Katie's Healthy Bites: Discover Chinese 5-Spice Powder

Spices are an excellent way to add flavor to any dish without adding unnecessary calories. Chinese five-spice powder is not typically used in American cooking, but if you've never tasted this flavorful spice mix, it's time to give this favorite in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines a try! Learn what's in the spice blend, and three delicious ways to use it.
Tea-Smoked Chicken

Spices are an excellent way to add flavor to any dish without adding unnecessary calories.  Chinese five-spice powder is not typically used in American cooking, but if you've never tasted this flavorful spice mix, it's time to give this favorite in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines a try!  Learn what's in the spice blend, and four delicious ways to use it.

About Five-Spice Powder

The blend contains hints of five flavors: Sweet, salty, bitter, sour and spicy, which give a dish many flavor dimensions. Its exact origin is unknown, but it is widely used in Chinese and some Vietnamese dishes. Although Chinese five-spice is most commonly used with meat dishes, it also makes a great addition to many vegetable dishes.

What’s In the Mix?
  • Szechuan Pepper: The dried red berries of the prickly ash tree native to China, this spice has a hot and spicy flavor with citrus overtones.
  • Star Anise: The dried, star-shaped fruit of the Chinese magnolia tree. The flavor is similar to anise seeds (although they actually aren’t related), but star anise is more bitter and pungent.
  • Cloves: The unopened buds of evergreen trees that can be found in tropical regions. They are very pungent and sweet.  Use sparingly: A little bit of clove will go a long way!
  • Cinnamon: You're probably familiar with this baking spice, which comes from the bark of small evergreen trees. It is sweet with a spicy undertone.
  • Fennel Seeds: The seeds of fennel, of course! The flavor is similar to anise, but not as sweet.
Make Your Own

There are many variations of Chinese five-spice. If you decide to make your own mixture, you can start with equal parts of each ingredient, adding more or less to customize the blend to your taste buds. Don’t be afraid to play around with it! Each of the different spices within this mixture adds another exciting layer of flavor. Chinese five-spice mixes can be prepared ahead of time and stored in airtight containers for later use.

Recipes to Try:

Katie Cavuto Boyle, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, personal chef and owner of HealthyBites, LLC. See Katie's full bio »

This post was co-authored by Renee Lauser.

Next Up

Katie's Healthy Bites: Grill-Perfect Spice Rubs

Try 4 original healthy recipes for grill-perfect spice rubs from nutritionist Katie Cavuto-Boyle.

Katie's Healthy Bites: 5 Super-Simple Turkey Preparations

You don't have to deep-fry your turkey to give your turkey that wow factor -- instead, look to herbs and spices. Here are 5 marinades and rubs to add a healthy dose of flavor to your Thanksgiving feast.

Katie's Healthy Bites: 4 5-Ingredient Fall Recipes

In the mood for fall flavors without a lot of fuss? Try this menu fit that's easy enough for a weeknight meal, but impressive enough for company. Each recipe contains 5 ingredients or less! (Olive oil, salt and pepper don't count.)

Katie’s Healthy Bites: Summer Salads

Beat the heat of the season, with a light, refreshing, summer salad! It’s finally time for some really fresh produce. Experiment with seasonal fruits and vegetables from your local farmer’s market. Next time you go to a neighborhood barbeque use these tips and bring a salad that will leave your friends wanting more than just hot dogs and hamburgers.

Katie's Healthy Bites: Grilled Fruit

Katie Cavuto Boyle explains how to grill fruit and which fruits to use on your grill this summer.

Katie's Healthy Bites: Salt Varieties

Salt doesn’t need to be an enemy. When you cook at home, a dash from your own shaker can really boost a dish, and if you’re mindful, you don’t have to go entirely without. Learn more about sea salt, kosher salt, iodized salt and regular table salt.

Related Pages