Taco Seasoning Mix

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It’s Tuesday folks and do you know what that means? It means that it is TACO Tuesday in our household! Tacos are in regular rotation around here, usually served as a taco bowl topped with fresh tomato, cilantro, guacamole, dairy free sour cream and, of course tortilla chips (Siete Foods and Thrive Market both have some great grain free chip options)

One positive that I hope is coming out of this period of self-isolation that we are all finding ourselves in, is that more people are cooking at home and realizing that preparing healthy meals with real ingredients CAN be done and that you feel better for it!

Healthier Taco Seasoning

So let’s walk through my taco routine shall we? First, I brown up some grass fed and finished ground beef (usually 2 pounds for our 2 person household because, duh, LEFTOVERS!!), I add in some colourful bell peppers and onion and let it all cook down, then I grab a packet of taco seasoning mix from the pantry..

WOAH – put the brakes on Nelly!  No pre-packaged seasoning mixes for this cook! While they may seem super convenient and, let’s face it, were pretty much a staple in most of our childhood kitchens, whipping up a batch of your own taco seasoning is :

  • quick
  • easy
  • cheaper than store bought
  • customizable to your own taste
  • can be made in bulk so you are ALWAYS ready for Taco Tuesday 🌮
  • most importantly, free of the additives you find in those store bought packets

I know, some of you are thinking “Seriously Shannon, it’s JUST spices!” – but let’s break it down, shall we?

So here are the ingredients in the red and yellow packet o’seasoning from MY childhood memories:

Chili Pepper, Maltodextrin, Salt, Onion Powder, Spice, Corn Starch, Sea Salt (Potassium Magnesium Chloride, Salt). Contains 2% Or Less Of: Vegetable Oil (Canola, High Oleic Soybean And/Or Sunflower Oil), Corn Flour, Silicon Dioxide (Anticaking Agent), Citric Acid, Sugar, Natural Flavor.

I’ve bolded the ingredients that are not needed and that, in general, are not at all health promoting.

  • Maltodextrin – a sneaky way to say REFINED SUGAR
  • Salt – while salt is not bad for us, unless specified as SEA SALT, it has usually been stripped of most of its minerals and we are left with just sodium and chloride. Too much of this “naked” salt can lead to electrolyte imbalances and impair kidney function.
  • Corn Starch and Corn Flour – Likely added to bulk up the mix, act as a thickener and keep mix from sticking together. The issue with these ingredients is two-fold. Firstly, a vast majority of corn is genetically modified. We do not yet know the health ramifications of GMO crops. We DO know that the majority of GMO crops are engineered to be herbicide tolerant. This means that the use of toxic herbicides has increased dramatically since GMOs were first introduced. Besides the health risks and toxic burden from our food being exposed to these herbicides, the heavy use of these chemicals is producing more resistant weeds and bugs that, you guessed it, require the use of even MORE chemicals (https://www.nongmoproject.org/gmo-facts/). Secondly, corn is known to be cross-reactive and may cause symptoms in people who are sensitive to or allergic to gluten.
  • Sea Salt – Ok – I’m fine with this ingredient, but I’m left wondering WHY they need salt of both the naked variety AND sea salt? Why not just use all mineral rich sea salt? Things that make you go hmmm 🤔
  • Vegetable Oil – These oils are rich in Omega 6 fatty acids and most of us already get way more omega 6 than we need. An imbalanced Omega 6 to Omega 3 (from foods like fatty fish, flax seeds, walnuts) ratio prevents our bodies from being able to properly control inflammation. This is made worse by the fact that these oils are prone to oxidation and very easily damaged during processing, manufacturing and in our bodies as we metabolize them. These pesky, fragile oils create free radicals and damage our cells.
  • Silicon Dioxide – I had to do a bit of research on this anti-caking additive. Silicon Dioxide is found naturally in foods like leafy greens, beets and bell peppers and is generally considered safe to consume. Synthetic silicon dioxide is often manufactured so the particles are extremely small (nano particles), which provides better anti-caking ability. There are some concerns that there has been insufficient studies done regarding the effects of these nano particles on health. The European Food and Safety Administration has recommended that the EU adopt stricter guidelines until further studies are done.(https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2903/j.efsa.2018.5088)
  • Citric Acid – Most manufactured citric acid is made using the fungus Aspergillus niger, which is a known allergen. Although more research is needed, there have been case studies surrounding inflammatory reactions caused by manufactured citric acid (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6097542/#sec0005title). If you really need that citric acid kick in your tacos, try going old school and get your citric acid from, well, CITRUS. A squeeze of lime over the top of your taco bowl and you are all set!
  • Sugar – Refined sugar is devoid of any nutrients and, in my opinion, totally unnecessary in tacos! Sugar, especially highly refined white sugar, is toxic to the body. The body needs to use other valuable nutrients to metabolize and clear it from the system. And, in case you forgot, we already have another source of sugar (maltodextrin) in this mix. Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky!
  • Natural Flavour – Seems legit, natural is good right? While natural flavours have to have an original source that is plant or animal, the mixtures concocted in food manufacturing laboratories can also contain many different chemicals, preservatives and solvents. As long as the original source is plant or animal, it doesn’t matter what else is added, it can still be deemed “natural flavour”. 

Now all this info is great and eye-opening, but it can definitely feel a little overwhelming when you are cruising the grocery aisles. A good rule of thumb is – if you don’t know what the ingredient is, your body definitely won’t know what it is either. Stick to single ingredients as often as possible, aim for packaged foods that contain 5 (real, pronounceable, recognizable) ingredients or less and look for ways to circumvent the use of processed and packaged mixes that are cheaply and easily made at home!

My Taco Seasoning mix is pretty darn good as is, but don’t be afraid to experiment with the ratios. Want to leave out the salt and season your meat to taste? Do it! Want to up the spice factor? Let your freak flag fly! Can you use it for more than just tacos? Absolutely! I put this stuff on pork shoulder, beef roast and have even used it on steaks in a pinch. Once you realize how much easier and healthier it is to make your own mix, those little packets will be a thing of the past.

I usually triple (at least!) this recipe so that I always have some on hand. To use, I mix 2 to 2.5 tablespoons per pound of meat with some water to form a loose paste and add it to my cooked ground beef and veggies. You can also just sprinkle the spice mix in and add a bit of water to the pan, like my hubby does. Different strokes for different folks! It all turns out yummy! Feel free to play around with the proportions to suit your individual tastes!

Enjoy! Taco Tuesdays just got a whole lot healthier!

Print Recipe
Taco Seasoning Mix
An easy, affordable and healthy version of a pantry staple. All the yum without any of the ick!
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword seasoning, taco
Prep Time 5-10 minutes
pounds of ground meat
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword seasoning, taco
Prep Time 5-10 minutes
pounds of ground meat
  1. Add all ingredients to bowl and mix thoroughly. Store extra in an airtight container for future use. For each pound of ground meat, use 2 to 2.5 tablespoons of spice mix. Adjust to taste.