Find out exactly what is in five spice powder to make your own

What is Five Spice Powder

Have you ever wondered what five spice powder is? Well, all I know was it is a spice mixture primarily used in Chinese cooking. I assumed there are 5 types of spices combined because of the word “five” as indicated. Is it true or false? Read on to find out the answer. Also, you will be delighted to know that you are able to make your own too – your own creation of the five spice powder!

You may also want to find out if five spice powder has any health benefits. Read on…

Let’s quickly find out what the ingredients are.


The common mix is:

  1. Star Anise
  2. Cloves
  3. Cinnamon
  4. Szechuan Peppercorn
  5. Fennel Seeds

There are other variations that include nutmeg, turmeric, ground ginger, mandarin orange peel or galangal.

So you see, the “five” does not literally mean the mixture contains five types of spices. No doubt many recipes call for the common combination. Depending on personal preference or type of cooking, you can make five spice powder to suit your own palate.


It is fairly simple! Follow these steps

  1. In a dry pan, over medium heat, toast the following until fragrant.
    20g star anise, 20g Szechuan peppercorns, 10g fennel seeds and 8g cloves
  2. Toss occasionally to prevent burning. Allow to cool.
  3. Grind and blend toasted ingredients with 10g cinnamon till well grounded. Store in an airtight container.

The above proportion can be adjusted to your liking. You may also consider adding other ingredients such as nutmeg or turmeric. Just bring out the creative side in you!

Don’t worry if you have created too many variations. I understand storage space may be a concern and a good practical spice rack will help a lot. If you are like me, prefer a clean kitchen counter, get a cabinet spice rack.

Read my recommendations


Now that you know what five spice powder is and how to make your own, surely you like to know the ways to use it.

This highly aromatic mixture makes a warming and slightly sweet spice blend. It is mainly used as marinates and spice rub for chicken and fatty meats like pork and duck or goose. Also used to enhance stir-fry vegetables, stew or braised dishes.

I like to share with you two dishes that use five spice powder and easily recognizable which are Chinese Barbequed Pork (Char Siu) and Peking Duck.

I am a fan of Char Siu, especially with a bowl of hot steamed rice. Do not fancy Peking Duck though. How about you?

I found this Chinese Barbequed Pork recipe easy to follow. Moreover, this author provides cooking tips and advice that I truly appreciate.

Don’t want to handle a whole duck? Try this Easy Peking Duck recipe. Using duck breast, it should be pretty easy.

Substitute for five spice powder

Like to try out the above recipes but do not have five spice powder, what would be the best substitute?

You may make some yourself using the ingredients and steps mentioned.

Five Spice Powder – Available on Amazon

Still, missing some of the spices? Well, the next closest spice combination would be cayenne pepper, cinnamon and ground cloves.

If you have not used and tasted five spice powder, it may be difficult for you to get the right blend in terms of taste and aroma. Therefore, you may want to buy a small jar of five spice powder to start off with. Once you have finished using it and like the flavor, then go on, make your own!

Health Benefits

The components of five spice powder have several health benefits. Let’s look into them individually.

Star Anise is rich in a variety of flavonoids and polyphenols. Both are compounds with antioxidant properties that may help keep you healthy and protect against various diseases. On top of that, flavonoids can be effective at fighting inflammation levels throughout your body.

Cloves. High in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, cloves also contain eugenol which may help ease digestion. Also, a good source of Vitamin C and K, fiber and manganese.

Cinnamon Stick

Cinnamon has several compounds with anti-inflammatory properties that can lower the probability of cellular damage and chronic disease.

Read more about cinnamon here.

Szechuan Peppercorns are high in antioxidants. In traditional Chinese medicine, these peppercorns were used to stimulate digestion. They may also help stimulate blood circulation and reduce inflammation.

Fennel Seeds are low in calorie but have many important nutrients such as Vitamin C, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Furthermore, fennel is rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

Although consuming these spices in such a small amount used in cooking may not bring significant value, a little bit here and there does add up. Therefore, spice up your meal with herbs and spices where possible. Herbs and spices are good salt substitute too.

Should you need to stock up, consider buying Organic Herbs and Spices directly from Starwest Botanicals.

There are affiliate links on this page. I may earn a small commission to keep this site going. Don’t you worry, at no extra cost to you.

All in All

Five spice powder is a mixture of ground spices. Just a pinch, this aromatic blend gives a distinctive depth of flavor and aroma to your dishes. Be careful not to add too much at the beginning else may end up overpowering the entire dish.

Simply sprinkle a pinch to your stir-fry or stews and see how you like the taste. Or follow the recipe I have shared above.

Given its health benefits, you may want to consider adding this spice blend to your spice rack.

Since now you know what is in five spice powder, you can easily come up with your own creation. Would you? Let us know in the comments section below or share your experiences with five spice powder.

Before I leave you to share your thoughts, something for you to ponder.

true or false question to ponder

  1. “Five” spice powder was named so because it incorporates the five basic flavours of Chinese cooking – sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and salty. True or False?
  2. Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water
    The number refers to the Chinese 5 elements – wood, fire, earth, metal and water. In traditional Chinese medicine, imbalances in these elements are said to be the cause of sickness. Numerous herbs and spices have been used for thousands of years to restore balances in these elements, treating illnesses. Which is how the five spice powder got its name. True or False?

