A quick and easy Chinese 5 Spice Powder Recipe, so you always have the freshest and most powerful spices on hand to make Chinese food that is better than takeout! (Only takes 15 minutes to make ½ a Cup of this spice mix!)
Why Make It
It's good to make your own Chinese 5 spice powder because:
- The spices are fresher so the Chinese dishes you cook will be more aromatic. (Old spices lose their taste and this only needs to be used sparingly. Its pungent flavor means a little goes a long way, so a bottle can last a long time.)
- You can tailor the spice mix to your taste. (See "Ingredients" for substitute spices.) For example, commercial mixes won't use the more expensive ingredients such as dried orange peel.
- This is a really easy Chinese 5 spice powder recipe is really easy: only 3 steps, 5 ingredients and ready in under 15 minutes!
Note: There's also a lesser-known Chinese 13-spice powder- I'll share the recipe for that soon- it's slightly more complicated to make as some of the ingredients are quite difficult to find.
What is 5 Spice Powder?
Also known as 五香粉 (Wu Xiang Fen), 5 spice powder is a ground mixture of various spices that is used in Chinese cuisine, and even Vietnamese and Hawaiian food. My favourite Chinese recipe that uses it is this Singaporean home cooked classic, soya sauce braised pork.
If you want to recreate the dishes you've had at a Chinese restaurant, then this spice mix is a must-have in your spice rack, especially if you like Chinese roasted meat! (See FAQs for potential health benefits.)
I use these spices in my Chinese 5 spice powder recipe:
- cassia cinnamon: you can substitute with Ceylon cinnamon sticks which are more readily available outside of Asian supermarkets. (There are also some side effects associated with eating too much cassia cinnamon- click the link to find out more (under the "cinnamon" section.)
- whole cloves: be careful not to use too much. It's a strong spice and can be overpowering
- star anise: use your broken pieces of star anise- there are some in every packet- to speed up the grinding process.
- fennel seeds: this give the spice mix a licorice flavor. They look a little like cumin seeds but are green in color, so don't mix the 2 up!
- Sichuan pepercorns: some people use white peppercorns or sand ginger root instead.
Fun fact: Szechuan pepper isn't really a pepper- it's part of the citrus family!
Where to Buy
You can get most of the spices at a regular grocery store. For more "exotic" spices such as dried tangerine peel, go online or to a Chinese store.
- Lightly toast the spices in a dry pan till fragrant.
Method 1 (Easy): you can also blitz everything in a spice grinder or coffee grinder.
2. Method 2 (Slow): Pound the spices in a mortar and pestle. (It took me about 10 minutes.)
Next, sieve the pounded spice mix to remove larger pieces. If not, your mix will be gritty!
Tip: You can't turn the spices into powder with a blender- it will give you uneven, chunky bits AND will ruin the blades of most blenders.
How to Use
5 spice powder is amazing in meat dishes such as easy soy sauce chicken and roast chicken dry rub (Click here for roast chicken leftovers recipes.) However, it's also good in:
- braised Chinese dishes e.g. stewed peanuts, mushrooms, tofu and/ or eggs
- stovetop popcorn seasoning
- the filling of Taiwanese green onion pancakes
- in Peking duck
- Click here for Peking duck side dishes
I'd love to hear how you use this quick homemade 5 spice powder recipe! On my end, I'm making these 5 spice braised carrots tonight! (Verdict: they were OK but not so good that I plan to make them again.)
How to Store
Keep the aromatic spice blend in an airtight container in a cool and dark place. Try not to make too much at a go for best flavor.
John Hopkins singles out 2 of the fresh spices- (Ceylon) cinnamon and ginger- as having health benefits. According to a Singaporean study, the cloves in the recipe contributes high antioxidant capacities (AOCs) which can help prevent or reduce cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, szechuan pepper, fennel, star anise and cinnamon mainly add to the flavour (and not the AOCs.)
In a pinch, you can use allspice. A better substitute would be to add the spices in 5-spice powder, such as ground star anise or ground ginger, to your allspice mixture.
The number 5 doesn't actually refer to the number of spices in the recipe- some feature 6 or more- but rather the 5 flavours (salty, spicy, bitter, sweet and savoury.) These flavors represent the traditional 5 elements, which have roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Tip #1: I've given exact proportions for the spices in the recipe card below but it's more of a guideline- feel free to experiment with the amount of spices you used.
Tip #2: You can even switch up the spices used. I would say cinnamon, cloves and star anise are the key ones but you have some leeway with fennel and Sichuan peppercorns. Other spices that are sometimes found in this spice rub include dried tangerine peel, turmeric, nutmeg, Chinese cardamom, licorice etc
Other Chinese Recipes
Enjoyed this 5-spice powder recipe? Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟rating in the recipe card below & if you REALLY like it, a comment would make my week! Thank you and have a great day!
Easy Chinese 5 Spice Powder Recipe
- mortar and pestle OR coffee/ spice blender
- Thin bottom pan and heat-proof spatula Don't use a heavy bottom pan or it will take a long time to toast the spices.
- 4 Star anise Look for broken pieces as it makes the pounding easier
- 1.5 teaspoon sichuan peppercorns Substitute: white peppcorns
- 1 casssia stick (Chinese cinnamon) (about 1-2g) Substitute: Ceylon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon cloves
- Over low-medium heat, dry fry the spices in a pan till their fragrance is released.
- Blitz the spices in a coffee or spice grinder. If you don't have one, you can also pound them by hand in a mortar and pestle. (This took me 9 minutes 52 seconds so it's not too time consuming.)
- Sieve the powder to remove any bigger bits
- Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place till you want to use it.
What are your favourite recipes that use 5 spice powder? Let me know in the comments!
made this over the weekend and it was SO MUCH better than the McCormicks I usually buy! def a keeper recipe thanks! Used a spice grinder so didn't have a problem with the bits in the mix
glad to hear, Lu Lu 🙂 yes i've stopped buying ready made after making my own r-spice at home 🙂