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Homemade taco seasoning

fldhkybnva Aug 30, 2012 03:32 PM

I have recently started mixing up my own blend of taco seasoning instead of the packets which is not only 1) better tasting but 2) excludes the inclusion of random ingredients the purpose of which I can't seem to determine. However, I was wondering if anyone still adds cornstarch to the mix or would a good long simmer have the same effect. I ask because I have a relatively low carb/minimal starch diet and so would like to avoid it but was just wondering if it has that much of an impact. Thanks in advance.

  1. drongo Aug 30, 2012 03:41 PM

    Well, you didn't ask but here's what I use for taco seasoning:
    7 tsp paprika
    5 tsp onion powder
    5 tsp cumin
    3 tsp garlic powder
    3 tsp oregano
    2 tsp cornstarch
    2 tsp sea salt
    2 tsp cayenne
    0.5 tsp black pepper
    0.5 tsp red pepper flakes
    (Use 2-3 Tbsp of above mixture per lb of ground beef)

    If you don't want to include the cornstarch, I think it could merely be omitted. Or perhaps use some xanthan (or other) gum as a thickener.

    2 Replies
    1. re: drongo
      jjjrfoodie Aug 30, 2012 03:51 PM

      drongo, how many teaspoons or tablespoons of the dry taco seasoning do you add per pound of ground meat?
      Also, how much water (or other liquid if not water) is added per pound of ground meat after meat is browned / cooked through?


      1. re: jjjrfoodie
        drongo Aug 30, 2012 04:46 PM

        2-3 Tbsp per lb ground beef -- as in parentheses at end of my list of ingredients (which I don't claim to be original... I got them from somewhere!). Also (in addition to spices) per 1 lb ground beef, I use 1/2 cup tomato sauce, 1/2 cup chicken or beef broth, 1 tsp brown sugar, 2 tsp vinegar. Cooked in skillet for about 15 minutes.

    2. b
      beggsy Aug 30, 2012 04:18 PM

      The 'America's Test Kitchen' recipe for Beef Tacos is excellent. It does not include corn starch.

      1 Reply
      1. re: beggsy
        Sydneyeats Aug 30, 2012 04:49 PM

        Do you have a link? I'm a fan of their recipes but don't currently subscribe.

      2. s
        smtucker Aug 30, 2012 04:54 PM

        I can't imagine using cornstarch in taco seasoning. Experiment with a mix of herbs, peppers, and spices that you like and keep stored in your pantry in an air-tight container.

        3 Replies
        1. re: smtucker
          fldhkybnva Aug 30, 2012 05:25 PM

          How do you get it to thicken? Just simmer until water evaporated?

          1. re: smtucker
            drongo Aug 30, 2012 05:31 PM

            Cornstarch is quite common in tacos... e.g. see:

            1. re: drongo
              fldhkybnva Aug 30, 2012 05:37 PM

              that was my impression as well.

          2. TorontoJo Aug 30, 2012 05:35 PM

            Here's the recipe I use, which I'm pretty sure I got from someone here on the Home Cooking board:

            1 small onion, finely chopped
            3 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
            2 tablespoons chili powder
            1 teaspoon ground cumin
            1 teaspoon ground coriander
            1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
            1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
            1 Tbs tomato paste
            1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
            1 teaspoon brown sugar
            2 teaspoons cider vinegar
            Salt and pepper to taste

            No cornstarch, but everything simmers down to a nice consistency.

            1 Reply
            1. re: TorontoJo
              biondanonima Aug 31, 2012 10:07 AM

              That is the ATK recipe (except that they call for a 1/2 cup of tomato sauce instead of the tomato paste), which does look very good to me!

            2. fldhkybnva Aug 30, 2012 06:36 PM

              has anyone ever used xanthan gum as a thickener in taco meat?

              1. s
                sandylc Aug 30, 2012 06:57 PM

                Thickener is unnecessary. Throw in a lot of cumin, some ground ancho, some fresh garlic, and salt and pepper. Done.

                18 Replies
                1. re: sandylc
                  fldhkybnva Aug 30, 2012 07:08 PM

                  Any thoughts on why most commercial products include some form of thickener?

                  1. re: fldhkybnva
                    sandylc Aug 30, 2012 07:18 PM

                    To add bulk to the package and therefore make it look like they are giving you value for the money. It's called filler.

                    I have been seasoning my own taco meats for many, many years.

                    One hint: For ground beef filling, cook it with the seasonings, then throw the whole thing into the food processor and grind it finely, then put it back on the stove with just a bit of water and simmer it a bit more.

                    1. re: sandylc
                      fldhkybnva Aug 30, 2012 07:23 PM

                      Perhaps my problem is the water. I usually cook up 3 lbs of meat to keep some as leftovers. How much water should I add?

                      1. re: fldhkybnva
                        sandylc Aug 30, 2012 08:11 PM

                        None when initially cooking the meat. I only add just a bit after I have ground the cooked meat.

