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Cajun Spice Rub

*Inspired by loyal reader Jason, who asked about spice rubs…

I hate buying spice blends from the store.  Hate, hate, hate it.  It’s not that they aren’t good; some of them are great. It’s not that they don’t work. Spice blends are a quick way to add a punch of flavor. It’s that spice blends are all salt.

Check the label – store bought spice blends always have salt as the first ingredient. That means salt is the most common ingredient in the jar. Salt, which sells for sixty-nine cents a pound (or three bucks a pound if you buy fancy Kosher salt like me.) Spice blends sell for three bucks an ounce, if not more. I can understand why the spice companies do it – people want the blends, and they can make a lot of money that way.
*There are exceptions, of course: blends that don’t have any salt include chili powder, herbes de provence, curry powder, and italian seasoning. But, I always check the label – if salt is the first or second ingredient, I’m paying spice prices for salt. And, obviously, that bothers me.

The other problem is spice blends with salt in them make it hard to season food properly. If you use brines as often as I do, you can’t use store-bought spice blends without over salting the food.

OK, rant over. I usually throw together my spice blends, from my spice cabinet, in small quantities.  But I make Cajun seasoning in big batches, so I always have it at hand. I’ve been a fan of Cajun seasoning ever since I heard my first “BAM!” from Emeril, over ten years ago.* Back then, there was no choice – if I wanted Emeril’s essence seasoning, I had to make my own. When Emeril started selling his line of spice blends in the grocery store, I thought my work was over. That’s how I found out about salt in spice blends – I flipped the jar over, to see if it matched the recipe I used, and saw salt listed as the first ingredient.  Oh, well, back to mixing my own.
*Gaah! Was it really ten years ago? (Doing math in my head).  Ugh.  It was even longer than that…

Recipe: Cajun Spice Rub

Adapted From: Emeril Lagasse, Louisiana Real and Rustic
Special Thanks to: Dan Koontz for crystallizing my thoughts about spices with is Ten Tips to Save Money on Spices [CasualKitchen.blogspot.com]

Cook time: 5 minutes


  • 1/2 cup paprika
  • 1/2 cup granulated garlic
  • 1/4 cup granulated onion
  • 1/4 cup fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup dried thyme
  • 2 tbsp cayenne pepper

1. Mix up the blend: Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, and stir until completely mixed. Store in a sealed container for up to six months.

Using the best mixing tool – my hands

*This recipe makes two cups of rub, which just fits into the jar I always use. If you want to make more or less, the recipe is really the following ratio:

  • 2 parts paprika, garlic
  • 1 part onion, black pepper, oregano, thyme
  • 1/2 part cayenne

*If you want to kick it up a notch (BAM!) add more cayenne. Other good changes are replacing the black pepper with white pepper, or adding a couple tablespoons of brown sugar.

*It is almost always cheaper to buy spices in bulk. I go to Penzey’s, or the bulk spice section of my local grocery store. If your local grocery store doesn’t have a bulk spice section, check your local health food store.  They will usually have a Frontier bulk spices section.

*But…even if you can’t get bulk spices, and you have to buy those ridiculously expensive little jars of spices at your grocery store…it will be cheaper than buying a spice blend. Again, it’s the salt factor – if half the spice blend is salt, you’re saving a whole lot of money by mixing it yourself.

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Homemade Barbecue Rub

Adapted from:

Emeril Lagasse, Louisiana Real and Rustic

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Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.


  1. I’ve been making my own rubs and spice blends for years also. Fresher and more economical! Keep up the great blog!

  2. Linda says

    Wow – you nailed it right on the head. I also started making my own spice blends when Emeril came on TV and you could access his recipe for BAM on the interwebs. The reason I still make my own blends is also because of the salt issue – I want to control the salt. Love your blog Mike. I’ve learned tons from you.

  3. Mike, I completely agree with your rational, and have been doing the same thing, varying it up on occasion as the mood strikes me. One difference in our approach is that I don’t put the freshly ground pepper in the rub. Instead, I grind the pepper at the time I use it, so as to have it be that much fresher. I have the 9 in. Magnum pepper mill, which I love, and I always do the salt and pepper and then add the rub. Keep up the good work!

  4. Carol says

    Nearly half the contents of my spice racks is homemade spice mixes. Another way I cut down on the cost of seasonings is to visit my local bulk store, and buy spices there, for far less than I’d have to pay for the little bottles in the grocery store. I buy bottles, 3/$1.00 at the dollar store, and stick labels on them.

    Great article, too – people need to learn to taste food, not salt, and making up your own blends let you do just that.

  5. Pomegranate says

    Hi Mike
    Great article. I have watched my wife growing and making up her own spice blends for years. I just always wondered why she was doing it until i found out about salt levels and taste. Im happier now i know she trying to do us a favor..lol.
    Thanks again.

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