Chinese 5 Spice Substitutes & Alternatives
Looking for the best substitute for Chinese 5 spice? Well, you’re in luck! Find the best alternative within this list below.
If you’re in need of a Chinese 5 spice alternative, then you’re in the right place. I have gathered the best spices and spice blends that are similar in taste, texture and colour. You can use any of the alternatives below or make your own from scratch.
Nowadays, you can find Chinese 5 spice in supermarkets and online at Amazon. However, if you can’t find it, you can recreate the taste in the comfort of your own home. There are so many flavour combos out there and I’ve listed the top 10 for you.
So, whether you’re looking for the next best spice or how to make your own Chinese 5 spice from scratch. Don’t worry, this post has got you covered!
What Is Chinese 5 Spice?
Chinese 5 spice is a popular blend of spices used in Chinese cuisine. It’s made from Sichuan peppercorns (also called Szechuan Peppercorns), cinnamon, fennel seeds, star anise and cloves.
There are warm notes from the cinnamon, a little bit of heat from the Sichuan peppercorns and sweet liquorice flavours from the fennel seeds, star anise and cloves.
I always have a jar in my cupboard and it’s an essential ingredient in many Chinese recipes like this crispy salt and chilli chicken recipe.
Chinese Curry Sauce With Chinese 5 Spice Video
The Best Chinese 5 Spice Substitutes
Below is a list of the best Chinese 5 spice alternatives, my favourite is allspice.
Allspice has its origins in the Caribbean and is made from unripen berries from the myrtle pepper tree and pimento tree.
It tastes like a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and pepper. Hence, the flavour profile is quite earthy, warm and slightly sweet.
I think allspice is the best single swap alternative for Chinese 5 spice, most of the flavours are covered apart from the fennel seeds.
Allspice is widely available in many supermarkets and online at Amazon. You can buy allspice grounded into a powder or whole (similar to peppercorns). Grounded powder is less pungent than whole allspice berries.
It’s quite popular in baking recipes but you can use it in savoury recipes too. Just like Chinese 5 spice the flavour is quite intense. Swap this spice equally in the recipe you are following, or you can half the amount for a less pungent flavour.
2. Garam Masala
Can I use garam masala instead of Chinese 5 spice? Yes, you can!
Garam Masala is a grounded blend of spices used frequently in Indian cuisine. A typical garam masala spice mix includes cinnamon, coriander, cloves, cumin, fennel seeds, cardamon, black pepper and nutmeg. Though, versions vary depending on the area of origin in India.
The taste has warmth and floral notes with a little heat from the black pepper and the smell is quite fragrant.
Unlike Chinese 5 spice, Garam Masala has a lower sweet, cinnamon and nutmeg flavour. However, this can easily be fixed! Simply add in more cinnamon or nutmeg to suit your taste.
Garam masala is widely available in supermarkets, corner shops and online at Amazon.
This spice can be used in a one-to-one ratio swap; the two spices are very similar, only garam masala doesn’t have star anise.
3. Garam Masala & Star Anise
Star Anise is the seed pod that comes from the fruit of a Illicium verum plant native to Vietnam and southwest China. It’s quite sweet in taste and is one of the main ingredients in Chinese 5 spice.
Mixing Garam Masala and star anise together is the simplest way to create your own Chinese 5 spice mix! Just make sure the garam masala you use has fennel seeds included too, as not all do.
For 1 teaspoon of your own Chinese 5 spice mix, fill the teaspoons 3/4 full of garam masala and the remaining 1/4 with star anise.
4. Baharat (Lebanese 7 Spice)
Baharat also known as Lebanese 7 spice is a popular spice blend used in middle eastern cooking.
In Arabic, Baharat means ‘spices’ and is made up from a mixture of paprika, black pepper, cardamom, cumin, cloves, coriander and nutmeg. Some variations can have more than 7 spices and can include dried ginger.
Baharat has warm and earthy notes, it’s slightly sweet and is not too spicy making it a great Chinese 5 spice powder substitute. However, I would prefer using a mix of garam masala and star anise as the paprika in this dish creates a slightly different flavour.
You might not have seen Baharat on your supermarket shelves, but it is there! Currently it’s a little more pricy than other spices like garam masala and allspice. If you want to use this spice, then you can check current prices here on Amazon.
5. Ras El Hanout
Ras El Hanout is a popular spice blend used in Moroccan cuisine; in Arabic it means ‘head of the shop’ as it’s considered one of the best spice blend shops can offer.
Traditionally, this spice is used as a rub for fish or meats, but it can also be used as a Chinese 5 spice alternative.
It’s made from grounded cardamom, coriander, ginger, cumin, mace, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, black pepper, turmeric, cayenne pepper, white pepper, cloves and anise seeds.
A lot of spices are used to make Ras El Hanout and you’ll find recipes slightly differ in ingredients and taste.
