What’s Bell’s Seasoning?

What’s Bell’s seasoning explains the classic Thanksgiving spice blend that’s a must in the Northeast US. David Leite talks to us about why it’s so essential.

What is Bell's Seasoning?

Recently, I was gobsmacked—just gobsmacked, I tell you—when I mentioned Bell’s Seasoning to the LC staff. They all just looked at me. Dumbstruck. Bewildered. Confused.

They’d never heard of it.

When they asked what it was, all I could do was keep repeating, “Bell’s Seasoning.”

To me, Bell’s Seasoning is something so essential to Thanksgiving cooking, it defies definition. Or so I thought. Apparently, if you’re not a born and bred Yankee, Bell’s (that’s what we locals call it) might be unfamiliar. It has always been so elemental, so ubiquitous, so foundational to my turkey and stuffing, it’s one of a handful of entities known only by a first name, like Cher, Diana, Bette, Madonna, and Christ.

And it’s something you NEED to know for Thanksgiving.

What is Bell’s Seasoning?

Bell’s Seasoning is a poultry seasoning mix–a unique blend of herbs and spices concocted by William G. Bell in Boston in 1867. It consists of ground rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, marjoram, thyme, and pepper.

Is Bell’s Seasoning gluten-free?

Yes. And not only that, it’s vegan. Plus it contains no salt, preservatives, additives, or artificial ingredients. Clearly, Mr. Bell was waaaay ahead of his time.

What can I use Bell’s Seasoning on?

The better question is, what can’t I use it on? Of course, the first stop on Thanksgiving Day is the turkey. A generous sprinkling into a small bowl of melted butter is all you need to create an herbaceous baste for your bird. But don’t stop there. It’s great in stuffing–especially old-fashioned sausage stuffings such as Homemade Cornbread Sausage Dressing or Sourdough Dressing with Sausage and Prunes. And it wouldn’t be out of place in my godmother Dina’s Potato Dressing. It’s even pretty awesome in pumpkin soup and in that much-needed Bloody Mary just before the in-laws arrive for the holiday weekend.

Where can I buy Bell’s Seasoning?

If you live in the Northeast, you know where to get it. (In fact, I’ll bet dollars to Dunkin’ Donuts you already have a box in your cupboard.) If you visit the Northeast, I’m pretty sure you know where to snag a box, too. For the rest of you, allow me to rock your world. Originally published November 5, 2019.

Chat with us

Have a cooking question, query, or quagmire you’d like us to answer? Click that big-mouth button to the right to leave us a recorded message. Just enter your name and email address, press record, and talk away. We’ll definitely get back to you. And who knows? Maybe you’ll be featured in these pages or–just maybe–on our podcast, Talking With My Mouth Full.

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

Comments

  1. Well, how’s that for a memory!

    I haven’t thought about that in 50 years but that photo snapped me right back to my childhood in the Mid-Hudson Valley.

    I’m in SoCal now and I suppose I’d have a hard time coming up with Bell’s if I had to. But the truth is when I cooked my first Thanksgiving turkey it was for my then boyfriend’s family shortly after his mother died. I had NO idea what I was doing but I thought Simon and Garfunkel must have known something I didn’t so I got some parsley, some sage, some rosemary and some thyme and did what I could with them. Happily, one of their neighbors kindly talked me through the rest while she was getting her own dinner on the table.

    It all turned out well enough and I may have refined my timing and added some touches but “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme” worked for me then and works now. Still, I think that’s the exact same illustration from my childhood and it sure brings back memories I haven’t thought about in half of forever!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing that memory with us, Rainey. It’s truly incredible how powerful food memories can be. Even without Bell’s, we hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

      1. You’re absolutely right because I’m sure if I wanted to I could bring back the memory of the aroma of Bell’s as well.

          1. Dear Angie and everyone else the fresh market from North to the south and they pay taxes why give it to Amazon who is exempt from paying those taxes all of there stones

  2. Being a Jersey girl I grew up using it, and still use it to this day. Like you, I never realized it wasn’t available nationwide. One of the best things to happen to poultry, pork, stuffing and who knows what else you can use it on or in.

    1. We’ve heard so many others echo your sentiment, Jill. Makes you glad you’ve got access to it, right?

  3. My grandmother was from New York and introduced Bell’s to my mom in Canada. I now use it and have passed it down to my daughter…problem is ..we live in Canada and cannot buy it here. Have to rely on our friends across the border to bring it up for us.
    Love the product..in our family for over 100 years for sure!

    1. It truly is a fantastic product, Marylou. Here’s hoping it will be available in Canada one of these days!

    2. Maybe Walmart in Canada would have it?? I live in Vermont and I can get Bells at Walmart (actually got 4 for a dollar each after the holidays that I still am going through). I love the stuff even on tofu to give it a poultry like flavor. When I lived in Virginia and would see the little box around the holidays I would wonder, “what is that stuff?”

