Objective: A rapid and nondestructive method was used to quantitatively predict the content of three main active components (glycyrrhizin, liquiritin and isoliquiritin) in licorice by near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). Methods: Diffuse reflectance spectra of licorice powder were obtained, the contents of glycyrrhizin, liquiritin and isoliquiritin were analyzed simultaneously by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). The partial least squares (PLS) regression algorithm was used to establish the quantitative models. Several pretreatments such as multiplicative scatter correction (MSC), first derivative, second derivative and Savitzky-Golay (SG) smoothing were utilized to correct the scattering effect and eliminate the baseline shift in all spectra. The calibration equations produced the highest determination of coefficient values (R2), the lowest root mean square error of calibration (RMSEC) and the lowest root mean square error of prediction (RMSEP) were used for the determination of glycyrrhizin, liquiritin and isoliquiritin. Results: The R2 of glycyrrhizin, liquiritin and isoliquiritin were 0.999, 0.996 and 0.999, respectively. The RMSEC of glycyrrhizin, liquiritin and isoliquiritin were 1.14 mg/g, 0.77 mg/g and 0.068 mg/g respectively. The RMSEP of glycyrrhizin, liquiritin and isoliquiritin were 4.92 mg/g, 2.06 mg/g and 0.35 mg/g respectively. Conclusions: The results indicated that the NIRS method could be used for the rapid assessment of licorice.