What’s the Difference Between 5 Spice and 7 Spice?

Do you want to know what’s the difference between Chinese 5 Spice and Japanese 7 Spice? 

Despite sharing roots in Asian cuisine, these 2 famous spice blends are completely unique.

But, how much different are they? 

Let’s know about them in today’s blog post.

What’s Chinese 5 Spice?

Let’s start with the Chinese 5 Spice blend. As the name suggests, it comprises 5 key spices carefully combined to create a harmonious flavor experience. The traditional components of Chinese 5 Spice include:

  1. Star anise that dominates the entire blend with its distinctive liquorice-like flavor
  2. Cloves for a warm and pungent taste
  3. Chinese cinnamon (or cassia) to add a sweet and spicy element
  4. Sichuan peppercorns, for their unique numbing and tingling sensation
  5. Fennel seeds, for adding a hint of sweetness and a mild liquorice flavor

Chinese 5 Spice is most commonly used in Chinese cuisine to add depth and complexity to both savory and sweet dishes. It’s why you might find dozen of Chinese recipes like soups, desserts, and stir-fries calling for 5 spice.

What is Japanese 7 Spice (Shichimi Togarashi)?

Now, let’s learn about Japanese 7 Spice, also known as Shichimi Togarashi. Unlike Chinese 5 Spice, which focuses on a few key spices, Japanese 7 Spice is a more complex blend comprising 7 distinctive ingredients.

It’s often used as a finishing seasoning or condiment for soups, noodles, rice dishes, and grilled meats. It can also be sprinkled on popcorn, avocado toast, or other snacks.

While the exact composition may vary, the typical components of Shichimi Togarashi include:

  1. Red chili flakes to bring a fiery kick
  2. Sichuan peppercorns for their signature numbing sensation
  3. Sesame seeds to add a nutty aroma
  4. Dried orange peel for a bright and citrusy note
  5. Nori (seaweed) flakes for imparting a savory umami flavor
  6. Ginger to add a zesty kick
  7. Poppy seeds to offer a subtle texture and mild bitterness

This combination creates a dynamic and multi-layered flavor profile.

Japanese 7 Spice is a popular condiment in Japan, often sprinkled over various dishes, including soups, noodles, rice bowls, grilled meats, and tempura. Its complex flavor profile, with hints of spice, citrus, and umami, adds a delightful and refreshing touch to Japanese cuisine.

Concluding the Key Differences

The main difference between Chinese 5 Spice and Japanese 7 Spice is their composition and flavor profiles. Their specific ingredients and ratios result in distinct taste experiences.

Chinese 5 Spice is characterized by its warm and sweet profile, emphasizing star anise, cloves, and Chinese cinnamon. Its flavors are well-suited for dishes that require a deep, rich, and slightly sweet seasoning.

On the other hand, Japanese 7 Spice offers a more complex and dynamic flavor profile. It’s because of a combination of heat, nuttiness, citrus, and umami. The combination provides a vibrant and aromatic enhancement to Japanese dishes, adding layers of flavor that awaken the palate.

FAQs

Can you substitute 5 spice and 7 spice?

No, you should not substitute 5 spice and 7 spice in all recipes. The reason is the two spice blends have different flavor profiles. Chinese 5 spice has a warm, earthy, and slightly sweet flavor. In contrast, Japanese 7 spice has a more complex flavor, with notes of heat, citrus, and umami.

If you substitute 5 spice for 7 spice in a recipe that calls for the latter, the dish will be missing the heat and citrus notes of 7 spice. Conversely, if you substitute 7 spices for 5 spices in a recipe that calls for the former, the dish will be too spicy and citrusy.

How can you make Chinese 5 spice at home?

You can follow the recipe for making Chinese 5 spice at home:

Ingredients

  • 6 star anise pods
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick (3 inches long )
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons Szechuan peppercorns

Instructions

  1. Toast the spices in a dry skillet over low heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant.
  2. Let cool slightly, then grind the spices in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle until fine.
  3. Store the Chinese 5 spices in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

Tips for making Chinese 5 spice at home

  • Use whole spices as they preserve their intense flavor.
  • Toast the spices before grinding them to release their essential oils.
  • Grind the spices until they attain a fine texture. 
  • Store the Chinese 5 spices in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. It’ll help to keep the spices fresh for up to 6 months.

How can you make Japanese 7 spice at home?

You can make Japanese 7 spice blend by following the recipe given below:

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons red chilli flakes
  • 1 tablespoon sansho peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon hemp seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon nori flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger powder

Instructions

  1. Toast all ingredients except nori flakes and ground ginger powder in a dry skillet over low heat, stirring occasionally, until you can smell the aroma.
  2. Let them cool, then grind the spices in a spice.
  3. Stir in the nori flakes and ground ginger.
  4. Store the Japanese 7 spice in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place.

Tips

  • Use whole spices to get a more intense flavor.
  • Grind the spices finely so that Japanese 7 spice is evenly distributed in your dishes.
  • Store the Japanese 7 spice in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. It’ll help keep the spices fresh for up to 6 months.

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Saba Akbar
Saba Akbar

Hello, I'm a culinary explorer and food writer with 25 years of home kitchen expertise. This blog is a treasure trove of my insights on global cuisine, cooking tips, and expert knowledge of kitchen tools.
Besides this, as a GERD survivor, I've transformed my passion for food into a quest for food's GERD-friendliness and healthiness. I believe what you eat shapes your internal environment—join me on this lifelong journey of taste and healthiness!

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