Ingredient Intros: Chinese Five Spices


Last week I mentioned using Chinese 5 Spice in the best salad dressing ever.  It was sweet and spicy and warming and salty and just all around delicious!  I also promised that I’d tell you more about this little known gem.  After chatting with some friends I realize just how under the radar this unique and delicious spice flies so I got to researching!  You’re welcome.  😉

What is Chinese Five Spices?

Chinese Five Spice (aka five-spice powder) is a mixture of, you guessed it!, five different spices: fennel, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and Sichuan pepper.  I have the Dynasty brand and its ingredient list is a little longer: cinnamon, star anise, fennel,  ginger, cloves, white pepper, and licorice root.

Now before I continue it is imperative for you to know the following: I hate licorice.  I won’t drink sambuca because it tastes like licorice.  Same goes for fennel (yes, Wegmans, even when you smother it in cream + cheese I can still taste the licorice).  The fastest way to get me to say no to a food is to tell me it tastes like licorice.  True story.

Yet I love this powder.  I’ve only used it a handful of times but when I do, the results are always amazing.  Lindsay has a recipe that calls for it in the original Happy Herbivore Cookbook and I in last week’s post (linked above), I shared my 5 Spice Salad recipe.

Please note that I use the term “recipe” loosely.  I measured absolutely nothing for this salad, just adding things to taste as needed!  If you missed it, here are the salad ingredients:

For the Salad:

  • Arugula
  • Sprouts (I used an alfalfa + dill mix because its what I had on hand)
  • Green onions

For the Dressing:

  • Toasted Sesame Oil
  • Soy Sauce
  • Chinese 5 Spice

I topped it with some Thai-inspired tofu (not pictured) and it was just all types of heavenly and amazing.

I digress.  Lets get back to business (to defeeeeat the Huns…ok sorry I couldn’t resist.  10 points to whoever gets that reference xo).

How can I use Chinese Five Spices?

This stuff is great on anything.  Its my new go-to for baked sweet potatoes, Asian-inspired dressings, and stir-frys.  According to my research it is also great on meats.  <–I wouldn’t know anything about that.

Looking for more specific ideas?  Here’s three fantastic ones!

What are the benefits of Chinese Five Spices?

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the formula of Chinese Five Spices is designed in such a way to balance your yin/yang.  Or so Wikipedia tells me.  Whether or not this is true, the balance of spices is sure to fire up healing mechanisms. Each of the spices in both the original blend and mine are at least known for their healing properties (if known at all).  Cinnamon provides warmth and speeds up the metabolism.  Licorice root + ginger help calm the stomach and cleanse the body.  Lesser known are fennel, star anise, cloves, and Sichuan pepper and, therefore, I am going to go into more details about their benefits below.

*Note: this information is based on the whole foods nutrient profiles featured at WHFoods and some information from Livestrong.  I like this site because it provides detailed nutrient profiles and information sources.  It also does not hesitate to say when something is speculated rather than supported by science.

  • Fennel has strong antioxidant activity due to its blend of various phytonutrients.  It has been shown to decrease inflammation and may play a role in reducing tumor growth.  It also is a good source of vitamin C, folate, and potassium.  Ladies who are of child-bearing age: folate is super important for healthy babies!
  • Star Anise has mild antibacterial properties and, like many the other spices, contains various phytonutrients, minerals, and vitamins. It is high in the B vitamins (except B-12 which can only be gotten through animal products + fortified veg products) as well as Vitamin C, calcium, and potassium.
  • Cloves contain significant amounts of a substance called eugenol which numerous studies suggest has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect in the body.  Cloves also contain numerous other phytonutrients including flavanoids and nutrients such as vitamins K and C and omega-3 fatty acids.

As this information shows, spices and herbs can be powerful tools not only for creating great-tasting meals but also for helping your body work at its maximum potential.  I highly suggest trying out Chinese Five Spices on your next Asian-inspired meal.  Be aware that it is a powerful spice so a little goes a long way.  I happen to really enjoy the taste of it but recommend starting out very slowly!

Have you ever tried Chinese Five Spices?  Let me know what you think!


Kait xo


7 thoughts on “Ingredient Intros: Chinese Five Spices

  1. Pingback: Project: Food Budget, Week 23 « yogabeautylife

  2. On a whim, tonight, I decided that I wanted some traditional “mulled wine,” even if it was out
    of season. Wanting an appropriate recipe, I impatiently purchased a jar of ground 5 spices and a peppercorn grinder with pink and black peppercorns and coriander. I added the spices moderately to a warming blend of merlot and cabernet wine and lightly simmered for about 7-10 minutes.The result far exceeded my expectations and surpassed any warmed wine I have ever had, leaving me in state of serenity (without intoxication, since heated wine loses some of its alcohol content). The Yin quality of the wine is admirably balanced by the Yang of the spices (and by the fire of the stove). All in all, with its respective antioxidants and vibrational qualities, a soothing and healthful drink — but not for those who view all alcohol beverages as toxic. But as the editor of the East-West journal once told a friend of mine: “All foods and drinks, properly used, are macrobiotic.

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