Cajun seasoning is essential for creating many of the best-known dishes from Louisiana’s legendary food culture. Its blend of familiar, savory flavors can be used to enhance a variety of dishes from elsewhere as well. Cajun seasoning has the benefit of being widely available in many places, with many popular options on the shelves of most grocery stores. Even so, it is possible to run out of it unexpectedly, just as with any other ingredient. If you need this versatile spice blend and have none in your spice cabinet, try one of the Cajun seasoning substitutes below.
Your best bet: Make your own Cajun seasoning
Cajun seasoning is the product of Cajun cuisine. Cajuns were the Frenchmen deported to the US from Nova Scotia by the British. Cajun is an altered form of Acadian, the correct name for this community. Their cooking style was decidedly French, but with heavy influences from African and Native Americans.
Cajun seasoning blends typically contain onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt. Some may also include turmeric and/or thyme in addition to other spices. While it is convenient to have them all blended together for you, these are not exactly the most exotic ingredients. In other words, it is a relatively simple task to find them and then to blend them all yourself. Using the best spices allows you to create a mixture that will be fresher and more pungent mixture than prepackaged blends. In addition, it allows you to alter the heat and other flavor notes to your liking. Take a look at this Cajun seasoning recipe from PepperScale to get the proportions.
A decent second choice: Creole seasoning
Creole seasoning is Cajun seasoning’s more urbane cousin, with a greater emphasis on European herbs and a milder overall flavor. Creole seasoning (and Creole cuisine in general) are considered the product of wealthier immigrants to New Orleans. Many of the immigrants came from Italy, Spain and France. Those heritages are evident in the ingredients and cooking styles of Creole cuisine. Creole cooking was also heavily influenced by African Americans and Native Americans, just like Cajun cooking.
Despite the difference in lineage, Creole seasoning contains many of the same ingredients found in Cajun blends, which means it also provides a similar flavor profile. To recreate the heat found in many Cajun seasoning blends, simply add cayenne pepper to the blend or use fresh or dried chili peppers elsewhere in the recipe.
Use Creole seasoning as a 1:1 substitute for Cajun seasoning.
In a pinch: Adobo seasoning
Adobo seasoning is the Latin American version of Cajun seasoning. It emerged from the practice of marinating meats in vinegar and spices as a method of preserving them. Like Cajun seasoning, it is a mixture of European and New World influences and contains many of the same ingredients found in both Cajun and Creole seasonings. The most notable common components include garlic, oregano, and cumin. Some adobo seasoning blends also include turmeric, just like some Cajun seasoning blends.
You can use adobo seasoning as a 1:1 substitute for Cajun seasoning.
Chili powder may not be as close a match for Cajun seasoning as the alternatives above, but it still has enough of the same ingredients to make a reasonable replacement. It contains oregano in addition to ancho chili peppers, which stand in for the paprika or cayenne pepper.