My Grandmother Sneaks This Southern Seasoning Into Everything She Cooks

And everyone asks for the recipes. 

Old-School Squash Casserole in a green casserole dish
Photo: Photographer: Fred Hardy II, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall, Props Stylist: Christina Brockman

Southern cooks are not shy with the spice cabinet. Our dishes don't hit the table without receiving plenty of nurturing by way of butter, cream, salt, and whatever else can be dumped from the spice drawer, which is always stocked with Old Bay, Lawry's Seasoned Salt, Cavender's, and countless other blends. Cajun cooking in particular calls for seasoning food with such wild abandon that no one can stand near the stovetop without having their eyes start to water.

Now, every family tends to have a seasoning that gets used the most, and it often can be traced back to the relative who passes down recipes and makes the meanest pimiento cheese in town. In my family, that's my grandmother. She's the queen of cooking with her heart and no measurements at all, and it's gotten her plenty of praise for her heavenly deviled eggs and holiday squash casserole that always gets scraped clean.

She's the queen of cooking with her heart and no measurements at all.

To learn from a cook like her, you have to watch and ask questions. Usually the answers are, "just a spoonful of this," or "a generous pour of that." However, I kept seeing the same Southern seasonings get pulled out of the pantry, and one specifically that she would use in everything from a Christmas casserole to a party dip to a cold summer salad. Now I do, too.

Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning is no stranger to Southern kitchens everywhere, but being that my family neither hails from Louisiana nor identities as Cajun or Creole, I was at least a little surprised that it was easily her most-used seasoning blend. It even pulls out ahead of her other favorite, Lawry's Garlic Salt. Slap Ya Mama is a Louisiana-made blend that captures the characteristic flavor of Cajun cooking. It's made with salt, pepper, red pepper (for a hint of signature heat), and garlic.

Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning
Slap Ya Mama

Since it's relatively simple but packed full of garlicky, slightly spicy, salty flavor, Slap Ya Mama can pretty much be added to anything, and that my grandmother does. She'll sprinkle it into her casseroles (including squash)—it's especially good combined with crushed crackers for the topping—and she'll mix it into all sorts of party recipes, such as crab dip and even her homemade cheese straws. It's great for making spiced pecans during the holidays for gifting and snacking. As expected, it's also great for seasoning meats before cooking or mixing into the dredging flour for fried chicken, as well as any rice or Cajun dish.

My family's blood runs a little bit spicier every time my grandmother does the cooking.

Basically, my family's blood runs a little bit spicier every time my grandmother does the cooking, and I'm particularly susceptible to noticing bland foods everywhere else as a result. She's ruined me, and I'll always come back for more. For those who need to stock up on this pantry staple, it's available at any regular grocery store, but you can also shop it online here. And remember: Don't ever be afraid to give it a good shake.

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