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Mar 20, 2010 03:34 PM

How to replicate Goya Sazon?

I'm looking to replicate Goya Sazon (or Gayon Sazon y culantro y achiote) without all the msg that makes my tongue itch.

Does anyone have a good recipe?

Can Adobo be substituted for it?

Forgive the ignorance, I don't have a Puerto Rican bone in my body.


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  1. Sazon means seasoning in Spanish; salt, ground black pepper, granulated garlic or garlic powder, dried ground coriander seed (I doubt whether you can find dried culantro, unless you get some and dry it yourself,) cumin, oregano and annatto seeds, ground. The achiote (annatto) is what makes the sazon reddish. You could sub paprika for the achiote, if need be. A good ratio is one Tbsp of each spice. Mix well and use 1 1/2 tsp for each packet of the Goya sazon called for.
    If you want very fresh, toast the cumin, coriander and peppercorns, grind and add the rest of the ingredients.
    Some of Goya's varieties contain azafrán (saffron) but I'd skip that in a basic sazon preparation.
    Best part, no msg.
    This authentic formula as been Puerto Rican approved, by my mrbushwick, a proud Boricua.

    30 Replies
    1. re: bushwickgirl

      Fresh leaf coriander (cilantro) does not retain any flavor or aroma dried.

      1. re: paulj

        Let's be clear: first, the OP and I were discussing the use of culantro (not a typo), a different herb than cilantro, although related, which is found dried in some sazon formulas. Culantro has a wider, serrated leaf than cilantro and a slightly stronger aroma and flavor, retains it's flavor and aroma when dried, but it not so easy to find fresh (or dried). It's used in Asian, Indian and Hispanic cuisine.
        Alternately, the OP can use ground coriander (which I think is what you were referring to when you wrote fresh leaf coriander in your post upthread; ground coriander is produced from the seed, not the leaf) as a sub in sazon. When I mentioned ground coriander, I was not referring to the cilantro leaf.
        It's culinarily understood that when discussing ground coriander, one is referring to the ground seed.
        In your post below, the last link claims that sazon is a shortcut to making the classic sofrito, which is not true. The recipe given at that link is sofrito, not sazon, as far as a Puerto Rican would be concerned. Sazon is a dry seasoning mix, sofrito, a wet mix of vegetables and herbs for use as a seasoning base.

        Photo of culantro:

        1. re: bushwickgirl

          "culinarily understood" LOL

          this post is funny if you read it in the voice of Margaret thatcher or queen elizabeth

          1. re: bushwickgirl

            bushiwickgirl, I LOVED all the info. You have introduced me to an ingredient, and some culinary knowledge, that I did not know before. I am always open to learning more about food. Thanks for the great post!

          2. re: paulj

            Culantro is different than Cilantro. I've never worked with it before, though, so I'm not sure if the same rules apply.

          3. re: bushwickgirl

            Thanks so much, this is perfect.

            For something like arroz con ganjules, should I be using recaito, as well? Or just sofrito and sazon?

            1. re: venividibitchy

              In the Bahamas, thyme is the distinctive herb used in rice and pigeon peas.

                1. re: venividibitchy

                  not in the Bahamas -- peas 'n' rice usually has a tomato-y base.

              1. re: venividibitchy

                Sofrito is used in arroz con gandules, not recaito. So it's just sofrito and sazon, plus other stuff, alcaparrado, etc.
                Coconut milk is not used in PR for this dish.
                Here's a link from Daisy Martinez, who hosted a cooking show on PBS and now FN. I have her book and her recipes are very authentic. It's a classic recipe for arroz con gandules, to be made while the pernil is roasting:

                1. re: bushwickgirl

                  Daisy does not use a dry mix - just sofrito or recaito. Her recipes for these two are pretty similar. Culantro may be stronger in the recaito.

                  It looks to me that the main thing that sazon has that the sofrito or recaito don't is cumin.

                  Earlier I did confuse cilantro and culantro. I'm not a stranger to the two; I have both in the fridge. But they are similar enough in aroma (and spelling :) ) that one might excused for substituting or confusing one for the other. Even Daisy has substitution suggestions if culantro is not available.

                  Since my culantro won't last too much longer in the fridge, I'll try drying it.

                  By the way I have to go by its Vietnamese name, and appearance, to find culantro in stores around me.

                  1. re: paulj

                    Daisy uses adobo rather than sazon, which is somewhat similar but without the achiote. I use adobo frequently for seasoning meats and fish.

                    Yes, the base for recaito is culantro (recao in PR-speak) but it does include cilantro as well. The use of cumin is not really big in Puerto Rican cooking, just in sazon mixes.
                    Here's a recaito (Daisy-based) recipe for you, make it and put it in the freezer:

                    1 medium Spanish onion, cut into big chunks
                    8 cloves garlic, peeled
                    6 ajicitos dulces (see recipe for Sofrito) or 1 cubanelle peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into chunks*
                    4 leaves culantro (if you can't find culantro, increase the amount of Iajicitos or cilantro by half)
                    6 big sprig cilantro, stems and all, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup packed)

                    Grind onion and garlic in FP first, then blend in everything else. Pack into smaller 1/2 cup containers and freeze. I actually like recaito more than sofrito, but they both have their applications.

