The $2.50 Spice Blend That I Put on Practically Everything

published Jul 8, 2020
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spice cabinet
Credit: Abigail Abesamis

I have a confession to make: I’ve always had the tendency to under-season my food. You can probably blame my overly sensitive taste buds or the fact that we only kept cheap, finely milled, pre-ground pepper in my house growing up. For a long time, my aversion to most seasonings meant that my dishes were only moderately salted or laced with a faint whisper of black pepper. That’s it.

As a result, I struggle a bit when almost every recipe I find calls for “seasoning to taste.” What does it even mean? But all my seasoning trepidations changed when I moved in with my husband and he introduced me to his far better-stocked spice cabinet. The MVP? This can of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning.

Credit: Abigail Abesamis

For the uninitiated, Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, or simply “Tony’s” as it’s more fondly called, is a seasoning mix featuring salt, red pepper, black pepper, chili powder, and dehydrated garlic. Its signature green-and-red shaker reads “Great on Everything,” and, if you can believe it, I’ve found that it truly is. (The fact that it costs $2.50 for 17 ounces is pretty great too.)

Since Tony and I have become acquainted over the past two years, I’ve used this stuff to season fish, chicken, beef, lamb, eggs, veggies, fries — the list goes on. It’s become a staple in my everyday cooking, and unless I’m following a recipe, most of my meals only require a few shakes of Tony’s and a splash of extra-virgin olive oil.

While I am admittedly a convert, I’m not alone in my devotion (its official Facebook page has nearly half a million followers!). So who is Tony? And what makes him an expert?

The Story Behind Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning

The smiling cartoon chef on the product packaging is the likeness of the real Tony Chachere, a chef who at age 65 published a cookbook highlighting the cuisine of Southern Louisiana. The book contained the recipe for his homemade seasoning blend, which quickly garnered a huge fan base. It was only a matter of time before people wanted to buy it on shelves and so, just two years later in 1972, Tony started the process of manufacturing his namesake blend. 

Because I’m a rookie when it comes to the spice cabinet, I consulted two professional chefs for some culinary expertise regarding Tony’s. First up is Adrienne Cheatham, a chef at the Institute of Culinary Education and former Top Chef runner-up, who describes the seasoning as a great base that hits all the right notes. “As a chef, I prefer to make my own blends, but I always keep Tony Chachere’s in my house,” she told me. “If I’m out of garlic powder or paprika, I can add this instead. It’s a staple; I always had it in my house growing up and still do to this day.”

There’s one important critique that Cheatham would like to make: She sees Tony’s as more of a Cajun spice blend than a Creole spice blend (as the bottle denotes). “There are some distinct differences between Creole and Cajun cuisines,” she said. “Creole cooking has Italian influences and incorporates herbs like oregano and basil, which Tony Chachere’s does not. Cajun cuisine is usually a little spicier, which is a better description for what Tony’s actually is.”

Chef Kevin Belton is the host of Kevin Belton’s New Orleans Celebrations, resident chef on the New Orleans CBS affiliate (WWL-TV), and a Louisiana culinary legend who learned the foundations of Cajun and Creole cuisine by watching and cooking with his mother and grandmothers since he was 5 years old. “My mom and grandmothers all had their own spice mixture with garlic powder, a little onion powder, salt, red pepper, black pepper, paprika. That was the foundation,” Belton said. “Depending on what Ma would make, she would add some different herbs to that base.” He explained that Tony’s built on this tradition of having an all-purpose base seasoning mix and made it a commercial product.

Belton adds that Tony’s “brings that Louisiana flavor” to dishes. Like Cheatham, Belton also noted that the spice blend leans more toward a spicier, Cajun flavor profile. “You don’t have to do too much else [when you add Tony’s],” Belton said. “If you’ve never used it before I suggest using a little because you can always add more, but you can never take away.”

I’ve learned my seasoning lesson — and my food is all the better for it! Thank you, Tony.

Have you ever tried Tony’s Creole Seasoning?