Gullah (GULL-ah) seasoning is a flavorful, aromatic seasoning blend. It is also called Gullah spice or Gullah-Geechee spice.
What is Gullah Seasoning
Gullah Seasoning is a blend that originated among the communities on the coastal islands and the swampy low country of America’s southern seaboard, which encompasses North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. It is herbal and aromatic, enlivened with black pepper but has no spicy, chile pepper heat.
What Does Gullah Seasoning Taste Like
Gullah Seasoning is sweet and mild, and delivers terrific herbaceous flavor. It opens with the gentle grassiness of green bell pepper, which is lifted by the slightly bitter perkiness of celery seed. Tomato powder, allspice, and mace give rich depth while sage and thyme float along the top. The bold, aromatic flavors of garlic and onion create the backbone of this blend, which is rounded out by the piney heat of black pepper and the bright pops of salt.
How Do I Use Gullah Seasoning
Gullah Seasoning is a great blend to use with beans, chicken, and seafood. Use it with traditional Gullah favorites like shrimp & grits or the long-simmering black-eyed pea stew, hoppin’ John. It’s right at home in a Frogmore stew, which is another name for the Low-Country Boil. Stir it into the bread crumb topping for a Southern spin on Herb-Crusted Tilapia. Use this in a Crab and Corn Chowder or Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup. Swap out Cajun seasoning and replace it with Gullah for a mellow take on Crispy Cajun Chicken. Cook with rice, sausage, and seafood for fragrant Gullah Crab Fried Rice.
What Can I Substitute for Gullah Seasoning
You can substitute Low Country Boil Seasoning for Gullah Seasoning, but the Low Country seasoning is considerably more complex. You could also consider Gulf Coast Bay Seasoning, but bear in mind it’s much more spicy thanks to the inclusion of cayenne and mustard.
The History of Gullah Seasoning
The word “Gullah” applies to a great many things. It’s the Creole language—the mashing of two or more distinct languages into a new language—of the people that live in the swampy coastal areas and on the barrier islands of North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. It is also used to describe Gullah speakers, as well as their culture, traditions, and food1.
It’s thought that the word “Gullah” is derived from a contraction of Angola—N’Gullah—a country on the western border of Africa2. Slave traders would often collect their cargo from the “windward coast” of Africa, and while Angola was but one of those countries and further down the African coast from most of the other prime target regions, it’s widely accepted that this is the source for the collective name for the coastal slaves3. West coast Africans were desirable because that is a large rice-growing region of Africa, and in the late 17th century South Carolina plantation owners began planting rice and finding it profitable. The rice plantations grew wildly successful thanks to the knowledge carried over by the slaves, who were able to navigate the swampy, mosquito-riddled land to coax temperamental and somewhat fragile rice out of the ground4.
The Gullah people were also given an unusual amount of freedom in comparison to other slave holdings in the south. Plantation owners were scared of contracting malaria so they would leave in summer to escape the mosquitos; west Africans often expressed an immunity to malaria and did not immediately display fever or fatigue, though the flip side of this immunity comes with an increased tendency to have sickle-cell anemia5. Still, the regular departure of the slave owners gave the Gullah communities the opportunity to retain their traditions and practices. Many of the characteristics of Gullah cuisine, which includes things like one-pot cooking or deep frying, maximize the flavors that can be pulled out of available ingredients. Their cooking methods, when paired with the strategic employment of seasonings, create signature Gullah cuisine and have been handed down across the generations6.
Gullah language, recipes, and traditions are not written, they are entirely preserved and passed along by word of mouth. It may be a way for the Gullah cooking practitioners to set themselves apart; word of mouth knowledge inherently limits who has access to the finer points of a recipe or full knowledge of traditional techniques, and Gullah cooks will assert that their cooking is sort of Southern, but different7. Gullah as an overall cultural aesthetic is endangered. Young people have been resistant to immersing themselves in the knowledge their seniors had, opting to move to cities or live and work in newly developed properties, rather than their family’s homesteads, and traditional practices like sewing nets and weaving baskets from sweet grass attract less and less new artists. Some songs and traditions died with the elders. Some social scientists think this is a new phase in the life of Gullah, which was borne from the mashing—willfully or not—of ethnic groups. Others think that Gullah can be retained, so long as they can convince the younger generations to embrace the culture, hold on to their property and not sell to developers, and purposefully, thoughtfully, give reverence and respect to their heritage8.
What Is The Difference Between Gullah and Geechee
In recent years, the line between Gullah and Geechee has been blurred, or even erased. Historically, Gullah referred to the slaves who lived in the coastal swamps and barrier islands of North and South Carolina. The Geechee were also slaves, but tended to live in the coastal areas and sea islands along the Georgia and Florida coasts9. As mentioned in the previous section, “Gullah” most likely was derived from the word Angola. “Geechee” refers to the populous plantation region along the Ogeechee River in Georgia10; there was even “freshwater Geechee” or “salt water Geechee” to further clarify where along the river a particular person came from.
|Ingredients||Granulated green pepper, celery seed, tomato powder, garlic, onion, sage, thyme, salt, pepper, allspice, mace|
|Also Called||Gullah spice, Gullah-Geechee spice|
|Recommended Uses||Use on chicken or fish, and in sauces, soups, and stews|
|Flavor Profile||Aromatic and flavorful, with no spicy heat and a mildly bitter finish|
|How To Store||Airtight container in a cool, dark place|
|Shelf Life||6-12 months|
|Country of Origin||USA|
|Dietary Preferences||Gluten Free|
Hungry For More Information?
1, 9. SCIWAY Staff. (2022). SC African American heritage – gullah culture, language, traditions. Gullah Culture, Language, Traditions: SC African Americans. Retrieved March 24, 2022, from https://www.sciway.net/afam/sc-gullah-heritage.html
2, 4, 8. Tibbetts, J. (2000). Living soul of gullah. Coastal Heritage, Vol. 14, Number 4, Pp. 3-11, Charleston, SC: South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://www.scseagrant.org/living-soul-of-gullah/
3. Jarrett, C.W. (2003). Connecting with the soul of a community: An interactive study of Gullah culture. Journal of Intercultural Disciplines, Vol. 4, Pp 21-37, Columbia, SC: Benedict College. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.602.2667&rep=rep1&type=pdf
5. National Parks Service Staff. (n.d.). NPS ethnography: African American heritage & ethnography. National Parks Service Park Ethnography Program. Retrieved March 25, 2022, from https://www.nps.gov/ethnography/aah/aaheritage/lowcountry_furthrdg5.htm.
6. Arts Midwest Staff. (2020). Gullah history & culture study guide. Arts Midwest World Fest. Retrieved March 25, 2022, from https://www.artsmidwest.org/sites/default/files/worldfest/studyguides/Gullah%20History%20and%20Culture.pdf.
7. Beoku-Betts, J. A. (1995). We Got Our Way of Cooking Things: Women, Food, and Preservation of Cultural Identity among the Gullah. Gender and Society, 9(5), 535–555. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from http://www.jstor.org/stable/189895.
10. Sellars, L. M. G. (2021, April 3). Are you a Gullah or geechee? Lowcountry Gullah. Retrieved March 25, 2022, from https://lowcountrygullah.com/are-you-gullah-geechee-whats-the-difference/
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*