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Taco beef seasoning

Hey guys, what's a good mix of spices to add to your ground beef when you make tacos/Mexican food? I have always cheated in the past by using the "Taco Bell" seasoning packets from the store, but I'm trying to create something good.

I drain the meat and then add a little water and spices.

I have most of the normal spices on hand (s&p, cayenne, cumin, etc.) but what can make it really shine and be on a 1-10 scale of heat - about a 7 or so.

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  1. What ever you select as a spice mix, don't forget to add a little lemon (or lime) juice.

    1. A good starting point for a pound of meat as far as the seasoning goes
      3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
      2 tablespoons chili powder
      1 teaspoon ground cumin
      1 teaspoon ground coriander
      1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
      1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
      Plus table salt to taste.
      I prefer lime or cider vinegar, or depending on heat tolerance a little bit of the adobo sauce from some chiles in adobo.

      1. So, do you want to make Taco Bell-style tacos, or do you want to make real Mexican tacos? It sounds to me as if you want to make real tacos. That means no ground beef. I've lived in Mexico for nearly 30 years and have yet to see a taco made with ground beef.

        If not ground beef, then what?

        Try this:

        *Carne Deshebrada (Shredded Beef)*

        2½ pounds beef roast, or chuck
        1 small onion, sliced
        3 cloves garlic
        water to boil
        2 or 3 chiles jalapeño, slit open
        1 tbsp salt
        1 bay leaf
        juice of 2 limes

        Trim beef of bone, fat, and gristle. Cut into 3 to 4 inch pieces. Place in a
        saucepan with garlic and onion, cover with water. Add salt, and bay leaf. Bring
        to a boils, reduce heat and simmer until meat is tender. Drain; ( save broth for
        soups or other recipes ) shred meat while it is still warm.

        Generally speaking, the 'heat' in Mexican tacos does not come from the filling, but from the salsa you use. What you'll see at any taco stand or in a home kitchen is this:

        --choice of red or green salsa, and often avocado salsa
        --cooked beans, fresh from the pot (frijoles de la olla)
        --minced onion
        --grilled sliced onion
        --minced cilantro
        --sliced cucumbers
        --finely shredded cabbage
        --key limes to squeeze over the taco filling
        --salt, preferably sea salt, to taste

        Real Mexican tacos are made using soft (not crisp-fried) tortillas. You never see tacos in Mexico with sour cream, black olives, or shredded yellow cheese. Those are TexMex inventions.

        Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

        6 Replies
        1. re: cristina

          Thanks for the tips. I'm used to the Tex-mex style I guess, but I want to make something more authentic like Cristina posted. Thanks all!

          1. re: cristina

            That's sounds really good, I am going to try it. Do you have a recipe for a good green salsa? TIA

            1. re: paprkutr

              *Salsa Verde* (Green Salsa)

              1 lb tomatillos, husked and washed
              6-8 chiles serrano, stems removed, washed
              big bunch of cilantro, washed
              sea salt to taste

              Put the tomatillos and chiles in a big-enough pot and add cold water to cover. The tomatillos will float--don't worry about it.

              Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to a low boil and keep an eye on the tomatillos. As each one cracks open, use a slotted spoon to remove it to your blender jar. Some of the tomatillos may not crack, but most will. When you have put most of them in the blender jar, put the chiles in the blender with the tomatillos, add the tomatillos that have not cracked, add about 1/2 tsp sea salt, and blend until fairly smooth.

              A little at a time, add the cilantro to the blender jar. Blend until the cilantro is well chopped.

              Taste and correct the salt, adding more if you want more.


              Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

            2. re: cristina

              Thanks for your yummy post. Never have liked those impossible-to-eat crispy tacos.

              1. re: cristina

                Agreed Ground Beef tacos are mostly a gringo thing... mostly. In general, Mexicans feel grinding beef is a waste of meat that can be put to better use.

                However, what is a little more authentic is Picadillo.... which I guess is more of Cube steak than Ground meat but the end result is similar tiny balls of meat that can be seared/pan fried then braised.

                In Highlands Jalisco... Picadillo de Liebre (Finely Diced / Ground Hare in a complex spicey & spiced sauce) is a very common filling for homestyle tacos.

                The spices used would be Guajillos Chiles, Raw Onion, Raw Garlic, Vinegar, Salt, Black Pepper, Allspice, Dry Ginger, Fresh Thyme, Fresh Marjoram, Fresh Oregano, Fresh Spearmint, a little bit of Broth... blend it all to a fine paste... strain & add to the seared meat in the pot.

              2. Lately I've been using chopped garlic, chili powder, cayenne, chopped onion, chopped green chiles, and cilantro.

                1. In case y'all haven't used Search, my Gringo Taco recipe is here:
                  Definitely Not Mexican. Expensive, anonymous spice mixes Not Allowed :-).

                  A good topic discussing carne asada, the Real beef taco filling:

                  EDIT - sorry for waking up this old thread, I just noticed that new 'context sensitive' topic links are bringing up Old topics. Not good, Chow staff.

