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Louisiana (Cajun or Creole) Seasoning
We tasted five seasonings labeled Creole or Cajun on white rice and in pork grillades.
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What You Need To Know
Cajun and Creole are terms often used interchangeably to describe the flavorful dishes that Louisiana is famous for. Recipes for Louisiana spice blends vary in name, but whether called Cajun or Creole, most contain a mix of paprika, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, and cayenne—ingredients typically found in the region’s gumbos, seafood boils, and meat rubs. To determine the best Louisiana spice mix, we tasted five seasonings labeled Creole or Cajun on white rice and in pork grillades.
Tasters wanted seasoning that packed a punch and preferred saltier and spicier products. We liked the “pungent” kick from products that list black pepper, cayenne, or chili powder high on their ingredient lists. Since salt is a flavor enhancer, tasters also thought that products with more sodium had “stronger,” “more complex” spice blends: Our favorite product contains 350 milligrams of sodium per 1/4-teaspoon serving and was deemed “punchy” and “vibrant.” Seasonings with less than 130 milligrams of sodium were “flat” and “bland,” and one salt-free product was “completely boring.” But lots of salt didn’t guarantee a great seasoning: One product contains as much sodium as our winner but also includes flavor-enhancing chemicals, like disodium inosinate and guanylate, which made it too salty for tasters.
Products that stuck to traditional paprika-heavy and garlic-forward notes also rated better with tasters. Two bottom-ranked products included marjoram, fennel, or cumin and were ranked lower for their “misplaced,” “confusing” flavors.
We were concerned that some products were “papery” or “dusty” when we tasted them sprinkled on rice, but texture differences disappeared when the seasonings were cooked in a stew like grillades. Still, we thought seasonings that had a slightly “grainy,” “consistent” texture worked equally well when cooked and when sprinkled as a garnish (like for seafood boils or as a table spice).
When we tested the products against our homemade recipe for Louisiana seasoning in pork grillades, the homemade blend won out for its “balanced” complexity, so we think it’s worth the extra time and effort. But in a pinch, we prefer our winner, a local Louisiana favorite, for its “punchy,” “vibrant” flavor featuring plenty of chili powder, pepper, and garlic. An added bonus: At $0.28 per ounce, it’s the cheapest seasoning of the bunch.
Everything We Tested
“Vibrant” and “zesty,” this “grainy” spice mix had strong notes of garlic and red pepper, with a “punch of heat” and a “slightly sweet” aftertaste. In grillades, it lent a “lively,” “bright” flavor, though it was “slightly saltier” than our house mix.
This “rustic,” “woodsy” seasoning had a “mild but present” mix of “warm spice” and “vegetable” flavors with a “pungent,” “pleasant heat.” “This is the real deal,” said one taster, though a few found its texture “a bit dusty.”
Recommended with reservations
This “punchy” spice mix was “bold from the get-go,” with “lots of garlic,” “slight sweetness,” and “lingering spiciness.” However, some tasters found it too “salt-centric,” possibly from the addition of other flavor enhancers like disodium inosinate and guanylate.
While “rustic” and “peppery,” with a “mild” spiciness, this product had “herbal,” “oregano-heavy” notes and a “chunky” texture that drew some unfavorable comparisons with “Italian seasoning.”
This salt-free product’s overwhelming “anise” notes and “dusty” texture seemed misplaced to tasters. “I wouldn’t have guessed that this is Cajun seasoning,” said one. In grillades, this product was the “blandest” of the bunch.
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