How to Make Five-Spice Powder

A Color Wheel of Five-Spice Ingredients
The Spruce
  • Total: 13 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 3 mins
  • Yield: 1/4 cup

Five-spice powder (五香粉) is a very commonly used ingredient in Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine and encompasses all five tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. Based on the name, you can probably guess there are five different spices in this Asian seasoning. Usually, it is a mixture of star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, and fennel seeds, but five-spice powder can also include anise seeds, gingerroot, nutmeg, turmeric, Amomum villosum pods, cardamom pods, licorice, orange peel, or galangal.

Several Chinese recipes feature five-spice powder on the ingredient list, like princess chicken and five-spice pork with bok choy and green onions. But not every recipe has to be Asian in nature. See how a typical roasted chicken or glazed carrots recipe takes on a whole new life when seasoned with this flavorful mixture.

You can use five-spice powder in many different ways in Chinese and Taiwanese cooking, including adding it to stew meat or poultry, making it part of a marinade, as a spice rub when roasting foods, and as a seasoning in the breading for fried foods. This recipe makes about 3 tablespoons of the spice mix—feel free to double or triple the recipe so that you have extra for future recipes. Store extra in an airtight container for up to a month (it will not go bad but will lose its potency over time).

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Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
  • 5 to 6 star anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ground Chinese cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a dry skillet or wok, toast the Sichuan peppercorns by shaking the pan over low to medium heat until the aroma of the peppercorns is released. This will take around 3 minutes.

  3. Grind the toasted peppercorns and the star anise in a blender, pepper mill, or spice grinder.

  4. Pass the blended seasonings through a fine-mesh strainer, so you are left with an even consistency.

  5. Mix in the ground cloves, ground cinnamon, and ground fennel seeds.

  6. Place the mixture back into the blender, mill, or spice grinder and grind the spices until very fine.

  7. Store in an airtight container and keep it in a dark, cool space until use. 

Tips

  • In southern China, five-spice powder usually includes Saigon cinnamon and orange peel instead of the traditional Chinese cinnamon and cloves. If you happen to come across this version, it will taste different compared to your recipe and those from other regions of Asia.
  • Use five-spice powder sparingly as a spice or a meat rub as it can be quite strong.
  • Substitute black peppercorns if you don't have Sichuan peppercorns on hand. It won't have the same heat, but it will still taste good. Ground anise can also stand in for star anise (a 1/2 teaspoon of ground anise is equal to one whole star anise).