Both Creole seasoning and jerk seasoning come from a mix of European, African, and Native American cultures in the New World. The histories of these two spice mixes have close connections to slavery and colonialism but they have evolved to become important components in the respective cultural identities of people from Louisiana and Jamaica. Both have savory flavors but within that context, they are dramatically different. In this PepperScale Showdown, we compare the two.
How does Creole seasoning differ from jerk seasoning?
The respective origin story of each spice mix is one notable difference; Creole seasoning comes from Louisiana and is associated with the Creole people in New Orleans. Creole seasoning is used in Creole cooking. Creole cuisine involves a combination of French, Spanish, and African cooking styles. Jerk seasoning comes from Jamaica, primarily. It comes from Native islanders — the Arawaks — and from African slaves brought in by Spanish and British colonists.
While Creole seasonings do differ depending on who is making them, they are typically made according to French preferences. The flavors are mild, refined, and familiar to the American palate. You will see paprika being used along with onion, garlic, and black pepper in a creole seasoning blend. Occasionally, a little heat will be added with cayenne pepper. Jerk seasoning brings a much hotter and more assertive flavor profile with scotch bonnet chilies being one of the fundamental ingredients. Real jerk seasoning is supposed to be almost uncomfortably hot. Jerk seasoning also depends on the pungent allspice for much of its flavor profile.
Which form of the spice you are using makes an important difference. Creole seasoning is made up of powdered spices; jerk seasoning can be powdered as well but you may also see it sold in paste form.
One key feature of Creole seasoning is its versatility. You can use it in a range of dishes including jambalaya and crawfish boils. Its component spices are each popular and combine to make a general-purpose, savory flavor profile. Jerk seasoning has only one traditional application: for jerk-style cooking on a grill. The flavor profile is much more distinctive because of its heat and the heavy use of allspice.
If your recipe calls for one, can you use the other?
If you are wondering whether you can use Creole seasoning as a dry rub on meats you want to grill, the answer is that you can. Creole seasoning is great for smoking and barbecuing meats and for roasting vegetables.
On its own, does it provide the same or even similar flavor profile as jerk seasoning? The answer there is a firm no. You cannot use Creole seasoning as a jerk seasoning substitute and expect to get the same flavor. If you add allspice to it and some cayenne, you might get something a little closer but even then it won’t be the same.
Similarly, jerk seasoning is not a good Creole seasoning alternative. The strong allspice flavor and the heat make it too different for you to use it in most Creole seasoning applications. Can you still get a good meal if you switch them out? Most definitely; both spice blends work with the same ingredients, but a recipe made with Creole seasoning will be noticeably different from one made with jerk seasoning.
When should you use Creole seasoning and when should you use jerk seasoning?
Use Creole seasoning in Creole-style Louisiana dishes like red beans and rice, jambalaya and gumbo. Use it as a foundation for a dry rub if you want something mild and familiar to go along with more exotic spices.
Use jerk seasoning if you want to make jerk chicken or to attempt jerk pork. You can also use it to season fish and other seafood.
Jerk seasoning photo by American Spice