The Best Homemade Taco Seasoning. (with a SECRET ingredient!)
This homemade taco seasoning recipe has a pretty devoted fan base. One of my friends says she uses it like its her religion. Another couple of friends have given it away as neighbor gifts for Christmas. Everyone who tries it loves it as much as I do! It really is the best!
Why make taco seasoning into the first place?
I distinctly remember the moment (about a decade ago) when it occurred to me that taco seasoning mix at the grocery store contained (gasp) a lot of the spices I had in my cupboard, and I COULD MAKE MY OWN.
This was an exciting revelation to me. After looking at the ingredients of store-bought packets and noticing spice combinations of mexican/southwestern dishes that I make, I came up with my own homemade taco seasoning.
I like it because it has a lower salt content than most store-bought brands, no fillers, and no MSG. (Some brands don’t have this anyway. Nice job!) So, it’s perfect if you’re into clean eating or trying to make some gluten free taco meat. It’s dairy free, too, but most taco seasoning is. I think. Who knows, these days?
Oh, and it’s cheaper this way. I made a big mason jar of it for a lot less than spending $1+ per packet. Gotta love frugality. If you don’t have a cabinet shelf dedicated to storing mason jars (ahem) just store it in an airtight container.
This is one of the oldest and most beloved recipes on my site. I decided to give it a makeover because it deserved some nice photos. And more poetic love.
[Insert “Ode to Homemade Taco Seasoning” — someone has one, right? I’m SO not a poet, so don’t look at me.]
What’s in taco seasoning? + My Secret Ingredient
If you scan the list of ingredients and think, “What the. . . cocoa?!” I’m not crazy, I promise — cocoa is no stranger to Mexican cooking (think mole). It makes the flavors richer, but it doesn’t make your tacos taste like chocolate, I promise.
Most taco seasoning has familiar, common spices, too, like chili powder, onion powder, and a little cayenne pepper. I think the addition of cocoa powder adds something special, though.
You can use this blend in any recipe that calls for taco seasoning, and it turns out just as good, if not better, than a taco seasoning packet.
Most of the time I layer it right into a mason jar, take a photo of it, and post it on Instagram with the hashtag #spiceblendsandart. If you happen to think this taco seasoning deserves some Insta love, tag me @perrysplate and use my hashtag!
Ways to customize your Homemade Taco Seasoning
- Adjust the thickener: Taco seasoning packets usually have some kind of thickener, like flour. You can make it gluten free really easily by using corn starch or potato starch. And make it paleo or Whole30 compliant by using arrowroot or tapioca flour. Or just omitting the thickener entirely and making it truly keto friendly. It makes this blend more potent that way, so use less seasoning if you go that route.
- Vary the seasonings: I played around adding smoked paprika in this, but I liked it better without. If you want a blend that’s smokier, try my Chorizo Seasoning. You could also play around with different types of chili powders. Have you ever tried ancho chili powder? It’s pretty amazing.
- Make it spicier: By all means add some crushed red pepper flakes or more cayenne powder to give this more kick. Ground chipotle powder is super good, too.
- Make a lot. Or make a little: When it comes to homemade spice blends, I like to fill a mason jar. But if you just want to give it a try, I included a scaled down recipe below to season one pound of ground meat.
My favorite part about making spice blends is stirring (or shaking) it all together. My little 4-year-old was sitting next to me, begging to stir up my spices. Why do the littles always arrive when you’re at the “fun” phase of dinner prep? Or baking? Sometimes I let them do the fun parts if they help me clean up.
The sacrifice of being a mother, right?
You can find more homemade spice blends in the Baking Mixes & Spice Blends section of my Recipe Index!
Just for reference, you’d need about 2 Tablespoons of the taco seasoning to season one pound of ground beef. (Or ground chicken/turkey/pork.)
To make enough to season roughly 1 pound of ground meat:
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons tapioca or arrowroot flour/starch
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
To make about 1 cup of seasoning:
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 2 Tablespoons tapioca or arrowroot flour/starch
- 4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 4 teaspoons dried oregano
- 4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- Combine all well and store in an airtight container.
- Use 2 Tablespoons of seasoning plus about 1/3-1/2 c water to season about 1 pound of ground meat for tacos. (Depending on how strong and saucy you like it.)
- If you'd like it spicier double the amount of cayenne pepper.
- Feel free to leave out the tapioca/arrowroot. I like it because it thickens the sauce in my taco meat when I add a little water. It's not necessary though, but if you leave it out, keep in mind that it'll be more concentrated.