Homemade Cajun Blackening Seasoning

Add a Cajun kick to your dishes with this blackened seasoning recipe! This homemade spice blend is the key ingredient to making delicious blackened shrimp, blackened fish, blackened chicken, and more. It’s a staple of Cajun cuisine!

Blackening seasoning in a bowl with a measuring spoon.

The Best Blackened Seasoning Recipe

Growing up in New Orleans, I didn’t realize that “blackened” was a south Louisiana cajun thing. Seeing blackened proteins, like Blackened Chicken Breast, Blackened Shrimp or blackened fish, on the menu was a common occurrence. 

Now, the blackening method of cooking has spread around the United States and beyond. For good reason too! Blackened food is spicy, flavorful, and just plain delicious. 

You can try out this blackening seasoning on your favorite proteins or vegetables. Dunk some Crispy Blackened Chicken Wings in Cajun Ranch, or serve Blackened Corn as a side to your favorite main dish.  

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • Flavor explosion. Blackening food with this blackened seasoning blend adds some SERIOUS FLAVOR to your favorite meats (and veggies too)!
  • Homemade is better. You can buy blackening seasoning at grocery stores, but making your own homemade seasoning mixes is better since you can control exactly what goes inside. 
  • Adjust the heat. You can adjust the amount of cayenne pepper to adjust the level of spice in your seasoning mix. 
  • Pantry staples. The good thing about this seasoning is that you probably already have most of these spices in your spice cabinet, so you can whip up a batch now!
Up close bottle of blackening seasoning with blackened shrimp and chicken.

What is blackening?

So what does blackened food actually mean?

Blackening is a cooking technique where a protein is coated with a special combination of spices and dried herbs, then seared at high heat in a cast iron skillet, usually in butter. 

The result is meat that has a spicy and flavorful blackened outer crust with a juicy inside. Although the exterior is blackened, it’s not the same as burned! 

Blackening was invented by famous New Orleans chef, Paul Prudhomme. He developed this cooking method when he made a dish called blackened redfish. 

From there, the technique spread to other proteins and other parts of the country. You can blacken other fish, poultry, seafood, and even vegetables!

How does blackening compare to other methods of cooking? Check out Blackened vs Grilled Fish.

Blackened chicken breasts on a plate with parsley and lemon.
Blackened chicken with parsley and lemon
A spoon mixing blackening seasoning blend in a small bowl.
Mixing seasonings for blackening seasoning

See the recipe card below for the complete list of ingredients and measurements to make your own blackening seasoning.

What is blackened seasoning made of?

Now that you know what blackening means, let’s talk about what blackening seasoning is. Because you can’t blacken food without the special blackening seasoning!

Blackening seasoning is a Cajun spice blend used to “blacken” fish, poultry, and other meats.

While every Cajun chef has their own special blackening seasoning recipe, most of them contain similar ingredients. 

A good blackening seasoning should have most of these key ingredients:

  • Paprika. This red spice adds color to the seasoning but also a sweet and peppery flavor. I use a combination of regular paprika and smoked paprika which adds an even better smoky flavor to the food you are blackening. 
  • Cayenne pepper. You can’t have a blackening seasoning without cayenne pepper! This is where blackening seasoning gets its heat from. You can adjust the cayenne pepper amount to make your blend more or less spicy. 
  • Salt. Salt is a necessary component of any spice mix. It enhances all the other flavors. Different salts have different levels of saltiness per volume. For this recipe, I use finely ground pink himalayan sea salt. Start with a little salt and add more as needed to account for your specific salt brand. 
  • Black pepper. Adds another layer of peppery slightly bitter flavor to the blend. 
  • Onion powder. If you know about the Cajun holy trinity, you know onions are a huge part of cajun cuisine. 
  • Garlic powder. Almost just as important as onions, garlic is a necessary ingredient. 
  • Dried herbs. Dried thyme and dried oregano are two of the most common herbs used in Cajun cooking. They round out the distinct flavor of blackening seasoning. I also add dried basil to the mix. 

Some other recipes for blackened seasoning might also include white pepper, chili powder, brown sugar, or white sugar. 

Blackening seasoning is similar to Cajun seasoning, but usually has more paprika and cayenne pepper. 

Making blackening seasoning is easy! Just measure out your ingredients and mix well. Store in an airtight container at room temperature in your spice cabinet. Now you will have this tasty seasoning on hand whenever you need it!

Spoons in a row holding herbs and spices to make blackening seasoning.
Ingredients needed to make blackened seasoning: thyme, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, basil, onion powder, salt, and black pepper.

Storage

How to store: Store blackening seasoning in an airtight jar in a dry dark place for up to a year! Storage length will depend on the expiration date of your individual spices.  I like to use a small glass jar for my homemade spice blends. 

How to use blackening seasoning

You can use blackened seasoning like you would use cajun seasoning, or other spice blends. 

Sprinkle it on top of whatever you are cooking for some extra Cajun flavor. 

You can also use blackening seasoning to blacken food, a technique of searing meat coated in blackening seasoning at high temperatures in a cast iron skillet. 

I formulated this blackened seasoning recipe so that one tablespoon is the perfect amount of seasoning for one pound of protein. 

Use 1 tablespoon of blackened seasoning for every 1 pound of chicken, fish, pork, beef, or vegetables. 

