vegan puerto rican cuisine

Basics: Sazón, Small Dose of Magic

Basics: Sazón, Small Dose of Magic

“Sazón”, or seasoning in English, is one of the central ingredients in Puerto Rican “guisos”, or stews. Its main function is to give a redish color to food, but it also adds some flavor. My go-to “sazón” has always been the Goya brand with “culantro and achiote” (annatto) in packets. I have always loved these little packets of magic. They smell delicious and fill the kitchen with an authentic Puerto Rican food aroma.

To be honest, I had never bothered to check what was in those magical little packets, except for annatto, obviously. It turns out it contains two artificial dyes, Red 40 and Yellow 5. These two ingredients are controversial given that, even though they don’t contain animal product, they are often tested on animals. Also, artificial dyes have been questioned for years now.

So, in order to use a more natural ingredient, I tried several combinations and got pretty close to “sazón” as it’s sold in packets. It is not exactly the same, but it comes pretty close and does the job. Combine annatto (achiote), garlic powder, cumin, coriander, and salt (see proportions below). Feel free to adjust the proportions based on what you like. And if you like your “guisos”/stews as red as I do, knock yourself out with the annatto, it doesn’t really taste like anything. This amount of mix makes the rough equivalent of about seven little packets. In my experience, it does not keep well for long.

Use this mix in all recipes that call for “sazón” if you want a natural alternative to packaged seasoning.




  • 1 tbsp achiote/annatto
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp salt


  • Mix all dry ingredients together in a small bowl. Store in airtight container for later use.

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