance the flavors of fennel and star anise. It is also a key component of the Chinese five-spice powder, which can be further enhanced by adding licorice powder.

Licorice root is suitable for seasoning broths and has recently experienced a resurgence in French cuisine and among renowned chefs. It can be freshly ground and added to sauces, stews, fennel risotto, or salad dressings to add a unique flavor profile.

Licorice is not only used for culinary purposes but also holds medicinal properties. In China and India, it is commonly used as a remedy or tea to treat respiratory tract ailments.

In Europe, licorice root is primarily used to make licorice candies.

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