I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of Cajun seasoning substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or seeking an alternative tailored to your specific dietary requirements, rest assured that I’ve got you covered.
The best substitute for Cajun seasoning is to make your own mix, you can also control the spice level this way. If you have Creole seasoning, this is basically the same thing so is a great replacement. Adobo seasoning or Old Bay seasoning are less spicy options. And in a real pinch you can use chili powder.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made some delicious corn on the cob to test out my Cajun seasoning substitutes.
Cajun seasoning is known for its spicy, robust flavor and it brings a taste of Louisiana to your kitchen, providing heat, depth, and a complex mix flavors.
It’s perfect for everything from traditional jambalaya and gumbo to grilled chicken, fish, or even roasted vegetables. The beauty of Cajun seasoning is its versatility!
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|Homemade Cajun seasoning||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Creole Seasoning||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Old Bay seasoning||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Adobo seasoning||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Fresh herbs and spices||Add minced garlic, fresh parsley, chopped chili pepper, and fresh bay leaves||8/10|
|Cayenne pepper, garlic powder, black pepper||Mix 1/2 part cayenne and black pepper with 1 part garlic powder and paprika||7/10|
|Chili Powder||Use half the amount.||6/10|
Homemade Cajun seasoning
Creating your own cajun seasoning is actually really easy and you can get remarkably close to the real deal with copycat recipes like this one.
There are loads of different recipes online all with slight variations.
But the main spices are black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika (I like using smoked paprika).
Together these form the backbone of the flavor profile, with the cayenne and paprika delivering a bold spice. And the pepper and garlic adding a hint of earthiness.
There’s also usually a few herbs thrown in there like thyme and oregano.
Psst… the best thing about making your own seasoning is that you can control the spice level.
How to substitute: use your homemade Cajun seasoning mix in the same quantity as required by the recipe.
Just like its cajun cousin, Creole seasoning is a staple in Louisiana’s rich culinary scene.
The two spice mixes are remarkably similar and you can use them interchangeably without having much effect on your meal.
If I was to get picky, Creole seasoning is more herbaceous than Cajun seasoning.
The extra herbs help balance out the spices, giving it a more rounded overall flavor. They also mean it goes better with tomato based-dishes.
A popular brand that I’m particularly fond of is Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning.
How to substitute: swap out Cajun seasoning with Creole seasoning in a 1:1 ratio.
Old Bay seasoning
Old bay seasoning is a really decent substitutes for Cajun seasoning (and vice versa!).
It’s similar to Cajun seasoning in the fact they’re both spice mixes that will quickly flavor your dishes.
But Old Bay has more of a mellow, warming heat compared to Cajun seasonings more robust flavor.
If you’re not a massive fan of spice, you’ll love this switch!
Old Bay seasoning is a brand name and a crowd favorite, but you can also use J.O seasoning which is very similar (both originate from Maryland).
Psst… Old Bay seasoning is fantastic with seafood dishes.
How to substitute: swap out Cajun seasoning with Old Bay seasoning in a 1:1 ratio.
I think of adobo seasoning as a Mexican version of Cajun seasoning.
It’s perfect for using as a dry rub for meats and fish, or you can mix it with vinegar and turn it into a wet rub.
The vibrant spice blend uses ingredients like cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, and oregano.
It’s got a rich and inviting flavor, but it’s less spicy than cajun seasoning. If you’re craving that fiery kick, simply add a dash of cayenne pepper or chili powder.
Psst… I also have a great article on adobo seasoning substitutes.
How to substitute: replace Cajun seasoning in your recipe with an equal amount of Adobo seasoning.
Fresh herbs and spices
Traditional Cajun cooking is renowned for its use of fresh herbs and spices. So if you’re after an authentic, homemade taste, this might be the option for you.
Key flavors in Cajun cooking include fresh garlic, parsley, chili peppers, and bay leaves.
When you use them fresh, these ingredients bring a brightness and depth of flavor that dried seasonings simply can’t match.
Remember, when substituting dry herbs for fresh one, you’ll need to use about three times as much fresh herb. This is because dried herbs are more concentrated.
How to substitute: for each tablespoon of Cajun seasoning, use a mix of approximately 1 minced garlic clove, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, 1/4 of a chopped chili pepper, and 1/2 of a fresh bay leaf.
Cayenne pepper, garlic powder, black pepper, paprika
If your spice rack doesn’t resemble a small spice market, don’t worry!
You can still create a flavorful blend using just a few spices.
To replicate cajun seasoning, you need something to bring heat and then something to add the earthy undertones.
Cayenne pepper is perfect for adding heat, and black pepper is an easy addition to bring some earthiness.
Then I like adding garlic powder to round out the flavors and take the edge off the heat.
Pro tip: if you’ve got a really bare spice rack, you can skip the garlic powder and black pepper.
How to substitute: in place of 1 tablespoon of Cajun seasoning, mix 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder and paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.
If you’re in need of an instant substitute, good old chili powder can come to your rescue.
Most chili powder mixes contain a blend of spices like paprika, garlic, and cumin, but the star of the show is of course the chili.
While this substitute may not offer the same complex layers of flavor as Cajun seasoning, it will definitely bring some much-needed spice to your dish (it certainly did to my corn on the cob).
Psst.. if you have any herbs in your pantry you can add these as well to add a bit more depth.
How to substitute: substitute Cajun seasoning with half the amount of chili powder and adjust to taste.
Avoid hot sauce
When I was researching I saw people suggesting that hot sauce alone can make a good substitute for Cajun seasoning
I have to respectfully disagree!
Hot sauce will add spice but nothing else, and depending on what hot sauce you use you could end up adding lots of vinegar to your dish which will give it a sharp flavor.
7 BEST Cajun Seasoning Substitutes + 1 To Avoid
- 3 tbsp paprika sweet or smoked
- 2 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tbsp dried thyme
- 1 tbsp ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp ground white pepper
- Mix all the ingredients in a bowl
- store in an airtight jar for a couple of months