What Are the Five Spices in Chinese Five Spice Powder?

What is in Chinese five spice powder? Would it surprise you to hear there are…five spices in it? But what are the five spices in Chinese five spice? What does Chinese five spice taste like? Read on to find out exactly which five spices go into the iconic blend, plus what it tastes like. 

What is Chinese five spice powder?

Chinese five spice powder is a spice blend that’s a common ingredient in Chinese food, Taiwanese food, and some Vietnamese dishes. Chinese five spice powder can be traced back nearly 3,000 years. Some people may confuse Chinese five spice with allspice. But no, they are completely different. Chinese five spice has five spices mixed together and allspice is one spice made from the Pimenta diocia plant. There is also a 13 spice, which is Chinese five spice with eight additional spices, but that one isn’t as common.

What is in Chinese five spice?

So, what are the five spices in Chinese five spice? Chinese five spice usually includes Chinese cinnamon, fennel seed, star anise, cloves, and Sichuan peppercorns. Sometimes the Sichuan peppercorns can be substituted with ginger or white pepper and some versions incorporate anise seed, ginger root, nutmeg, turmeric, galangal, or orange peel. The five spices make up the traditional flavors of Chinese cuisine, which are sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and savory. Those flavors symbolize the five elements: fire, water, wood, earth and metal. No, heart is not one of the elements. Sorry, Captain Planet nerds. 

What does Chinese five spice taste like? 

Chinese five spice has a complex taste, which makes sense given the variety of spices. The fennel and cloves in Chinese five spice impart a deep, cooling flavor. While the anise and cinnamon give off warmth and sweetness. Then that Sichuan peppercorn comes around the corner and bonks you on the head with some heat. So it’s warm, cool, deep, sweet, and a little spicy. Like I said, the flavor is complex. It’s used in lots of braises, stir frys, roasted veggie dishes, noodle dishes, and barbecue. Those pigs and ducks you may have seen hanging in the window of a Chinese barbecue restaurant are made with Chinese five spice—it’s why those meats have a red sheen. I have tried to use Chinese five spice on my skin when I sunbathe but I don’t get the same results and my dermatologist yells at me.

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

Thoughts? Questions? Complete disagreement? Leave a comment!

Your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *