There’s a whole science behind flavours and seasoning. However, it doesn’t have to be complicated. When it comes to your everyday cooking, I’m all for adopting a minimalistic approach that’s easy enough for anyone to achieve. Forget recipes with long ingredient lists! All you need are these 5 all-purpose seasonings to spice up your meals and make them restaurant worthy.
Why Own All-Purpose Seasonings?
In my kitchen, I have individual spices such as oregano, chilli powder, cumin and red pepper flakes. However, I find myself gravitating towards my all-purpose seasoning blends out of convenience. It’s quick, easy and requires no measuring, as it’s already properly proportioned.
All you have to do is pick HOW MUCH flavour you want in your dish, as opposed to getting the RIGHT flavour, by attempting to mix in the right amount of individual spices.
The other amazing benefit of using all-purpose seasonings is that you don’t even need to follow a recipe. You can choose simple ingredients such as chicken breast, tortillas and peppers and turn them into flavourful fajitas without needing specific directions. How great is that?
Which All-Purpose Seasonings Do You Need?
Everything Bagel Seasoning
Ingredients: Sesame seeds, sea salt flakes, dried garlic, dried onion, white sesame seeds and poppy seeds.
I buy the Everything But The Bagel mix at Trader Joe’s when I go down to the States. I prefer it over some other ones as the garlic and onion flavours are more pronounced. I’ve tried the Farm Boy Everything Bagel Seasoning which is also good, though the sesame flavour dominates over the onion and garlic, in my opinion.
You can find many other brands too, such as President’s Choice Everything Bagel Seasoning and Club House Everything Bagel with Sesame Seed and Onion. Try one out and experiment with it, you really can’t go wrong!
Try adding it to:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Avocado toast
- Fried ramen noodles
- Homemade bread, buns, crackers or soft pretzels
Montreal Steak Spice
Ingredients: Salt, crushed black peppercorns, paprika, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, dill seeds, garlic powder, onion powder and crushed red pepper flakes.
In my house, we buy the big Club House La Grille® Montreal Steak spice jug from Costco. We just can’t get enough of it, especially during grilling season. I even started using it on our grilled veggies to help with the uptake – it’s been a huge hit!
Try adding it to:
- Any grilled meat (pork chops, chicken breast, steaks, hamburger patties, etc)
- Grilled or baked vegetables (asparagus, green beans, bell peppers)
- Fried or baked potatoes
- Oven-roasted crispy chickpeas
Herb & Garlic Seasoning
Ingredients: Dried garlic, dried onion, salt, black pepper and dried herbs (i.e. parsley, fennel, basil, bay, marjoram, oregano, thyme, chive, rosemary). Other similar all-purpose seasonings may contain other spices such as lemon powder, mustard, cumin, cayenne pepper, coriander and celery seed.
I have two go-to’s in my kitchen.
The first one is, in my opinion, the most versatile and accessible to all – the Mrs. Dash Garlic & Herb Seasoning Blend. It’s available in most grocery stores. You can add it to any savoury recipe and have it taste amazing.
The second one is the Green Goddess Seasoning Blend from Trader Joe’s. Again, I pick this one up when I go down to visit family in the United States. I use this all-purpose seasoning particularly in dressings and dips as it has a bit of a lemon tang to it. You could probably achieve a similar flavour by combining your herb & garlic spice blend with some lemon zest or lemon juice.
Mrs. Dash also has its Table Blend with similar herb, spice and lemon ingredients. I don’t find it as flavourful as the other two above so I gravitate towards it a little less. However, it’s still a great all-purpose option.
Try adding any of these to:
- Homemade veggie dip
- Passata – for homemade pizza sauce
- Roasted potatoes and/or veggies
- Creamy pasta sauces
- Salad dressings
Ingredients: Paprika, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, cayenne and thyme.
My partner is the one who introduced me to this spice blend a few years ago. I don’t know that I would’ve ever gravitated towards it otherwise, but I am glad I added it to my staples list. I hope you too will discover its delicious flavour and perhaps find a place for it in your pantry. I currently use the Club House Cajun Blend.
Try adding it to:
- Panko or Regular Breadcrumbs – for breaded fish, chicken or tofu
- Homemade fries
- Chicken and bell pepper – for fajitas
- Grilled or pan-fried shrimp
Ingredients: Thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, mint and garlic.
