Monday, April 21, 2014

Homemade Taco Seasoning is simple, economical and healthier





Sometimes I forget how much I take for granted. I grew up in a household that, even in the leanest of economic times, was still centered around the dinner table. I remember helping mom with the preparation of the evening meal and we ate together as a family nearly every night (except for those times that dad took on night jobs to make sure he could make ends meet). Simple, satisfying Mexican and Italian dishes were the norm. A little of this, a little of that, I learned to cook intuitively and picked up the habit of having several dried herbs in the pantry. Making moles, salsas, chile colorado, enchilada sauce, ranchero sauce and taco seasonings from a collection of items already in our pantry was just the way it was done.

Ingredient lists of popular taco seasoning packets list items hard to pronounce,
are high in sodium and contain questionable "natural flavors."

One of the meals we always looked forward to was mom's interpretations of Taco Bell's Burrito Supreme. I know, I know. Taco Bell is not real Mexican food but that's why we liked it so much. Crunchy tacos in those weird hard taco "shells"? Burritos with olives and sour cream? They were so different from our family's traditional Mexican cooking that it was always such a treat.

Buying seasoning from the Mexican aisle at your local market will prove to be much more economical.
Here, these packets averaged me .79¢ each.

Mom's homemade versions allowed us girls to customize our fillings. I always preferred to let mom make my burrito because it wasn't exactly like Taco Bell's version -- it was better!

Taco seasoning packets didn't enter my consciousness until college when I was hundreds of miles away from home and wanted a taste of mom's cooking. After college, when I was able to set up my own house and cook in my own kitchen, I went back to my roots and slowly started to grow a collection of spices and herbs in my own pantry. Being a budget conscious shopper, you quickly realize that those convenience packets add up. It's often less expensive in the long run to buy the individual ingredients and make your own seasoning mixes. Especially if you can find the ingredients in bulk bins or, as I often do, in the ethnic aisles of your local grocery store or ethnic markets.

In addition to the economic savings, making your own seasoning mixes at home allows you to control the ingredients. Have you read the back of some of those convenience packets? They're filled with tons of sodium, generic "chile powder" and often contain animal by-products in the form of "natural flavors." Yeast, sugar, milk are often thrown into the mix as well.


I've finally written down the combination of spices I use when I make my own "crunchy" tacos and Burrito Supremes at home and thought I'd make it in bulk this time to share here with you. Some of the ingredients you'll already have in your spice collection. The ones you don't, I suggest seeking them out in the Mexican aisles of your local market. A 1 ounce packet of ground cumin, for example, will average about .79¢ to .99¢ depending on brand whereas the equivalent amount in a glass spice jar can run you close to $3. You're paying for the larger footprint packaging!

Give this seasoning a try as is the first time then feel free to adjust the heat or other ingredients to taste. My version is low on the salt amount as I prefer to adjust the salt levels towards the end of the cooking process to taste. So be sure to taste the cooked meat and add more salt if you prefer your food salted a little more generously.


ANI'S HOMEMADE TACO SEASONING

Feel free to adjust heat to taste. 
Yield: about 1 cup
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INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons New Mexico Chile Powder
2 tablespoons Pasilla Chile Powder
2 tablespoons California Chile Powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon fine ground black pepper
½ teaspoon cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon arrowroot 
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DIRECTIONS

1. Add ingredients to a glass jar, cover and shake well to combine ingredients.
2. Label jar. Will keep in a cool, dry space for 8 - 12 months in an airtight container.


    TO MAKE TACOS
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    1. Partially brown ground beef, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon.
    2. Sprinkle in 1 teaspoon of seasoning mix per ½ pound of ground beef, or to taste. 
    3. When meat is cooked, add ¼ cup water per ½ pound of beef to create a meat sauce. 
    4. Taste. Adjust water, salt and taco seasoning to taste.

    Enjoy!
    Until next time friends,
    ¡Buen Provecho!
    Ani

    7 comments:

    1. Ani, your pics are stunning, as always.
      I love the idea of mixing your own taco seasoning. I'm like you - I always look at the ingredients list and avoid things that have chemical names I don't recognize as natural or can't pronounce.

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    2. Thank you, Colette! I hope you had an awesome Easter. :)

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    3. Thank you for sharing this recipe! I always buy the premade taco seasoning or just half ass it with some cumin + chili powder + garlic + oregano. Will be great to have this on hand, we make tacos A LOT. Haha.

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    4. You are most welcome, J.S.. I know what you mean about making a lot of tacos. I do too! Happy Tuesday!

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    5. Thanks for this recipe! I had to hunt down some of the chile powders but it was worth it.

      By the way, your photo of ingredients has onion powder but it's not listed in the written list of ingredients - is it about a teaspoon?

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      Replies
      1. Oh my goodness. I'm going to fix that right now. It's 1 tablespoon of the onion powder. Thank you for alerting me!

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    6. What a fantastic recipe! Homemade seasonings are the best and I love the different spices you used in this blend!

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