You can make it from scratch, but as there are many ingredients, it might be better to buy it already made. I have seen this spice in many supermarkets, but you can get it here too.
6. Cinnamon, Black Pepper & Star Anise
This mix covers 3 out of the 5 ingredients used to make Chinese 5 spice. The sweet tones come from the star anise and cinnamon and a peppery flavour from the black pepper.
This combo of ingredients makes a quick substitute and you get to use common ingredients you might have at home already.
7. Dill & Cinnamon
Dill also called (dillweed) mixed with cinnamon is another homemade substitute you can make. It has a flavour like star anise with sweet notes but it’s also citrusy and grassy in flavour.
Both ingredients are very easy to find and are common household ingredients. You can buy dill either fresh or dried with dried dill seeds being more pungent in flavour.
I prefer using dried dill or grounded dill seeds because using fresh dill requires work. If you add fresh dill weed whilst cooking it will turn limp. However, you can get around this by adding fresh dill towards the end of your cooking process.
8. Fennel Seeds & Szechuan Peppercorns
Like fennel seeds, Szechuan peppercorns can be brought either whole or grounded. If you want to easily mix these two ingredients together, then I recommend using ground spices.
Fennel seeds are easy to buy in supermarkets and so is Szechuan peppercorns, however Szechuan peppercorns are quite expensive in-comparison to other spices.
Avoid adding too much Szechuan peppercorns otherwise it can make the dish quite mouth-numbing.
I’ll start by saying Za’atar is not my best recommendation as a Chinese 5 spice substitute, but if it’s all you have, it can do.
Za’atar is a middle eastern spice usually containing dried oregano, thyme, sumac and toasted sesame seeds. As you can see from this ingredients list, the flavours aren’t exactly aligned with the ingredients in Chinese 5 spice.
However, some variations of this spice have fennel seeds within it. If you’re looking for a loose connection to Chinese 5 spice, then Za’atar could be an option.
10. Homemade Chinese 5 Spice
There’s nothing like making your own homemade Chinese 5 spice, after all, it is the best substitute. The flavour combinations listed above make a close match, but homemade spice blends create an exact copy.
If you want to know how to make your own Chinese 5 spice from scratch, then check out the recipe below!
How To Make Homemade Chinese 5 Spice
Chinese 5 spice is a delicious spice mix guaranteed to flavour many dishes. If you’re into Chinese fakeaway recipes, then you’ll probably want to make your own batch to use at any time.
I’ve written step-by-step instructions alongside the recipe ingredients needed below.
Chinese 5 Spice Ingredients
Buy these ingredients either whole or grounded.
TIP: Buy all these ingredients grounded, this way you only need to mix the powders together instead of grounding it.
- 1 Cinnamon Stick (1 tbsp grounded): Most cinnamon sticks sold in the UK are the Chinese Cassia cinnamon sticks.
- 8 Cloves (1/2 tsp grounded): Whole cloves are quite popular, but you can buy grounded clove powder.
- 1 tbsp Fennel Seeds (1 tbsp grounded): Fresh fennel seeds are green in colour, as it ages the colour fades.
- 6 Star Anise (1 tbsp grounded): Grounded star anise isn’t so common to purchase. However, you can buy it here on Amazon.
- 1 tbsp Sichuan Peppercorns (1 tbsp grounded): Traditionally, authentic Chinese 5 spice recipes use Sichuan peppercorns. You can buy this in many supermarkets however, black peppercorns is a great alternative.
If you’re using grounded spices, simply mix the ingredients together in a mixing bowl and store in an airtight container. The fresher the ground the better the flavour!
If you’re using whole spices and seeds, simply use a spice grinder or coffee grinder to grind the whole spices into a powder. To aid this process, break larger spices (like cinnamon sticks) into small pieces before grinding.
For extra intensity, you can toast the spices in a dry frying pan or in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes on a medium heat. Leave the spices to cool down before grinding it.
What Is The Difference Between Cinnamon And Ceylon Cinnamon?
Ceylon cinnamon also called true cinnamon or cinnamomum veru is sweeter, lighter, harder to find and generally more expensive. It comes from the bark of an evergreen tree and 80% of the world’s supply comes from Sri Lanka.
Chinese cinnamon sticks also called Cassia usually have a single thick layer of bark, whereas Ceylon cinnamon has multiple layers making it easier to grind. Chinese cinnamon is more pungent in flavour and slightly more bitter in taste.
Recipes Using Chinese 5 Spice
- Chinese Curry Sauce
- Salt & Pepper Chicken
- Salt And Pepper Chips
- Chinese BBQ Sauce
- Char Siu Pork
- Chinese Salt And Pepper Seasoning
Music in video from Uppbeat, License code: 08VBCZFHCZBZDBBY