Chinese Cuisine Seasoning Guide 2023

Chinese cuisine is famous for its unique cooking techniques and unique taste. The key to a delicious Chinese meal lies in the combination of color, aroma, and taste, and the key to taste is not only the cooking process and the use of main ingredients but also mainly depends on unique seasonings.

Chinese cuisine seasonings are characterized by: a variety of seasoning varieties; complete categories. However, people who have not dealt with Chinese cuisine regularly need to spend a lot of time learning how to use them. Especially with their dosage and proportion, even experienced chefs will make mistakes.

In this article, I will explain dozens of sauces, spices, and seasonings that are often used in Chinese cuisine. They are combined to create countless flavors, which are the characteristics of Chinese cuisine.

Table Contents


Salt is almost the most widely used seasoning in all foods.

Unlike Western cuisine, in Chinese cooking, salt is added later. This requires less salt to achieve the same level of saltiness. If added earlier, salt will penetrate the food and result in consuming more salt unconsciously at the same level of saltiness, which is not healthy.



Dark soy sauce is used for coloring and refreshing, especially when making braised dishes or stewed and marinated dishes.

dark soy sauce

Light soy sauce is used for seasoning and is suitable for cold mixed dishes, the color is light and it looks refreshing.

dark soy sauce

The difference between dark and light soy sauce can be seen by pouring each onto a white porcelain plate and observing its color. Light soy sauce is a reddish-brown color with a thin consistency, while dark soy sauce is brownish-orange and has a glossy appearance, being thicker in consistency.


Vinegar is a commonly used seasoning that has many functions such as eliminating fishy smell, removing gamey smell, reducing spiciness, adding fragrance, promoting ripening, preventing blackening, and preserving food.


In cooking, vinegar can enhance the taste and aroma of dishes. In addition, vinegar also has many other uses, such as skin care, hair care, nail care, relieving fatigue, preventing colds, and eliminating odors.

When purchasing, it is important to choose brewed vinegar rather than harmful industrial vinegar or vinegar acid blend, which has better taste and is more expensive.

The functions of vinegar can be divided into the following categories:

  1. Eliminating fishy smell: Adding a little vinegar when cooking fish can destroy fishy smell.
  2. Removing gamey smell: Adding a small amount of vinegar when cooking lamb can remove gamey smell.
  3. Reducing spiciness: If a dish is too spicy, adding a little vinegar can reduce spiciness.
  4. Adding fragrance: Adding a little vinegar when cooking dishes can reduce greasiness and increase fragrance.
  5. Promoting sweetness: Adding a little vinegar when cooking sweet porridge can make it sweeter.
  6. Promoting ripening: Adding a little vinegar when cooking meat, seaweed, and potatoes can make them easier to cook and softer.
  7. Preventing blackening: Adding a little vinegar when stir-frying eggplant can keep the eggplant from turning black.
  8. Preserving food: Adding a little vinegar when soaking raw fish can prevent them from rotting.


The addition of cooking wine in the marinade of meat can remove the fishy smell. When frying eggs, a small amount of cooking wine can remove the fishy smell and enhance the fragrance.

Chinese Baijiu can be used in the marinade of meat or in the making of braised meat. Adding some baijiu in the making of pickles can sterilize and add fragrance.


Beer has a unique effect on some strong-tasting foods. For example, duck meat and river snail can be cooked with beer to enhance the taste.



Sweet noodle sauce is a type of sauce made from flour, water, and salt. In addition to being eaten directly, it can also be used as a seasoning, such as in Beijing-style meat and shredded chicken with soybean paste. When making fried noodle sauce, it is used together with yellow sauce, making it taste better.

sweet noodle sauce

Broad bean paste sauce is mainly made from broad beans and has a savory taste. It is a commonly used seasoning in Sichuan cuisine, such as in dishes like twice-cooked pork, mapo tofu, and spicy hotpot.

broad bean paste sauce

Fermented bean paste is made from yellow or black beans that have been steamed and fermented. It has a unique flavor and is used in dishes like “bean paste ribs” and “stir-fried bitter gourd with bean paste”.

fermented bean

Tomato paste is made by frying tomato sauce, sugar, and salt in salad oil. Tomato paste has various flavors and is suitable for direct dipping. Such as dipping in fries.

tomato paste

Sesame paste, also known as sesame sauce, is a sauce made from ground sesame seeds. It can be eaten directly or used as a cold dressing. It is commonly used in dishes like sesame spinach, sesame cold noodles, and as a dip for spicy hotpot or hot pot.