                  1. All of the ingredients listed on other posts are used and so is all-spice, chocolate, cinnamon, epazote and cloves. being careful not to overwhelm a dish with their strong flavors. One has to be very careful and not let dogs eat anything with chocolate. Vinegar is used in some dishes as is Coca Cola. Tamarind pod seeds being used is one of the great flavors (it's in Coke as well, giving it it's distinctive flavor) in some Mexican dishes. Coco Cola is used deep into Mexico, and has been for as long as it's been available down there, and since it has most of their native ingredients in it, sure, Coco Cola is authentic, just a bit more modern than some would like to see, but it's used ,and used heavily.

                    There are even recipes calling for a pigs foot, green olves and epazote to be cooked along along with the meat and usual seasonings to give a beef taco some extra zing.(I have to believe, these ingredients would work with other meats as well.) Cheese & many breads were a Spanish and French import so what is and isn't authentic is just a waste of time, as almost all ethnic dishes have foreign influnces..


                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Sandi.22street

                      Sshhh... you are ruining our effort to promote Mexican cuisine as a natural Slow Food heaven...

                      .... confirmed Coca Cola is used rather extensively as a seasoning. That IS the secret behind some of the most lauded Carnitas in Cotija, Michoacan (although there are purists in Uruapan who will disembowel those use it)

                      1. re: Sandi.22street

                        Meant to add, we used to eat in a restaurant in East Wilmington in California; a place established back in the mid 1930's. Cinco de Mayo. The people who started it were from Sonora, Mexico, and spoke no English whatsoever, and their food was Sonoran style, or so we were told by other Mexicans who could speak English.

                        Their taco's had the most unusual and best tasting filling I've ever had, and try as I might, I haven't been able to duplicate it. Close, but no gold star. Everything they made was special. The best. I know for special occasions they did have "Cabeza", but I don't know if they used it for their everyday fare for the Mexian workers who frequented the place. They did have fried taco shells. They put the precooked meat in the tortilla, put in toothpicks and then fried them on a griddle, or in a pan. Fried taco's are a regional thing. Not just Tex-Mex. It's the same for flour tortillas. It seems these were a Northern luxury which the Southern parts of Mexico didn't have for quite some time. Raisins are used as well as other fruits in the more productive regions, used in their meat dishes, simmering them in Coca Cola. The desert areas had a much different style of cooking.

                        Lucky Mexico, their cokes aren't being made with high fructose sweetener as ours are up here North of the border, they are still using sugar cane sugar, and it's being smuggled across the border by those wanting the old good flavor. High fructose is so bad for your health besides, and itj's even in most breads, it's in just about everything we eat these days. Gall bladder trouble? Watch for it in your diet then. Super bad for your health.

                        I enjoy some of the California Ranch style dishes like stacked up California Ranch style enchilladas, the crispest of corn tortillas (get the kind made with only corn, lime and water), layers of meat filling with has been cooked in a rich sauce (with or without Cocoa powder), sliced and whole black olives, tomato's, onions, lettuce, cilantro, cheese. Delicious.

                        1. re: Sandi.22street

                          Flour tortillas were certainly not a "luxury" unavailable in the South.

                          (1) Flour tortillas were invented by the Jewish settlers of Nuevo Leon who were trying to maintain their flat breads during a time of Inquisitions.

                          (2) The Arid North is less capable of growing corn, and more suited for Wheat. Most Mexicans see Wheat Tortillas as 2nd class... with Corn being the more desireable grain.

                          Fried Tacos are found just about everywhere in Mexico. Like you pointed out, there are no "Ready to be Stuffed, Uber Processed" Shells... you stuff a tortilla, fold it, put tooth picks & fry. Like I said you will find Fried Tacos everywhere in Mexico... they are just less ubiquitous & less important in Mexico then they are in Texas & Arizona.

                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                            I was going by what the Mexican kids I went to school with from the Sonora and Michoacan areas told me about flour tortillas. The Mexican's I knew from Michoacan hardly ever ate flour or fried tortillas, neither flour or corn, if at all. They did use flour ones for burritos, but they would tell us that they ate differently in Mexico, telling us that the food they served in their restaurants were nothing like what was on the menu's in the restaurants their parents owned.
                            The ones from Michoacan, always just heated up the corn tortilla and folded two of them around carnitas and other things they would be selling or eating. Often times the Mexicans in Southern California, the descendents of the farm workers on the large rancho's and land grants, would eat, using a triangle piece pinched off of a tortialla as a spoon or shovel of sorts, pushing it up into another piece of tortilla, which works just great..

                      2. It's good to heat the spices in a little oil, (being careful not to scorch them), just long enough to bring out their oils. I use lard or butter or even a little grapeseed oil. It's not enough of the "fat" to cause any harm, and it makes for a better richer flavor. I use cinnamon, cloves, tamarind pods, sometimes a bit of cocoa powder, cumin, corriander, epazote, a small bit of Mexican Oregano, and any number of types of chili powder. Then there's vinegar, I like to add it to meats, and soups.

                        Some dishes call for a pickled pigs foot and a green olive along with the epazote, and vinegar, all cooked along with the meats for taco fillings.

                        Usually, instead of water, for a richer flavor, I use chicken broth.