                    * aji dulces are small habanero-shaped peppers but are not hot; just a little bitter bite to them. They are actually considered to be sweet peppers. Cubanelles, found in many supermarkets next to the bell peppers, are a reasonable substitute.

                    My local Spanish market in my old neighborhood sold bags of ajicitos, cilantro and culantro and garlic cloves for recaito, but now I have to travel for ingredients if I want to make it.

                    1. re: bushwickgirl

                      Any opinions about the Goya jars of sofrito and recaito? I've occasionally bought them, but they tend to develop mold before I finish them.

                      1. re: paulj

                        This post goes back months, sorry for not responding earlier, but keep small quantities in the freezer. The ice cube tray technique is good for this. I usually make my own and freeze it, but yes, I have purchased Goya (frozen, not the jarred stuff) sofrito and break it down into smaller portions, which I keep frozen. The jarred stuff will freeze also, but I prefer buying the frozen. It's seemingly less processed than the jarred and has a fresher flavor.

                        1. re: bushwickgirl

                          Yes, you can make sofrito, recaito, cauliflower puree, any vegetable mix you want using a small food processor. I use the $5 black Friday Walmart special one and it is perfect for this purpose and I have been doing this for years. I used to use ice cube trays but I found that after a while, the cubes get frost bitten. I like to use the KFC small side containers now, but I used to use the plastic baby food containers which are also the perfect size. They keep the frost out and flavor in. Thanks for the advise on MSG free seasoning for my arroz con gondules.

                      2. re: bushwickgirl

                        Should I be using Sazon or Adobo to season tostones?

                        1. re: venividibitchy

                          You can use Goya Adobo seco (a dry seasoning blend) or just salt, or, for real authenticity, use a mojo for dipping. Make a mojo (garlic sauce) to dip them in (garlic and oil, lemon and salt):
                          Makes about 1 1/2 cups:

                          Good quality olive oil -- 1 cup
                          Garlic, crushed -- 6-10 cloves
                          Lemon or lime juice -- 1/4 cup
                          Salt -- 1/2 teaspoon

                          Place all of the ingredients into a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
                          Adjust the amount of salt or juice to taste.

                          I would make about half of this unless you're having a really big tostone party, as it doesn't keep that well. You can use this base for other things, marinating pork or seafood, for example. Orange juice can be subbed for the lemon, but not with tostones.

                          Now, keep in mind that Goya Adobo is just a dry seasoning blend (referred to as adobo seco) with salt, garlic and other spices. See my recipe for this at the bottom of this post. Adobo mojado (wet) is a marinade, usually for pork, consisting of oil, garlic, vinegar, achiote, etc.:
                          Adobo mojado:
                          Makes about 1 cup

                          Garlic -- 6-8 cloves
                          Paprika or achiote paste-- 1-2 tablespoons
                          Salt -- 1 tablespoon
                          Olive Oil -- 1/2 cup
                          1 Tablespoon black peppercorns, cracked
                          Red wine vinegar -- 1/3 cup, or a mix of orange and lime juice, or sour orange juice for a authentic flavor

                          Place all the ingredients together in a blender or food processor and process until fairly smooth. The old skool way is to use a mortar and pestle and pound until smooth.
                          Use as a marinade for pork, chicken or beef. Meats flavored with adobo are often left to marinate for up to 5 days. The longer the time, the better the flavor. This is what I use for Pernil (roast pork) seasoning. Goya has a bottled marinade, similar to this mojado, called Mojo Criollo, but I've never used it.

                          Here's a basic recipe for adobo seco, the dry seasoning blend, so you can get away from the Goya blend.:
                          Makes 1 cup

                          6 tablespoons salt
                          3 tablespoons onion powder
                          3 tablespoons garlic powder
                          3 tablespoons ground black pepper
                          1 ½ teaspoons ground oregano

                          Mix together well and use in a few months, for basic seasoning insted of just salt and pepper. Add lemon or orange zest to this mix for use with seafood, or add cumin and ground coriander.

                          Now we've gotten pretty far away from basic sazon, but you have a recipe for it, plus the adobo seco, a marinade (adobo mojado,) recaito, arroz con gandules and the mojo dip for tostones. Here's a link for Daisy's sofrito and now you have much of the basic seasoning for Puerto Rican dishes. If you get these down, pretty soon you'll be honorary Puerto Rican:

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        What? I had no problem with it, at the time of my post in March or just now. Maybe it was under reconstruction when you tried it.

                    2. re: venividibitchy

                      You need to also use "sofrito" which is also very easy to make at home. Go to YouTube and search Puerto Rican sofrito.

                      1. re: venividibitchy

                        Sofrito and sazon. Recaito is the store bought sofrito. I make my own sofrito.