Honestly, I am not sure how the name come about. Would love to know your thoughts.

Oh, last but not least and interestingly, I found a cocktail using Chinese five spice! Old Sevillian Bourbon Cocktail.

Have a great one. Cheers!

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If you find this blog post interesting, please share it with anyone that you think might find it useful. Thank you and have a good day!

From the Corner of My Home – Spice Up Your Life with Herbs and Spices

Disclosure: This article may contain affiliate links as part of the Services LLC Associate program and other affiliate services. This means that receives a small commission by linking to and other sites at no cost to the readers.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional, and this post should not be taken as medical advice. Please do your own research. Material on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual and is not a substitute for your own doctor’s medical care or advice.

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Sharon is on a career break, minding her family. During her free hours, she loves sharing her passion for herbs and spices. She learned how to build this website at Wealthy Affiliate University. If you have a passionate topic and would love to share, click here to learn how to build your own profitable website!

18 Replies to “What is Five Spice Powder

  1. My mum also likes to use wu Xiang fen, known as five spice powder in her cooking and the food always turn out great! But usually she will use it to marinate like chicken pieces and deep fry it. The results is awesome! But of course cha siew is a delicacy that nobody can forget once they tasted it. Just like bacon, and maybe better!

    1. Yes! Wu Xiang Fen, the chinese name. Well, I love both char siu and bacon. Thanks for visiting my site. Have a good day!

  2. My girlfriend loves five spice but I’m not a huge fan of star anise, I may have to try ‘home’ making it in future rather than just buying it in the jars then I can take a little of the anise out!

    1. That is the beauty of homemade. Adjust to suit our own palate. Perhaps you may want to share with us the outcome. Cheers!

  3. Hi Sharon,

    I love Chinese food and often go to Chinese buffet, but I have never really tried making any dishes at home. So before reading your article I didn’t know what 5 spice powder was, but if I had to guess I would have also assumed its five different types of spices mixed together. Thank you for educating me on that.

  4. My experience with Chinese food is mixed. I find that five spice is very powerful and can overwhelm a dish. I use it very sparingly in my cooking. I will try some of your recipes and see if I can make them as good as they sound. I make Chinese about 1 to 2 times a month and I am always looking to improve my cooking.

    1. Hi David,

      Yes, five spice is very pungent indeed. Therefore, a little of it will do. The recipes I shared were very easy to follow. Do let me know how it turn out.

      Happy Cooking!


  5. I have never heard of five spice powder but this question about the name source is quite interesting. I really like duck when it is the right size so I wouldn’t mind trying the powder on duck or any other meat. I don’t know the answer to the true or false question but I have learned a bit about the benefits of Chinese Medicine and did try it for my son. It seems to help.

    1. Thanks for reading my post. I hoped it has given you some idea what five spice powder is all about. There are many health benefits to herbs and spices. I will share with all as I go along my. Take care!

  6. I have never heard of this powder. Perhaps I have had it while eating at a Chinese restaurant, not sure. Is this something I can use on almost anything? Like salt or pepper?
    It sound very good. I will try mixing this up and let you know how it turns out. Thanks for the great information, I learned lots.

    1. Hi Bobby,

      Thanks for visiting. Five spice powder is not like salt and pepper. It can be overpowering to people who are not used to its aroma and flavour. Mostly used as marinades and spice rub for chicken and fatty meats like pork and duck. 

      Hope you will like it.

      Good day!


  7. I love anise, but I haven’t cooked much with five spice. I think I will try it on chicken or pork roast.

    I’d like to make my own one day, but my husband would get upset if I didn’t use what we already have first. I’d also like to try the recipes you shared.

    Thanks for a great article!

    1. Waste not is what I say very often and I will try to utilize them as much as I could. I prefer using five spice with pork. But it is just a matter of personal preference. Once you have tried them both, you might want to tell me how you like them. The Chinese Barbecued Pork is really delicious. Try them!
      Thanks for dropping by, Anita. And glad you liked this article.

  8. Hi Sharon, this five spice mix sounds delicious! I love those ingredients. I just recently discovered anise/fennel I had no idea that a vegetable could taste like black licorice. Since I am short on time, would it work to purchase these as spices and mix the pre-ground ingredients together? If so, would you have a recommended recipe of how much of each ingredient? Thanks 🙂

    1. Hello Tara. If you are just starting to cook with five spice and without much time to spare, I would suggest buying five spice powder instead of making it yourself. Find out how well you take the taste and later on, try creating your own. The basic recipe is 20g star anise, 20g Szechuan peppercorns, 10g fennel seeds, 8g cloves and 10g cinnamon. Adjust the amount according to your palate.

  9. Hello Sharon, have I mentioned before how fun it is to read your articles? Wow so much fun. And loved the true or false questions.
    I have had 5 spice and I would agree with Steve that I might rather like to make it myself because at times it is way too astringent for me.
    Great article as always. I wonder what is coming next out of your magic pantry?
    In peace and gratitude, ariel

    1. Hello Ariel. Always delighted to see you here and thank you so much for the positive feedback.
      Five spice can be sharp in taste and aroma. Usually, a tiny pinch will do. I am sure the creativity side of you will bring out the best five spice.
      Magic pantry? … Stay tuned!


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