Is garam masala the same as five-spice?

In this brief guide, we will address the query, “Is garam masala the same as five-spice?” We will also discuss the spices used in five-spice powder and how we can use them. Moreover, we will also discuss the procedure of making five spice powder at home.

Is garam masala the same as five-spice?

No, garam masala is not the same as five-spice. As the name itself indicates, five-spice is a spice blend made from the combination of five essential Chinese spices. 

As for garam masala, it uses additional spices other than the five ingredients used in the five-spice. As a result, the combination of different spices leads to two distinct flavor profiles.

What is five-spice powder?

Five-spice powder is a spice blend of mainly five spices namely cinnamon, cloves, star anise, fennel, and Sichuan peppercorns. It is widely used in Chinese and Taiwanese cuisines. It is basically the Chinese equivalent of garam masala. 

It combines all five tastes -sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami from these 5 different spices. The number five not just denotes the five different spices used in it but also the five different flavors that are combined in the mixture.

What are the spices used in the five-spice?

The five spices used in the Chinese five-spice are Star Anise, Fennel Seeds, Cassia (or Cinnamon), Sichuan Peppercorns, and Cloves. Let us discuss in detail:

Star Anise

Star anise is the main ingredient and the largest spice used in five-spice powder. This star-shaped spice is similar to anise, fennel, or licorice in taste. 

It has a very strong, distinct warm, sweet, and spicy flavor. The flavor of star anise is generally considered sweet, but it is commonly used in savory dishes. 

Sichuan Peppercorns

They are also known as Szechuan peppercorns. They differ from normal black peppercorns in a way that they give a tingling effect to the tongue to enhance the hotness. At first, the flavor on the tongue is bitter, followed by numbing heat and tangy flavors. 

Szechuan peppercorns are renowned for their numbing sensation which helps spice up any recipe. They are commonly used in Chinese dishes like Ma Po Tofu and Dan Dan Noodles.


Cloves are the aromatic dried flower buds of an evergreen tree native to eastern Indonesia. They are known as versatile spices that can be used in sweet as well as savory dishes. They look like small pins or nails and are dark brown. 

They are a pungent warm spice with some sweet and bitter undertones. They can be used whole or in ground form and usually, both these forms of cloves are used differently.


Chinese cinnamon is also referred to as cassia and is one of the spices in the five-spice powder. It has a warm and sweet flavor with a pungent aroma. Chinese cinnamon has stronger flavors than the normal cinnamon. 

In western cuisines, cinnamon is usually considered a sweet spice, but everywhere else, they are known for their savory dishes. Cinnamon sticks are usually used to flavor different Chinese dishes.


The last ingredient in a five-spice powder is fennel. They are known for their licorice and mild anise-like flavors. Its flavors can be enhanced depending on the way it is cooked.

How can we use five-spice powder?

  • It is used as a spice rub for pork, beef, chicken, duck, and seafood
  • Use in marinades for meat, poultry, and seafood
  • Add to stir-fries Chinese dishes.
  • Combine with bread crumbs for coating meats or veggies before  deep-frying
  • Add to soups and stews for deeper flavors
  • Add to your bakeries like bread and buns.

For recipes using five-spice powder, please click the link here.

How to make five-spice powder?

You only need five ingredients to make this easy homemade five-spice blend.


  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
  • 5 to 6 whole star anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ground Chinese cinnamon or cassia
  • 1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds


  • In a dry skillet, toast the Sichuan peppercorns and star anise separately by tossing the pan continuously over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until the aroma is released.
  • Let it cool for a while and grind it in a spice blender.
  • Pass the ground peppercorns through a fine-mesh strainer to separate any rough covers.
  • Mix it with ground fennel seeds, ground cloves, and ground cinnamon.
  • Add all of the ingredients to the spice blender again for a finer texture.
  • Store in an airtight container 

Other FAQs about Spices that you may be interested in.

Is garam masala the same as allspice?

What is the difference between masala and garam masala?

Is garam masala just curry powder?

What is cumin used for?


In this brief guide, we will address the query, “Is garam masala the same as five-spice?” We will also discuss the spices used in five-spice powder and how we can use them. Moreover, we will also discuss the procedure of making five spice powder at home.


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.