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15 Outstanding Alternatives To Chinese Five-Spice To Use In Your Cooking!

Chinese five-spice can also be called ‘Chinese powder’.

Chinese five-spice is used to season and flavor a range of dishes, and it is well known for its distinctive aniseed taste.

The Five Spices

Chinese Five Spice is actually made up of five main spices – would you believe it? Those spices are star anise, cloves, fennel seeds, Sichuan peppercorn and Chinese cinnamon. Each spice adds something to the spice mix.

The star anise has a sweet, kind of warm and spicy taste, and the cloves contribute a bitter, astringent flavor, whilst also being sweet.

The fennel seeds are great for more of that anise flavor, the Sichaun peppercorn contributes by adding a kind of bitter, citrus flavor.

Finally, the Chinese cinnamon adds a sweet but spicy flavor – the type that’s characteristic of cinnamon.

The five spices used in Chinese five-spice actually represent the five traditional Chinese elements – these can also be known as ‘chi’. For each of the five chi, there is a vital organ.

Each of the spices used within Chinese five-spice is supposed to stimulate a specific organ.

The Chinese five-spice mix balances the flavors of umami, bitter, sweet, sour, and salty to provide the delicate flavor that five-spice is known for.

10 Of The Best Alternatives To Chinese Five-spice


When these five different spices are combined, they create one truly incredible, aromatic spice that can be used for a large range of dishes.

Uses for the Chinese five-spice can include using it to either marinate your seafood, poultry, fish, or meat or using it as a dry rub before cooking for any of these proteins.

Chinese five-spice is surprisingly versatile, however, as it can be used to alter the flavor of sweeter plates, like desserts.

Aniseed, one of the main components of the Chinese five-spice, is often used as a standalone flavoring for certain desserts.

Chinese five-spice is mainly, however, used in Asian cuisines, such as Vietnamese food, Taiwanese food, or (of course) Chinese food.

It very much depends on which region your five-spice comes from, as there are a variety of combinations that can be used. Including some other spice choices, to make it.

Alternative spices that are used in five-spice include cardamom, galangal, anise seeds, licorice, nutmeg, and even orange peel!

15 Of The Best Alternatives To Chinese Five-Spice

If you’re cooking a tasty dish that calls for a Chinese five-spice, but you don’t have it in your kitchen… don’t worry, we’ve got you!

Within this guide, we will talk about a lot of the most popular alternatives used for Chinese five-spice.

There’s a lot of these, ranging anywhere from garam masala to allspice, This is why we’ve selected the best ten, and compiled them together so that your dish isn’t ruined because you don’t have

Chinese Five-Spice, Made From Home

If you desperately need five-spice for your recipe, nothing makes more sense than making your own!

The ingredients are as follows:

  • Two teaspoons of Sichuan peppercorns (or black peppercorns if you don’t have the Sichuan variety)
  • Five individual, whole star anise
  • Half a teaspoon of ground cloves
  • One tablespoons cinnamon (Specifically Chinese Cinnamon, if possible)
  • One tablespoon of ground fennel seeds

Making five-spice is fairly simple. Firstly, toast your peppercorns for 2-3 minutes on a low heat, using a skillet. When they are toasted, grind them up.

Next, grind your star anise up.

Now all of your ingredients are prepared. All you need to do is mix these spices together, and you have your very own, homemade five-spice! Your dishes have never tasted better.

How To Substitute

With the blend of five spices available at your home you may fulfill the shortening of chinese five spice. You just need to take star anise, ground cloves, cinnamon, ground fennel seeds and Sichuan peppercorns and grind them and your spices are ready.

Garam Masala

Garam Masala

Garam masala is a super important component of many Indian dishes, and it works brilliantly in conjunction with other spices or seasonings to act as a substitute for your five-spice.

Garam masala is wonderfully versatile – it can bus used as a powder, or in a paste form. It can be mixed with a variety of ingredients in order to thin it and add flavors, such as coconut milk or vinegar.

It can also just be mixed with water to give it a bit of moisture.

Although garam masala can be used on its own, it tastes much better if it is used with other flavorings, as it is very complimentary of certain flavors and doesn’t bring much to the table completely on its own.

It’s great for cooking with, as garam masala is known for its hot, but floral and sweet taste. Due to its wide reach across the flavor board, garam masala makes a great substitute for five-spice.

It’s good to use garam masala sparingly, however – start by adding just a little bit, and if you enjoy the taste, feel free to add more to your liking!

Garam masala is a mixture of various ground spices.  These spices usually include cumin, clove, coriander, cardamom, and cinnamon – that’s a lot of spices beginning with ‘c’!

