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A homemade taco seasoning recipe by a professional chef that is better than store-bought! It makes a medium spicy seasoning that is easily customizable to your taste or the ingredients you have on hand. A versatile, flavorful recipe with one secret ingredient.

homemade taco seasoning in jar on yellow plate.

I’ve been refining this recipe for over 2 years. I always have a mini OXO pop container of this taco seasoning mix in the cupboard for easy, flavorful dinners. Use it in ground chicken tacos, moist chicken tacos, to season ground beef, or in this easy taco bake recipe.

Most taco seasoning recipes on the internet lean heavily on standard chili powder and ground cumin for the flavor. My spice mix has a balance of different chilis for flavor and heat.  The real secret to my seasoning is the hint of brown sugar. It adds a depth from the molasses and a subtle sweetness to balance the spice.

Why This is the Best Homemade Taco Seasoning

  • A unique recipe by a professional chef. Most taco seasoning recipes on the internet contain the same spices in pretty close variation. Not this one! I don’t include cumin or dried oregano, rather I balance the flavor of three different chili powders along with onion and garlic powder. This recipe will have you saying, wow!
  • One secret ingredient. I use just a little light brown sugar to balance the heat of the chili powders and cayenne, so the resulting dish will be a perfect balance of sweet and heat!
  • No salt, black pepper or fillers. Each dish needs to be seasoned properly. Ground beef needs less salt than chicken thighs, for example. This also allows you to add more spice by adding more taco seasoning without adding extra salt.

Professional Tips for Using Taco Seasoning

  • Check the freshness. I make enough chili & tacos to run through my spices pretty consistently, but if you don’t have vegan chili, turkey chili and red chili on rotation, then you should check the freshness of your spices. The spice and flavor dulls over time.
  • Toast the spices in oil for the best flavor. Before you brown the ground meat, take the time to sauté some onions and then cook the taco seasoning mix in a little oil to bloom the flavors. Many of the spices’ aromas are released in fat, so this step will unlock the best flavor of your spice mix.
  • Adjust the spice level by the amount of seasoning. This makes a medium spicy seasoning. For mild, reduce the amount used or omit the cayenne pepper in the recipe. To make it more spicy, increase the amount of seasoning used or add cayenne! You can also add heat by adding 1-2 minced chipotle peppers in adobe seasoning!
  • Add 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste and chicken stock. After you cook your taco meat of choice, add 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste and twice as much chicken stock, boil until thickened. It only take 2 minutes but it adds so much flavor! I store tablespoon portions of tomato paste between parchment paper and chicken stock in ice cube trays in the freezer!

Ingredients & Substitutions

homemade taco seasoning ingredients on white background.
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  • Chili Powder: Chili powder is the main ingredient in taco seasoning. It’s kind of non-negotiable.  You could also substitute 1 teaspoon of chipotle chili powder for 1 teaspoon of the 3 teaspoons of chili powder in this recipe.
  • Ancho Chili Powder: Ancho chili powder is a mild chili with a smokey, slightly sweet flavor. It really compliments the chili powder, which can be rather one note. Mexican chili powder is a good substitute because it typically contains ancho chili powder and is also smokey and slightly sweet.
  • Onion Powder
  • Garlic Powder
  • Paprika: I look for a paprika that is bright red and vibrant. Paprika is typically very mild and is made from a variety of ground red peppers including red bell peppers. Smoked paprika is also delightful in this recipe.
  • Cayenne: Cayenne pepper brings the heat in this spice mix unlike other blends that use red pepper flakes. You can omit it for a mild seasoning mix, but I love the complex flavor created by combining chili powders, paprika, cayenne and brown sugar.
  • Light Brown Sugar: I waxed poetic about this secret ingredient already, so I won’t bore you by repeating myself about light brown sugar. This can be omitted or substitute a sugar free version like truvia. This is my favorite brand. I find it is an excellent substitute for brown sugar in savory cooking and sauces like my homemade bbq sauce.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

Ideas for using taco seasoning

  • Ground beef, chicken or turkey tacos: Use this seasoning mix in my ground chicken tacos, or spice up your usual taco Tuesday by substituting this recipe in your ground beef tacos!
  • Vegan Tacos or Salads: I use 2 tablespoons of this seasoning in butternut squash and black beans for an easy vegan alternative! Try it on a taco salad or burrito bowl!
  • Seasoning meat for chopped or pulled chicken  or pork tacos. Use this as a spice rub on pork butt or chicken thighs like I did in these chicken tacos.
  • I use it in my taco bake recipe. This taco bake is flavorful and secretly healthy. It leans on well-seasoned ground beef and sautéed vegetables! Coming SOON!

