Classic Spice Blends: Five Spice Powder

Classic Spice Blends: Five Spice Powder
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Classic Spice Blends: Five Spice PowderThe five basics for Chinese cooking are blended into Chinese Five Spice Powder-sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and salty. While this may sound like an odd mixture, the tastes compliment each other and when combined they make a wonderful blend.(Pictured: cumin, star anise, fennel seeds, cardamom and cinnamon.)

The blend is based on the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang and it contains star anise, fennel, cloves, cinnamon, and Szechwan pepper. Some blends have ginger and cardamom added, and other times they are simply added into the recipes using the five spice powder. Star anise is the major ingredient, but some blends also use it equally with the other items.

Five spice powder has a unique flavor and should be used in small amounts. Use it in marinades or as a rub for meat, poultry and fish, or add it to rice and vegetable dishes. A dash or two in any stir-fry dish is also a great addition. For something different try adding it to muffins, breads, waffles, cookies or scones. For a unique burger or meatloaf add some five spice powder to the meat before cooking and serve it with a sweet and sour or plum sauce. You can buy a five spice Watkins' blend from us HERE or I also have a recipe to make your own:

Five Spice Blend from Herb Companion Magazine

You'll need:

4 tablespoons Szechuan peppers (or you can substitute other peppercorns)

4 tablespoons whole cloves

4 tablespoons broken cinnamon sticks

4 tablespoons fennel seed

12 whole star anise

Grind each ingredient separately in a spice mill or mortar. Combine and mix well. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

Chinese Five Spice Stir Fry


1 tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into strips

1 red or green pepper, sliced

1 1/2 cups vegetables such as baby corn, broccoli, snow peas, bok choy etc.

1 tsp. Chinese five spice powder

1 tbsp. sesame seed

1 tsp. corn starch

1 tbsp. light or flavored soy sauce

1/3 cup water

Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan and sauté the chicken for 4-5 minutes until no longer pink and lightly browned. Add the vegetables, five spice powder and sesame seeds. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes at a fairly high (but not scorching) heat. Blend the cornstarch with the soy sauce and water. Push the vegetables and meat aside and pour into the hot skillet. Bring it to a boiling then stir it into the mixture. Stir fry for another 2 minutes or so. If at any time the heat seems to high, turn it down some and add a little water if it seems dry. Four servings.

Five Spice Walnuts


3 tbsp. butter or margarine

1 tsp. five spice powder

1/2 tsp. salt (optional if you want it salt free)

3 cups broken walnuts

In a medium saucepan melt butter. Stir in five-spice powder and salt. Add the walnuts, stirring till nuts are evenly coated. Transfer nut mixture to a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan. Bake in a 300 F. degree oven for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice during the baking. Cool in pan for 15 minutes. Finish on paper towels, then store tightly covered when they completely cooled off. Makes 3 cups

Five Spice Chicken


3 pounds chicken pieces

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil

1 tbsp. cider vinegar or herb vinegar

1 garlic clove

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground fresh ginger

2 tsp. five spice powder

Wash the chicken and pat dry. Mix the soy sauce, oil and vinegar. Crush the garlic with salt and add to above mixture. Add the chicken to marinade and coat all sides. Marinade for 1 hour or longer-over night is fine in the refrigerator. Use a plastic bags or covered container. After marinating, place the chicken in roasting pan, spooning about 2 tbsp. of the marinade over the pieces. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour until pieces are crisp and done inside. Baste every 20 minutes or so with the juices in the pan. Notes: You can also grill this. If you do, bring the marinade to a boil first before using it to baste it as it cooks on the grill. If baking, discard the remaining marinade after the 2 tbsp. and use the pan juices to baste.

Slow Cooked Five Spice Pork Roast


3 pound pork shoulder roast

1 1/2 tsp. five spice powder

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 cup apple juice

3 tbsp. cider vinegar or herb vinegar

2 tbsp. soy sauce

Trim fat from the pork roast. Check to make sure the roast will fit in your crock pot. If not, you can trim it to fit and place the extra around it where it will fit, or save to make stock at a later date by freezing. Rub the roast with five-spice powder. In a large skillet brown roast on all sides in hot oil. Place roast in crock pot. Stir together apple juice, vinegar, and soy sauce in the pan you browned the roast in. Stir with any juices and scrape the pan for any browned bits. Pour all over the roast in the crock. Cover and cook on low setting for 10 to 12 hours or on high for 4 1/2 to 5 hours. If the juices in the crock are not too fatty you can make a gravy with the juices or place in a pan and reduce the juices to make a sauce. Serve with rice or noodles, sautéed green beans and salad.


Image: courtesy of

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About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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