What Exactly Is in Poultry Seasoning?

Let’s spice things up.

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Poultry seasoning sounds too all-encompassing to be true. One seasoning for your chicken, duck, quail, goose or, yup, holiday turkey? Well, as anyone who’s ever started prepping that Thanksgiving bird, only to realize that they forgot to buy poultry seasoning can attest: the right poultry seasoning can make your bird.

The aromatic blend typically includes sage, thyme, celery seed, marjoram, black pepper and nutmeg, and is an all-in-one way to season your turkey. But it turns out that poultry seasoning can spread its wings to include different flavor profiles and spice up all manner of Thanksgiving dishes.

There are great options for poultry seasoning available for purchase, but if you make it yourself, you give yourself the option to customize the flavor profile to suit not just your palate, but the dishes and wines you plan to serve.

Making your own poultry seasoning is super easy — use our Homemade Poultry Seasoning recipe as a base, then tweak ratios or add and subtract spices based on your flavor preferences (optional cayenne pepper, for example).

If you’d prefer to leave the blending to the experts, using a premade poultry seasoning blend, whether you buy it or make it, can help ensure turkey-day success. Lior Lev Sercarz, the spice wizard behind NYC spice shop La Boite and author of the book Mastering Spice, likes using blends because they save time and have the proper balance of flavors (provided there’s no added salt). James Grogan, director of operations at Spicewalla, a small-batch spice blend company founded by Asheville chef Meherwan Irani, seconds that notion. “We spend a ton of time developing and testing recipes for spice blends so one of the inherent advantages of using something that is pre-mixed is that it's a tried and true way to have a great outcome,” he says.

Though Spicewalla has a classic Poultry Seasoning blend made with sage, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, nutmeg and black pepper, the culinary team loves experimenting with other proprietary blends to bring a different and nuanced flavor profile to birds, playing with balsamic vinegar powder, za’atar and other additions. Sercarz likes switching things up by using a blend of dried Persian lemons, basil, garlic and cardamom to bring a burst of acidity and impart both floral and herbal notes.

Don’t limit yourself to turkey — poultry seasoning is also a powerhouse player in your spice pantry that can really spice up your Thanksgiving spread. “Whatever spice blends you use for your turkey or other roasted birds can and should be used for your sides and even desserts,” Sercarz says.

Poultry seasoning is a natural addition to Thanksgiving stuffing. But it can also spruce up classic roasted vegetables (think Brussels sprouts, carrots and potatoes). For apps and salads, try mixing a tablespoon of poultry seasoning with Greek yogurt to make a dip for a crudité platter, or whisk some seasoning with lemon juice, salt and olive oil to make salad dressing. Take things sweet by sautéing apple wedges with butter, honey and poultry seasoning until golden and serve the lot alongside a cheese plate. Grogan sees using poultry seasoning in a compound butter to serve with Parker House rolls, or even in a morning-after-Thanksgiving quiche. Or use it to bolster chestnut-studded corn muffins. For a homey recipe full of chicken flavor, stir it into chicken pot pie soup.

No matter how you use it, poultry seasoning is a versatile addition to the spice rack that’s great to use beyond the bird.

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