Tacos / Nachos / Chili Seasoning Recipe
This is my second taco seasoning recipe: it’s a bit spicier than the first, but not too much, and its still very kid friendly. I use it for tacos, tostadas/nachos, and as the spice mix for one of my chili recipes. As I showed here, you could be spending a small fortune on commercial seasonings that are full of salt, anti-caking agents, thickeners and preservatives. This homemade seasoning mix is far less expensive, you control the ingredients, and you can mix up small, fresh batches as needed them. Its great with poultry, pork and beef, and although I particularly like it with Shredded Pork and shredded beef, it works well with any ground meat, leftover chicken or turkey, diced pork roast or pork chops. (I often make two batches at once, one for tacos / nachos / tostadas, and the other for my chili recipe.)
How to Save on Spices Spices can be expensive, but there are a number of ways to save on them. Instead of buying pre-made spice mixes at a premium price, purchase the individual spices and mix them up yourself (if you want to see how much you may be paying for those packets of taco seasoning, see the price ranges per pound for taco and fajitas seasoning packets I calculated last year – its shocking). You can buy a lot more individual spices for the same money. That’s why even though it makes the ingredient list longer, my recipes primarily call for basic spices, not blends. Second, buy your herbs and spices in “bulk”: not more than you can use in a reasonable amount of time (here’s a handy “How Long Spices Last” Chart), but no little spice size jars either (you can see some more of my recommendations where you can get good deals on herbs and spices in my spice buying tips). If you have friends or relatives who are interested, split up bulk spice purchases among several households. Or if you think you might have more spices than you can use, mix up some spice mixes, put them in gift jars with pretty bows and labels, and give them away. Homemade spice mixes make lovely gifts, they’re much quicker and easier than making cookies, and there are fewer calories and fat involved.
Get the Most Spice Bang for Your Buck. Mix your spices up in small batches, just before using them. Ideally, you want to use up your spices as quickly as possible, since the fresher your dried spices, the better their taste and aroma. Many of the same spices show up in many different cuisines: coriander, for example, is used in this taco / nachos recipe, my Italian Sausage Recipe, in garam masala, as well as Moroccan spice rub recipes. When possible, you should “bloom” the spices: that is, to heat them briefly in butter, margarine or oil (as was done below). Most spices are fat soluble – their flavor compounds and aromas are enhanced when heated in fat. Another way to get the most from your spices is to buy them whole, and grind them yourself. Spice Grinders are small and affordable, and you can quickly grind up small batches as needed. Cumin seeds, which are sold whole as well as ground, are not only generally less expensive when purchased whole, they last longer, and when freshly ground, they have a taste and perfume that far outstrips even a fresh bag newly delivered from Penzeys. If you grind your spices fresh, right before you use them, and then bloom them, you’ll not only get a better taste and fragrance, but you can use less of them, and save money that way, too.
Storage of Spices. If you’ve read my herb and spice buying tips, you know that I recommend you buy spices in bulk, preferably whole, and that you buy them in bags rather than bottles. This is partially because you’re paying a premium price for those jars, partially because neither plastic bags or bottles are ideal storage containers for spices, so you might as well pay as little as possible for the packaging. The quality and longevity of spices is influenced not only by age, but by contact with the air, water, light and warmth. On Food and Cooking goes so far as to recommend that “dried material must be kept in closed containers, in a dark, cool place. As a general rule, herbs and spices keep best in opaque glass containers in the freezer (the container should be warmed to room temperature before opening to prevent moisture in the air from condensing onto cold flavorings).” Since most of us don’t have the patience to wait for our spices to warm up, might do more damage when we forget and open them up too soon, and don’t have room in our freezers anyway, I recommend an alternative. Invest in either Metal Spice Containers or darkened glass jars, and store them in a dark cabinet, far from the stove and direct sunlight. I found several dark brown jars that would work really well: these 4 Ounce Tinted Glass Bottles were the most economical option. If you’re like me, and want to get tablespoons more easily in and out of the bottle, these 4 Ounce Tinted Bottles have much wider jar mouths, and these 8 Ounce Wide Mouth Bottles not only have the wider mouths and hold twice as much, they’re a better deal than their smaller 4 ounce counterparts.
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon Mexican Oregano
Tacos / Nachos Ingredients
Pre-cooked beef, pork, chicken or turkey
Storage Onion (optional)
Small container to mix homemade taco seasoning
Silicone or Nylon Tongs or spatula
Toppings Ingredients (Optional):
Grated Mexican cheese or Queso Fresco (optional)
Sour cream (thinned w/milk) / Mexican Crema (optional)
Pickled Jalapenos and/or Red Onions (optional)
Sliced black olives (optional)
Pinto or Black Beans (optional)
- Optional: If you’d like to make homemade tortilla chips, see my instructions How to Make Your Own Tortilla Chips (they’re baked, not fried, so it’s a great way to cut down on the fat and salt, yet still enjoy the crunch). If you want to use commercial chips, I recommend you go with a “low salt” or “no salt” variety, or if those aren’t available, don’t add the salt to the spice mix.