Alongside these, garam masala also includes the spices of black pepper, coriander, and nutmeg.

This can, of course, vary depending on what region it is created in and how it is used.

Garam masala spice mixes can also be made from the mace, ginger, turmeric, star anise, tamarind, fenugreek, mustard seeds, and fennel seeds, just to name a few of the alternatives.

One downside of garam masala is that, upon comparing the flavor profiles of the garam masala spice mix to the flavor profiles of five-spice, you will find that garam masala lacks the licorice, aniseed flavor that is typical of five-spice.

How To Substitute

The garam masala seasoning blend is a popular Indian spice blend and a great alternative to the Chinese Five Spice. It contains cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and black pepper. This seasoning is a great addition to stews, curries, and lentils.

Star Anise

Star anise is characterized by its spicy-sweet flavor. As the name might suggest, star anise can be used as a substitute for the aniseed taste found with five-spice.

Star anise can be purchased in its complete form, as well as ground up into a powder, ready to go.

When used in its complete form, star anise can be brilliant when used to flavor dishes like soups and stews.

The most important thing to remember if you choose to use star anise in its complete form is that you need to remove it at the end of cooking – biting into whole star anise unexpectedly may be unpleasant.

When used as a powder, star anise can brilliantly flavor baked goods, such as the filling in pies. It’s also fantastic when used to season poultry, or mixed with ground meat.

Ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and citrus are all amazing when paired with star anise. Onion is actually a good combination here, too!

It’s important to note that if you choose to only use star anise, your dish will only be flavored with this specific spice.

How To Substitute

Star anise is a key ingredient in Chinese five spice powder with a sweet, anise-like flavor that can be found in many foods, such as soups, baked goods, and teas. Star anise is also known for its ability to help with digestive problems and to help the body relax and is considered a great alternative to Chinese five spice.

Combining Star Anise And Garam Masala

Okay, so you’ve decided that you don’t like the lack of complexity that comes with choosing to use only garam masala or star anise individually.

Whilst both flavors work as individual components on their own, together, they are absolutely beautiful!

If you’re looking for a substitute for five-spice, then combining both garam masala and star anise will provide you with a much closer taste, and experience as a result.

In order to use these spices as five-spice alternatives, you need to mix around ½ teaspoon of garam masala with ¼ teaspoon of powdered star anise.

This will work out as a substitute for approximately one teaspoon of five-spice. If using this combination, you can look forward to the deliciously spicy, licorice flavors within your dish!

How To Substitute

Star anise and garam masala together can give you the almost same taste like Chinese five spice. But be mindful of its uses while adding in your dish as you won’t be able to use the same quantity you use of Chinese five spices.

Combining Fennel Seeds With Sichuan Peppercorn

Both Sichuan peppercorn and fennel seeds go exceptionally well together, and they make a really good substitute for Chinese five-spice.

To use these as an alternative, mix both the Sichuan peppercorn and fennel seeds (preferably, ground) together in equal parts.

If you don’t have Sichuan peppercorns specifically, it’s completely fine to use regular black peppercorns instead.

You won’t have quite the same flavor using regular peppercorns, but you’ll still be able to add some a little bit of a kick to your food.

How To Substitute

Fennel seeds with Sichuan peppercorn is one of the best combinations to replace the Chinese five spices. You may take the same quantity of both the things to make your alternative ready.

Combining Cinnamon With Star Anise

Star anise and cinnamon both have very distinctive flavors -star anise has its characteristic aniseed taste, whereas cinnamon has a slightly spicy flavor, but it is mainly sweet, and it has that seasonal taste that we all associate it with.

When these two ingredients are combined together, they make an amazing alternative to using the Chinese five-spice. This is because they hit a lot of the key flavor profiles.

Feel free to experiment with different ratios of each ingredient – different variations of this may result in a slightly different flavor.

How To Substitute

With the seasonal, spicy and sweet taste cinnamon and star anise brings out the perfect taste that can easily substitute Chinese five spice. They are easy to prepare at home too.

RELATED: 8 Best Chinese Five Spice Substitutes



Za’atar is another blend of spices, with added herbs!

Za’atar is made by mixing sumac, salt, oregano, thyme, and marjoram, although some of these can also be substituted for alternatives, such as fennel seeds, caraway seeds, cumin, and coriander.

The recipe that you use to make this seasoning can, once again, differ depending on the region, so you should be aware of this.

