The Baking Staple To Add To Tacos For Balanced, Aromatic Spice

Recipes for a taco seasoning blend will contain the usual suspects: chili powder, cumin, coriander, and garlic powder. But what about an ingredient you'd typically find in the baking aisle? Cocoa powder, the main ingredient in decadent brownies and fudgy chocolate cake, is the secret to a next-level taco spice blend. Skeptical? Let us explain. 

Cocoa powder has long been a secret ingredient in aromatic chilis, adding a smoky, earthy richness that compliments the edge of the complex blend of peppers. As cocoa powder has no sugar, it doesn't add sweetness, so it won't overpower the savory notes. In the same way, adding cocoa can up the ante on your taco seasoning and bring a rich nuttiness that will amplify spices like chili powder and cumin. 

Beyond that, cocoa powder has a historical place in the mother of all Mexican sauces, mole poblano. Hailing from the Oaxaca and Pueblo regions of Mexico, mole poblano is defined by its bittersweet addition of cocoa powder (also one of the key reasons for its beautiful mahogany color). Mole is often paired with tacos, burritos, and enchiladas, so taking a cue from its inclusion of cocoa, use the hearty ground beans to elevate your taco seasoning as well. 

The sweet magic of cocoa powder

So how should you go about adding cocoa powder to your taco seasoning mix? And what type of cocoa powder should you be using? We recommend Dutch-processed cocoa powder, which has been alkalized to give it an earthier, mellower flavor and darker color than the natural version. Dutch-processed cocoa powder (aka dark cocoa powder), therefore, lends itself well to flavoring savory endeavors like tacos and chilis. As for the amount, keep it conservative, adding two teaspoons per spice blend recipe; you can even add a dash to pre-made taco spice blends like those from McCormick. Of course, you can always add more if you feel you need more of a cocoa punch, but it's hard to come back from too-chocolatey ground beef. 

This spice blend punctuated with cocoa powder will work best with ground beef or barbacoa-topped tacos, but it can still bring something to the table for carnitas or a chicken-centric spread. For those looking to use a tofu or meatless taco filling, the cocoa can prove a boon, bringing a rich flavor that mimics the savory taste of beef.