This homemade taco seasoning recipe is designed to keep you away from the dreaded seasoning pack that most of us grew up with.
It's also an easy way to avoid MSG and any other additives that go by the name of why-is-this-in-here?!!
You'll get greater control over the sodium level too and that alone is reason to come up with a version you can always default to when there are mouths to feed and tacos are on the menu.
Homemade Taco Seasoning Recipe
Most likely you already have all the spices you need to whip up this impromptu seasoning.
Here's what we're using:
A few things to mention about these ingredients...
Try to start with some pure chili powder. Unfortunately if you look at the label on most store-bought chili powders it will look something like this:
So yes, most chili powders are already a blend and you'll get an instant upgrade in flavor if you start with pure chili powder. I use these chili powders but you can find a good equivalent in most grocery stores these days -- just check out the ingredient list and confirm it isn't loaded with other ingredients. You can also use some homemade chili powder if you have dried chilis on hand.
I know some of you out there aren't big cumin fans. As proportioned, the final mix does have a healthy burst of cumin. Feel free to lower the amount if you want the cumin to slowly exit stage left.
And most importantly, the salt level is designed to be on the threshold of 'just barely enough'. Depending on the fat content of the meat you're using, you'll be well served to give a final taste for salt level. I usually add a bit more.
If you're taking the time to gather all the ingredients, I think it's easiest to make a big batch so you'll have plenty of leftovers for next time. You can store it in an airtight container along with your other spices.
So if you quadruple the above pic you'll end up with a heaping half cup of lively taco seasoning (approx. 10 tablespoons).
1/4 cup pure chili powder
4 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
You'll need about 3 tablespoons of this taco seasoning for a single pound of ground beef.
I used a half pound of ground beef for this batch, so after browning the beef over medium heat and draining out the fat I added 1. 5 tablespoons of seasoning along with a healthy splash of water (approx. 1/3 cup).
Mix well and simmer over low heat.
Once combined, take a taste for salt level. I added another generous pinch to this batch.
You're left with a fiery batch of meat that you can use in all sorts of tacos and burritos. And the best part? You know what's in it!
Keep in mind that this seasoning will likely develop an inferiority complex when compared to the seasoning in our chipotle bomb Ground Beef Tacos.
That version uses fresh ingredients and it's hard for spices alone to develop a similar flavor.
But you'll be pleasantly surprised how much flavor you can get just by combining a few key spices that are sitting around in your pantry waiting to jump to life.
Try coming up with a version that suits your taste buds and you'll forever sever the link to those dreaded seasoning packs. Finally!
Homemade Taco Seasoning
- 1/4 cup pure chili powder
- 4 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
- 4 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and combine well.
- Use immediately and store leftovers in an airtight container.
- For one pound of ground beef, you'll need 3 tablespoons of the seasoning mix. After browning the ground beef, drain the fat. Add 3 tablespoons seasoning along with a heaping half cup of water. Mix well and simmer over low heat. Taste for salt level, adding another pinch if necessary.
You could also use this recipe for some Ground Beef Nachos.
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Thought I had the "packaged" spice but glad I didn't now. This is an excellent spice blend. Never buying the packaged spice again.
Thanks for sharing.
You sure like it salty! I made this once as directed, and it was very salty indeed. I still enjoyed it, but on my second go, I halved the salt, and I enjoyed it much more. I used pure chile powder too, no extra salt sneaking in there.
I grew up on Old El Paso taco seasoning mix, but I wanted to make my own and hoped that whatever I found was closer to authentic taco seasoning. I recently found this recipe and now it is the only taco seasoning recipe I make. I love it, and I make a double---or more---batch when I need to replenish my taco seasoning jar.
Hey thanks much for the feedback Lesley! Cheers.
I substituted crushed red pepper for cayenne, and the chili powder I used was as pure as you can get, chili’s that I smoked, dehydrated and ground up. And I I don’t know if it was the chili powder, but it was hot even for me that loves heat. Any suggestions to dull the heat?
