What Are Cajun Spices?

A whole lot of Southern meals rely on one certain spice mix to punch up the flavor: Cajun seasoning. So what’s in this mix that does just that? What are Cajun spices, and where does it fit in along the pepper scale in terms of heat?

Let’s break down this seasoning mix to understand how the heat comes together. 

Cayenne supplies the heat.

As you may have suspected, cayenne pepper is the primary heat source for Cajun spices. Cayenne ranks between 30,000 and 50,000 on the Scoville scale, so it’s a medium-hot chili. But there’s normally less of cayenne powder in Cajun seasoning than other ingredients, so the mix doesn’t normally taste quite that hot.

There are typically other heat sources too. Paprika is usually present as one of the main spices of the mix, and paprika can be tricky in terms of nailing down its heat. It can run from super-mild pimento pepper spiciness(100 – 500 Scoville heat units) to cayenne pepper heat levels, depending on the type of paprika that is used. In the United States, generic paprika is normally on the milder side, so it’s nowhere near the heat of cayenne.

Lastly, there’s a decent amount of black pepper in Cajun spices. Don’t underestimate black pepper in terms of pungency. When it’s present in force, it can be surprisingly hot.

And the mild side of Cajun spices?

So what, then, makes up the rest of a Cajun spice mix? You’ll usually find some of the bigger players from the spice rack: oregano, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt.

You may be thinking that Cajun spices would be easy to pull together from any well-stocked spice rack, and you’re right. The recipe is real simple, so save yourself some cash the next time you need Cajun spices by just throwing it together yourself.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on September 5, 2019 to include new content.
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