What Spices Are in a Corned Beef Spice Packet? A Guide to Traditional Flavors

That tiny corned beef spice packet may be small, but it packs some seriously bold and aromatic flavors. If you’ve ever cooked corned beef and found yourself spice packet-less, you may have wondered what exactly gives those briskets their signature flavor.

The good news is that making your own corned beef seasoning blend at home is easy, as long as you have the right combination of spices on hand. Let’s explore the traditional spices used to give corned beef its distinctive kick.

Mustard Seeds

Mustard seeds are one of the core spices used in corned beef seasoning. These tiny seeds provide an unmistakable zing. Yellow and brown mustard seeds are most common, bringing both spicy heat and earthy nuttiness that pair perfectly with beef.

Mustard seeds are essential for giving corned beef that tangy flavor punch. When added to the corned beef cooking liquid, the seeds infuse the meat with a delicious mustardy essence.

Black Peppercorns

No corned beef spice blend would be complete without plenty of black peppercorns. Pepper delivers a bracing heat and sharp bite that offsets the richness of the brisket beautifully.

Cracked black peppercorns also contribute a burst of aroma that accentuates the other warm spices. Freshly ground pepper packs the most potent flavor, so try cracking peppercorns just before use.

Coriander Seeds

The warmth of coriander seeds gives traditional corned beef seasoning a lovely complexity. Coriander contributes citrusy and orange peel notes along with a subtle earthiness.

Use just the seeds, not ground coriander powder, for the best flavor. Toasting the seeds briefly before grinding helps intensify their flavor even more.

Bay Leaves

Bay leaves may seem humble, but they lend an aromatic backbone that ties all the spices together. The woodsy fragrance of bay leaves infuses into the corned beef as it cooks.

Whole bay leaves hold up well during extended braising. For convenience, crushed bay leaves can be used instead. Just avoid powdered bay leaf, which loses potency.

Allspice Berries

Tiny but mighty allspice berries offer an array of flavors at once – hints of cloves, cinnamon, and black pepper all rolled into one. This versatility makes allspice an excellent addition to corned beef spice blends.

The sweet-spicy notes enhance the beefy flavor of the brisket. Allspice’s warming complexity balances the other strong spices beautifully.

Anise Seeds

Anise seeds bring a sweet, licorice-like flavor to corned beef spice mixes. Just a pinch provides a nice counterpoint to the heat of the mustard and pepper.

Toasting the seeds before grinding helps release their essential oils for maximum aroma. A little goes a long way with anise’s pronounced flavor.

Red Pepper Flakes

For those who like some extra heat, crushed red pepper flakes turn up the spice factor. Red pepper’s bright, acidic punch contrasts the deeper warmth of black peppercorns.

Use red pepper flakes sparingly, as their heat can easily overwhelm. Start with no more than 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon per 3-4 pounds of brisket.


Ground ginger lends a lovely brightness and subtle bite. Along with its gingery zip, ginger adds hints of lemon and orange zest that pair deliciously with beef.

Ginger’s clean, lively notes keep the other robust spices from becoming too heavy. Just a pinch adds vibrance and harmony to the blend.

Optional Spices

In addition to the core spices above, creative cooks may add small amounts of other seasonings like:

  • Juniper Berries – Piney, gin-like aromas
  • Cardamom – Intense, resinous citrus spice
  • Cloves – Warm, rich and slightly medicinal
  • Cinnamon – Sweet spice and rich red-hots candy flavor
  • Caraway Seeds – Anise-like but more bitter and savory
  • Fennel Seeds – Licorice notes with more pronounced savory backbone

Go easy on bolder spices like cloves and cinnamon, as they can easily overwhelm. But a pinch adds lovely nuance.

How to Make Homemade Corned Beef Seasoning

Making your own corned beef spice blend is a cinch! Here are the basic steps:

Toast the whole spices. Quickly toast mustard seeds, peppercorns, coriander seeds, and any other whole spices in a dry pan for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. This intensifies their flavor.

Grind the spices. Pulse the toasted seeds and spices along with bay leaves in a spice grinder or mini food processor. Don’t overgrind into a powder – a coarse texture is best.

Mix and add ground spices. Transfer the ground spices to a bowl. Stir in any dried ground spices like ginger, coriander powder and red pepper flakes.

