Chinese 5 spice substitutes are easier to find than you think. I used to be stuck with finding a replacement. But I found a way out. Now I want to share with you the list of the best 16 ingredients that will help you out. Read on!
These replacements may not entirely mimic the flavor of Chinese 5 spice. Yet they provide you with the closest taste possible. Don’t be afraid to try them.
Table of Contents
Chinese 5 spice comes in ground form. It is the signature spice in Chinese cuisine, which is widely used in savory dishes. You will also find it in Hawaiian, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese recipes. It is a mix of 5 or more spices and aims to add a subtle flavor to the dish.
Normally, Chinese 5 spice consists of fennel seeds, star anise, cinnamon, cloves and Sichuan peppercorns. Sometimes other spices are added, such as ginger, galangal, nutmeg, cardamom, and turmeric.
Its flavor is a blend of sweetness, spiciness, tanginess, pungency, bitterness, and warmth. It is also musky thanks to Sichuan peppercorns and cloves, and woody because of cinnamon. In addition, it has a unique strong aroma. I don’t recommend that you smell it at a close distance.
This amazing traditional spice is used in various types of dishes. It is added to rubs, marinades, soup, stews, sauces. Some sweet treat recipes also call for Chinese 5 spices, such as carrot cake.
After a long period of testing, I’ve come up with 16 ingredients that can replace Chinese 5 spice. Now I want to share them with you. Read on to discover them!
First, take a look at the table below to get a brief summary of the name of ingredients and the ratio.
|All spice||1 tsp of Chinese 5 spice = 1 tsp of allspice|
|Star anise||1 tsp of Chinese 5 spice = A smaller amount of star anise|
|Cinnamon||1 tsp of Chinese 5 spice = A smaller amount of cinnamon|
|Baharat||1 tsp of Chinese 5 spice = 1 tsp of baharat|
|Ras el hanout||1 tsp of Chinese 5 spice = ½ tsp of ras el hanout|
|Fennel seeds and Sichuan peppercorn||1 tsp of Chinese 5 spice = ½ tsp of fennel seeds and ½ tsp of sichuan peppercorn or black pepper|
|Za’atar||1 tsp of Chinese 5 spice = ⅓ tsp of za’atar|
|Cinnamon and star anise||1 tsp of Chinese 5 spice = A smaller amount of cinnamon and star anise|
|Turmeric, Cardamom, and Anise||Depending on your taste|
|Fennel And Ginger||Depending on your likings|
|Rice Wine Vinegar, Anise, and Cinnamon||Depending on your preference|
|Garam Masala||1 tsp of Chinese 5 spice = 1 tsp of garam masala = ½ tsp of garam masala = a small amount of garam masala|
|Garam Masala and Star Anise||1 tsp of Chinese 5 spice = ½ tsp of garam masala + ¼ tsp of star anise = ¾ tsp of garam masala + ¼ tsp of star anise|
|Fresh Chervil||Depending on your preference|
|Dill Weed And Cinnamon Sticks||1 tbsp of Chinese 5 spice = ½ tbsp of chopped dill weed + 1 or 2 cinnamon sticks|
|Homemade Chinese 5 spice||1 tsp of Chinese 5 spice =1 tsp of homemade Chinese 5 spice|
Your first option for Chinese 5 spice substitute is allspice. It is made by fermenting the brown berries, drying them, and grinding them into fine powder. People often describe its flavor as a combination of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. That’s why it is called “allspice”.
Allspice is sweet, warm, woody, bittersweet, and aromatic. These flavors are very close to Chinese 5 spice. Therefore, it can replace allspice in most recipes, including sweet and savory dishes.
Since allspice and Chinese 5 spice are as strong as each other. I suggest you use a 1:1 ratio. Both ground and whole allspice can be used.
2. Star Anise
If you accidentally see star anise in your cellar, you can use it to substitute Chinese 5 spice. It is not the best match but it can ensure that your dish will not be ruined because of the absence of Chinese 5 spice.
Star anise has a sweet, peppery, and warm flavor that is somehow similar to that of Chinese 5 spice, but is less flavorful. You can use it in savory dishes, such as stews, braise, and meat dishes, and sweet dishes like baked goods.
For liquid dishes, use the whole form and remove it after cooking. The ground form is more suitable to use in baking.
Use less than 1 teaspoon of star anise to replace 1 teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice. You can mix other spices such as ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg to get closer to the desired flavor.
Cinnamon alone cannot completely replace Chinese 5 spice. But at least it can help you to continue with your dish.
