Last Updated on May 25, 2023 by Shari Mason
When it comes to Chinese cuisine, one cannot underestimate the power of five-spice powder. Its aromatic blend of flavors adds depth and complexity to various dishes, from stir-fries to braised meats.
But you may be asking yourself, what can I substitute for Chinese five-spice in case my pantry runs out?
Worry not! As a seasoned home cook, I can share some delightful substitutes that will save the day. Keep reading.
Top 7 Substitutes For Chinese Five-Spice Powder
1. Star Anise
Star Anise is the key ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder. It has a strong, distinct flavor that is sweet and slightly spicy. Star anise is often used in savory dishes, such as stews and braised meats.
If you don’t have any star anise, you can try substituting another spice with a similar flavor profile. For example, allspice or fennel seed would both be good choices.
You could also try a combination of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Baharat is a common substitution for Chinese five-spice powder. It is a blend of spices that is used in Middle Eastern cuisine.
The spices in Baharat vary depending on the region, but they typically include black pepper, cardamom, cloves, cumin, and nutmeg. Baharat can be found in specialty grocery stores or online.
3. Dillweed and Cinnamon Sticks
Dillweed and cinnamon sticks can be used as a substitute for Chinese five-spice powder. Dillweed has a flavor similar to anise, one of the main ingredients in Chinese five-spice powder.
Cinnamon sticks can be used to add sweetness and depth of flavor. Adding a little bit of ginger or cloves can also help to create a more authentic flavor.
Read: Substitute For Soy Paste
4. Sichuan Peppercorn and Fennel Seeds
Sichuan peppercorn and fennel seeds can be used to create a similar flavor. To do this, grind the peppercorns and seeds together in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle.
Once they’re finely ground, mix them in a 1:1 ratio. This mixture can be a 1:1 substitute for Chinese five-spice powder.
Another option is to combine allspice, cloves, and cinnamon. This will create a sweeter flavor profile, so it’s best used in dessert recipes.
Mix these spices in a 1:1:1 ratio and use them as a substitute for Chinese five-spice powder.
5. Garam Masala
It is a mixture of ground spices that typically includes cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, and cumin. Garam Masala can be found in most grocery stores, either in the spice aisle or the international section.
Although it doesn’t contain star anise, one of the key ingredients in Chinese five-spice powder, Garam Masala, still lends a similar flavor profile to dishes.
When substituting Garam Masala  for Chinese five-spice powder, use a 1:1 ratio.
Remember that Garam Masala is generally more potent than Chinese five-spice powder, so you may want to start with a little less and add more to taste.
6. Ras El Hanout
Ras El Hanout is a spice blend that originates from Morocco. It typically includes a mixture of black pepper, cardamom, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
In many recipes, Ras El Hanout can be used as a substitute for Chinese five-spice powder.
When substituting Ras El Hanout for Chinese five-spice powder, it is important to keep the ratio of spices the same. Ras El Hanout can be purchased online or at specialty spice stores.
Allspice is a spice commonly used in place of Chinese five-spice powder. Allspice is made from the dried berries of the pimento tree and has a flavor similar to cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Allspice can be found in most grocery stores in the spice aisle. When substituting allspice for Chinese five-spice powder, use half as much as you would Chinese five-spice powder.
Allspice is also a common ingredient in pumpkin pie spice and can be used in place of Chinese five-spice powder in recipes that call for pumpkin pie spice.
What Not To Use As Substitute
While Za’atar is a delightful spice blend in its own right, it may not be the ideal substitute for Chinese Five-Spice Powder.
Chinese Five-Spice Powder has a distinct flavor profile characterized by its balance of sweet, savory, and spicy notes . In contrast, Za’atar offers different flavors with its combination of herbs, sesame seeds, and sumac.
Substituting Za’atar for Chinese Five-Spice Powder could alter the intended taste of your dish, potentially leading to a flavor profile that deviates from the desired outcome.
It’s best to use Za’atar in recipes that specifically call for it, allowing it to shine in its own culinary realm.
How to Make Chinese Five-Spice?
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground cloves
- 1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon ground star anise
- 1 tablespoon ground Szechuan peppercorns
- In a small bowl, combine all the ground spices: cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns.
- Mix well until the spices are thoroughly combined.
- Store the homemade Chinese Five-Spice Powder in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
- Use as needed in your recipes, adding the desired amount to bring the signature flavors of Chinese cuisine to your dishes.
Remember, you can adjust the quantities of the spices to suit your taste preferences. Enjoy the aromatic and complex flavors of your homemade Chinese Five-Spice Powder.
What does Chinese five-spice taste like?
It has a complex flavor that is a little sweet, spicy, and sour. It’s also got a slightly woodsy taste to it. Some people say it tastes like nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and black pepper, all mixed.
Where can you buy Chinese five-spice powder?
Chinese five-spice powder can be found in most Asian grocery stores. You might also find it at some regular grocery stores or online.
Is mixed spice the same as the Chinese five-spice?
Yes and no. They are both made of a blend of spices, but their flavor profiles differ. Mixed spice is typically a mix of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and sometimes coriander.
Chinese five-spice mixes star anise, cloves, Szechuan pepper, fennel seeds, and cinnamon. So they are similar but not the same.
Is all-purpose seasoning the same as Chinese five-spice?
No, all-purpose seasoning is not the same as Chinese Five-Spice Powder. While both seasonings can add flavor to dishes, they have different compositions and flavor profiles.
All-purpose seasoning is a versatile blend that typically includes a combination of salt, pepper, herbs, and sometimes additional spices.
In the culinary world, improvisation often leads to delightful surprises. While nothing can truly replicate the intricate flavors of Chinese Five-Spice Powder, I’ve found alternatives like Star Anise, Baharat, Cinnamon Sticks, and Garam Masala.
Embrace experimentation, trust your palate, and let your taste buds guide you on a flavorful journey where substitutions can be a delightful adventure in their own right.
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