Homemade Chinese 5-Spice
What is Chinese 5-spice?
Chinese 5-spice, or wuxiang fen, is a popular seasoning blend that is frequently used in China and other Asian countries. As the name suggests, the blend is comprised of 5 separate spices, each symbolizing one of the earth’s five elements ( fire, water, wood, earth, and metal) and correlating to a different flavor element that is typical in Chinese cuisine (salty, bitter, aromatic, sweet, and sour). These representations position the blend to be utilized in balancing the flavor of food and the body as a whole.
What are the ingredients in Chinese 5-spice?
Like many spice blends, the ingredients combined to make Chinese 5-Spice can vary depending on region, family recipes, taste preferences, and ingredients on hand. The primary combination uses star anise, fennel seeds, cassia cinnamon, cloves, and Szechuan peppercorns (which, interestingly enough, are not peppercorns at all).
For our recipe, we forego the Szechuan peppercorns and use another popular ingredient in Chinese cuisine—white peppercorns. White pepper is typically found on Chinese tables, regardless of the occasion and is akin to black pepper in the United States. We like it in our 5-spice blend because it supplies a slight bit of heat without the numbing element provided by the Szechuan peppercorns. It also adds some nice, floral undertones.
Of course, if you want to use Szechuan peppercorns, feel free. Other options for replacing them are black peppercorns, the combination of coriander, black peppercorns, and dried citrus zest, ginger, or even ground chile peppers (if you want more heat).
How to Use Chinese 5-spice:
Chinese 5-Spice is an extremely versatile spice blend that can be incorporated into soups and stews, utilized in stir fry, stirred into craft cocktails, rubbed onto meats, sprinkled over roasted vegetables, and even mixed into batters and other baked goods. The fragrant blend of spices works well with sweet, savory, and everything between. Let your culinary imagination go wild and enjoy where it takes you with this incredible seasoning blend.
How to Make Homemade Chinese 5-Spice Without Szechuan Peppercorns
- 4 whole star anise
- 1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds
- 1 large cassia cinnamon stick
- 8 whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon white peppercorn
- Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind all 5 ingredients until you have a fine powder.
- Use as soon as possible for optimal freshness.
- Store remaining spice blend in a glass jar in your spice cabinet.