The flavor of za’atar could be described as earthy, nutty, and sweet, with notes of citrus. Meat, vegetables, and rice all taste amazing after they have been paired with za’atar.

Za’atar can also be added to several other dishes, such as by using it as a seasoning for a marinade, dressing, soup, or even in dips!

If you’d like to use za’atar as your substitute for five-spice, we’d recommend you to use it in small increments, once again. This is because you can always put more seasoning in, but taking it out is a lot harder.

Tasting as you add ingredients is a tried and proven method that can help to avoid disappointment!

How To Substitute

Za’atar comes with a nutty, sweet, and citric flavor and it works extremely well with some specific dishes to substitute Chinese five spice. However, start by adding a little amount of it to the dish as it can be pretty difficult to manage if you add it in excess amounts.

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‘Baharat’ means ‘spices’ when translated from Arabic. Baharat is actually a spice mix made up of seven different spices, and it is used in a lot of Middle Eastern cuisine.

The seven spices are paprika, coriander, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, cardamom, black pepper, and nutmeg.

Once again, depending on the region that the mix is inspired by – variations to these ingredients can include sumac, saffron, mint, chili peppers, and rosebuds.

Baharat tastes amazing when it is used to flavor proteins such as chicken, beef, lamb, or fish. Whilst these are great uses for Baharat, it can also be used in different rice dishes, as well as soups and stews!

Baharat is very similar to garam masala in its flavor profile, however, it provides dishes with added layers of flavor. Baharat is quite aromantic, but it also carries an earthy, smoky flavor.

If you’d like to use Baharat as an alternative to the five-spice that your recipe originally called for, make sure to add a small amount of Baharat, to begin with, so that you have room to adjust the quantity to your liking.

How To Substitute

Chinese five spice is a mixture of spices that is commonly used in the Middle East. Baharat is a similar mixture of spices that is used in Middle Eastern dishes. The Baharat provides a simple way to make a substitute for Chinese five spice by using spices like cinnamon, allspice, cloves, coriander, and ginger.


Allspice is a great spice to use as a substitute for the Chinese five-spice! Allspice is made from berries that have been dried, and it has a sweet flavor with notes of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and pepper.

Allspice is great for use in soups, stews, marinades, seasoning meat, and even flavoring your desserts and baked goods! This is because allspice works well with both sweet and savory food.

You can use allspice in either its whole or ground form, but it’s always worth testing out different methods of incorporating this versatile ingredient into your cooking.

How To Substitute

Allspice is a great substitute to the Chinese five spices in various dishes, With a sweet flavor of nutmeg, cinnamon, sloves and pepper it works amazing for soups, stews, meat and even in desserts.

Ras Elhanout

Ras elhanout is a spice mixture really popular in Morrocan cuisine. This mix of spices doesn’t have a set recipe, as there are many versions.

The majority of ras elhanout spice mixes tend to include some combination of cinnamon, anise, ginger, turmeric, mace, pepper, nutmeg, and cardamom, however, this can differ depending on the specific spice mix.

Some varieties of ras elhanout use anywhere from 30 to 80 different spices.

It can be used as a meat rub or incorporated into ground meat. It’s also really good in soups and stews! Ras elhanout is also extremely good as a seasoning for your vegetables.

The huge range of spices that can be used in order to make ras elhanout means that different recipes hugely differ in taste.

So when using this within your cooking, you may choose to experiment with different varieties and mixtures.

The best way to describe this flavoring would be a mixture between woody and sweet. Ras elhanout can also have a bitter taste, with a slight kick of spice.

How To Substitute

A blend of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom, the flavor of Ras Elhanout is a bit more complex than that of Chinese five spice. Though the flavor of Chinese five spice is still delicious, the combination of spices in Ras Elhanout can add depth to any dish.

Star Anise And Fennel Seeds

Another suitable replacement for Chinese Five Spice powder is Star Anise and Fennel Seeds. Due to their use of Chinese Five Spice powder, there is no doubt that they can provide the same flavor.

The earthy, intense, and savory taste of star anise and fennel seeds elevates any dish. Furthermore, both leave a slightly sweet and citrusy aftertaste similar to Chinese Five Spice powder.

You can use this combination of ingredients to season whatever you like.

How To Substitute

You may use the mixture of star anise and fennel seeds to replace the Chinese five-spice in a 1:1 ratio.

Star Anise And Dried Red Chili

If you run short of Chinese five-spice, star anise and dried red chili will work great as an alternative.

With the distinct sweet yet savory taste of star anise and the hot and spicy flavor of dried red chili, you will get the taste profile of the Chinese five-spice.

