Chinese 5 Spice Duck
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This is just one of those great combinations in food that works so well! 5 Spice Duck, the famous Chinese dish which we, like many, marveled over its wonderful flavors when finding a well-prepared version at a good Chinese Restaurant. Also, like many, it felt to us like such a complicated dish that we would never be able to perfect at home

Well, that’s all changed! Creating an authentic and delicious tasting Chinese style 5 Spice Duck is super simple and requires ingredients you very much likely already have in your pantry. Well, perhaps the only missing ingredient is the Chinese 5 Spice, which is a super common ingredient that will likely be sitting in your spice section at the local supermarket

What Spices make up Chinese 5 Spice?

5 Spice is quite an interesting spice. It is a combination of, you guessed it, five spices! Consisting of Cinnamon, Star Annise, Fennel, Cloves, and Pepper. The authentic Chinese Five spice uses those amazing Szechuan Peppercorns which give your mouth that super bizarre tingly sensation. Some mixes use Szechuan Peppercorns, others regular pepper. They’re both good

One word of advice, however, when using this ingredient is to use it quite sparingly. It tends to overpower dishes with those robust flavors, particularly the Annise and Pepper. In trialing this recipe we did notice how powerful it is, so as with all good home cooking – make sure you taste it as you go. If the Spice is a little overpowering you can always add a little bit more Honey into the dish to balance it out with more sweetness. The beauty of adding Honey, the Five Spice Glaze will just be thicker and more luxurious!

The secret to perfectly crispy Duck Skin every time

This is a masterful trick we learnt from the legendary Thomas Keller of the famed French Laundry restaurant in the Napa Valley, California. Many people would score the Duck skin with diagonal slices which allows for lots of openings in the skin for the duck to render. This also allows for a lower overall surface area to crisp up, which is why it is a popular choice. While this method can work – we find it is not always consistent, with different segments of the duck skin cooking at different times. It can also be quite messy and unappealing

The Thomas Keller technique is what we use, and we highly recommend you do it too. It does take a lot more time however, as the first step requires you to refrigerate the duck 2 days prior. Placing the Duck in the refrigerator before cooking (after it’s been removed from packaging of course) dries the skin out. As you know, dry skin means crispy skin!

The second step is, instead of scoring the Duck Skin before cooking – poke lots of tiny holes into the skin with a sewing needle. It may sound weird, but it works so well! Poking lots of holes into the skin creates openings in the skin for the Fat to render evenly throughout the Duck Breast when cooking. It also leaves a very clean looking result on the crispy duck skin once cooked. Which makes slicing much more visually appealing!

Chinese 5 Spice Duck with Bok Choy
Bok Choy is a great vegetables to pair with the Chinese 5 Spice Duck

Recipe Details


2 – 4 people

Prep time

3 days (drying out the Duck)

Cooking time

15 minutes

Total time

15 minutes – 3 days

Chinese 5 Spice Duck Recipe


  • 2 large Duck Breasts, skin on
  • 2 tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Dark Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp. Chinese Vinegar
  • ½ tsp. Sesame Oil
  • 1 tbsp. Honey
  • 2 tsp. Chinese 5 Spice
  • Salt

To make Peking Duck style Bao Buns, add:

  • 6-8 Bao Buns
  • 2 Scallions, finely sliced lengthwise
  • 2 tbsp. Hoisin Sauce

Note: for the best Duck skin results, you will need a thin sewing needle to pierce the duck skin


  1. The first step is to prepare the Duck to ensure a super crispy skin. The best method to do this is to trim any excess skin around the sides, then place the Duck on a plate in a refrigerator for 2-3 days, skin side up. The refrigerator will dry out the skin, but the meat will remain super tender
  2. When you are ready to cook the Duck, take it out of the fridge and poke lots of tiny holes into the skin using a sewing needle. Poke as many as you can, we try to go for around 50 – 75 per breast
  3. Season the Skin with Salt then place skin-side down on a cold pan or cast-iron skillet. Turn the heat on to medium / low and slowly cook the Duck. 90% of the cooking will take place on this side, as the duck fat renders, most of the duck will cook through
  4. After 10 – 12 minutes, lift the Duck Breast with some tongs to check the skin. Once it has gone dark and crispy, it is done. If not, cook for a few minutes then check again
  5. Once crispy, flip the duck breast over and cook for 2 – 3 more minutes. You can also baste the flesh with the Duck Fat in the pan to help it cook
  6. Once the internal temperature of the duck reads 125 degrees, remove from heat and leave to rest for at least 10 minutes

To make the Chinese 5 Spice Duck Glaze

  1. Add the 5 Spice, Soy Sauce, Dark Soy Sauce, Chinese Vinegar, Sesame Oil and Honey into a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer stirring consistently
  2. Continue to stir as the liquid reduces until you get a caramel like consistency. The consistency that will easily stick to the back of a spoon
  3. Brush a generous amount of the glaze over the Duck Breasts, on all sides to coat well. Just be careful as the glaze will be quite hot!
  4. Slice the duck into pieces on a 45-degree angle then serve alongside the Bao Buns, sliced Scallions and Hoisin Sauce

Chinese 5 Spice Duck Bao Bun
You can use this delicious Chinese 5 Spice Duck to create amazing Peking Duck style Bao Buns!

To prepare the Peking Duck style Bao Buns place 1 piece of sliced Duck Breast into a Bao Bun. Add a few slices of Scallions and finish with a generous amount of Hoisin Sauce. I like a lot of Hoisin Sauce, but that’s a personal preference!

For this recipe we also added some simple steamed Bok Choy. Just boil a little bit of water into a saucepan, add the Bok Choy and some Salt. Cover and Steam for 4-5 minutes and it’s done! You can make an assortment of vegetable sides for this dish too, just head over to our Vegetables Sides page here for more delicious recipes

Happy Cooking!

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