Ultimate list of Asian spices + 9 recipe ideas

Asian spice blends
Asian spices are essential to Asian food and add depth, complexity, and flavor to various dishes. Some popular Asian spices include ginger, cumin, turmeric, Sichuan peppercorns, coriander, and star anise.

What are Asian spices – the basic list

Here’s the most basic list of Asian spices you can use:

GochugaruA Korean chili powder with a sweet, fruity, and smoky flavor profile with moderate heat.
Cinnamon A spice made from the inner bark of trees, it is commonly used in Asian cuisine for its sweet and warm flavor. It is common in curries and desserts.
Shichimi A Japanese spice blend made from seven different ingredients, including red chili pepper, sansho pepper, roasted orange peel, sesame seeds, and more. It has a complex and slightly spicy flavor.
Ginger A widely used spice in Asian cuisine, ginger has a warm, spicy, sweet taste for both sweet and savory dishes. It’s common in stir-fries, soups, curries, and marinades.
Star aniseA star-shaped fruit native to China, star anise has a strong licorice flavor it lends to many Asian dishes (especially in Chinese cuisine).
Chinese five spicesA blend of five spices that typically includes cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns. It has a sweet and savory flavor profile and is present in many Chinese dishes.
Thai basil This herb has a strong and slightly spicy flavor profile with a hint of licorice. It’s commonly used in Thai cuisine, especially in stir-fries and curries.
Galangal A root similar to ginger, galangal has a pungent and slightly bitter taste. It’s common in Southeast Asian cuisine.
Cumin A warm, earthy spice common in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. It can be used as a seasoning or as a base for spice blends.
TurmericA bright yellow spice commonly used in Indian cuisine, turmeric has a slightly bitter and earthy flavor profile. It’s often used as a natural coloring agent and is a critical ingredient in curry powder.

What are the best Chinese spices?

Chinese spices vary based on the region, but these are the most commonly used ones:

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Five-spice powderA blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns, used to add a sweet and savory flavor to dishes.
Szechuan peppercornsA spice with a unique numbing sensation and a slightly citrusy flavor, commonly used in Szechuan cuisine.
GingerA versatile spice used in many Chinese dishes, providing a warming, slightly spicy flavor.
GarlicA common ingredient in Chinese cooking, providing an intense, savory flavor to dishes.
Chinese cinnamon (Cassia)A type of cinnamon commonly used in Chinese cuisine, with a strong, sweet flavor and a hint of spice.
Chili peppersA spicy and flavorful addition to many Chinese dishes, commonly used in Szechuan cuisine.

What are the best Vietnamese spices?

Some of the best Vietnamese spices include:

LemongrassThis fragrant herb is a usual spice in Vietnamese cuisine, especially in dishes like pho and grilled meats.
Star aniseThis spice has a strong licorice flavor and is often used in Vietnamese soups and stews.
Fish sauceAlthough technically not a spice, fish sauce is a key ingredient in many Vietnamese dishes, providing a savory, umami flavor.
GarlicGarlic is a staple ingredient in many Vietnamese dishes, adding an intense, savory flavor.
CorianderCoriander, or cilantro, is a popular herb used in Vietnamese cooking, adding a fresh, citrusy flavor to dishes.

What are the best Thai spices?

Thai spices should add both flavor and color to your dish. These are some of the best ones:

Galangal Similar to ginger, galangal has a spicy and earthy flavor and is often used in Thai soups and curries.
Kaffir lime leavesThese fragrant leaves are used in many Thai dishes, particularly in soups and curries, to add a distinctive citrusy flavor.
Thai basilThis herb has a slightly sweet and anise-like flavor and is commonly used in stir-fries and curries.
Coriander (cilantro)A staple in Thai cuisine, coriander adds a fresh and citrusy flavor to salads, soups, rice noodles, and curries.
CuminUsed in some Thai curry pastes, cumin adds a warm and nutty flavor to dishes.
Shallots Similar to onions and add a sweet and mild onion-like flavor to Thai dishes, particularly in stir-fries and salads.

9 Recipes that use Asian spices

  1. Ginger Garlic Noodle Soup with bok choy – a comforting and flavorful soup that combines the zing of ginger and garlic with the earthy flavor of bok choy. This dish is perfect for warming up on a cold day.
  2. Indian Cumin Rice – a simple yet flavorful Indian dish seasoned with cumin seeds that add a nutty and earthy taste to the fried rice, making it an excellent side dish for a wide range of Indian curries.
  3. Turmeric Chicken Curry – a dish made with a fragrant blend of spices. The turmeric adds vibrant yellow color and subtle bitterness to the dish while providing numerous health benefits.
  4. 5 Spice Chicken with Vegetable Stir-Fry – Combining these spices adds a complex and aromatic flavor to the chicken and vegetable stir-fry, making it a satisfying and flavorful meal.
  5. Hot & sour soup – The combination of vinegar and heat from peppers creates a unique balance of sour and spicy flavors. Add some savory shiitake mushrooms to that, and you’re good to go.
  6. Wonton soup – The delicate wonton wrappers and savory filling paired with a flavorful broth make for a comforting and satisfying dish.
  7. Orange chicken – The sweet and tangy sauce made with fresh orange juice and zest gives the dish a refreshing and zesty flavor.
  8. Sesame chicken – The toasted sesame seeds add a nutty depth of flavor to the dish, while the sweet and savory sauce complements the crispy chicken.
  9. Lo Mein noodles – The chewy noodles and umami-packed sauce make a hearty and satisfying dish perfect for any occasion.
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Frequently Asked Questions

What Asian spice is the best for meats?

Chinese five-spice goes well with meats. It blends cinnamon, star anise, cloves, fennel, and Szechuan peppercorns, adding a complex and savory flavor.

What Asian spice is the best for veggies?

When it comes to veggies, turmeric is a commonly used Asian spice. It has a slightly bitter and warm flavor. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and adds a bright yellow color to dishes.

What Asian spice is the best for soups?

Lemongrass is a popular Asian soup spice with a bright and citrusy flavor. It is often used in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine and pairs well with coconut milk and seafood. Scallions are another amazing option for soups, as they add some freshness to the meal.


Alexandra is a passionate writer with a deep appreciation for food - not just as nourishment but as an expression of culture, a reflection of history, and a celebration of life. She knows that everything in life requires a little spice - and gets a kick (get it?) every time she achieves the perfect combination of heat and depth.

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