                      2. re: bushwickgirl

                        There are different Sazon Goyas, and only one has annatto. I prefer the one with azafron. It also has tumeric, cumin, oregano. Are we sure the OP wants the one with annatto?

                        1. re: RGC1982

                          Honestly, I'm not sure which Sazon is used for which purpose/dish. Comprehensive knowledge is more helpful.

                          The one with azafron would be more useful for something like paella, or to season meats, I'm guessing?

                          And the one with culantro and achiote for rice and bean dishes?

                          1. re: venividibitchy

                            Something like that. The achiote colors the rice yellow. The saffron sazon works the same way, with a pinch of "saffron" flavor, but more for color, with the tumeric. I would use real saffron in my rice recipes rather than the sazon. It's a personal taste thing.

                            Sazon is used to ramp up flavor, as I would use it, say, in Sancocho (mixed meats and root veggies stew) or chicken guisado (stew.)

                            Actually, bean dishes are made with sofrito or recaito, plus calabaza (Carribbean pumpkin,) depending on the bean, but I throw sazon with achiote and coriander in the pot for extra flavor and color or put some in basic American style beef stew. If you make the sazon mix posted above, you don't have to use the achiote or paprika if you don't want the color.

                            Goya has a no-salt variety of sazon on the market now, too.

                            In a pinch, I use Goya frozen sofrito or recaito. I don't like the stuff in the jar. I use it up pretty quickly, as I tend to cook big pots of beans, rice, stews, etc. when I go the PR cooking route. If you make sofrito or recaito, you can freeze it in smaller quantities, approximately 1/2 cup portions, so no spoilage.

                        2. re: bushwickgirl

                          I used your sazon recipe for arroz con gandules last night, it worked really well. I did not have achiote, so used paprika plus a bit of turmeric. Fortunately, I had some fresh recao/culantro, so I added the chopped stems with the rice, and chopped leaves at the end of the cooking. The fragrance was very similar to what you get with the Goya packet- and no MSG!
                          Thank you for posting this.

                          1. re: emmerlee

                            You're very welcome, I'm glad it worked out and thanks for bringing this thread up again!

                          2. re: bushwickgirl

                            When I make sofrito I add lots of culantro then freeze in ice-cube trays. I fry thawed cubes of sofrito in achiote oil before adding the sofrito to the dish I'm cooking. Annatto seeds steeped in warm olive oil is the achiote and cooked with a really good sofrito is far superior to sazon. Check out You can order culantro seeds, aje dulces chile seed and more at Ngo gai is the Vietnamese name for culantro so any Asian market should have it.

                            1. re: bushwickgirl

                              thanks a bunch!! I have become hypersensitive to msg t the point that if I have anything with msg at night, I will not sleep. THANKS!!!

                              1. re: bushwickgirl

                                So helpful! I can't wait to mix some together to have on hand. Thank you! Unite against MSG! :)

                              2. Goya Adobo is just as much msg, if not more
                                But a search on 'goya adobo msg' turned up a couple of options:
                                Someone trying to reduce sodium intake
                                and link to a home made sazon recipe
                                This last link effectively claims that sazon is a shortcut to making the classic sofrito, the basic onion, pepper, cilantro, etc flavor base (but see the sidebar comments). That in turn has Spanish roots (and a cousin to French mirpoix).

                                1. Okay, so it's not as cool as making your own sazon, but Badia, one of Goya's competitors, makes a comparable product sans MSG. You can buy it on, but it's cheaper at Food Lion.


                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: msseay

                                    But it has D&I, Disodium Guanylate and, Disodium Inosinate, related sources of glutamates.


                                  2. I found this recipe online. Hope it helps!

                                    Home made Sazon Goya con Azafran

                                    Combine 1 Tablespoon of each of the following:

                                    Black peppercorns, toasted and ground
                                    Garlic powder or granulated garlic
                                    Culantro, dried or toasted and ground coriander seed
                                    Cumin seed, toasted and ground
                                    Oregano, dried
                                    Annatto (achiote) seeds

                                    Mix ingredients together well and use 1.5 teaspoons for each packet of the Goya Sazon your recipe calls for.

                                    1. The main ingredient in Sazon is Azafran which is Mexican Saffron. You might want to try that alone. The rest is garlic powder, and cumin, which are both common. The Saffron is expensive, but a tiny bit goes a long way !!! Adobo is a combo of garlic powder and other Spanish flavor.... Not a substitute for Saffron at ALL !!!!!
                                      When using Mexican Saffron, or any Saffron, you only need a tiny amount !!! TINY !!!
                                      You need not be Puerto Rican, Spanish or anything else to enjoy cooking with Saffron !!!!!
                                      Good Luck !!!

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: mommajozy

                                        There is no Mexican saffron. Saffron is grown and picked in Spain so it is a Spanish spice not Mexican.

                                        1. re: mommajozy

                                          Mexican saffron does not exist. Actually what imparts the orange color is Achiote, which is not close in taste to saffron. You can certainly make your own Sazon with saffron by mixing your own spices. Badia makes a low grade saffron which is not overly expensive.