All You Need to Know About Five Spice Powder

According to a traditional theory, the Chinese developed the 5 spice powder to engage all the five taste buds that include sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and pungent. Even though it is not known how exactly this culinary powder originated, the fact is that is continues to add flavour to meals across various cultures. This powder can really make your cuisine taste better and balance the aromas.

So if you are planning to add five spice powder to your culinary creations, then you need to what it encompasses and how it can enhance your food by harmonizing various tastes.

But before we get into it, let us understand what five-spice powder actually means.

Culinary experts reveal that a standard recipe of this powder includes Szechuan peppercorns, fennel, cinnamon, ground cloves, and star anise. Here are some unique taste attributes of each of these ingredients that make the five-spice powder as we know it today.


Cinnamon has a sweet taste but it is not like sugar. It has a spicy undertone that adds a little pungent flavour to it.

Szechuan peppercorns

This is not exactly a pepper but has a unique taste of its own that makes your food more flavourful. Extracted from red-brown berry, the plant is obtained from spiky ash bush that adds some serious aroma to the food. This fragrant spice not only engages your sense of smell with its spicy fragrance but also leaves your tongue slightly numb from its taste. Just two-three bites later, you will be able to identify the taste of ginger and anise that eventually taste salty, sour, and hot.

Ground Cloves

Ground cloves add a pungent taste but with a sweet after taste.

Star Anise

Some say that star anise tastes a bit like licorice but has a slightly bitter tinge in its taste.


Also like anise, fennel is slightly less pungent with sweet undertone and minus the licorice aftertaste.

Types of Five-Spice Powder

Other variations of this powder include ginger root, anise seeds, nutmeg, turmeric, cardamom, orange peel, galangal, licorice, and amomum villosum pods.

This powder in Southern China is made form Saigon cinnamon and a dash of orange peel instead of cloves and Chinese cinnamon. Therefore, the five-spice powder in Southern China tastes different than the same powder in other parts of the country.

When to Add It to Your Food

You can use this powder in your dishes to add an explosive taste of spices. They taste the best with meat, fish, or poultry marinades. It is mostly used as dry rub for maximum flavour. It is particularly suited to pork dishes that contain pork belly. You can marinate it in five-spice powder and other seasonings of your choice. In the west, the steamed dish is replaced with stir-fried versions of pork tenderloin or pork chops. Stir-frying the ingredients offers a fragrant mixture and a delicious taste.

You can also add a bit of oil and vinegar and use the steak on grill. Some even add to the sauce for enhanced taste.

About Liz Edgecombe

Liz is our founder, dreamer & passionate spice evangelist. She is passionate about enriching life & does what she can to add that extra bit of spice to life.