What Is Actually In Taco Seasoning?

Those who love tacos know that they exceed a mere Tuesday indulgence, but have you ever wondered what is actually in taco seasoning? The standard spice mix includes cumin, garlic, and onion powder alongside a variety of dried peppers and has become a staple of American-style tacos for longer than you might realize. In fact, the origins of taco seasoning date back to the late 1800s and the invention of chili powder by a Texan, originally from Germany, named Willie Gebhardt who created the powder for use in chili. Later, the rise of the hard shell beef taco in the 1960s was ushered in by the founding of the fast food chain Taco Bell, which put classic crispy seasoned beef tacos on the map.

Alongside Americanized fast food tacos came at-home kits including curated seasoning packets composed of what is still considered the typical taco seasoning blend of peppers and spices. While taco seasoning packets contain the same general share of ingredients organized into a convenient portion, batching out seasoning blends in your own kitchen offers the opportunity to play around with ratios, tempering or increasing spice levels as desired, or even trying a unique twist, such as our smoky taco seasoning recipe. Storing this spice blend for later use also offers the convenience of a packet that has been made to your individual specifications. Whether a store-bought packet or a homemade batch, storing your seasoning in an airtight container in a cool, dry area of your kitchen will allow it to last for up to two to three years.

How to create a balanced taco seasoning blend

The specific spices in taco seasoning are: chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and often, dried oregano. Interestingly, taco seasoning typically contains both chili powder and paprika, both of which are made from dried peppers. Paprika and chili powder differ, however, by way of origin and composition. Whereas chili powder is made from multiple peppers and can include other spices, paprika is made from only one type of pepper. Of course, there are also plenty of unique variations to try with your seasoning such as adding brown sugar for more depth of flavor or adding different dried chilies like ancho or chipotle to bump up the heat and complexity. When preparing taco seasoning in a large batch format, a 3:1 ratio for chili powder vs all other ingredients makes for a relatively balanced blend, though it can always be adjusted to taste.

Most pre-made taco seasoning packets come in 1-ounce portions, so whether you're using a packet or your own seasoning blend, you will want to use two tablespoons or one ounce of seasoning per pound of meat.  And if the classic beef tacos aren't your things, there are also other practical uses for taco seasoning, such as a steak rub or chicken wing seasoning.