As a crucial ingredient of Chinese 5 spice, cinnamon is a flavorful spice that is comparable to Chinese 5 spice. It is sweet, spicy, bitter, woody, and earthy. If you don’t have other alternatives, you can use cinnamon alone to replace Chinese 5 spice.
You can also combine cinnamon with other spices to reach a flavor that is much closer to cinnamon. I will talk more about it below. Cinnamon is a very versatile spice so I bet that you can easily find it in your kitchen. Use a smaller amount of cinnamon instead of Chinese 5 spice.
Have you ever heard of baharat? It is also called 7 spice. Baharat is a widely used powdered spice blend in Middle Eastern cuisine. It is a mixture of cumin, cardamom, paprika, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, and coriander.
You can see that baharat and Chinese 5 spice have some similar ingredients, which make them quite comparable in flavor. Baharat is distinctively warm and earthy. It also has some sweet, and smoky undertones. But it lacks some spiciness.
Baharat is more suitable to use in savory dishes rather than sweet dishes. It is ideal to add to meat dishes, such as beef, lamb, and seafood. Use 1 teaspoon of baharat to substitute 1 teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice.
5. Ras El Hanout
Fans of Moroccan cuisine will love this Chinese 5 spice substitute. There is nothing better than using your favorite spice as the replacement. Ras el hanout is a mixed spice. It is made from a large number of different spices, maximally 80.
Normally, ras el hanout contains cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, star anise, cardamom, ginger, mace, and peppers. Do you notice that it and Chinese 5 spice have many spices in common? That’s why it is an ideal option.
Ras el hanout is woody, sweet, bitter, and warm. It is not as spicy as Chinese 5 spice but can still make up for most of its flavor. You should use it in marinades, stews, rubs, and meat dishes.
Use ½ teaspoon of ras el hanout to substitute 1 teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice.
6. Fennel Seeds And Sichuan Peppercorn
Another spice combination that you can use is fennel seeds and Sichuan peppercorn. Both of them are included in Chinese 5 spice and significantly contribute to its flavor.
Fennel seeds are known for their sweet and licorice-like taste and crunchy texture. Sichuan peppercorn is a traditional pepper of China. It is not a spicy pepper. Instead, you will feel a citrusy and numbing flavor when you taste it.
These two are both included in Chinese 5 spice, so you can absolutely use it as a substitution. Mix ½ teaspoon of fennel seeds and ½ teaspoon of sichuan peppercorn to replace 1 teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice.
You can also use black pepper in place of sichuan peppercorn with the same amount, but the flavor will be a little bit more bitter than spicy.
Za’atar is a mixture of spices and herbs that is native to the Middle Eastern. The spices often include dried sumac, sesame seeds, and salt. The herbs used are marjoram, oregano, and thyme. The number of ingredients varies across regions.
Although the spices in za’atar and Chinese 5 spice are not the same. Their tastes are actually similar to some degree. Both of them are sweet, nutty, and bitter. You can use za’atar in place of Chinese 5 spice in savory recipes such as soups, marinades, rice, meat dishes, and dressings.
Use ⅓ teaspoon of za’atar to substitute 1 teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice.
Why not make your own za’atar to replace Chinese 5 spice today!
8. Cinnamon And Star Anise
Cinnamon and star anise are the key ingredients of Chinese 5 spice. They pair well with each other. So if you, fortunately, have both of them, why not mix them together to create an amazing substitute for Chinese 5 spice?
The flavor of this combination has the sweetness of both cinnamon and star anise. In addition, it has some peppery, bitter warm, and spicy notes.
If you don’t like the bitterness of star anise, you can replace it with a sweeter spice such as allspice. You can also use ginger or cassia in place of cinnamon. You should use a very small amount of cinnamon and star anise in place of Chinese 5 spice.
9. Turmeric, Cardamom, And Star Anise
Do you believe that these 3 spices can perfectly create a flavor that is nearly the same as Chinese 5 spice? Yes, they can. This mixture has the bitterness of turmeric, the sweetness of cardamom, and the warmth and peppery of star anise.
These flavors are very close to that of Chinese 5 spice. Although it will provide more depth than Chinese 5 spice, you don’t have to worry that it will completely alter the flavor of your dish. You should start with a small amount and adjust it accordingly, depending on your taste.
10. Fennel And Ginger
Fennel and ginger are the next combination to replace Chinese 5 spice. You can use ground fennel and both ground and fresh ginger to make this great replacement.