sesame paste

Salad dressings on the market include Thousand Island dressing, mayonnaise, and oil and vinegar. You can buy them according to your taste. They can be used to make salads and sandwiches.

salad dressings

Shacha sauce, a unique sauce in the coastal area of Guangdong. It tastes salty and can be used as a dipping sauce for hot pot or paired with some poultry and meat dishes.

shacha sauce


White sugar is refined sugar made from molasses pressed from sugar cane or sugar beets. The one made from sugarcane is called white granulated sugar, and the one made from sugar beet is called soft white sugar.

white sugar

The raw material of brown sugar is sugar cane, although there are more impurities, the nutrients are better preserved. It has the effects of replenishing qi, slowing down the middle, helping the spleen to transform food, nourishing blood and breaking stasis.

borwn sugar

The use of rock sugar in braised dishes will make the color of the dish more red and bright. In addition, using rock sugar to brew tea or make desserts can invigorate the middle and Qi, harmonize the stomach and moisten the lungs, and relieve cough and reduce phlegm.

rock sugar


Dried chili pepper is an important seasoning in Sichuan, Guizhou, and Hunan, among other places. When the oil is hot, it is fried with scallions and ginger in the pan, and can be used in many everyday dishes.

dried chili pepper

It is also commonly used in spicy hot pot and can be ground into chili pepper powder. Chili pepper oil, made by pouring hot oil over chili peppers, is often used in cold dishes and noodle dishes.


Szechuan pepper (花椒) and Ma pepper (麻椒) are both commonly used in Sichuan cuisine, but they have different characteristics.

Sichuan pepper, when fried in hot oil, can prevent the oil from boiling over and increase the aroma of the dish. It can also be ground into powder and used as a seasoning in fried dishes and fillings for buns and dumplings.

Ma pepper, made by frying Sichuan pepper, has a light color and a nutty, numbing flavor. Sichuan pepper has a light color, with a brownish yellow when dried. But Ma pepper, is darker and reddish brown.

Ma pepper is stronger in flavor than Sichuan pepper and is particularly popular in Sichuan cuisine.

Sichuan pepper can be placed in small bags and placed with food and grain to prevent ants and insects and to eliminate odors in the kitchen.

sichuan pepper
ma pepper

Star anise

Also known as fennel, so no matter braised, sauce, roasted, stewed, can be used to it, to remove fishy smell and add fragrance. No matter stir-fry, stew meat, marinate, star anise should be put in advance. A dish usually put three petals, more ingredients can put a whole one.

star anise

Black pepper & white pepper

There are powder and whole grain two kinds of sales, whole grain pepper use pepper grinder grind after use flavor than powder more intense.

Generally, black pepper is suitable for stewing, frying, roasting meats. Can achieve fragrant with spicy, delicious appetite effect.

White pepper is mostly used for soups, pepper flavor is slightly lighter, spicy more intense, can bring out freshness. It should be noted that both black pepper and white pepper should not be fried at high temperature, and a small amount should be added when the dish or soup is about to be served.

black pepper
white pepper

Bay leaf is dried bay leaves of the laurel tree, used to remove fishy smell and add fragrance, used for stewing meat, etc.

bay leaf

Cinnamon bark is dried cinnamon bark of the laurel tree, used to remove fishy smell and add fragrance, used for stewing meat, etc.

cinnamon bark

Fennel is used to remove fishy smell and add fragrance, used for stewing meat, etc. Its stem and leaf parts are fennel vegetable.


Cumin is also known as aniseed, has a strong effect on removing fishy smell and can remove greasiness of meat. It is often used in grilled beef and lamb, making the meat more delicious and fragrant. Cumin is also one of the main ingredients in the preparation of curry powder.


Five spice powder: pepper, big spice, cinnamon bark, clove, etc. mixed aromatic spices developed, easy to use. Especially suitable for roasting or stir-frying meat, stewing, stewing, braising, steaming, cooking dishes as seasoning.

five spice powder

I also wrote an article on Sichuan spices, if you are interested in spices, you can go check out the details.


Curry is a compound seasoning, the main ingredient is turmeric, and many fragrant spices are added, such as cumin seeds, cinnamon, chili peppers, white pepper, fennel, star anise, cumin, etc. Its taste is spicy and sweet, with a unique aroma.

Curry is mainly used for cooking beef, lamb, chicken, duck, crab, potatoes, cauliflower, soup, etc. Curry powder is suitable for stir-fry, such as curry fried rice, curry beef; curry block is suitable for making curry chicken, curry fish, etc.