                        1. re: fldhkybnva
                          porker Aug 31, 2012 06:00 AM

                          Its your preference to the consistency you want and I assume it'll vary if you use a thickener. I usually add more water than needed and let simmer down. Sometimes, it gets too thick, so I just add more water.
                          Sometimes, it gets too dry and the pan gets bits stuck to it. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as adding water de-glazes the pan, reconstituting all that flavor back into the mix.

                          1. re: porker
                            kattyeyes Aug 31, 2012 06:03 AM

                            And do you know what's even more fun to cook with than water? BEER! :) Some for the tacos, some for the cook.

                    2. re: sandylc
                      Chi_Guy Aug 30, 2012 08:05 PM

                      Agreed, a few choice spices are all you need to season the meat. Especially the ancho chili powder - it adds a ton of flavor. I would add some Mexican (or regular) oregano to complete the spice mix above and maybe a little ground coriander.

                      1. re: Chi_Guy
                        fldhkybnva Aug 30, 2012 08:09 PM

                        What is different about ancho chili powder? Do I use the same amount of ancho as "regular?"

                        1. re: fldhkybnva
                          sandylc Aug 30, 2012 08:13 PM

                          This is a big deal. "Chili powder" is actually full of all sorts of things like salt, etc. Ground chiles, such as ancho, are dried, ground chiles ONLY. Don't ever buy "chili powder". Buy only ground chiles.

                          1. re: sandylc
                            fldhkybnva Aug 31, 2012 03:47 AM

                            OK great to know, but it's a 1:1 sub?

                            This is my usual mix:

                            4 tbsp chili powder
                            3 tbsp plus 1 tsp paprika
                            3 tbsp ground cumin
                            1 tbsp plus 2 tsp onion powder
                            1 heaping tsp garlic powder
                            1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

                            So do i just sub 4 tbsps ancho chili powder for the regular chili powder? It won't be too spicy?

                            1. re: fldhkybnva
                              kattyeyes Aug 31, 2012 04:20 AM

                              Not all chili powder contains salt. I've used Penzey's medium hot chili powder for years and would highly recommend it if there's a Penzey's anywhere near you. Of course, you can mail order it, too.


                              To my own taco meat, I add (also from Penzey's) ground ancho and chipotle chili peppers--among a handful of other ingredients including adobo, cumin, epazote, ground chocolate and cinnamon.

                              1. re: fldhkybnva
                                sandylc Aug 31, 2012 09:42 AM

                                I don't care for garlic powder or onion powder in taco meat - if I am flavoring it with onions and/or garlic, I put in fresh ones.

                                I'd start over if I was you, frankly. You don't need the garlic and onion powders, the cayenne, or the paprika.

                                Cumin, ancho, garlic, salt, pepper, and onion if desired will do the trick.

                                I don't have exact measurements because I just throw it in.

                                1. re: sandylc
                                  fldhkybnva Aug 31, 2012 10:21 AM

                                  OK I will omit and just season the meat with fresh onions and garlic. I think I understand the difference between ancho chile powder and chili powder but still wondering if it is a 1:1 substitution? As in they don't differ much in spiciness I imagine so just sub my usual chili powder for an equal amount of ancho chile powder? I'm very excited to try it out tonight with all of these very helpful suggestions

                                  1. re: fldhkybnva
                                    sandylc Aug 31, 2012 10:39 AM

                                    Ancho does have some heat and it is pure chili. I would start with less and then add more to taste.

                                    1. re: fldhkybnva
                                      jjjrfoodie Aug 31, 2012 11:48 AM

                                      Stop. Take a breath.

                                      If in the USA, chili powder is a mix of many spices including ground red chili peppers, cayenne pepper , salt and garlic powder along with other elements.

                                      So, you need to buy some dried anchos , toast them and then grind them. Then add to the mix with the chili powder (not chile powder, a'la the ancho powder )you already use. That gives you a base line.

                                      The traditional USA chili powder adds more than just chiles, so you need to make that flavor up somewhere.

                                      It's not a 1 to 1 swap if you are talking swapping commercial chili powder and pure ground ancho chili powder. Nor any other pure ground chili powder.
                                      Nope. Not gonna do it.

                                      Doing so is just plain bad culinary advice.

                                      1. re: jjjrfoodie
                                        sandylc Aug 31, 2012 12:35 PM

                                        One, pure ancho chili powder is widely available in the USA. It is of good quality and comparable to grinding your own.

                                        Two, the addition of other ingredients to chili powder in the US issue has been addressed.

                                        Three, no one has advised a one-to-one swap of these two products.

                                        I think you are the one who might need to take a breath.

                                        1. re: sandylc
                                          jjjrfoodie Sep 3, 2012 06:08 AM

                                          Dear Sandy;

                                          The OP asked this question:
                                          "OK great to know, but it's a 1:1 sub?"

                                          You, Sandy, suggested the substitution. BUT, you gave no guidleline as to how. much or if to substitute.

                                          Is ancho chile powder the exact same thing as commericial US chili powder? No.

