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This Latin American sazon spice blend adds rich, herbal, and tangy flavors to your cooking along with a gorgeous red color. But don’t let the color fool you…it’s not spicy! It’s a warm, savory taste with just a hint of saltiness to elevate almost any dish.
Sazon is a powerhouse of a spice blend spooned over dishes throughout Latin America — but particularly in Puerto Rican cuisine. You’re likely familiar with the popular Goya brand of Sazon, and Badia and Loisa are two more popular store-bought brands.
But I stand by my statement that spice blends are way better prepared at home! Not only do they taste fresher, but you can balance and alter the flavors to suit your tastes to a tee. We’re also avoiding artificial ingredients, preservatives, added dyes, and excess sodium. It’s a true win-win situation!
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And it’s so versatile. When I’m making ropa vieja over yellow rice, I use sazon in both recipes. Steak, in particular, is an incredible vessel for sazon seasoning — I use it in my Southwest flap steak and Mexican grilled sirloin flap as well.
To make dried cilantro leaves, harvest fresh cilantro and wash it thoroughly. Pat the leaves dry, then spread them in a single layer on a parchment-lined tray. Allow them to air dry in a cool, dark place for about 1-2 weeks, or use a dehydrator at 95°F (35°C) for 4-6 hours. Store in an airtight container.
If you don’t want to make your own, Penzys spices has them in store or online, too.
- Coriander & Cumin – If you choose to use coriander and cumin seeds rather than their powdered counterparts — good call! This will result in a stronger, fresher flavor. For your reference, one teaspoon of seeds equals ¾ teaspoon of ground.
- Annatto Seeds or Achiote Powder – If neither of these is available to you, substitute with an equal amount of turmeric or a pinch of saffron. You could also substitute with 1 part turmeric and 2 parts paprika for a bit of heat! Learn more about this peppery Latin seasoning in my brief intro to achiote and annotto.
- Oregano – I prefer to use Mexican oregano in Latin cooking, but feel free to use regular oregano in your sazon seasoning.
- Dried Cilantro – Not everyone likes cilantro — to some it can even taste like soap! If you fall into either of these categories, you can use dried parsley or caraway.
- Garlic Powder & Onion Powder – This is a must-have duo in any number of homemade spice and seasoning blends.
- Salt – I use salt instead of MSG in my sazon seasoning recipe, but you could really use either. And I only use a small amount — this allows you to salt to taste while cooking and add plenty of seasoning without overloading your dish with sodium!
- Ground Black Pepper – Better yet, grab some peppercorns to grind fresh!
- Grind. Add all ingredients to a spice grinder or food processor. Pulse until everything is finely ground and evenly distributed.
- Store. Transfer your sazon seasoning to an airtight container.
- Spice Grinder – You could also use a food processor. You just need a tool that will allow you to grind the various herbs, seeds, and seasonings in this sazon seasoning recipe into a fine powder.
Storing and Reheating
Store your seasoning in a tightly sealed container made from glass or metal. These materials are ideal because they won’t react with any of the seasonings and are absolutely airtight.
While some plastics are okay to use, others are porous or made from material that will react with the spices inside, which could deteriorate the plastic. The safest plastic option is to just reuse the bottles your storebought spices come in!
Store the container away from direct sunlight in a cool, dry place for 6 months. You can still use the spice after 6 months, but it will gradually lose its potency.
Sazon is used throughout Latin America, which includes Mexico as well as other North and Central American, South American, and Caribbean countries.
And even if a Mexican recipe doesn’t contain this spice blend exactly as it’s laid out here, it’s guaranteed to have at least a few of its components: cumin, coriander, garlic, oregano, and onion powder at the very least.
Many of the store-bought options do contain MSG. You’ll want to keep an eye out for “monosodium glutamate,” which is the technical name for MSG. You’ll find it listed on Goya seasoning packets.
It’s not inherently harmful, but many of those commercial brands contain quite a lot of it. You can limit the amount of extra sodium by preparing your own at home!
It’s always best to start with less and add more. One teaspoon is considered a serving, and I usually use one teaspoon per one pound of meat.
For reference, this sazon seasoning recipe makes a total of ½ cup — roughly 24 teaspoon servings.
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This post, originally published on Kevin is Cooking on March 4, 2019, was last updated February 2024.
- In a spice grinder or food processor add the ground coriander, cumin, achiote, oregano, cilantro, garlic and onion powders, kosher salt and pepper and pulse until a fine grind. Store in an airtight container.
- If Annatto seeds or achiote powder is not available, you can substitute with a good pinch of saffron threads or same amount of turmeric. If saffron is unavailable or not to your liking, another substitute is to combine 1 part turmeric to 2 parts paprika.
- For Latin cooking, I prefer to use Mexican oregano, but feel free to use regular oregano.
- This makes about 1/2 cup total or 24 teaspoon servings.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.