Starch includes potato starch, corn starch, mung bean starch, wheat starch, sweet potato starch, etc. It can be used for thickening, coating, and gluing.


Before putting the cut raw materials into the pot, a layer of coating or glue-like protective film is applied to the surface, this process is called coating or gluing (the thinner one is coating, the thicker one is glue).

Coating is mostly used for stir-frying, such as fish-fragrant shredded pork, scrambled eggs with shrimp, braised chicken pot, braised beef, etc.

Gluing is mostly used for deep-frying, such as deep-fried sliced pork and deep-fried anchovies.

Purpose: It can maintain the moisture and freshness of the raw materials, not break or rot, and reduce nutrient loss. The common term for thickening is “dilute juice”, mung bean starch is the best, potato starch is second, sweet potato starch is just enough, and corn starch is the least. A small amount of starch is dissolved in cold water, and then poured into the boiled soup or stir-fried dishes.

Thickening can make the dishes more juicy, make the soup and dishes more harmonious and delicious. It should generally be done when the dishes are 90% cooked. Such as sautéed oil vegetable and mushroom, egg flower soup, hot and sour soup, etc.

Thickening can reduce food nutrient loss, and the dishes that have been thickened are suitable for people with stomach problems. In addition, some dishes do not need to be thickened, such as stir-fried bean sprouts with a refreshing taste, dishes with more collagen protein (such as braised tendon), dishes that need to add sauce and sugar (such as sauce fish), dishes with more starch (such as stir-fried potato slices), etc.


Tofu curd: also known as fermented tofu, it is made from mixed ingredients such as soybeans, yellow wine, sorghum wine, and red yeast rice. The taste of tofu curd varies in different places and is used as a condiment and in cooking.

tofu curd

Chopped chili: a specialty of Hunan, it is made by pickling fresh chili peppers. It is an important ingredient in dishes such as “chopped chili fish head”.

chopped chili

Pickled chili: a specialty of Sichuan, it is made by pickling fresh chili peppers. It is an important ingredient in dishes such as “fish-fragrant shredded pork” and “pickled chili beef frog”.

pickled chili


Monosodium glutamate (MSG) has a significant effect on enhancing flavor, but consuming too much of it is not beneficial for health.

In recent years, MSG is mostly replaced by chicken essence. However, chicken essence is not extracted from chickens, it is made by adding chemical seasonings to MSG. Techniques for using MSG:

Meat already has natural flavor, so MSG or chicken essence is not necessary. Vegetable dishes and soups can use less MSG.



① MSG is not necessary for dishes cooked in high broth;

② MSG is not suitable for acidic dishes such as sweet and sour dishes and vinegar stir-fries;

③ MSG should not be used for marinated dishes;

④ MSG should be added just before serving;

⑤ If not used for soup dishes, MSG should be dissolved before use. Oyster sauce – popular in recent years, it is suitable for cooking various ingredients such as oyster sauce beef, oyster sauce lettuce, oyster sauce green beans, etc. It can also be mixed with various noodles, hot pot seafood, and served as a side dish.


Vegetable oil

Canola oil (canola oil) is not suitable for cold dishes. It is the most suitable oil for making oil and spicy sauce, and oils such as salad oil and seasoning oil cannot produce that kind of fragrance.

Peanut oil has a relatively good fatty acid composition and is easy for the human body to digest and absorb.

peanut oil

Sunflower seed oil contains a lot of carotenoids, more than peanut oil, sesame oil and soybean oil, and is popular in recent years.

Corn oil is best to choose non-genetically modified corn germ oil, high-quality corn oil has rich nutritional content.

Soybean oil soybean oil is divided into four levels, the first grade is the best, the fourth grade is the worst. Try to choose non-genetically modified soybean oil.

soybean oil

Olive oil is considered to be the most suitable oil for human nutrition found so far. When stir-frying, the oil smoke is very little, but high temperature can easily damage nutrition, so it is better to eat cold dishes to maximize nutrition.

olive oil

Animal oil

Animal oil refers to animal fat, represented by lard, which contains a high amount of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol.


Consuming too much can lead to high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, and coronary heart disease, which are harmful to the human body.

However, animal oil has a strong flavor and promotes the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.

For example, using chicken oil to make scallion pancakes tastes much better than using plant oil. Note that when cooking with any oil, it should not be overheated. Using different types of plant oils in combination is beneficial for nutrient absorption.

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