Candied Fennel Seeds Recipe | Sweet Mukhwas or Sugar Coated Saunf
Here’s a health-ified Indian-inspired recipe that’s SO refreshingly tasty, and so near and dear to my heart. Also known as mukhwas or sugar coated saunf in Hindi, candied fennel seeds are a classic post-dinner treat in Indian cuisine! Not just a sweet treat, but they’re a traditional Indian mouth freshener candy, which can also aid in digestion.
I grew up eating candied fennel seeds at my grandparents’ house, where my grandma kept a bowl filled with them on the counter. She always called them saunf, which is Hindi for ‘fennel seeds,’ but they’re generally known as sweet mukhwas when they’re candied. Back then, I knew saunf as a rainbow-colored candy in a crunchy sugar coating, like this:
You may have seen these kinds of candied fennel seeds at an Indian restaurant where the after-dinner mints would usually be. (Because that’s pretty much what saunf and sweet mukhwas are!) But, today, I’m showing you how to make candied fennel seeds a bit healthier—without the food dye and using some coconut sugar instead of all regular!
Of course, I LOVED that crunchy, sugary, artificially-colored saunf as a kid. (And I still do!) But, candy-coated mukhwas are just ONE variety—and unfortunately, it’s not the healthiest! These lightened-up candied fennel seeds are actually closer to traditional mukhwas recipes, and they’re unbelievably simple to make.
Crunchy, sweet, refreshingly aromatic, and with a nostalgic licorice-y taste! Full disclosure: I actually don’t like the taste of licorice, but I do love candied fennel seeds still. So, if you don’t like licorice, this may not be the recipe for you—but you might find that you enjoy it in this crunchy, candied form!
How to Make Candied Fennel Seeds or Saunf Mukhwas with Coconut Sugar
Really, all you’re doing here is making a simple syrup and coating your fennel seeds in it! But, I’m replacing half of the regular refined sugar with unrefined coconut sugar. Yes, it’s still sugar—but coconut sugar is a cleaner, natural sweetener that contains more nutrients because it’s unrefined.
Side note: I did try making this recipe with ALL coconut sugar, and it didn’t work… The mixture becomes far too sticky and the fennel seeds won’t dry properly!
These candied fennel seeds are super simple and take only 10 minutes to make, but you’ve got to pay attention the whole time! To start, add your regular sugar, coconut sugar, and water to a saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring regularly. Continue stirring until a syrup begins to form (it will take about 3-5 minutes) and watch for the bubbles!
Once you’ve got a bubbly, syrupy mixture, reduce the heat to medium and add your fennel seeds. Now, it’s crucial to stay present during this step because things start to happen quickly!
Stir continuously to coat your fennel seeds in the syrup, until the mixture starts to crystallize and the fennel looks dry. (This will happen in about 1-2 minutes or less!) The fennel won’t look completely dry, but it should look drier than before—and it will also dry a bit more as it cools.
Then, remove your pan from the heat and continue to stir for another half minute or so, as the fennel seeds continue to dry and separate. Pour candied fennel seeds onto a plate so they can cool, until completely dry and the seeds separate easily. You can serve and enjoy immediately, or transfer to an airtight container to store!
Saunf / Fennel Seeds Benefits
In Indian culture, it’s common practice to chew on a small handful of saunf or fennel seeds after a meal. They’re known as the Indian mouth freshener seeds because they contain anise (a.k.a. licorice) flavor, which can freshen up the breath. And, fennel also has antibacterial properties, helping to wash out bad-breath-causing bacteria from the mouth!
But, that’s not the only reason to chew on candied fennel seeds after a meal. One of the main fennel seeds benefits is they’re incredibly good for digestion! They contain essential oils with anti-inflammatory properties and digestion-promoting properties, which can help with indigestion, bloating, and constipation—especially in those with chronic digestive issues.
Plus, fennel seeds are loaded with essential vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that are associated with countless health benefits. Their rich potassium content can help to regulate blood pressure, their high levels of vitamin A aid in eye health, and some of fennel’s phytonutrients can even reduce asthma symptoms!
Fennel tea is a common way to reap the benefits of fennel seeds, but you can also incorporate fennel into your cooking. Or, keep some saunf on hand for munching after meals! Crunchy, sweet, refreshing, AND aiding in your digestion. These candied fennel seeds plenty delicious all on their own, but are also perfect for sprinkling onto salads, oats, desserts, and more!
