Monday, January 30, 2012


We love tacos.  We have them for dinner at least every other week. What's not to like? You can pile on your favorite toppings and you get to eat with your hands. For years I used those little packets of powder to make tacos. When I started paying attention to labels and ingredients, I was horrified to learn what was in those packets. MSG. Ethoxyquin. Hydrogenated soybean oil. Yuck!  I tried the all-natural version from the local health foods store once or twice, but it didn't taste great and it was expensive. Then it occurred to me that this stuff can not be that hard to make. It's just spices, or at least it should be. I googled "taco seasoning" and found a slew of recipes.  I tried a few but none tasted like what I thought tacos should taste like (I really kinda liked that packet stuff.)  I started mixing a little of this and a little of that and finally came up with a recipe that I liked. It's very simple. It's flavorful without being too spicy. I buy my spices in bulk here, particularly the cumin and chili powder, and then mix up a big jar that will last us a few months.  I use it for tacos, I mix it with refried beans for a dip, I make taco-mac skillet dishes. We usually use ground beef (that we buy from a local, biodynamic farmer) but I imagine you could mix it with other meats and/or beans too.  Of course my boys can now eat 4 tacos apiece and still be hungry so we make two pounds of beef at at time. 

Taco seasoning (in bulk)
This is enough to make the equivalent of 8 packets. 
8 Tbsp chili powder*
4 Tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 tsp oregano
4 tsp paprika
3 Tbs dried onion
2-3 Tbsp salt (2 tbsp may be less salt than most people would like, but we don't use a lot of salt)
*A lot of chili powders have not-so-healthy ingredients added (more MSG, sugar, etc). Check the labels or blend your own. There are lots of good recipes on-line.  I buy the Frontier organic chili powder.

Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir, then place mixture in a jar to store. Be careful not to take a big whiff as you pour it into the jar (the voice of experience.)  I imagine this will last as long as the spices will last- a year or two.  It never stays around our house long enough to worry about it.

To use:  Add 1/4 cup of spice mix and 1 cup water to 1lb browned ground beef.  Add 1 Tbs of flour (or thickening agent of your choice, ie, cornstarch) to thicken.  This is optional, but will add a nicer consistency to your meat.  Cook on medium,stirring occasionally, until the water is gone.  Add to your favorite taco shells or tortillas and pile high with your favorite toppings. Lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, guacamole, cheese, avocados....Olé !

An aside (I love asides- little useless  bits of trivia that I find oh so interesting):  I recently saw a TED talk with Elizabeth Gilbert where she explained how the word Olé came to be.  She explains that Turkish dervish dancers used to dance themselves into a sacred ecstatic state. When people saw them they would recognize the transcendental state of the dancer and cry "Allah, Allah, Allah!"  Centuries later, when the Moors invaded Spain the tradition went with them.  Over time, "Allah" became "Olé!"

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