Thursday, October 6, 2011

Taco Seasoning

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Spices aren't always cheap (although those huge ones at Sam's Club do make life a little easier on your wallet). But spices are our friends and we accept them as they are. However, those seasoning packets--they are not our friend (well, usually) and we need not accept them as they are. First of all, they're pricey--way more pricey than their plain spice brothers. Secondly, seasoning packets tend to be full of other stuff--stuff that is not spice, but chemincal otherness. Chemical otherness is not our friend. 

Speaking of both friends and chemical otherness: I have a friend with celiac disease. Several weeks ago she had a reaction from some food she ate. The culprit? Taco seasoning. Turns out it can have all kinds of funky stuff in it, including (sometimes) gluten. And other stuff too. Online I found the ingredient list for Old El Paso Taco seasoning. It doesn't have gluten. But the first ingredient? Chili? Onion? Peppers? Um, try maltodextrin. This is Old El Paso's list: Maltodextrin, salt, chili pepper, onion powder, spice, monosodium glutamate, corn starch, yellow corn flour, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, silicon dioxide (anticaking agent), natural flavor, ethoxyquin (preservative).

But wait, you don't have celiac disease and you find those packets so wonderfully convenient and you're sick and tired of my lame-o preaching. Um, sorry, I'm a mother of four and can't help myself. And yes, I realize that seasoning packets are very convenient. And time is money, right? Yes, right. But time is what you don't have to spend a lot of to make your own seasoning blends. It takes approximately 3 minutes. That's faster than you'll read through the ingredient list on one of those store-bought packets. Besides, I'm not saying you have to do it all the time. Although after you do it once, you might find that you want to do it all the time. It's super easy. It's super cheap. And you can customize your blends to your family's tastes. Furthermore you can make a lot in one swoop and then have all the seasoning "packets" you need for the next several months. Give it a try and see if you don't convert.

Taco Seasoning
adapted from allrecipes
Prep time: 2 minutes
Cost: $.10

1 Tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Mix everything up and store in an airtight container. 

Stir 2-3 Tbsp into 1 lb beef (depending on how strong you like your taco seasonings; we're a little weak around here).

I like to store mine in old baby food jars. Because I am a person of class and refinement.


  1. 1. "Because I am a person of taste and refinement" made my day. And it's only quarter after ten.

    2. I used that same recipe not so long ago and it's great. Sorry, I mean G-R-R-eat! Then I put it aside as a weekend project to do up a bunch and store in some tasteful and refined way, and haven't yet. So have in the meantime bought a few packets again. But I'm convinced.

    3. New Orangette post today! Yay!

    4. Your captcha just called me a "Cowa", which I'm pretty sure is an insult. What have you been telling it?

  2. I'm celiac too. Which ingredient on that list has gluten?

  3. The Mrs.--I didn't tell it anything; I swear.

    Jena--I'm sorry. I wasn't clear. The El Paso taco seasoning doesn't have gluten. It's the one I randomly chose to highlight for ingredients because I could get the ingredient list the easiest online. I don't know what brand my friend ate that gave her trouble--only that it was a type of taco seasoning. I'll clear it up in the post.

  4. I've been making my own taco seasoning for a few years... mainly because I don't like the way the packets taste. The recipe I use calls for cocoa, which is nice, but the main ingredient is actually flour. Obviously it could be left out because it's probably just for bulk, but I suppose it probably thickens up the hamburger juice and grease a bit. We generally use it with chicken though.
    I'm generally not feeding people with celiac disease, but I'll try to remember that if I ever do!

  5. Many taco seasonings use a thickener. In the El Paso ingredient list above, you'll notice corn starch. Also, with the instructions, they tell you to add 1/2 C water once the meat is browned. So you end up with slightly saucy seasoned hamburger. When I use mine, I just add it to the hamburger (and we use it on chicken too sometimes) and don't add water. I really like how it comes out, although if you wanted it saucier, you could add flour or corn starch. I'm not sure how much for the recipe above, although I'm guessing 1/2-1 tsp would thicken things plenty.

  6. Baby food jars seem like the perfect size to store spice mixes. Great idea. I'm with you, why buy taco seasoning when it's so easy to make.



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