This post may contain affiliate links which means that if you click them and purchase something, I get a little commission. Thank you for your support.
Chinese Five Spice is just that ... from Chinese cuisine and has five spices. The most common and traditional five spices for Chinese Five Spice are Schezuan peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and fennel seeds. You can buy it ready made, but making Homemade Chinese Five Spice allows you to adjust the spices according to your own preferences.
Do you use Chinese Five Spice? Do you know what it is? What it tastes like? How to use it? Read on to learn.
What is the flavor of Homemade Chinese Five Spice?
The Schezuan peppercorns lend a tiny bit of spiciness, but as you can expect, the cinnamon and cloves bring a bit of perceived sweetness. The fennel and star anise are the undertones that make the whole blend rife with mystery.
What are Schezuan peppercorns?
"Sichuan peppercorn is a spice produced from the husks of seeds of two species of the prickly ash shrub (Zanthoxylum), which is in the rue or citrus family. The pinkish-red husks around the seeds are used for the Sichuan peppercorn spice, while the inner black seed is discarded as it is too gritty and would be sand-like when eaten. Sichuan peppercorns can be used whole or ground into powder." --from thespruceeats.com
Are there any substitutions for any of the spices in Chinese Five Spice?
Living in our current world, I think it's possible to get most ingredients that we want to use or even experiment with. The most unusual ingredient in this spice blend is Schezuan peppercorns, but it is truly the foundation. You can find it online, but I would strongly encourage you to seek out ethnic grocers where you live.
That said, if you simply can't find Schezuan peppercorns anywhere, you can use a blend of black peppercorns and coriander for a similar flavor.
A secret to the flavor of Homemade Chinese Five Spice
Heat! Heat is the secret. Toasting the whole spices brings out the flavor in a way that can't be done in any other way. You could use the pre-ground version of any of these ingredients, but using the whole spice and toasting them all together really rounds out the flavor of Chinese Five Spice.
Put all of the whole spices in a skillet. You gotta know that I'll recommend a cast iron skillet! Turn the heat on medium to medium-high. Combine the spices and keep over the heat until they are fragrant. If the skillet starts to smoke, remove it immediately and remove the spices as quickly as possible.
3 different ways to grind the spices -- from hard to easy!
You can use a mortar and pestle, but if you go that route, I must recommend a very rough mortar to start with! Cinnamon sticks and star anise are definitely difficult to break down to powder! Then you'd have to graduate to finer one to get the desired consistency of powder. If you want an arm workout, a few moments of meditation, or simply need to get out some aggression, this is the way to go.
You can also use a "coffee" grinder. You certainly should use one that is NOT used for coffee and is set aside specifically for spices.
If you are as fortunate as I am to have the dry grinder for the Vitamix and don't have the need to let out some aggression, use this method. Put those toasted spices in and whir until there are not many large pieces left and the spices are mostly powder and quite fragrant.
You're looking for a powder that is similar to any ground spice that's in your cabinet. It comes out so beautiful and fragrant!
How is Homemade Chinese Five Spice used?
It is, obviously, used in Chinese cuisine ... like in Dan Dan Noodles, General Tso's Chicken, or Kung Pao.
But I can totally see it used on a roast chicken, or BBQ'd ribs, or a roast pork shoulder or loin. On grilled chicken? Shut the front door! And I would definitely use it to season roasted vegetables. It's a great spice blend to use to mix up your "normal" way of cooking. Check out my recipe for Pork Chops with Peach Salsa!
Use it to season chicken broth that you cook rice or quinoa in.
Sprinkle it on popcorn? Why the heck not?!
Other recipes you might like:
Homemade Chinese Five Spice
- 6 star anise
- 2 Tablespoons fennel seeds
- 4 3-inch cinnamon sticks or 1 Tablespoon, ground
- 1 Tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns See notes
- 20 whole cloves or 1 teaspoon ground
- Put all of the whole spices in a small skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Stir or shake the skillet while the spices toast, about 2 minutes, or until the skillet just barely starts to smoke. Do not toast ground spices.
- Transfer the toasted whole spices to a grinder or blender jar. Process until the spices are ground finely.
- Store at room temperature.