Chinese Five Spice Powder

Chinese Five Spice Powder

Five spice powder is China’s best-known and loved seasoning blend.  Like most spice blends, the ingredients and proportions vary.  However, the classic Chinese combination of star anise, fennel, cinnamon, cloves, and Szechuan pepper is most common.  It’s also the version I remember from my aunt’s kitchen.

You may wonder why anyone would make five spice powder.  It is, after all, easy enough to find in your local Asian market.  Well, there are several good reasons to make your own blend.  For one, the fragrance and flavor of spices fades over time.  Also, freshly ground spices are more flavorful.  Moreover, when blending your own spices, you can adapt the seasoning to your family’s unique tastes.

For example, the readymade five spice powder in my local market contains a lot of fennel.  For me, the fennel flavor is too pronounced.  It masks the flavors of star anise and Szechuan pepper and makes the blend lovely for desserts, but a little too perfumed for savory dishes.

Chinese Five Spice Powder |


Across China, there are many versions of five spice powder, which include additional ingredients, such as:

  • cardamom
  • ginger
  • orange peel, and
  • glangal

As you get comfortable making spice blends and using five spice powder in your cooking, why not experiment with some of these additional ingredients?  For now, I’m pleased to share my preferred recipe.

Bon apétit!


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