What Is Creole Seasoning? The Story Behind The Spice

| Last Updated: September 5, 2019 |

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Creole seasoning is a blend of powdered spices that commonly show up in Creole cuisine. In a Creole kitchen, the cook would add the individual seasonings according to taste instead of using a spice blend. Creole seasoning makes the process easier since you don’t have to measure each ingredient out. But what is Creole seasoning beyond the store-bought blend? Where does it originate? How does it flavor profile? How can it be used? Let’s review this delicious spice blend from all angles.

Where did Creole seasoning originate?

Creole cuisine refers to food that comes mainly from the New Orleans region of Louisiana. Its style consists of various influences from Africa via slave cooks, from Native Americans, and southern Europeans; French flavor preferences and techniques have had a particularly strong effect. You can see the different cultures that guided Creole cooking reflected in the spice blend. 

What are the ingredients in Creole seasoning?

Because the flavor profile of authentic Creole dishes is guided by the cook’s preference, there is not really a standard list of spices; however, blends typically include paprika, garlic, thyme, oregano, black pepper, or white pepper.

A cook might also include bay leaf, basil, celery powder. salt, or cayenne pepper, depending on their need or area of origin.

See our recipe for homemade Creole seasoning here.

Is Creole seasoning spicy?

It can be spicy but doesn’t have to be. Don’t be fooled by the bright red color of some blends, the color is usually the result of mild paprika. In keeping with the French cooking style, Creole cuisine uses the heat from chili peppers in moderation. At most, Creole seasoning gives you a subtle spark rather than a full blaze. Cayenne pepper is not included in most blends, but it wouldn’t be out of place either since some Louisianans enjoy it. 

How does it compare to Cajun seasoning?

While many who are unfamiliar with Louisiana’s food culture do use the terms Creole and Cajun interchangeably, there are differences between the cooking styles and seasoning preferences Of the two blends, Creole seasoning is known as the milder and more refined option. Cajun seasoning tends to be the hotter one. In versions with cayenne pepper or a higher proportion of black pepper, a creole seasoning blend may have a mild heat. 

For more information, take a look at this detailed comparison of the two.

What are some good ways to use it?

A true Louisiana native will tell you that you won’t find true Creole cooking outside of the Pelican State. Whether that’s true or not, you can something close to it if you know how to use Creole seasoning.

All of the seasonings in a typical blend are versatile and can be used in many — if not most — savory dishes. You can use the blend as a dry rub for just about any meat or seafood that you intend to grill, smoke or roast. Sprinkle it onto popcorn along with salt or instead of it. Use it on roasted or steamed vegetables. Are you boiling crabs or crawfish? Toss in some Creole seasoning instead of Old Bay. Frying chicken or fish? Mix some the spice blend into your flour or breadcrumbs. It goes great in stews and soups as well.

However, none of those are the truest Louisiana applications. In its region of origin, Creole seasoning shows up in dishes like jambalaya and gumbo. Note that both of those dishes are different depending on whether they are prepared by Creoles or Cajuns. Because Creole food includes tomatoes (as opposed to Cajun food, which doesn’t), it often includes herbs like oregano that are known to work well with tomatoes. It is a popular addition to classic beans and rice as well.

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