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Sweet And Spicy 5-Spice Duck Legs Recipe

Roasted duck legs on white plate, tongs and napkin
Roasted duck legs on white plate, tongs and napkin - Ksenia Prints/Tasting Table

If you've always been intimidated by duck and didn't know where to start with this unique protein, then this recipe is for you! Though they look impressive, these 5-spice duck legs are easy to make, and with mostly hands-off work, you will easily be able to add this sophisticated Asian-inspired dish to your regular dinner rotation.

According to Ksenia Prints of At the Immigrant's Table, duck has a rich, meaty flavor that pairs beautifully with heat and warming spices. In this recipe, you will marinate duck legs in a blend of aromatic spices and flavorings, then roast it to crispy, fall-off-the-bone perfection. The marinade features staples of Chinese cooking, including soy sauce, fresh chilies, and brown sugar. But the real star of this dish is Chinese 5-spice powder. Our favorite blend contains cinnamon, clove, fennel seed, star anise, and ginger. The resulting mixture hits all the tasting notes: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami.

Once roasted, the duck legs are served with a sweet and tart garnish of orange slices and fresh cranberries, as well as chopped scallions for a final pop of color and freshness. This duck dish brings together complex flavors with little effort, making for a sophisticated meal for entertaining or a cozy family dinner.

Read more: The 20 Best Olive Oils For Cooking

Gather The Ingredients For Sweet And Spicy 5-Spice Duck Legs

ingredients
ingredients - Ksenia Prints/Tasting Table

For this aromatic 5-spice duck legs recipe, you will first need to marinade the whole duck legs in a marinade consisting of soy sauce, Chinese 5-spice powder, whole star anise pods, ground cinnamon, olive oil (or peanut oil), fresh Thai red chilies, and brown sugar. For the filling and garnishes, add an orange, fresh cranberries, and a green onion to your shopping list.

Step 1: Combine The Marinade Ingredients

Marinade in white bowl
Marinade in white bowl - Ksenia Prints/Tasting Table

Combine soy sauce, 5-spice powder, star anise, cinnamon, olive oil, chilies, and brown sugar in a large bowl.

Step 2: Marinate The Duck Legs

Duck legs in marinade in white bowl
Duck legs in marinade in white bowl - Ksenia Prints/Tasting Table

Add duck legs and marinate for 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Step 3: Heat Up The Oven

Oven set to 350 F
Oven set to 350 F - Ksenia Prints/Tasting Table

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Step 4: Transfer The Duck To A Baking Dish

Duck legs in baking dish
Duck legs in baking dish - Ksenia Prints/Tasting Table

Place duck legs in a baking dish and pour over the remaining marinade.

Step 5: Top With Fruit

Duck legs and fruit in baking dish
Duck legs and fruit in baking dish - Ksenia Prints/Tasting Table

Top with most of the orange slices and cranberries, reserving some for garnish later.

Step 6: Bake

Baked duck legs in casserole dish
Baked duck legs in casserole dish - Ksenia Prints/Tasting Table

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, basting occasionally with marinade, until the duck is cooked through (and the internal temperature has reached 165 F). Rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Step 7: Garnish And Serve

Duck legs, cranberries and orange in casserole dish
Duck legs, cranberries and orange in casserole dish - Ksenia Prints/Tasting Table

Place duck legs on a platter and garnish with reserved orange slices, cranberries, and sliced green onion. Serve right away.

Can I Use Duck Breasts Instead Of Legs For 5-Spice Duck?

Duck legs, cranberries and orange in casserole dish
Duck legs, cranberries and orange in casserole dish

Yes, you can absolutely use duck breasts instead of duck legs in this 5-spice duck recipe. Simply substitute 4 boneless, skin-on duck breast halves for the 4 duck legs. Because duck breasts cook more quickly, you will want to reduce the baking time listed in the original recipe to 30-40 minutes. Be sure to bake the duck breasts until they register 165 F internally on a meat thermometer to ensure they are fully cooked through.

When using duck breasts, you may also want to adjust the marinade and cooking method slightly. Reduce the marinating time to 30 minutes or up to 2 hours before baking. Duck breasts have less connective tissue than legs, so a shorter marinating time will allow the spices to penetrate without making the meat mushy. For the best results, make a criss-cross pattern along the fatty skin side of the duck breast and bake the breasts skin-side down in an oven-safe pan until browned and crispy, about 20-25 minutes. Then, flip the breasts over and roast for another 10 minutes until done. This helps render the fat and achieve crispy duck skin.

What Sides Go Well With 5-Spice Duck Legs?

Duck legs, cranberries and orange in casserole dish
Duck legs, cranberries and orange in casserole dish

Due to its strong, sweet and spicy flavors, this 5-spice duck pairs well with Asian-inspired dishes that are fairly mild. Steamed white or brown rice is a classic pairing, as the duck's rich flavors and savory cooking liquid will season the white rice nicely. Lo mein noodles or fried rice would also make for an excellent base for the duck.

To round out the meal, follow things up with some simply prepared vegetables on the side. Quick-cooked greens like bok choy, Chinese broccoli, or snap peas work well to balance the richness of the duck and add a little crunch to your plate. Roasted vegetables, like carrots or broccoli, or a stir-fry medley with peppers, onions, and snap peas, are other excellent options. For more substance and a departure in another direction, roasted fingerling potatoes seasoned with garlic and rosemary would be delicious. The key is choosing sides that won't overpower the duck but will help soak up the complex flavors of the 5-spice marinade and fat rendered during the cooking process.

How Long Do 5-Spice Duck Legs Really Need To Marinate?

Close up roast duck legs with cranberries and orange
Close up roast duck legs with cranberries and orange

To infuse the meat with maximum flavor, you will need to marinate the duck legs for at least 1 hour before roasting. Marinating for the full hour allows the soy sauce, warm spices, and aromatics to penetrate and tenderize the meat fully. Leaving the duck to marinate in the fridge for several hours — or even overnight — will give you even better results and flavors. The longer marinating time gives the ingredients more opportunity to break down the proteins in the meat, so you will end up with more tender and flavorful duck. Just don't marinate it beyond 24 hours, otherwise the meat will become too soft. With all of that said, if you are short on time, you can get away with marinating for as little as 30 minutes. The duck will still pick up some extra flavor, though it likely won't reach the depth you would get from a longer marinating time.

Sweet And Spicy 5-Spice Duck Legs Recipe

Close up on duck legs, cranberries and orange on white plate
Close up on duck legs, cranberries and orange on white plate

Prep Time: 1h 10mCook Time: 1h 15mYield: 4 servingsIngredients

  • ¼ cup soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons Chinese 5-spice powder

  • 2 whole star anise pods

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 8 fresh Thai red chilies, chopped

  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 4 duck legs

  • 1 orange, sliced, divided

  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons fresh cranberries, divided

  • 1 green onion, sliced, for serving

Directions

  1. Combine soy sauce, 5-spice powder, star anise, cinnamon, olive oil, chilies, and brown sugar in a large bowl.

  2. Add duck legs and marinate for 1 hour in the refrigerator.

  3. Preheat oven to 350 F.

  4. Place duck legs in a baking dish and pour over the remaining marinade.

  5. Top with most of the orange slices and cranberries, reserving some for garnish later.

  6. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, basting occasionally with marinade, until the duck is cooked through (and the internal temperature has reached 165 F). Rest for 5 minutes before serving.

  7. Place duck legs on a platter and garnish with reserved orange slices, cranberries, and sliced green onion. Serve right away.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.