I discovered Chez Dodo’s Fattoush Spice Blend at the Navan Market, located just outside of Ottawa. I hesitated to buy it at first, as I do with most purchases, but I am so glad I decided to try it. As advertised, it’s super flavourful and works in so many recipes, hence why it’s one of my top all-purpose seasonings.
Try adding it to:
- Homemade pita chips
- Hummus (with a drizzle of olive oil)
- Fatoush, greek or garden salad
- Grilled chicken, kabobs or other marinades
- Roasted potatoes
A Few Other All-Purpose Seasonings…
I have a couple more spice blends in my pantry that I use fairly regularly, including taco seasoning, lemon pepper, citrusy garlic and barbecue chicken blend. These didn’t make the top 5 as they’re not quite as versatile as the other ones, in my opinion. However, they are well worth it if you enjoy these flavours and like the idea of owning various all-purpose seasonings.
I’m not sure this one needs any explanation as it’s fairly popular. What you might not know is that Old El Paso recently came out with a larger Value Size Taco Seasoning bottle, as opposed to selling it uniquely in individual packets. It’s a great option for households like mine who have tacos on their weekly meal rotation.
To be honest, I haven’t used this one as much lately. In the past, I’ve used it as a rim seasoning for Caesar drinks, if that counts ha. I’ve also really enjoyed it for homemade fried calamari, chicken wings or fish. As I am writing this, I am realizing I should get back to using it a little more!
Another favourite of mine from Trader Joe’s is the Cuban Style Cirtusy Garlic Seasoning Blend. I use this one on shrimp to give it the BEST flavour. Though this could be achieved with some lemon zest/juice, fresh garlic and herbs, I like this quick alternative for busy weeknights or on-the-go lunches when working from home.
I use my Club House La Grille® Barbecue Chicken Seasoning, particularly when baking or roasting a whole chicken in the oven. I will drizzle some lemon juice and then sprinkle this spice blend on top until the skin is well covered. It yields great flavours and a juicy texture. I occasionally use this spice blend on individual chicken breasts or thighs too. However, I am cautious with the amount I sprinkle on skinless chicken as I find it quite salty otherwise.
Should You Be Concerned About the Sodium Content?
It depends! Nothing is black or white when it comes to nutrition and health.
Generally speaking, if people exceed the daily recommended sodium intake (2300mg per day for adults, as per Canada’s Daily Recommended Intake), it’s often not related to the seasoning they add to their food. Adding salt or salt-containing seasonings to your dishes can contribute to your daily sodium intake, but it’s typically not the most significant source.
Foods that most significantly contribute the to our daily sodium intake are processed foods. This has to do with the preservatives (i.e. in canned products, frozen foods, snack foods, store-bought sauces, gravies, etc.). If you already make efforts to limit your intake of processed foods, by prioritizing whole foods and choosing low-sodium products, chances are you are okay to use some spice blends, even if they contain salt.
If you are concerned about your sodium intake, consider choosing lower-sodium or no-salt seasoning options. Mrs. Dash or Club House Salt-Free products are great options that are widely available in Canadian grocery stores. If you have high blood pressure or chronic kidney disease, watching your sodium intake can play an important role in the management of your health. You may benefit from an appointment with a Registered Dietitian to further discuss your needs and strategies.
Store-Bought v.s. Homemade All-Purpose Seasoning?
Most of the spice blends listed above can be found at your local grocery store. However, you could also choose to make them yourself as a more custom and perhaps cost-effective option.
Nutritionally, the difference between store-bought and homemade lies in the sodium content. Like anything else, the homemade version will provide you with more control over its sodium content. You can choose to omit the salt from the ingredients altogether or add a small amount, to your liking.
If there are allergies or food sensitivities in your family, you may also consider making your own. However, I wouldn’t necessarily write off the store-bought seasonings just yet. It’s important to do your research as you too deserve convenient options. Many brands nowadays do cater to gluten-free, nut-free and fodmap-free diets.
Like all things, there are some downsides to making your all-purpose seasoning at home. It will require a bit of prep time, which not everyone has. More importantly, you may realize that it will require you to purchase a large variety of individual spices to get the flavours you’re looking for. This may not be all that budget-friendly.
Ultimately, If you don’t plan on using individual spices at all, consider buying store-bought blends out of convenience and ease. If you already have tons of individual spices on hand and are interested in the idea of mixing them up to make your own custom blends, then go for it! Perhaps you may choose to simplify some of the recipes to make your life easier.