Creole seasoning is a robust spice blend (with a bit of heat) that includes herbs, spices, and aromatics such as paprika, garlic and onion powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, a touch of sugar, and usually salt. The French, Spanish, African, and Caribbean culinary influences create a flavor profile you may recognize in cajun cooking—a classic cuisine popular in Louisiana.
It is commonly used as a rub for meats, such as chicken, pork, and seafood, adding a flavorful crust when grilled, smoked, or roasted (a method often called “blackened”). It can also be added to soups, stews, gumbo, jambalaya, and dirty rice.
What Are the Ingredients in Creole Seasoning?
Creole seasoning typically includes vibrant herbs, spices, and aromatics. The exact blend may vary, but common ingredients found in creole seasoning include paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt. You may see oregano, habanero, and sugar, too. These ingredients create the distinctive peppery profile of creole seasoning, but you may see labels that offer extreme heat, no-salt, gluten-free, no-MSG, or a combination of these.
Creole seasoning blend is generally gluten-free as long as the individual ingredients used are gluten-free. Check the label or make your own blend using gluten-free spices to ensure it meets your specific dietary needs. There are so many brands available now, it’s best to read the labels carefully because ingredients may also change on the same products you have bought for years.
Making your own allows you to customize the blend to your liking and control the level of heat, fillers, or preservatives. It’s a great way to experiment with different flavors and create a personalized seasoning mix. The paprika gives it a smoky undertone, while the cayenne pepper adds a subtle heat.
How Is Creole Seasoning Used in Cooking?
It is commonly used as a rub for meats such as chicken, pork, and seafood, adding a flavorful “blackened” crust when grilled or roasted. It can also be added to soups, stews, gumbo, jambalaya, and rice dishes. Creole seasoning can even be sprinkled on popcorn, roasted vegetables, or used as a seasoning for homemade potato chips. I usually have a shaker can of Tony Cachere’s on the shelf that I add to every soup, chili, stew, and vegetable marinade.
Is Creole Seasoning Spicy?
Creole seasoning offers a mild to moderate level of heat. The cayenne pepper in the blend adds a subtle heat, but if you blend your own, you can adjust this. If you prefer a tongue-tingling, eye-watering experience, increase the amount of cayenne pepper in your creole seasoning blend.
Of course, if you like it mild, you can reduce the amount of cayenne pepper or omit it altogether. Without fail, creole seasoning makes me sneeze, but it’s always worth the sneezing fit to get that great flavor.
What Is the Origin of Creole Seasoning?
Creole seasoning originated in Louisiana, particularly in New Orleans. It is a blend that reflects the diverse culinary traditions found in the region, including French, Spanish, African, and Caribbean influences. Combining these cultural influences has resulted in the unique and flavorful profile of creole seasoning.
Creole seasoning is called so because it is a blend of herbs and spices used in Creole cuisine, a cooking style that originated in Louisiana. The term “Creole” comes from the Spanish word “criollo,” which means “native-born.” In the context of Louisiana, Creole refers to people of French, Spanish, or African descent who were born in the region.
The exact ratio of spices in Creole seasoning can vary, but it typically includes paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and salt.
Creole seasoning is used heavily in regional favorites like seafood gumbo, jambalaya, and etouffee.
Is Creole Seasoning Gluten Free?
Creole seasoning can be gluten-free, depending on the individual ingredients used. As long as the herbs, spices, and aromatics used in the blend are gluten-free, the creole seasoning itself will be gluten-free. However, always check the label of store-bought creole seasoning or make your own blend using gluten-free spices to ensure it meets your dietary needs.
Where Can I Buy Creole Seasoning?
- Grocery stores: Many grocery stores carry Creole seasoning in the spice aisle. Look for brands like Tony Chachere’s, Slap Ya Mama, and Zatarain’s.
- Specialty food stores: If you live near a specialty food store, they may carry a wider variety of Creole seasonings, including some that are made with more unique ingredients.
- Online: You can also buy Creole seasoning online from a variety of retailers, including Amazon, The Spice House, and Penzeys Spices.
Can I Make Creole Seasoning?
Absolutely! Making your own creole seasoning is a great way to customize the blend to your liking and control the level of heat. You can make your own if you can’t find Creole seasoning at your local grocery store.
Here is my recipe for a mild Creole seasoning (lots of flavor, less heat) that you can make at home:
- 2 tablespoons smoked or sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon table sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.
- Store the seasoning in an airtight container; keep in a cool, dry, dark place.
This recipe makes about 5 tablespoons of Creole seasoning. You can adjust the amounts to your liking. For example, if you like your Creole seasoning to be hotter, you can add more cayenne pepper.
Creole Seasoning vs Cajun Seasoning
Creole seasoning and Cajun seasoning are both popular spice blends from Louisiana, but they do have differences. Creole seasoning is known for its complexity and incorporates a wider range of flavors, including the use of herbs and aromatics.
On the other hand, Cajun seasoning tends to be spicier (heat as in Scoville rankings) and leans heavily on peppers like cayenne pepper or habanero. Slap Ya Mama Hot, Ragin’ Cajun Ragin’ Hot, Cajun Two-Step FIRE, and The Big Easy Hot Cajun Seasoning are eye-watering hot Cajun season blends used often in crawfish boils and in “blackened” dishes.
Creative Uses for Creole Seasoning
Creole seasoning also offers creative possibilities. Here are 5 ideas for how to use creole seasoning:
- Sprinkle a dash or two over buttered popcorn.
- Add to a vegetable marinade before grilling.
- Toss with warm homemade potato chips.
- Add a full tablespoon to a chicken dredge then pan fry until crisp.
- Stir into a hummus or bean dip.
Creole Seasoning vs Old Bay Seasoning
Creole seasoning and Old Bay seasoning look similar because they are both paprika-forward, but taste wildly different. They are distinct spice blends with different flavor profiles and culinary heritages. Old Bay seasoning is a popular spice blend from the Chesapeake Bay region invented in 1940 and used in seafood dishes. (My mom was raised around the Chesapeake, so she cooked with it a lot; I’d recognize Old Bay’s distinctive taste anywhere.) It has a distinct flavor with notes of celery salt, paprika, black pepper, and other spices (like cardamom, cloves, and mace but not garlic, onion, or sugar, interestingly). Each seasoning blend brings its own unique taste and culinary traditions to the table, allowing you to explore different flavor profiles in your cooking.
The bottom line
Creole seasoning is a blend of herbs and spices used in Creole cuisine, a cooking style that originated in Louisiana. The exact blend of spices can vary, but it typically includes paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and salt. Creole seasoning is used to flavor Louisiana classics like gumbo, jambalaya, and etouffee. It can also be used to season meats, seafood, and vegetables.
- 2 T smoked or sweet paprika
- 1 T garlic powder
- 1 t onion powder
- 1 t cayenne pepper
- 1 t black pepper
- ½ t table sugar
- ½ t salt
- Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.
- Store the seasoning in an airtight container; keep tightly closed in a cool, dark place.
You can adjust the amounts of the ingredients to your liking. For example, if you like your Creole seasoning to be hotter, add more cayenne.