In South American and Caribbean cooking a Complete Seasoning mix (aka Sazon Completa) is used in basically everything. It is such a versatile ingredient with so much flavour that if I had to choose one spice mix to keep, this would be it!
There are several brands that sell this mix, however, I’ve found that most of them contain MSG and other additives. Personally, I like to keep my cooking clean whenever I can, and the use of this mix started to feel icky. So I decided to create my own and now you can too!
A little background story
My mom is originally from the beautiful Caribbean island of Aruba. In Caribbean and South American cooking, this ‘Sazon Completa’ (complete seasoning) is very popular. This spice mix adds great flavour and can be added to almost anything.
This multipurpose seasoning mix is a powerhouse that is perfect for jazzing up any dish. It is not spicy at all but will add a lovely savoury flavour. It’s super easy to just sprinkle on top of most meat and veggie dishes to give them that authentic flavour. It’s great if you quickly want to season some chicken or add a little extra oomph to a soup or stew. I’ve even sprinkled it on top of some grilled veggies to enhance their flavour and make them more exciting.
I’ve used the store-bought mix for years until I decided to check the label. It turns out this great tasting spice mix contains MSG (monosodium glutamate) and other additives that I don’t want to consume. On top of that most ready-made mixes contain a ton of salt. So I spent some time doing research and experiments and created my own mix.
Food additives and health
A couple of years ago I started to become more interested in health and nutrition. This is when I started reading the labels on food products and I found out that most of the products found in supermarkets are loaded with additives and chemicals. Of course, these are all approved by food administrations, but that doesn’t mean they are healthy or good for you. Personally, I like to eat as clean as possible. Clean to me means ‘natural’, the way food can be found in nature without any additives. I also believe in balance so occasionally I will definitely eat sugary snacks, but preferably homemade so they are still without icky chemicals. I’ll take sugar over artificial sweeteners any day.
Now, what is the deal with MSG? MSG or monosodium glutamate (sometimes referred to as E621) is one of the most widely used food additives in commercial foods. MSG is a flavour enhancer that adds a certain ‘umami’ or savoury taste to food that makes it simply irresistible. You can find it in products like snacks, fast food, seasoning blends and soups, to name just a few.
Most worldwide food administrations consider MSG as a safe ingredient, but it is highly controversial. There have been many studies around this additive, some seem to point out health risks while others do not. This makes it very difficult to give a clear answer as to whether or not MSG is harmful. Placebo studies do seem to prove that certain individuals are more sensitive to MSG and that this flavour enhancer can cause them to experience symptoms such as headaches, nausea, chest pain and numbness.
Other additives that are often added to spice mixes are anticaking agents, to prevent the powder from clumping together. These have also been considered safe by food authorities, but they are also becoming more controversial now that more people are getting interested in health and nutrition.
Lastly, salt is often added in boatloads to spice mixes. Salt enhances the flavour as well, that’s why a pinch of salt is always added to sweet baking recipes. Salt is also a lot cheaper than herbs and spices and manufactures will therefore readily add it to their mixes to lower production costs and increase their profits. I don’t have a problem with salt, but we all know that too much salt is not good for your health. By buying salt-free mixes you get a double win. A salt-free spice mix is usually pure herbs and spices, so you get your money’s worth. And you are in charge of how much salt you want to add to your food.
How to create your homemade Complete Seasoning?
You can decide for yourself if you want to use the store-bought complete seasoning variety or use a homemade one. For the homemade version, I mixed some dried herbs and spices together to create my own seasoning and even though it doesn’t taste exactly the same it’s definitely a great alternative. Try this homemade all seasoning mix yourself! It’s super easy to make and can be added to most stews, chicken, fish or meat dishes to give them some extra oomph. Just a teaspoon or two is enough to jazz up those dishes.
The ingredients are fairly common so there is a good chance you already have all you need in your kitchen cabinet. The recipe is not at all strict, you can adjust quantities, ratios and even herbs to whatever you have at hand and your own preferences. That is the beauty of homemade mixes, you can experiment and create your very own secret ingredient!
My homemade version of this complete seasoning mix is a blend of:
- coriander seeds
- black pepper
Tips & Alternatives
- Ratios: This recipe will make a small amount of mix. It’s enough to fill a small container and can be used for several dishes. Simply scale the recipe up to make a bigger batch.
- Experiment: This is my basic version of Sazon Completa. It’s my go-to if I quickly want some seasoning but don’t want to bust out all the individual herbs and spices. Feel free to experiment. Try different combinations, add extra spices and create your own unique seasoning mix!
- Granules, powders or whole dried spices. I like my seasoning mix to be all powder, this way it’s all similar in size when I add it to a dish. If you have some of the ingredients in a different form, like granules or whole dried spices then simply grind them to powder in a pestle and mortar.
- Storage: This DIY spice mix will last as long as the individual dried spices used. You can keep it for at least 6 months. After that, the flavour intensity might deteriorate. Store it in an airtight container to maximize its shelf life. I used an old empty glass spice container.
If you want to give this recipe a go here’s my favourite Tuna Pasta Salad. This flavourful pasta salad is the perfect dish to bring to a potluck or picnic. It’s also great for meal prepping during a busy week.