                                          There will be a change in taste, flavor profile and end food product as a result.
                                          I was just pointing that out to the Op and the rest of the chowhounds.

                                          1. re: jjjrfoodie
                                            sandylc Sep 3, 2012 07:32 PM

                                            Actually, I told the OP to use less, if you look above.

                        2. porker Aug 31, 2012 06:03 AM

                          I haven't done it myself, but I see people using cornmeal or masa in chili to add texture. I assume this can be done for taco meat as well, but it likely doesn't help the low carb aspect.

                          1. fldhkybnva Sep 3, 2012 08:08 AM

                            Follow up - the tacos were great! I incorporated several of your suggestions - browned the meat with garlic and onions, ancho chili powder and Mexican oregano. Since I as not sure how much to use in substitute for the 1/4 chili powder I just did 2 tbsps ancho and 2 tbsps chili powder and it worked out great. It tasted similar to the usual as expected but with deeper flavors if that makes any more sense

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: fldhkybnva
                              kattyeyes Sep 3, 2012 08:12 AM

                              Nice! Yeah, it's tough to get rid of chili powder altogether since it's not just ground chilis. Sounds delish and yes, that absolutely makes sense--deeper flavors. :)

                            2. fldhkybnva Sep 13, 2012 05:27 PM

                              Given the dissenting opinion about garlic powder, I thought I'd try the recipe this week with fresh garlic. I imagine it's not a good idea to just add minced garlic to the seasoning mixture, any ideas of the best way to incorporate?

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: fldhkybnva
                                sandylc Sep 13, 2012 05:41 PM

                                I don't make a "seasoning mixture" - I just add everything to the browning beef, including pressed fresh garlic.

                                1. re: sandylc
                                  fldhkybnva Sep 13, 2012 05:48 PM

                                  Ok any idea on the substitution ratio?

                                  1. re: fldhkybnva
                                    sandylc Sep 13, 2012 06:02 PM

                                    I just put in one clove for a pound of ground.

                                    1. re: sandylc
                                      fldhkybnva Sep 13, 2012 06:22 PM

                                      OK, thanks will try that although I imagine one it's distributed the flavor might not be too different. We will see

                                      1. re: fldhkybnva
                                        fldhkybnva Sep 13, 2012 07:42 PM

                                        Also just out of curiosity/ignorance, if i were not to use fresh garlic would granulated garlic vs garlic powder make any difference? I've never actually used anything other than garlic powder but in a quick search discovered granulated garlic (not sure why this is such a new discovery for me). but have never used it. I imagine you just use more than you would for garlic powder and it's basically the same "different garlic flavor" as it's just a less ground form.

                                        clueless in taco/culinary land...

                                        1. re: fldhkybnva
                                          elkahani Sep 13, 2012 07:50 PM

                                          granulated is sorta like a minced version, fresh will carmalize and to some tasters sweeten up like a fried onion. the powder and dried retain the more uncooked flavor/oder. some granulated is available somewhat preserved in oil it's basicly like most precut veg not worth buying.

                                          1. re: fldhkybnva
                                            sandylc Sep 13, 2012 07:51 PM

                                            Garlic powder is simply ground more finely than granulated garlic.

                                            1. re: sandylc
                                              fldhkybnva Sep 13, 2012 07:59 PM

                                              so basically granulated and ground are the same thing, and should go fresh?

                                              1. re: fldhkybnva
                                                sandylc Sep 13, 2012 08:08 PM


                                2. e
                                  elkahani Sep 13, 2012 07:38 PM

                                  i found the best to be a fresh sofrito (garlic, peppers, tomato) adjust the pepers variety and type to the heat you like one tomatoe per pond of meat and 2-3 cloves garlic. salt to taste.

                                  the sofrito is why you don't get fresh tomatoes on your more authentic mexican resturant tacos it's in the salsa and sophrito.

                                  saulte the sfrito then brown the meat top with fresh cilantro lots make it green almost.

                                  get a tortia press and make a masa/ or whatevr the flour one is called and fry your own on a griddle

                                  now thats a taco.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: elkahani
                                    sandylc Sep 13, 2012 07:45 PM

                                    That sounds very nice, indeed. My take on the OP is that they were looking for an American-style taco, however. Both authentic Mexican tacos, of which there are a gazillion types, and American tacos, of which there is....um...one type, are good.

                                    1. re: sandylc
                                      fldhkybnva Sep 13, 2012 08:01 PM

                                      Yea, in the market for a typical American-style taco though this more traditional recipe sounds delicious and hopefully can try i tout.

                                    2. re: elkahani
                                      sandylc Sep 13, 2012 07:48 PM

                                      How many ways are there to spell sofrito?

                                      1. re: sandylc
                                        elkahani Sep 13, 2012 07:52 PM

                                        heh oops i just suck at grammer i think one is a bad translation or a more cuban version.

                                        1. re: elkahani
                                          sandylc Sep 13, 2012 07:54 PM


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