These two will work exceptionally well in various recipes, such as soups, stews, meats, etc., after grinding them in powder form.

How To Substitute

To substitute star anise and dried red chili for Chinese five-spice, you may use one spoon of star anise for one teaspoon. However, you can use the dried red chili as per your preference.

Anise Seed

Anise seed can be used as a substitute for Italian seasoning in many dishes. It has a licorice-like flavor that is often used in Mediterranean cooking and is commonly used in dishes like pesto, sausage, and baked goods.

Anise seed is a common ingredient in Italian seasoning and can substitute for the dried herbs and spices in the blend.

Add the desired amount to your recipe to use anise seed as a substitute for Italian seasoning. Anise seed has a strong flavor, so it is best to start with a small amount and add more to taste.

If you use anise seed in place of dried herbs, you must adjust the number of other spices in the recipe to taste.

How To Substitute

Due to the strong flavor of Anise seed, it is best to use it in smaller quantities than the Italian seasoning your recipe calls for.

Sichuan Pepper

Sichuan pepper is an excellent substitute for Italian seasoning. It has a similar flavor profile with a slightly spicy kick that can add some depth to your dish.

To use it, add a teaspoon or two to your recipe instead of the Italian seasoning. Depending on your taste, you may adjust the use of it.

You may use it in dishes that typically call for Italian seasonings, such as chicken, beef, and tomato sauce. These peppercorns have a more intense, fiery heat than black and red peppercorns.

How To Substitute

To get the desired result from your recipe, using half quantity of the Sichuan pepper than the Chinese five-spice your recipe requires will bring out the versatile flavor.

Dried Red Chili

Dried red chili powder is a hot and spicy mix of red chilies and other spices that is a staple in many South American, Mexican, and Indian dishes. You can substitute it for your favorite Italian seasoning to add heat to your cooking.

With a pinch of dried red chili, you can make a substitute for Italian seasoning that is often used in recipes for pizza, spaghetti sauce, and more.

To substitute Italian seasoning, you need to soak the dried red chili in hot water for 15 minutes, then blend the chili and water into a fine paste.

After this, you can add the paste to your favorite recipes to give them a bit of a kick.

How To Substitute

You may use it in your desired recipe depending on how spicy you want. However, you should be aware that it won’t give you the sweetness of five spices.

Final Thoughts

Now that we’ve discussed some of the best alternatives to five-spice, you’re ready to get back in your kitchen and whip up a storm! Good luck, and remember: the extra flavors are always worth it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Chinese Five Spice Made Up Of?

Chinese five spice is a blend of spices often used in Chinese cuisine, including ground cloves, cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds, and ground Sichuan peppercorns.

These spices are used in sauces, stews, and many other types of food to give them a more authentic Chinese flavor.

Is Five-Spice Powder The Same As Chinese Five-Spice Powder?

Five-spice powder is a combination of spices that is used in Chinese cooking. It has been a popular spice for centuries and is one of the most commonly used spices in Asian cuisine.

Many different varieties of five-spice powder are typically used in the same type of dishes.

Can I Use Allspice Instead Of Star Anise?

Yes! Allspice combines the ground seeds of the star anise, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. It is a key ingredient in many dishes and drinks, like Christmas cake, mulled wine, and pumpkin pie.

Can I Use Garam Masala Instead Of Chinese 5 Spice?

Garam masala is a spice mixture that includes cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, cardamom, and cumin.

The ingredients in garam masala make it a good substitute for Chinese five spice, which contains star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, fennel, and licorice root.

Can I Use Anise Extract Instead Of Ground Anise?

Of course, you may substitute ground anise for anise extract, but make sure to use the perfect ratio to avoid messing up your dish. Generally, you may use two spoons of anise extract as a substitute for ground anise.

15 Of The Best Alternatives To Chinese Five-Spice To Use In Your Cooking!

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Chinese five spices are amazing in taste and flavor, and here you’ll find 10 of the best alternatives to use in your cooking!


  • Garam Masala

  • Star Anise

  • Combining Star Anise And Garam Masala

  • Combining Fennel Seeds With Sichuan Peppercorn

  • Combining Cinnamon With Star Anise

  • Za’atar

  • Baharat

  • Allspice

  • Ras Elhanout

  • Star Anise And Fennel Seeds

  • Star Anise And Dried Red Chili

  • Anise Seed

  • Sichuan Pepper

  • Dried Red Chili


  • Choose your favorite substitute from the list given above
  • Follow the directions given in the recipe after having substituted the ingredient in the correct ratio

Recipe Video

Jess Smith