Chinese five-spice blend is a powerful combination of flavors that allows you to incorporate it in a variety of delicious dishes. But if you run out of this spice mix, it is important to know about all the possible and … best Chinese five-spice substitutes. So, we are all up for it with this article!
Thanks to its nuanced flavor profile, there are many replacements you could easily find in your kitchen or purchase from the store. Accordingly, these Chinese five-spice substitutes include:
- Fennel Seeds + Szechuan Peppercorns
- Garam Masala
- A combination of Garam Masala and star anise
- Ras el Hanout
- Za’atar (Spice Blend)
- Star Anise
- Cinnamon + Star Anise
- A mixture of star anise and fennel seeds
So, make sure you do not skip a word on the rest of this post if you’re curious about the best alternatives you could use instead of your favorite spice blend!
The 10 Best Chinese Five-Spice Substitutes
As you already know, this blend is rich in taste and used to enhance the flavor of many savory and some sweet dishes. Generally, this spice blend includes ingredients like star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, and fennel seeds.
However, finding an alternative to this mix is not as challenging as you think. So, whenever Chinese five-spice is not available in your spice rack, you can easily use the spice blends or solo spices mentioned below to get a flavor replication that is close to the original.
01- Fennel Seeds + Szechuan Peppercorns
Both fennel seeds and Szechuan peppercorns are integral ingredients of the mix itself. Hence, if you have only these two spices at home, you have a chance to mix them to get a decent alternative.
This is a versatile option that will offer a combination of bitter, sweet, slightly citrusy, and anise-like flavor notes. This taste will be very similar to the overall flavor profile of the Chinese five-spice blend.
You can use ground Szechuan peppercorns and ground fennel in similar amounts to make this mixture. And, if you don’t have Szechuan peppercorns in hand, you can proceed with black peppercorns. But black pepper will give a slightly different taste and will be less spicy.
You can use this mixture in any of the dishes that call for the Chinese five-spice mix, including soups, braises, meat, or seafood. Help yourself with adjusting flavor by increasing or decreasing the amounts as you go by.
02- Garam Masala
The king of spice blends in Indian cuisine will undoubtedly come to your rescue whenever you run out of the Chinese five-spice mix! Above all, Garam Masala is widely available and comes with the adaptability to use in many different savory recipes.
However, unlike our subject leader, Garam Masala is way more complex and has multiple ingredients. In fact, there are a lot of variations depending on the ingredients used. But still, thanks to the many similar spices Garam Masala and chinese five-spice mix shares, such as star anise, cloves, cinnamon, and fennel seeds, this alternative can be a great option.
Usually, Garam Masala includes black pepper and Kashmiri red chilies. And it also contains additional ingredients like caraway seeds, black cardamom, green cardamom, nutmeg, etc. So, even though the spiciness could be a little intense, the hotness could be somewhat comparable.
Garam Masala certainly gives a relatively warm, spicy, sweet, and hot tang not only to meat and fish but also to other seafood or any kind of savory dish when in need of substitution.
Like many other alternatives on our list, you can begin with a small amount at the beginning and increase the amount until you get the desired flavor. However, Garam Masala will not work well with sweet dishes.
Garam Masala is the most-used spice blend in Indian cuisine. So, we are sure that you would love to learn everything about this amazing mix and its ingredients. Click here, and we are ready to enlighten you!
03- A Combination Of Garam Masala And Star Anise
As mentioned previously, Garam Masala has a close flavor to that of our topic leader.
But sometimes, the Garam Masala you purchase from the store might not include star anise. And even if it is, the proportion of it in the masala powder will not be enough to replicate the flavor expectation.
Thus, in such instances, you can make a mixture by combining 1/4 tablespoon of powdered star anise with 1/3 tablespoon of Garam Masala to replace one tablespoon of Chinese five-spice mix.
In fact, this is so far one of the best substitutes that you could use in place of our topic leader to flavor many savory dishes. Again, when you use Garam Masala alone, this replacement will not work well with sweet recipes. But, it will give you the desired warm, sweet, and hot punch with a variety of other dishes!
Baharat is popular in Middle Eastern cuisine; while being very similar to Garam Masala. So the connection is built up either way, making this a great choice to use in place of the Chinese five-spice mix.
Baharat typically shares some common ingredients with the Chinese five spice mix, such as cloves and cinnamon. In addition, the hotness of Szechuan peppercorns is approximated with the usage of black pepper. Moreover, Baharat may also have extra ingredients like cumin, paprika, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, sumac, dried rose petals/buds, etc.
Consequently, this alternative could be somewhat complex in flavor with a richer taste. However, this could have a warm, sweet, and hot hint which is similar to our topic leader.
Therefore, it arguably becomes a versatile substitute, particularly for spice rubs, marinade, stews, and soups. But, it is not a very favorable choice of spice for sweet dishes.
05- Ras el Hanout
Ras el Hanout can be a mix of well-known ingredients and rare spices. However, this blend also has similar flavorings to our subject leader, like cinnamon and cloves. And the hotness can be approximated with black pepper.
