What’s A Good Shichimi Togarashi Substitute?

Japanese cuisine and spicy aren’t often a pairing that goes together, but there are some exceptions. One is shichimi togarashi seasoning. The popular Japanese spice mix, also known as Japanese seven-spice seasoning, is popular for everything from Asian soups and tempura to noodles and grilled meats. Yet, for all its popularity in its native land, it can be a surprise to see this exotic ingredient in a recipe. You likely don’t have this complex seasoning just sitting in the spice rack, so where do you turn? What’s a good shichimi togarashi substitute that will work? Let’s review your choices.

Your best bet (though tricky): Make it yourself

Granted – you’ll need a well-stocked spice rack for your best solution. Shichimi togarashi’s base is chili pepper, and cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes are good sub-ins here. But things get a little more exotic from there. Szechuan peppercorns, tangerine peel, and dried nori (seaweed) are called for, and those (for most) aren’t readily available in a spice rack. But if they are – or you’re planning well ahead – take a look at our shichimi togarashi recipe. There are many recipe variants out there actually – all seven spices and very aromatic.

In a pinch: Make a simple (though less aromatic) alternative

Shichimi togarashi is known for its complex citrusy and spicy flavor, and these “in a pinch” options will take that complexity of flavor right off the table. Instead, we rely on spice rack staples that are perfect for use in a pinch. They are both spicy, but more neutral in flavor, using sesame seeds. They won’t add complexity to a dish, but they won’t ruin the expected taste of the recipe either.

Option 1:

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • pinch of black pepper

Option 2:

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Option 2 pulls back on the chili base as the cayenne pepper powder will be much spicier (due to density) than an equal amount of crushed red pepper.

Not a good substitute: Chinese five-spice powder

While they both have Asian roots and they are both seasonings, Chinese five-spice powder and shichimi togarashi otherwise have very little in common. In fact, Chinese five-spice powder is an entirely different flavor profile. Star anise and cloves are often primary ingredients, and there’s not even a hint of citrus. It’s not a good alternative to shichimi togarashi – in fact, the flavor is so strong in Chinese five-spice powder that it will completely change the recipe’s overall expected taste.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on December 13, 2022 to include new content.
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I made this with nori+sesame furikake (no bonito or dashi powder, just toasted sesame and aonori), gochugaru, regular red pepper flakes, and freshly peeled tangerine peels… Used in a rib marinade/dry rub. Came out absolutely delicious, thank you so much!