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.

What Does Chinese Five Spice Powder Contain?

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.

Sichuan Pepper:

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 a 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 and liquorice.

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

How to Use Chinese Five Spice?

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 a 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 the grill. Some even add to the sauce for enhanced taste.

This amazing spice mix is helpful not just for food, but also for drinks. Here are the top uses of this mix:

  • Use it for different kinds of roasted and grilled meats for aromatic flavours
  • Get spicy and warm kicks from cocktails with the Chinese five spice mix
  • Sprinkle it over bread, cookies, and muffins
  • Use it as a marinade for pork, duck, chicken, and beef
  • It is suitable as a glaze for pork, chicken, and grilled ribs, along with a tinge of honey and brown sugar
  • You may add a new flavour to stir-fries with this. It can easily counteract the smoky and fiery chipotle powder in sweet and spicy potato wedges.
  • You can add sweet notes to broccoli and beef. The orange rind may also be added to these dishes.
  • It adds a wonderful flavour to spiced nuts. Once added, you will be able to make out the toastiness in the nuts.
  • Want to taste oatmeals with a twist? Add the Chinese five spice mix.
  • Soup flavours taste more distinct with the addition of this spice mix. You will love the flavour it is able to impart to chicken noodle soup.

One can also use the mix to make pickle brine, which is commonly used in several Asian households to preserve fruits and vegetables. No vegetarian entrées or snacks will ever taste bland with the addition of the mix. You will be able to prepare several sauces as well as marinades for vegetarian items with it.

Use Carefully:

Chinese five spice is very potent, and so it must be used only in moderation. Its potency can be kept intact when it is used in small amounts and is kept in a cool and dark place. It can completely alter the flavour of the dish you plan to serve.

This can be understood from the fact that even though salt is not part of it, the mix is still able to provide a salty flavour. You can increase the saltiness of a dish by simply adding the five spice blend, which behaves as salt.

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    Ground Ceylon Cinnamon

    Product Description

    Ceylon Cinnamon Ground or ‘True Cinnamon’ is the variety used for medicinal and culinary purposes. It is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several tree species from the genus Cinnamomum. Ceylon Cinnamon is used in both sweet and savoury foods to impart a warm spice flavour. In the Middle East, it is commonly paired with meats such as chicken and lamb. The term ‘cinnamon’ also refers to its mid-brown colour.


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    Product description

    Sichuan Pepper is an oriental fruit grown on a small ash tree native to the Sichuan province of China. Even though it is called pepper, it is not a true pepper and is not related to black peppercorns, which are from India. The berries have a warm peppery fragrance, with citrus notes & a clean fresh aftertaste leaving a slightly numbing sensation on the tongue. It is the outer husk that has all the flavour, the internal hard black seed is edible but can add a bitter taste. It is a key ingredient in Chinese cuisine and used in some Asian recipes. It is used in our chilli sichuan salt and calamari salt and pepper blends.

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    The Spice People carry these fennel products: fennel seeds ground and fennel seeds whole.


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    Product description

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