Learn what goes into cajun seasoning and how you can turn up or down the heat, based on what your family likes.
What is Cajun Seasoning
Traditionally, Cajun seasoning is a blend of spices that includes a blend of peppers like paprika, cayenne pepper, and black pepper as well as seasonings like garlic powder, onion powder, and salt.
This pepper-centric seasoning is known to be spicy, especially in some store-bought brands, which is why making a homemade cajun seasoning blend at home is great: you can control how much heat (spice) you want.
Living in New Orleans for more than 20 years, I’ve learned that everyone has their own version of cajun seasoning, and the one below is what I make and use to make my family’s favorite New Orleans recipes.
What Is the Difference Between Cajun & Creole Seasonings
Cajun seasoning is primarily a blend of peppers (paprika, black, and cayenne) which makes it spicy while Creole seasoning also includes herbs (oregano, basil, thyme) in the mix and gives it a richer flavor.
Both Cajun and Creole seasonings are staples in Southern recipes and are often confused by their similar red hue and ingredients.
Cajun Seasoning vs. Blackened Seasoning
Both Cajun and Blackened seasonings contain the staple mix of peppers (paprika, cayenne, and black) and are considered to be similar since they also include salt and garlic powder, and an herb (usually oregano) and can be used interchangeably. Blackened seasoning is used to cook chicken and fish to create a tasty dark, charred-looking exterior.
Making homemade cajun seasoning is easy with these staple spices:
- Garlic powder: an aromatic to give this mix flavor.
- Italian seasoning: a mix of herbs containing oregano, basil, rosemary, parsley, and thyme. If you don’t have any, swap for a mix of these.
- Paprika: a foundational pepper in cajun seasoning and what gives it its classic red hue. Use (regular) sweet paprika or smoked. I do not recommend using spicy paprika.
- Cayenne pepper: a little of this pepper goes a long way and is what makes this mix spicy. Add more or less as recommended in the notes below.
- Onion powder: another aromatic spice that adds flavor to this mix.
- Salt: seasons this mix. Can be omitted for salt-free.
- Crushed red pepper flakes: add a sweet heat to this mix. Can be omitted if you don’t have any.
Check the recipe card below for the ingredient measurements.
How to Make it Spicier
Up the heat of your cajun seasoning blend by increasing the amount of cayenne pepper in the recipe. A little goes a long way, I recommend increasing in ¼ teaspoon increments for each batch.
How to Make Cajun Seasoning Less Spicy
It’s easy to make your homemade cajun seasoning milder by adjusting the amount of cayenne pepper in the mix. For this recipe, I recommend halving the amount to ½ teaspoon.
How to Make Homemade Cajun Seasoning
Making Cajun seasoning at home is simple and quick. You’ll:
Measure out each spice and herb in a bowl.
With a fork or small whisk, combine until they’re all incorporated.
Transfer the Cajun seasoning inside a spice jar and keep in your spice cabinet or pantry for up to 6 months.
Cajun Seasoning Substitutes
Cajun seasoning is a staple in many recipes, but if you don’t have any of the ingredients necessary to make your own, you can substitute it in equal amounts in a recipe for Blackened seasoning, Creole seasoning, Old Bay seasoning, and Taco seasoning + some cayenne.
If you don’t have any of the above, mix 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon thyme or oregano, ¼ teaspoon cayenne. That’s the most basic mix to give you some heat.
eg, if they don’t have it and they don’t have ingredients to make it, what’s the closest they can use in a recipe that calls for it (especially cover about creole, taco seasoning nad old bay seasoning)
How to Store Homemade Cajun Seasoning
Once you mix the spices in the Cajun recipe in a bowl, you’ll simply have to transfer the seasoning into an air-tight jar or spice jar. Once sealed, store the jar in your pantry or spice drawer for up to 6 months.
If you don’t use Cajun seasoning in a lot of your cooking, I recommend making it in smaller batches, which is why the recipe below yields 3 tablespoons total.
How to Use Cajun Seasoning
Cajun seasoning can be used to season a protein, like chicken or seafood, in sauces for pasta, soups, and stews, just to name a few.
I love using Cajun seasoning in many of my favorite Louisiana recipes like my New Orleans Chicken Gumbo, Cajun Salmon Pasta, Cajun Shrimp Tacos, Cajun Alfredo Pasta, Cane’s Fried Chicken Strips, and Seared Cajun Salmon.
Cajun Seasoning (Family-Friendly) Recipe
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning*
- 2 teaspoons paprika*
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper*
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Measure out each spice and herb in a bowl.
- With a fork or small whisk, combine until they’re all incorporated.
- Transfer the Cajun seasoning inside a spice jar and keep in your spice cabinet or pantry for up to 6 months.
The cayenne pepper is the ingredient that adds heat (spicy) to this mix. As it is, it’s not as spicy as some of the ready-to-buy mixes. However, everyone tolerates spice levels differently so for a milder level of heat, use ½ teaspoon of cayenne, keeping the other ingredients the same.
You can use smoked paprika or sweet paprika (regular paprika). I don’t recommend spicy paprika.
If you’re out of Italian seasoning, substitute dried oregano.