Simmer in the cooking liquid. Add a heaping tablespoon or two of the spice blend directly into the water when simmering your corned beef.

And that’s all it takes to make your own flavor-packed DIY corned beef seasoning at home. Adjust the proportions to your taste as you experiment.

How Much Spice Rub to Use on Corned Beef

When seasoning corned beef with a homemade spice blend, I recommend:

  • 1-2 tablespoons spice mix per 3-4 pounds brisket
  • Add half the spice mix to the cooking liquid
  • Rub the remaining mix directly onto the brisket before cooking

This infuses the meat with flavor inside and out. But feel free to adjust amounts to your taste. More spice equals bolder flavor.

Using Pickling Spice for Corned Beef

Many corned beef spice blends overlap with pickling spices. You can substitute a pickling spice blend, but a few adjustments may be needed:

  • Pickling spice doesn’t always contain mustard seeds. Add 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds.

  • The warmth of allspice, ginger and clove may be lacking. Consider adding a pinch of each.

  • Pickling spice can contain dill, celery seeds or red chili flakes. Omit if you don’t want their flavors.

Start with about 1-2 tablespoons pickling spice per 3-4 pounds corned beef. You can also create your own blend using your favorite pickling spice flavors.

Troubleshooting Homemade Corned Beef Seasoning

If your homemade corned beef spice rub ever disappoints, here are some tips:

  • Toasting whole spices intensifies flavor. Don’t skip this step!

  • Grinding too fine creates a peppery “dust” that overpowers. Keep some texture.

  • Too much heat from red pepper or cloves also overwhelms. Use a light hand.

  • For milder flavor, cut back on or omit red pepper, mustard, and cloves.

  • Letting the spice mix simmer in the liquid allows the flavors to fully develop.

The Best Way to Cook Corned Beef

However you choose to cook your corned beef, incorporating a flavorful homemade spice blend is key. Here is a basic corned beef cooking method:

  1. Rinse corned beef and trim excess fat.

  2. Place brisket in a large pot and cover with water or beef broth. Add your spice packet or rub.

  3. Bring liquid to a boil then reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer.

  4. Simmer approximately 2 1⁄2 – 3 hours until fork tender. Avoid boiling vigorously.

  5. Remove beef from pot and let rest 15 minutes before slicing across the grain.

The meat should be tender but still have some firmness. Don’t let it get mushy.

Creative Ways to Use Corned Beef Seasoning

Leftover corned beef spice blend has loads of delicious uses beyond brisket:

  • Season leaner cuts of beef like sirloin before roasting or grilling

  • Sprinkle on pork chops, ribs, or roasts for a flavorful crust

  • Add to canned chili, stews, baked beans or soup for extra vibrance

  • Use to rim a “Bloody Mary” cocktail or whisk into vodka for a “Peppery Mary”

  • Mix into ground meat for juicy burgers or meatballs with a kick

  • Coat salmon or tuna steaks for an instant flavor boost before searing

  • Stir into potato salad, coleslaw, or sautéed cabbage for a spike of spice

So don’t let that tiny corned beef spice packet limit you. Make your own signature blend and discover just how incredibly versatile these spices can be for infusing any dish with a warm, aromatic punch. Your cooking is about to get a whole lot more interesting!

In the Kitchen- Corned Beef Spice Blend


What is corned beef seasoning made of?

In America the packets usually have mustard seed, coriander seed, bay leaf, peppercorns. Some might have dill or pink salt (for flavor), or even a beef bouillon base for gravy. Most just have the seeds.

What if my corned beef doesn t come with a spice packet?

If it’s just that the packet was left out, toss in some peppercorns, dill, and salt, and it will taste “close enough.” I make “corned beef” this way during other times of the year when I can’t find it anywhere (i.e., any month other than March).

How does corned beef get its flavor?

The flavor profile often includes bay leaf, black peppercorn, mustard seed, dried red pepper and coriander. If that blend sounds familiar, it’s because it’s same list of spices that are packaged as pickling spice. Not surprising, since corned beef and pickles are commonly made in the same place: a deli.

What is corned beef packaged in?

In both the United States and Canada, corned beef is sold in cans in minced form. It is also sold this way in Puerto Rico and Uruguay.

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