I personally tested a variety of Sazon 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 want a swap that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
The best substitute for Sazon seasoning is to make your own blend. It’s an easy process and you get to customize the flavors. But if you prefer pre-made blends, try an all-purpose seasoning or Lawry’s seasoned salt. And if you only want to add color to your dish, try steeping annatto seeds in oil.
I fried up a batch of French fries to try out several different Sazon seasoning substitutes.
Sazon seasoning is a popular blend of spices and MSG typically used in Spanish and Latin American cuisine. You’ll see it used to season everything from snacks to proteins and roasted vegetables. It brings a warm, savory flavor with earthy notes and adds a vibrant red color to your dishes.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|Homemade Sazon Seasoning||Gives you the freedom to customize your blend||10/10|
|All-Purpose Seasoning||Lacks annatto||7/10|
|Lawry’s Seasoned Salt||MSG free option||7/10|
|Adobo Seasoning||Robust flavor, lacks color||6/10|
|Creole Seasoning||Robust flavor, lacks color||6/10|
|Tomato Bouillon||Imparts red color and a rich tomato essence||5/10|
|Annatto||Adds vibrant red color, limited flavor||6/10|
Homemade Sazon Seasoning
When it comes to spice blends, we all know that making them from scratch is typically the best alternative. The same is true for Sazon, and luckily, the process is easy and most of the ingredients are easy to find. You’ll need:
- 2 tsp ground annatto (achiote) seeds
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp table salt
I say most because there are some tricky ones like annatto seeds, but you can substitute annatto seeds with a mix of equal parts ground turmeric or paprika.
Once you’ve got all the ingredients, mix them together in a bowl and store them in an airtight jar for up to 2 months. You can also give them a run through a spice blender if you want a finer texture.
Creating a homemade Sazon seasoning gives you the freedom to tailor the blend to your liking and control the ingredients. For example, if you’re avoiding MSG, most homemade blends don’t use any. And if you like some spice, you can add a pinch of cayenne pepper.
How to Substitute: Replace Sazon seasoning in a 1:1 ratio with the homemade version.
Don’t want to mess around with individual spices? Don’t worry, that bottle of all-purpose seasoning sitting at the back of your cupboard is here to save the day.
Renowned for its versatility, this seasoning doesn’t taste exactly like Sazon, but it packs a familiar warm, savory punch with ingredients like paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder. The paprika gives the spice blend a reddish hue, although it won’t be as vibrant as the color from annatto seeds.
To achieve a closer color match, you can try mixing in some turmeric or saffron. And if you have any oregano or cumin on hand, this will help bring the flavor of the seasoning closer to Sazon seasoning too.
How to Substitute: Replace Sazon seasoning in a 1:1 ratio with all-purpose seasoning.
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
Ah, Lawry’s. This seasoned salt is always in stock in grocery stores, and it’s a decent substitute for Sazon seasoning in a pinch. It’s not an exact flavor match, but it will bring a savory kick to your dishes and it was delicious on my fries.
Bonus points? It’s an MSG-free mix. So it’s excellent for those avoiding MSG but seeking more flavor than plain salt. Plus, it’s got paprika and turmeric, which help add that rich red color to your dishes.
How to Substitute: Replace Sazon seasoning in a 1:1 ratio with Lawry’s seasoned salt.
If you want a substitute from the same cuisine as Sazon seasoning, try adobo seasoning. It’s generally easier to find than Sazon seasoning and cheaper. Win-win.
Adobo seasoning shares a lot of the same ingredients as Sazon, for example, both contain cumin. But it definitely has its own distinct flavor, with more garlic and some heat from chili powder.
Although this isn’t a bad thing! Adobos’ robust flavor profile will complement many of the dishes you’d usually find Sazon seasoning in and it’s perfect with chicken or grilled dishes.
Psst… adobo seasoning won’t color your dishes in the same way as Sazon seasoning.
How to Substitute: Replace Sazon seasoning in a 1:1 ratio with adobo seasoning.
Another spice blend you can use to replace Sazon seasoning is creole seasoning. Again, the flavor is different, but it’s just as flavorsome as Sazon and has some of the same flavors like garlic and salt.
There’s generally no MSG in creole seasoning, which could be a good thing if you don’t like it. But it does mean creole seasoning doesn’t have quite the same depth as Sazon. And creole seasoning doesn’t have the same bright color as Sazon.
Psst… Old Bay seasoning is another option you can try.
How to Substitute: Replace Sazon seasoning in a 1:1 ratio with creole seasoning.
Tomato Bouillon isn’t a direct stand-in for Sazon, but it will impart a gorgeous red color to your dishes and a rich, tomato essence that can elevate soups, stews, and rice dishes.
If you want to get it closer to Sazon’s flavor, consider mixing in some garlic powder and coriander seeds.
Psst… this is perfect for making Mexican/Spanish-style rice!
How to Substitute: Replace Sazon seasoning in a 1:1 ratio with tomato bouillon.
Last but not least, if you only care about the iconic red color of Sazon, annatto seeds are the way to go. But don’t just toss the seeds into whatever you’re cooking. You need to extract the color into an oil first.
Add one tablespoon of annatto seeds to 1 cup of oil and bring the oil to a simmer, then reduce the heat for 2 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the seeds sit in the oil until the color has deepened to your liking. I usually leave the seeds for about 20 minutes before straining them.
Note: this substitute option will only add color to your dish, and no flavor.
How to Substitute: Add a teaspoon of the prepared annatto oil to your cooking.
Substitutes to Avoid
I came across a lot of substitute suggestions while I was researching, but not all of them worked out. Here are a few that missed the mark:
- Cumin: Using this spice alone won’t work as a substitute for Sazon. It has similar warm notes, but it lacks the savory flavor that you get with Sazon.
- Curry powder: I know that a couple of the suggestions above stray a bit from the flavor of Sazon, but I found curry powder to be too different. In one bite, you can instantly pinpoint the curry flavor.
BEST Sazon Seasoning Substitutes + 3 To Avoid
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp achiote powder
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1 tbsp dried cilantro
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- Combine all the ingredients in a spice grinder and pulse until everything turns into a fine powder. Store in an airtight container.