How to Make Your Own Taco Seasoning

How to make homemade taco seasoning and substitute it for a store-bought packet! It will be more flavorful, healthier and filler-free.

Make the seasoning:

Step 1: Whisk together all ingredients for the spice mix in a small bowl.

Step 2: Either use immediately or store in an airtight container.

homemade taco seasoning ingredients whisking on yellow plate.
homemade taco seasoning spilling from jar on yellow plate.

General instructions for using taco seasoning with ground meat:

Step 1: In a large pan, sauté 1 onion, diced, in 1-2 tablespoons of oil until softened and translucent over medium heat. Add a little more oil and 2-3 tablespoons of the taco seasoning mix to the onions.

Step 2: Cook the spices over medium heat until fragrant. You aren’t trying to burn them, so reduce the heat if necessary.

Step 3: Season 1 pound of ground chicken, ground beef, or ground turkey with salt and black pepper. Add to the pan with the spices and cook over medium-high heat until the meat is browned and cooked through.

Step 4: This is optional, but sometimes I like to add 1 tablespoon tomato paste and 2 tablespoons of chicken stock to the pan. Boil to thicken slightly and coat the meat. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How to store taco seasoning?

Store taco seasoning in an airtight container like these OXO pop containers, small mason jars or an emptied spice container. Just be sure to choose a container that held a spice in the mix – don’t put taco seasoning in a Chinese 5 spice container, for example. This seasoning will keep for several months. Over time spices lose their potency and the flavor dulls.

How much taco seasoning mix per pound of meat?

I use 2-3 tablespoons of my taco seasoning per pound of taco meat. I use 3 tablespoons for every pound of ground beef and 2 teaspoons for more mild meats like chicken thighs or ground turkey.

How much taco seasoning is in 1 packet?

There is typically about 1 ounce or 3 tablespoons of seasoning in one packet of taco seasoning, but they contain multiple fillers and the spices are not fresh. Store-bought seasoning packets are fine in a pinch, but nothing tastes as fresh as homemade in anything from tacos to pumpkin spice!

Can I make a larger batch?

You can easily double or triple this recipe for larger batches. I always make at least a double batch, which makes dinner prep super easy!

taco seasoning in white bowl on marble.

If you tried this recipe and loved it please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it goes in the comments below. I love hearing from you; your comments make my day!

homemade taco seasoning in jar on yellow plate tiny spoon.
5 from 1 ratings

Homemade Taco Seasoning

A homemade taco seasoning recipe by a professional chef that is better than store-bought! It makes a medium spicy seasoning that is easily customizable to your taste or the ingredients you have on hand. A versatile, flavorful recipe with one secret ingredient.
Prep: 5 minutes
Total: 5 minutes

Ingredients  

Instructions 

  • Whisk together all ingredients for the spice mix and either use or store in an airtight container.

Notes

Yield – 2 ½ tablespoons
Variations – Adjust the cayenne pepper to your preference or omit completely. Use Mexican chili powder in place of the ancho, or substitute smoked paprika for the traditional paprika.
Storage – Store taco seasoning in an airtight container for several months. Over time spices lose their potency and the flavor dulls.

Nutrition

Calories: 57kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 0.3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Sodium: 168mg | Potassium: 260mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 3535IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Condiments
Cuisine: Mexican
Calories: 57
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Before You Go

I hope you enjoyed this professional chef tested recipe. Check out our other delicious dinner recipes or jump into all our homemade spice blends.

Hi, I’m Chef Lindsey!

I am the baker, recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Chef Lindsey Farr. I believe in delicious homemade food and the power of dessert!

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I had this on some pork last night, and to be honest I just like ate it without making a taco. 🫢So good!

    1. Hi Lisabel! No judgement here! Thank you for taking the time to rate and comment, can’t wait to hear what else you make!