- Mix the taco seasoning ingredients (2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt, 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes and ½ teaspoon Mexican oregano) together thoroughly.
- Dice your tomatoes, onions and lettuce for the tacos / nachos (for nachos, you’ll want to dice everything a little smaller than you would need to for tacos). If you want fresh onions but want them milder, use sweet onions like Vidalia and Maui onions. If you like your onions with a little more kick, use regular storage onions. If you prefer cooked onions, use regular storage onions. For tomatoes, I like Roma tomatoes because of their beautiful red color and because they have less juice and seeds (less mess). For lettuce, I prefer Romaine lettuce or other loose leaf lettuces because they are more nutritious than Iceberg lettuce.
- Optional: if you prefer cooked onions in your tacos / nachos, sauté them in a little oil or butter over low heat. You can stop cooking them when they turn soft and translucent, or for a little more flavor, continue sautéing until they turn a light brown color. You can continue cooking them over low heat until they turn a rich, dark brown color and a sweet aroma comes from the pan, but the longer you cook them, the sweeter the onions will become. Remove the sautéed onions from the skillet and set aside.
- Add either a very small amount of water or a little fat (margarine, butter or vegetable oil) to the skillet (adding fat will help crisp the meat up). Once heated, add your shredded meat to the pan.
- When the meat is almost ready, add a small amount of the homemade taco / nacho seasoning mix to the meat, stirring to distribute. Heat for 1 minute to bloom the spices, taste, and repeat as needed, waiting at least a minute before tasting for the heat to increase the flavor of the spices. When you reach the desired level of spiciness, turn off the heat and remove the skillet from the burner. If you sautéed onions earlier, you can add them back in with the meat at this time.
- Layer the tortilla chips across the plate; then distribute the meat evenly across the surface of the chips.
- Sprinkle the shredded Mexican cheese (or Queso Fresco) evenly across the surface of the nachos. If you want melted cheese, you could pop the nachos under the broiler briefly, however, I myself just use a small amount of cheese and allow the residual heat of the shredded meat to melt the cheese.
- Add either whole pinto or black beans, or refried beans, to the top of the nachos. (If the beans are hot, they will also help the cheese to melt.)
- Add the finely diced tomatoes to your nachos. If you want finely diced avocado, sliced pickled jalapenos or red onions, or sliced black olives, add them now.
- Add your finely shredded lettuce to the top of the nachos.
- Add a little bit of Mexican crema or sour cream to the top of the nachos. Thin the sour cream with a little milk to get it to a thin enough consistency that you can drip a little bit evenly across the chips, instead of having thick blobs of sour cream.
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon Mexican Oregano
- Pre-cooked beef, pork, chicken or turkey
- Corn tortillas
- Storage Onion (optional)
- Grated Mexican cheese or Queso Fresco (optional)
- Tomatoes (optional)
- Lettuce (optional)
- Sour cream (thinned w/milk) / Mexican Crema (optional)
- Pickled Jalapenos and/or Red Onions (optional)
- Sliced black olives (optional)
- Pinto or Black Beans (optional)
- Avocados (optional)
- Optional: If you'd like to make your own tortilla chips, see my instructions How to Make Homemade Tortilla Chips. If not, I recommend "no salt" or "low salt" commercial chips.
- Thoroughly mix the chili powder, ground cumin, coarse kosher salt, coarsely ground black pepper, ground coriander, onion powder, garlic powder, red pepper flakes and Mexican oregano.
- Dice your tomatoes, onions and lettuce. (For nachos, you'll need to dice everything smaller than you would need for tacos.)
- Optional: If you want cooked instead of fresh onions, sauté them over medium heat with a little butter, margarine or vegetable oil. You can stop cooking them as soon as they are soft and translucent, or for more flavor, cook them until lightly browned. Remove the onions from the skillet and set aside.
- Add either a little water or a little fat (butter, margarine or vegetable oil) to the skillet and heat the shredded meat over medium heat.
- Once the meat is heated through, sprinkle a little of the spice mixture on top, and stir to incorporate. Cook the spiced meat for at least a minute to allow the spices to "bloom", taste, and repeat as needed until you reach the desired level of spice. Turn off the heat and remove the skillet from the burner. If you sautéed onions earlier, you can now mix them in with the seasoned meat.
- Layer the tortilla chips on a plate and then place the seasoned meat evenly across the chips.
- Sprinkle shredded Mexican cheese or crumbled Queso Fresco over the nachos. You can pop the plate under the broiler to melt the cheese if you like, but I like to sandwich a thin layer of cheese between warm meat and beans and let them melt the cheese instead.
- Add either whole beans (pinto or black) or refried beans on top of the nachos.
- Add your choice of finely diced tomatoes or avocadoes, sliced black olives, or sliced pickled jalapenos or red onions.
- Add your finely shredded lettuce on top.
- Drizzle a little Mexican crema or sour cream to finish. (For sour cream, you'll need to thin it with a little milk so you get a nice thin drizzle, not thick blobs.)