Candied Fennel Seeds
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp coconut sugar*
- 3 Tbsp water
- ⅓ cup fennel seeds
- *NOTE: I tried this recipe with all coconut sugar instead of half regular & half coconut sugar—it didn’t work! The mixture was too sticky and the fennel did not dry/crystallize properly.
- Bring sugar, coconut sugar, and water to a boil over high heat, stirring continuously until a syrup forms. There will be bubbles! It should take 3-5 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium and add the fennel seeds. Stir until the mixture crystalizes—it will be quick! (The fennel should look dry, but it will also dry a bit more as it cools.)
- Remove pan from heat and stir another 30-40 seconds, until the fennel seeds dry and can separate.
- Add to a dish to serve immediately or store in an airtight container for later.
- Great on salads, desserts, oats, or as a breath freshener after a meal. Great for digestion!
- Lasts 1-2 weeks stored in an airtight container.
- Yields ⅓ cup candied fennel seeds.
10 Comments on “Candied Fennel Seeds Recipe | Sweet Mukhwas or Sugar Coated Saunf”
I had monk fruit around the house and just used that for this recipe, as I am on the ketogenic diet and have been for the last couple of years. I’ve been obsessed with the taste of fennel since I happened across it as a child… Not at all common where I grew up. But as soon as I tasted it, I had to find it again. This recipe is such a godsend for me. Thank you!
That’s fantastic to know that monk fruit worked in this recipe! Did you use granulated monk fruit or a syrup of some sort? Would love to know more about what you did! Thanks so much for trying out the recipe 🙂
Thank you for this simple recipe! Been on the lookout for one that’s doable at home (with no colouring and using coconut sugar!) since it’s very difficult to find it at the stores where I live. As straightforward as the recipe is, I think I had botched it somehow! After it was all done, I found granulated sugar at the bottom of the fennel seeds, so some of the sugar had gone back to its original form. Is it meant to happen? Many thanks again!
Hi Nasrin, so glad you’ve enjoyed the recipe! Thank you so much for trying it out 🙂 We also did find some sugar granules at the bottom of our candied fennel seeds after they were done cooking and cooling. I think coconut sugar is just a bit wetter in texture than regular table sugar, and it doesn’t seem to stick as well to the fennel seeds even after being heated.
After our fennel seeds cooled, a bit of the sugar granules would slide off – but for a lightened-up recipe, we were happy with the sugar coating that did manage to stick!
Loved finding this recipe so we could avoid the food coloring – thank you so much. But I think I went astray somewhere because my fennel ended up in clumps. Should I have kept it in the pot longer before setting it out to dry? How do I know when it’s “done”? Or could something else have caused this?
Hi Mindy, so glad that you like our candied fennel seeds recipe! It can be a bit tricky to get the hang of at first – working with a homemade sugar-syrup mixture like this, it’s easy to end up with a clumpy final result. In addition, coconut sugar has more moisture than regular granulated sugar, so it can result in a stickier, clumpier final product. If you’re not attached to using the coconut sugar, you could use all regular granulated sugar instead, or adjust the ratio to use a bit more regular sugar and a bit less coconut sugar!
In general, here are my best tips for monitoring your sugar coated saunf as it’s cooking:
First, when boiling the water and sugar mixture, be sure to stir continuously (the whole time!) until a syrup starts to form and you see those bubbles coming up. You want a very well integrated syrup mixture for the best, smoothest result! Once it’s bubbling, that’s your signal to immediately turn down the heat to medium and add the fennel seeds.
With your fennel seeds in the syrup, continue stirring so they’re well coated. After 1-2 minutes over medium heat you should notice they’re starting to dry. This is the signal that they’re done and ready to come off the heat! The fennel won’t be completely dry yet, but they should be drier than before (compared to when you first put them into the syrup), and the sugar will start crystallizing/hardening.
At that point, it’s time to remove the pan from the heat, keep stirring for 30 seconds or so to help the fennel continue drying and separating, and then transfer to a plate.
I hope these suggestions and tips can be helpful for you! Would love to know how things go if you try out the recipe again 🙂
Thank you so much for your very detailed reply. I will make these again soon and post an update!
My pleasure 🙂 looking forward to hearing how the next round goes!