How to blacken foods

  1. Gather your supplies. AKA mise en place. Make your blackening spice mixture. Get out your high heat oil and/or butter and a cast iron pan. 
  2. Preheat the pan. Heat your skillet over medium-high heat, turn on your kitchen vents, and open a window – things are about to get smoky! If you have the option, blackening foods outdoors is ideal. 
  3. Prep the protein. Pat your protein dry with a paper towel. Brush it with a light coating of oil or butter and season evenly with blackening seasoning on all sides. Gently press seasoning into the protein. 
  4. Sear the protein. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan and heat the oil for a few seconds. Add protein to the pan. Depending on your protein, you will need to cook for a few minutes each side to form a blackened crust.
  5. Finish. If not already using butter, add some In the last 30 seconds of cooking and spoon over the protein. 
  6. Serve. Serve warm with a sprinkling of fresh herbs and enjoy!
Chicken breasts coated in blackening seasoning on a plate.

SEASON

Coat your protein or vegetables in blackening seasoning.

Blackened chicken breasts in a cast iron skillet.

BLACKEN

Add to a HOT cast iron skillet and sear until a blackened crust forms.

PRO TIP: You can blacken almost anything! Try Blackened Chicken Wings, Blackened Chicken Breasts, Blackened Shrimp, Blackened Chicken Thighs, Blackened Tuna, Blackened Grouper, or Blackened Salmon.

Expert tips for perfectly blackened food

  • Mise en place. Have the ingredients and supplies ready to go before you start cooking. Blackening happens quickly. 
  • HOT HOT HOT. Make sure to fully preheat the cast iron skillet before adding protein. A hot pan is needed to develop that blackened flavorful crust. 
  • Ventilation. Blackening can be a smoky cooking process. If you can do it outside, it’s even better. If not, make sure to turn on your kitchen ventilation and open a window.
  • Cooking fat. Blackening is traditionally done with butter, but butter has a low smoke point. I like to use a high heat oil like avocado oil. You can also use clarified butter which has a higher smoke point. I try to stay away from olive oil since it has a lower smoking point.
  • Be careful. Blackening requires a hot pan, over high heat, with hot oil. Be careful not to splash any oil when adding proteins to the pan. 
  • Finish with butter. If you don’t cook the protein in butter, you can still finish it off with melted butter to add that rich flavor. 
Blackening seasoning in a bowl next to a platter of blackened chicken.

Blackened recipes

You can use this homemade cajun blackening seasoning recipe on all your favorite proteins! It is great for chicken, fish, shrimp, pork, or steak. Use it to make blackened fish tacos, or a blackened chicken sandwich. 

You can use it to add a spicy kick to whatever you’re cooking!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between Cajun and Blackened Seasoning?

Both cajun seasoning and blackened seasoning contain similar ingredients, but blackened seasoning is specifically used for blackening food. Both spice mixes can have some or all of the following: cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, black pepper, white pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, dried basil, dried thyme, or dried oregano. 

What is a substitute for blackening seasoning?

Since blackening seasoning and cajun seasoning are so similar, you can use cajun seasoning as a substitute for blackened seasoning in a pinch!

Is blackened seasoning spicy?

Yes, blackened seasoning is usually spicy. The good news is when you make your own, you can adjust the spice level by adding more or less cayenne pepper. 

More Cajun recipes

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Meet Lauren

I’m the blogger, recipe developer, food photographer, and otherwise food obsessed gal behind Lauren From Scratch. I was born and raised in New Orleans and lived in South Louisiana most of my life. Growing up around Cajun country has instilled a love of food that runs deep in my bones. I am passionate about food and teaching you how to make mouth-watering Louisiana inspired dishes in your own kitchen!


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*This post was updated in July 2023 to include more helpful information, tips, improved photos, and a new and improved blackening seasoning recipe. 

Up close blackening seasoning with a measuring spoon in it.

Homemade blackened seasoning recipe

Add a Cajun kick to your dishes with this homemade blackening seasoning recipe! This homemade blend of spices is the key ingredient to making delicious blackened shrimp, blackened fish, blackened chicken, and more.
4.95 from 39 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Cajun
Servings 18 servings
Calories 5 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
 
 

Instructions
 

  • MEASURE: Measure out all the ingredients in a small jar.
  • COMBINE: Mix well to combine all ingredients.

Notes

  • Use 1 tablespoon for every 1 pound of protein or vegetable.
  • Different salts actually have different levels of saltiness per volume. For this recipe, I use finely ground pink himalayan sea salt. Start with a little salt and add more as needed to account for your specific salt brand.
  • How to store: Store Cajun blackening seasoning in an airtight jar in a dry dark place for up to a year! Storage length will depend on the expiration date of your individual spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 5kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 0.2gFat: 0.2gSaturated Fat: 0.03gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.02gSodium: 389mgPotassium: 32mgFiber: 0.5gSugar: 0.1gVitamin A: 481IUVitamin C: 0.2mgCalcium: 8mgIron: 0.4mg
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3 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I give your seasoning a 5 out of 5 because it has the same ingredients as mine and proportions except Mine has no basil. The amount placed on the protein does not develop the proper crust of seasoning in my opinion.

    1. Hi David, I appreciate the feedback and your rating! Which meat were you using? You can always add a little more to fit your tastes. The time the protein is left in contact with the hot skillet, and how hot your skillet is can also affect the blackened crust.

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