Grocery store shelves are lined with so many seasoning blends, from taco seasoning packets to Cajun spice mixes and Italian herb combinations. The commercially made products are convenient, but they also are – in most cases – exceedingly easy to re-create at home.

And, homemade versions of these blends have the added benefit of allowing home cooks to adjust the proportions to taste, reduce sodium and added coloring and cut MSG, if desired.

This is true of sazón, the popular salty blend that adds a kick of flavor to vegetables, beans, meats and the fillings for tacos and burritos. It is a pantry staple in homes wherever Hispanic foods are loved.

In her cookbook, “Coconuts and Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South” (University Press of Florida, 2018), Von Diaz writes: “Maybe you’ve seen those orange boxes of Goya Sazón at your local grocery store. It’s a miracle ingredient, a punch of MSG with enough other spices to flavor just about any soup, stew, bean dish, or braise. It’s an incredible cheat, and so full of sodium it might give you a migraine. I’ll admit that I have a box in my pantry right now in case of emergency. But I think you can do better.”

Her recipe below contains no added food coloring, so it may not have quite the bright, vibrant orange-y color of the popular Goya brand, especially if you use sweet paprika in place of ground achiote. Also, the first ingredient listed on Goya’s original sazón is the flavor enhancer MSG, or monosodium glutamate. We didn’t miss it when we tasted the two side by side.



Time: 5 minutes

Makes: 24 to 48 servings (makes 1/2 cup)

Sazón spice blend is used to add a punch of salty flavor to many popular Hispanic foods, including vegetables, beans, tacos and burritos. Cookbook author Von Diaz says she keeps a box of commercially made sazón in her pantry “for emergencies,” but she tells home cooks “I think you can do better.”


Storage Notes: Store in an airtight container indefinitely.


1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons fine sea salt

2 tablespoons ground achiote powder or sweet paprika


1. Combine the garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, turmeric, black pepper, salt and ground achiote powder or sweet paprika in an airtight container, cover and shake well to incorporate.

Nutrition (per teaspoon) | Calories: 4; Total Fat: 0 g; Saturated Fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 296 mg; Carbohydrates: 1 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugars: 0 g; Protein: 0 g.

(Adapted from “Coconuts and Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South,” University Press of Florida, 2018, by Von Diaz.)