Fennel has a sweet and anise-like flavor while ginger is warm and peppery. These flavors work together creating a perfect substitute for Chinese 5 spice. Although ginger may be too overpowering for your dish, a small amount of it will work well.
If you want the flavor to be even closer to Chinese 5 spice, add to the mixture some rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame seed oil. The amount is of your choice.
11. Rice Wine Vinegar, Star Anise, And Cinnamon
For certain liquid dishes such as Vietnamese beef stew, the combination of rice wine vinegar, anise and cinnamon are a possible option when you run out of Chinese 5 spice.
The combination of star anise and cinnamon, as I have mentioned before, is already qualified to be a substitute for Chinese five spice. And rice wine vinegar simply offers the tanginess that Chinese 5 spice has.
You should add a little bit of the mixture and increase the amount until the dish reaches your desired flavor.
12. Garam Masala
If you love Indian or Middle East cuisine, there is a high chance that you have some garam masala in your kitchen. The wonderful news is that you can use it in place of Chinese 5 spice in your recipe.
Garam masala is also a spice mixture. It is usually made of mustard seeds, cinnamon, mace, peppercorn, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, and coriander seeds. (1)
Its taste varies a lot, depending on what spices are included. But its signature flavor is warmth. It can be bitter when being cooked for too long.
It is best to use 1 teaspoon of garam masala against 1 teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice. Or you can halve or just use a small amount of garam masala
Challenge yourself with this homemade garam masala recipe.
13. Garam Masala And Star Anise
While both garam masala and star anise can be Chinese 5 spice substitutes by themselves. But if you have both of them. It is a great idea to mix them together and get a flavor that is even more identical to Chinese 5 spice.
There are two suitable ratios. You can combine ½ teaspoon of garam masala and ¼ teaspoon of star anise for 1 teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice. Or you can use ¾ teaspoon of garam masala and ¼ teaspoon of star anise for the same amount for Chinese 5 spice.
14. Fresh Chervil
Chervil is a traditional French herb (2). It has the warmth of star anise and the sweetness, tanginess, and bitterness similar to licorice. Although chervil is not often considered an ideal replacement for Chinese 5 spice, it is still a way to go when you don’t have any other choice.
You can add it to the dish while cooking, or use it as a garnish. I recommend that you use it in sauce recipes that call for Chinese 5 spice. Regarding the amount, you can use any of it depending on your preference.
15. Dill Weed And Cinnamon Sticks
For liquid dishes, I recommend you try the combination of dill weed and cinnamon whenever your Chinese 5 spice is not available. You are already familiar with the sweet, spicy, earthy, and woody flavor of cinnamon so let’s see how dill weed can pair with it to replace Chinese 5 spice.
Dill weed is a herb that is usually used to season and garnish a wide range of savory dishes. It has a warm, lemony, and anise-like flavor, which can complement the taste of cinnamon to mimic the flavor of Chinese 5 spice.
To replace dill weed and cinnamon for Chinese 5 spice, you should use ½ tablespoon of chopped dill weed and 1 or 2 cinnamon sticks against 1 tablespoon of Chinese 5 spice.
This combination in liquid dishes, such as soups and stew. Make sure you chop dill weed finely and remove the cinnamon stick after cooking.
Lacking Chinese 5 spice? Why not make your own? You just need five different spices and several minutes to get a perfect homemade version. The best thing about this alternative is the flavor. You can get a typical warm, spicy, sweet, and tangy taste of Chinese 5 spice.
This recipe calls for cinnamon, cloves, star anise, fennel seeds, and peppercorn. You can make it just by blending all spices in a coffee grinder until the mixture turns to fine powder. Store it in an air-tight jar in your cellar.
The substitute ratio for this homemade version is straightforward. A 1:1 ratio is obviously the best one.
More importantly, here is the ratio for each spice in this homemade version.
- 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon of ground fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon of ground cloves
- 2 teaspoon of ground Sichuan peppercorn
- 4-5 whole star anise
This easy Chinese 5 spice recipe can be made in no time.
Besides sharing, I also love to answer all of the questions you may have. Here are the most common ones. They will help you decide what is the best replacement for your recipe.
I think that you have found the most suitable substitute for Chinese 5 spice. Remember to use the appropriate ratio to get the best taste of your dish. Whenever you lack one ingredient in the recipe. Just keep calm! There is always a way to go.
Tell me about the dish you’re making and the replacement that you have chosen in the comment box.
- En.wikipedia.org. 2021. Garam masala – Wikipedia.
- En.wikipedia.org. 2021. Chervil – Wikipedia.