  4. When I moved to FL from New England many, many years ago (like over 40 years ago), I couldn’t get it anywhere, so I’d either pick some up on one of my trips up to visit family or have one of them mail me a couple of boxes. Now I can get I locally, (although only seasonally) here in the south, but thank goodness I can always find it on Amazon. Thanks, Mr. Bell for creating such a wonderful product!

    1. I’m so glad you’re able to get it anytime now, Trish! Doesn’t quite feel like Thanksgiving without it.

  5. In Florida one can buy it in Publix’s right before Thanksgiving. It’s the best. Thanksgiving cannot be without it. One might as well not cook turkey or dressing, it is that essential. The aromas of Thanksgiving is Bells-from an old yank. Don’t be without it.

    1. The Publix in Merritt Island, FL, got in one shipment and have been out for the last month. I found some in a Winn-Dixie in Orlando this weekend.

    1. I definitely need to get my hands on some, Bunnieb. I’m one of the non-Yankee types mentioned in the post that has never heard it it.

  6. David, you’ve done gone and made me cry. I totally forgot all about Bell’s Seasoning, but reading your post, I find myself awash in memories of my mother’s kitchen in upstate New York. She never enjoyed cooking but was the designated hostess for the extended family’s Thanksgiving dinner for 15-20 people every year. Aside from salt and pepper, I can’t remember any spices in her kitchen other than Accent and Bell’s Seasoning. Bell’s was the secret ingredient in her inimitably delicious stuffing, which I was allowed to help with by chopping celery. Bell’s was the flavoring for her amazing 20-30 pound turkeys, which she cooked low and slow for hours, basting often. I miss that beautiful woman more than words can say, especially at Thanksgiving. I think I need to get a box of Bell’s. Happy Thanksgiving to you and The One!

  7. You make me smile, laugh, and give me a warm wonderful feeling all over. I love the way you write and the way you make me feel. Keep peace and love in your heart.

    Memere’s sausage stuffing is not complete without “Bell’s”. It makes my turkey and my belly happy. Gobble, gobble!

    1. My dear, dear longtime friend! (See how I didn’t call you old, Greg?!) Thank you. I wish you, your husband, and family a wonderful, loving, and delicious Thanksgiving! xo

  8. Best seasoning ever! I was introduced to Bell’s when we lived in New England and you said it – essential for the Thanksgiving holiday. My favorite is to add it to my stuffing. The company should promote it in the Midwest, too as many people have not heard.

    1. Penny, I agree! That is absurd. May I ask where you’re getting $74 for 3 ounces? If you follow the links I supply, the prices are $6.92 for one box and $4.33 each for three boxes.

  9. Happy to hear I am not the only one left who uses Bell’s seasoning. I Also love the little box with the turkey, although there is no way to seal it. It just sings Thanksgiving.

      1. I couldn’t find Bell’s in any stores this year. I actually went to a Walmart (now I feel dirty) that said they had it but they were out.

        Finally found some in a store 60 miles away. So I drove there this weekend, bought 6 boxes, and when I got home I individually vacuum packed each one and put them in my chest freezer.

        If there is a flavor for any pending apocalypse, it will be Bell’s.

          1. No. It’s not something I grew up with way down South. But thanks to LC, I tried it and vowed to never be without it.

  10. I have always thought, (known), that Bell’s is the secret to my damn delicious bread stuffing. I used to be able to get it out here in California. I will check ASAP. If that’s no longer possible, I will surely use your link. Thanks, David!

  11. I love this little box. My parents always made sure I had a box of Bells for my own turkey. Must have run out last year, so went to look in my local grocery store just last night and couldn’t find it anywhere!!! Bought regular poultry seasoning with a ton of fake stuff in it – returning that today! Thanks for the link!

  12. Love Bell’s! Bread stuffing recipe on the box is our ” secret family recipe”- lol. Seriously, great for beginners! Also, Bell’s is a must when making chicken or turkey soup.

      1. Yes, Mr. Bell was way ahead of his time. Besides being vegan and salt, gmo, and preservative free it come in an earth friendly box. Way to go, Bell’s!

  13. I’m also Gobsmacked–Gobsmacked I tell you, that anyone han’t known about Bell’s!! (I’m from Maine, and know G’smacked is an old Maine expression) 😁🦃

  14. Nope, never heard of it. I’ll check my local import grocer here in Mexico. Bet it’s good in chicken noodle soup.

  15. Here in Totoville we’ve never heard of Bell’s. Sounds interesting. I’d buy it just for the gorgeous package.

  16. I am thrilled to know it is still being made. My mother always used it. And we were based in central VA. Can’t find it where I live now but I can get friends who live in “the occupied territories” to get it for me.

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Upload a picture of your dish