Chinese five spice is a spice blend consisting of the five most common spices used in Chinese cuisine.
Star anise, fennel, black peppercorns, cinnamon, and cloves are the five spices in Chinese five spice. These five spices represent the five varieties of flavor commonly used in cooking:
- Umami (a strong, savory flavor)
Some seasonings and blends of spices contain many of the same ingredients and hit the same flavor notes as the Chinese five spice. These seasonings and spice blends are good substitutes for Chinese five-spice.
Best Substitute for Chinese Five Spice: Garam Masala
Garam masala is a combination of spices commonly used in Indian cuisine. Like Chinese five spice, garam masala contains fennel, cloves, and cinnamon. Unlike Chinese five spice, garam masala contains caraway seeds and cardamom.
Garam masala doesn’t contain star anise, a staple ingredient in Chinese five spice, but garam masala has a similar flavor to Chinese five spice.
You can use garam masala as a substitute for Chinese five spice in chicken and vegetable stir fries, without a difference in taste.
Garam masala is readily available in stores, but this spice blend is easy to make yourself. Here is a recipe for garam masala.
- 1 tablespoon cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon dried fennel
- 1 teaspoon dried coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground caraway seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Mix the ingredients together and store the garam masala in a glass jar or airtight container. Use the mixture as a 1:1 substitute for Chinese five spice.
Other Chinese Five Spice Substitutes, Alternatives, and Replacements
There are numerous ingredients that you can use in place of Chinese five spice.
Star Anise Powder
Star anise powder is a spice made from the star-shaped pods of a Chinese evergreen tree. The pods are dried and the seeds inside the pods are ground into a fine powder, resulting in spice with a licorice flavor.
Star anise powder is one of the main ingredients in Chinese five spice. You can use star anise powder on its own as an alternative to Chinese five spice, but you should use less star anise because the flavor of this spice is strong and can overpower dishes.
Use ½ a teaspoon of star anise powder in place of 1 teaspoon of Chinese five spice to add flavor to plain rice or roasted vegetables.
Garam Masala and Star Anise Powder
You can use garam masala mixed with star anise powder to closely replicate the flavor of Chinese five spice.
Mix ¼ teaspoon of star anise with ¾ teaspoon of garam masala, and use the mixture as a 1:1 substitute for Chinese five spice.
Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the dried bark of a cinnamon tree. Cinnamon is one of the ingredients in Chinese five spice and has a sweet and spicy flavor.
Cinnamon works as a substitute for Chinese five spice in chicken or pork recipes. Use ½ a teaspoon of ground cinnamon as a substitute for 1 teaspoon of Chinese five spice.
Allspice comes from the pimenta dioica plant. The fruit is dried and ground into a heady, aromatic powder that is used as seasoning in a variety of sweet and savory dishes.
The flavor of allspice is similar to Chinese five spice, so allspice works well as a substitute for Chinese five spice in stir-fries, roasted vegetable dishes, and chicken. Use allspice as a 1:1 substitute for Chinese five spice.
Baharat is a spice blend commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking. Baharat is a combination of eight spices: coriander, paprika, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, black pepper, and cardamom.
Baharat has a sweet, warm flavor. The mix of spices in baharat is similar to Chinese five spice, making baharat a good substitute for Chinese five spice in soups and stews.
Use 1 teaspoon of baharat as an alternative to 1 teaspoon of Chinese five spice.
Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend of fragrant herbs and spices. The ingredients in Za’atar vary depending on region, but the most common ingredients in za’atar are sesame seeds, sumac, marjoram, oregano, thyme, salt, and fennel. Za’atar occasionally contains caraway seeds, cumin, and ground coriander.
There is a subtle difference between the flavor notes of za’atar and the flavor notes of Chinese five spice, but you can use za’atar as a substitute for Chinese five spice in sauces and marinades. Use 1 teaspoon of za’atar in place of 1 teaspoon of Chinese five spice.
Fennel Seeds and Peppercorns
Fennel is a herb in the carrot family. Fennel is pungent and aromatic, with a strong flavor. The seeds of the fennel plant are used as a seasoning in various cuisines.
Fennel seeds and peppercorns are two ingredients in Chinese five spice. Mixing ground fennel seeds and ground peppercorns together give a blend that has a similar flavor to Chinese five spice.
You can use a combination of 3 parts fennel seeds and 1 part peppercorns as a 1:1 substitute for Chinese five spice in meat, chicken, and fish dishes.
Ground Fennel and Ginger
Ginger is a root vegetable with a spicy, peppery flavor. Ginger root is dried and ground into a fine powder that is popular in Indian and Asian cuisine.
Ground fennel seeds and ground ginger mixed together work well as a substitute for Chinese five spice in soups, stews and fish dishes.
Mix 1 part ground ginger to 2 parts ground fennel, and use the mixture as a 1:1 substitute for Chinese five spice.
Cinnamon and Star Anise
Cinnamon and star anise are ingredients in Chinese five spice. Cinnamon gives Chinese five spice a hint of sweetness, while star anise adds a licorice flavor.
Combining cinnamon and star anise in equal parts gives a blend of spices that contains two key flavors of Chinese five spice. You can use a cinnamon and star anise blend as a substitute for Chinese five spice in most recipes containing Chinese five spice.
Cinnamon and Dill
Dill is an aromatic herb in the parsley family. Commonly used in pickling juices and marinades, dill adds a sweet, citrusy flavor to foods.
A combination of cinnamon and dill can be used as a substitute for Chinese five spice, because the subtle flavor of the dill and cinnamon combination is similar to the flavor of Chinese five spice.
Dill is a leafy herb that needs to be steeped in liquid to draw out the herb’s flavor. Use ½ a teaspoon of cinnamon and a few sprigs of fresh dill in place of 1 teaspoon of Chinese five spice in sauces, marinades, soups, and stews.
Sesame Oil and Sambuca
Sesame oil is extracted from sesame seeds and has a nutty flavor. Sambuca is a licorice-flavored liqueur made from star anise.
You can use a mixture of sesame oil and sambuca in place of Chinese five spice in soups, stews, sauces, and marinades.
Mix one tablespoon of sesame oil with one teaspoon of sambuca, and use the mixture as a substitute for 1 teaspoon of Chinese five spice.
Chervil is a herb with a similar flavor to star anise. You can use fresh chervil as a Chinese five spice substitute to flavor rice and vegetables.
Use 2 tablespoons of finely chopped chervil in place of 1 teaspoon of Chinese five spice. You can also use chervil as a garnish instead of incorporating it into your dish.
Turmeric, Cardamom, and Star Anise
Turmeric is a spice that’s similar to ginger and is commonly used in Indian cooking. Turmeric mixed with cardamom and star anise has a heady flavor.
Mix turmeric, cardamom, and star anise in equal parts and use the spice blend as a 1:1 substitute for Chinese five spice in many oriental dishes.