Homemade Taco seasoning

Complex, savory and a touch spicy, our homemade taco seasoning is a quick and easy way to add a ton of flavor to any dish. It tastes so much better than store-bought!

One of the quickest and easiest routes to a tasty dinner starts with your spice drawer. This Homemade Taco Seasoning mix is the work of minutes to toss together and once done, you’re ready to transform loads of simple ingredients into something extra flavorful.

Note that the “taco seasoning” we’re making here, and the one that most Americans are familiar with, is really more Tex-Mex than it is purely Mexican. It’s a mix of ground chile peppers, spices and herbs that’s great for more than just flavoring ground beef.

why make TACO SEASONING at home?

Good question! There is absolutely nothing wrong with tossing a packet of store-bought taco seasoning into some ground beef and browning it up. Who didn’t love it when their mom got out the Old El Paso hard taco shells, diced tomato, iceberg lettuce and shredded cheese?

But making taco seasoning from scratch guarantees a fresher, punchier flavor than store-bought mixes. The thing is, those packets have likely been sitting around for a long, long time. Do they have flavor? Sure. A lot of flavor? No, probably not. When you make your own, you know how fresh your spices are. And even better, you can customize it however you like.

You like it super spicy? Add more cayenne or hot chili pepper. You like it super smoky? Add (more) smoked paprika. You get the gist.

The other top reason for making it yourself is salt. As in, most pre-made versions are loaded with it. Now don’t get us wrong, we love salt, but we also like to be able to control it. It’s the same reason we use unsalted butter in baking and then add salt separately. The saltiness in butter will vary greatly from brand to brand, so we’d rather add it ourselves so we know what the final flavor will be. And the same goes for packaged seasoning mixes.

a little bit of nerdy history

According to an article by Atlas Obscura which we found by way of our friends at Serious Eats, the origin of the “American taco” (seasoned ground beef in a crispy shell) largely followed the invention of chili powder, a mass-produced item not found in Mexico.

“Chili powder was first sold in 1894 by its inventor, Texan-by-way-of-Germany Willie Gebhardt, for use in chili,” Dan Nosowitz writes. “Gebhardt was unable to find the chile peppers he wanted year-round, and so bought a huge stockpile of the peppers, which were probably ancho, and ran them through a meat grinder a few times to pulverize them. He later began selling the powder already made—a huge convenience for anyone wanting to make the then-trendy chili.”

The addition of a little cornstarch (or flour) helps in two ways — it helps the spices stick to whatever is being seasoned (like the halloumi in our Halloumi Tacos), and it also helps thicken the moisture that occurs when cooking ground meat.

Something to keep in mind is that the flavor in spices is fat-soluble. That means you’ll get the most flavor out of your spices if you bloom them in a little oil before adding moisture packed ground meat to the skillet. Just be careful not to burn them or they will become bitter.

Make-Ahead and Storage

The taco seasoning can be stored in a clean glass jar or airtight container for up to 2 months. Like all spices, store it in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight.

How Much Taco Seasoning Is In a Packet?

It can vary slightly brand by brand, but most packets contain about 1 ounce or 3 tablespoons of seasoning. So if your recipe calls for one packet of taco seasoning, use about 3 tablespoons of homemade.

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Homemade Taco Seasoning

Complex, savory and a touch spicy, our homemade taco seasoning is a quick and easy way to add a ton of flavor to any dish. It tastes so much better than store-bought!
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes
Course: Spice Mix
Cuisine: American, Mexican, Tex Mex
Keyword: Spice Mix, spices, Taco, Taco Seasoning
Servings: 4 Tablespoons
Author: Emily Clifton, Nerds with Knives


  • 1 tablespoon chili powder preferably Ancho
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika preferably smoked (or a mix of smoked and sweet)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano preferably Mexican
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne or crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch or flour*


  • In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients. Transfer to an airtight container and store in a cool, dark place for up to 2 months.


*Optional – but helps to coat and thicken
Tried this recipe?Mention @NerdsWithKnives or tag #nerdswithknives!

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