Hey Mark! Hmmm it's always tough to go in reverse once a dish gets ultra fiery -- can I ask what chiles you started with for the chili powder you used?
When you say “1/4 c” chili powder, what are you referring too? The grocery store bottle with many additional ingredients, or specific plain/individual ground Chile’s?
Hi Lori! This is the second question I've gotten about that so I'll make a specific note of it in the recipe box, sorry for the confusion.
Try to use chili powder that's as close to pure as possible. I use 1/4 cup of these chili powders and they do not have any additional ingredients. You certainly don't need to use those exact chili powders as you can usually find something similar just by reading the ingredient lists in the grocery stores. Sometimes they'll be labeled as "pure" or "not a blend" or "New Mexican red chile", and if they do not have any additional ingredients then it should be a good starting point. Okay hope that helps a bit. Cheers.
This spice mix is just delicious! I made Just over two pounds of meat and used the entire amount. Thankfully I read the chili powder bottle and saw salt was a listed ingredient so I didn't add any additional. I tasted it when it was cooked and it was perfect. I had planned on making tacos but forgot the seasoning packs when I was shopping. I'm so glad I did. I'll never buy them again...and your right, I already had everything I needed in my pantry. Thank you so much for a Great recipe!
Thanks for the feedback Susan! I know, it's a little strange how many other ingredients are in those bottles eh?
I would have "never eva eva" thought to read the ingredients on my chili powder bottle. I buy what I thought to be an expensive pure brand out of San Francisco...."natural, salt free, gluten free, non-GMO, no msg, & irradiated." I am really disappointed in this company. And it ain't cheap! Wow, you are not only a great cook, but a terrific teacher...thank you for the education & sharing your knowledge!
Thanks Stephanie! It's surprising right? Not sure how it's become the norm for chili powders to contain so many other ingredients, but luckily it's easy to source out the real thing these days. Cheers.
With the 2x mixture left over from a 4x batch, I attempted to fix the recipe by adding 3T ea. of more onion powder, oregano, pakbrika, and 4T rounded by spoon of sugar to the remaining mix. After rinsing and draining the meat having the bad mixture, I added 1/4c water and just 3T of the new mixture, since meat retaind some of the original seasonings after rinsing. I was able to save the 4lbs of meat, but not tasting as good as I would have liked, but now I can at least eat it okay. I will try the new mixture on a fresh batch next month or so. Basically, 2x recipe above, add 3T more of onion powder, paprika, and oregano to fix up this batch of mix. Next time, cut salt, peper, and cayenne by half, 2x recipe, and add the additional amounts plus sugar. Next time I'll taste it before using. May still need to adjust it next time.
Made a batch of this 4x amounts. Used 3T/lb of ground beet and 3C water after browning and draining meat, and cooking down now. Almost done and tasted, it. Too salty. Too hot from cayenne, and I like hot. Hot not in balance. Mixture is not in balance. Too salty and too peppery.
Suggestion: cut the salt, pepper, and cayenne in half, and use 2T/lb of ground beef. Not part of the recipe, but maybe a 1tsp of sugar per lb of meat as well if you want the packet kind of taste of sweet. Also, I know there is onion powder in here, but maybe also dice up an onion to tame the balance better when cooking?
Thanks much for your notes Craig, sorry to hear about all the adjustments you had to make! Can I ask what chili powder you used? Sometimes traditional chili powder will be loaded with sodium and additional spices. I tend to use the pure chili powders any time it's called for as seen here:
Chili Powder Options
It also sounds like you might really enjoy a more natural seasoning using chipotles in adobo as seen here:
Ground Beef Tacos
Hope this helps a bit. Let me know if you have any other questions. Cheers.
This was spot on as to what I was looking for. Very similar to our favorite Mexican restaurant:) thank you so much
Thanks for the feedback Angie!