In addition, Comparatively, Ras el Hanout could be a bit spicy since it contains extra ingredients such as cardamom, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, cubeb berries, etc.
Nevertheless, thanks to its bitter, sweet, warm, and slightly hot flavors, which brings it close to our topic leader, this could certainly be another great replacement.
Ras el Hanout is an excellent option for soups, rubs, meat/seafood dishes, stews, and vegetables. To substitute one tablespoon of Chinese five-spice mix, you can use 1/2 a tablespoon from this alternative. Or else, use it in pinches and build up the flavor over time.
06- Za’atar (Spice Blend)
There is a single herb and a spice mixture that come under the same name, “Za’atar”. And here, we are referring to the spice blend that could be a possibility to switch places with the Chinese five-spice blend in certain instances.
Za’atar spice mixture is typically a combination of several spices and herbs. It shares fennel seeds with our topic leader along with some additional ingredients like:
- Cumin seeds
- Coriander seeds
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Dried herbs (marjoram, thyme, oregano)
Although this alternative does not share many similar ingredients, the slightly bitter and citrusy flavor profile matches a lot with our subject leader. It will not get along well with sweet dishes but will go well with marinades, meat dishes, and vegetables.
However, be cautious if you have any allergies to sesame seeds. If you do not have any nut/seed allergies, you can either use 1:1 ratio of Chinese five-spice or a little less at the beginning until the flavor develops.
On your way to discovering the best substitutes for the Chinese five-spice mix, we thought you would be interested in learning some smart ways to use this flavorful spice mix. Tap this link for more information.
07- Star Anise
Can a single spice really cover up the entire flavor profile of a spice blend? If this problem popped into your head at once, we bet you got to check out star anise!
This spice is a primary ingredient in the Chinese five-spice blend itself that offers a robust, unique flavor with sweet, warm, and spicy notes. It also contains taste hints of fennel seeds, licorice, anise seeds, and cloves. Therefore, the flavor can be very equivalent to that of our subject leader.
If you use powdered star anise as an alternative, you can also add in a pinch of ground Szechuan or black pepper for a better flavor approximation. While 01 star anise pod will work in place of 1/2 a teaspoon of the Chinese five-spice mix, you can use this in braises, soups, and stews with some Szechuan or black peppercorns as needed.
And, if you need to use this option in marinades, wet rubs, or dry rubs, the best way is to use it in the powdered or ground form. However, remember that star anise generally has a strong flavor, so always be cautious when substituting.
As suggested by the name, allspice is an amazing single spice that has a combination of cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon flavors. It is warm, bitter-sweet, and slightly spicy to match perfectly with the flavor profile of our topic leader.
Unlike many other Chinese five-spice substitutes, you can use allspice alone in many sweet dishes as well as savory dishes, which is a huge plus.
To begin with, you can use 1/2 a tablespoon of ground/powdered allspice to substitute for one tablespoon of our subject leader.
This option will be good enough to swap in meat and seafood dishes, stews, soups, baked goods, and also sweets.
09- Cinnamon + Star Anise
If you are someone who would love to experiment with successful substitutes in your kitchen, we bet that this mixture will be one of the best ones you’ve ever found! And these spices are key ingredients in the blend itself.
Interestingly, the combination of cinnamon and star anise will fascinate you as it gives a very close taste to that of our topic leader. The spicy and sweet notes of cinnamon blend with the intricate flavor of star anise team up really well to make a pretty good Chinese five-spice alternative.
You can get similar parts from both of these spices to make a mixture and use it anywhere that originally calls for our subject leader. Adjusting the amount depends on your taste preference. Start small and then proceed if you think the flavor could be overwhelming in larger amounts.
Did you know that cinnamon could be used in pinches to substitute the flavor of vanilla in baking? Click on this link and check our ultimate guide on the best substitutes for vanilla to learn what would help you when vanilla is not around.
10- A Mixture Of Star Anise And Fennel Seeds
Apparently, star anise is becoming a star here – isn’t it! Both of these are part of the Chinese five-spice mix, so they could undoubtedly provide a close flavor replication. When combined, it will give a strong, warm, earthy, slightly sweet, and citrusy flavor, which you can savor in our topic leader.
Like you did with star anise and cinnamon, combine similar amounts from star anise and fennel seeds as well. You can use this substitute in pinches with sweet dishes as well.
And also, swap in savory recipes in similar proportions like you use our subject leader.
Be careful since the flavor can be very strong since fennel seeds and star anise carry a robust flavor within them. Therefore, begin in small quantities and then work your way up.
You Just Uncovered The Best Chinese Five Spice Substitutes!
Replacements are worth knowing if you need to have a real hassle-free kitchen adventure. Hence, we believe that these Chinese five-spice substitutes that we shared with you, such as Garam Masala, fennel seeds + Szechuan peppercorns, cinnamon + star anise, etc, will help you to save a few dishes!