Chinese five-spice powder is a seasoning blend of spices, and is often used in Chinese cuisine for flavouring poultry, roasted meats and fish. While it’s really easy to find in supermarkets and grocery stores (head to the spice aisle), I also like to make five spice powder at home. Why? Because even though store-bought still tastes fine, Chinese five spice has a more vibrant flavour when it’s made from scratch. And the proof is in your cooking!
Sichuan peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, star anise and fennel seeds make up Chinese five spice.
What is five spice powder made of?
Five spice is a blend of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorns and fennel seeds. If you don’t have Sichuan peppercorns to hand, you could substitute them for black peppercorns – the flavour will still be nice, although it won’t have the same heat.
What do I use five spice for?
It’s a versatile spice or seasoning for both sweet and savoury dishes. I like it rubbed into meats before roasting them, or used to give underlying umami and richness to sauces, like this Make-Ahead Gravy. It’s also beautiful in desserts, like this bread and butter pudding.
Five spice gives a delicate hum to this Bread & Butter Pudding.
How to make five spice powder
This will give you around ½ cup of five spice, but feel free to double everything up if you want a bigger batch!
14 whole star anise
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into small pieces
24 whole cloves
2 tbsp whole fennel seeds
2 tbsp whole Sichuan peppercorns
Steps to make it
1. Place the star anise, cinnamon and cloves in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring and shaking the pan, for 4–5 minutes or until fragrant and just starting to smoke. This helps to release all their essential oils and aromas.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the spices to a plate or bowl and allow to cool. Now do the same with the fennel seeds and Sichuan peppercorns, but these will only take 2–3 minutes.
3. Use a coffee or spice grinder to grind everything to a fine powder. You can also use a mortar and pestle, too. Sieve to remove any larger pieces of spices or simply remove them with a spoon.
How to store five spice powder
Keep your homemade five spice in an airtight container somewhere dark and cool. While it doesn’t necessarily go ‘off’, the flavours can lose their potency over time, so try and use it within a year.