Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Homemade Taco Seasoning: How to Make It, What It Costs, and the Things That Surprised Me

As part of my #FarmGirlSummer goals this year, I'm learning to make a bunch of things from scratch. I'm not sure if a spice mix really counts with just some measuring and stirring involved, but feels homemade and I am claiming it, thank youuu.

There have been times when I've run out of the little taco seasoning packets and just shook random containers into my saucepan of ground meat and it did the trick. But despite seeing all these claims of how much more affordable it is, how much less waste there is, how much healthier it is without that ingredient they put in those little packets that keep our things dry - I couldn't be bothered until now.

And as far as all of the claims people make about the stuff? Well... I might debunk a few.

Let's peek at the recipe first, though.

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix (to fill a jar)

  • 7 tablespoons of cumin
  • 14 tablespoons of chili powder
  • 12 teaspoons of paprika
  • 14 teaspoons of salt
  • 7 teaspoons of black pepper
  • 7 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • 7 teaspoons of onion powder
  • 7 teaspoons of dried oregano

In a mixing bowl, measure out each of these spices and give it a good stir. Then transfer it to something sealable to keep it fresh and on hand. I used a small latching glass jar that I got for $.50 at a garage sale, but you can find something very similar at the dollar tree! Use about 2 tablespoons per pound of meat with a little water to season your taco meat.

It's for sure the easiest recipe you'll ever follow. Now...for the claims.


Claim: It tastes better than the little packets. 

My opinion: true.

Based on the way my "oops I forgot to buy seasoning, here's some cumin and chili powder and salt & pepper and sure throw in some onion powder" emergency seasoning often left me disappointed, I expected this to be sub-par. But truly, truly - it was amazing. I've only used it once since mixing this up, but it was the best round of tacos I've made in years. Years! I call this one true - it does taste better.

Claim: It's healthier than the seasoning packets.

My opinion: questionable.

I think it really depends on your health goals here, because you can obviously adjust the amount of salt in the recipe to cut back on sodium and that would for sure be healthier than the packets. And, again, that silica gel ingredient or whatever the heck it is wasn't on the ingredient list.

However: the individual spices aren't exactly squeaky clean. You can upgrade your spices - buy brand names, buy organic - but some of them still have additives. And when something is that decimated down to powder form, can you really be sure of what's in it? While not flagged as dangerous, there were still anti-caking agents in some of the spices I found which is exactly what the "you're eating silica gel packets!" crowd has been warning everyone about. 

So, yes - I think overall you can do better with mixing up your own spice blend. The same can be said for making anything at home. But it can be tricky to find the ingredients themselves to be the quality you want them to be, and stores and brands are really great at tricking us into overlooking things. So I'm just calling this one questionable.

Claim: It costs less.

My opinion: it depends.

I did my best to buy the best versions of the spices as I could, but in some cases there wasn't anything better available or they were outrageously priced. I spent $14.44 (before taxes - I'm not entirely clear on whether or not my state charges taxes on spices). I already had salt and pepper on hand that I didn't buy new, but if I'd needed to, that would add another $3.88 (which would make it $18.32). I spent $.50 on the jar I used. 

So, for true comparison sake, let's say I spent $18.82 to make this mix. 

I did have some of them left over - like the cumin, onion, garlic, and oregano. Obviously the salt and pepper, too. So next time I won't have to re-buy everything. 

The tricky part of figuring this out is while I know I use 2 - 2.5 tablespoons each time, I have no idea how many servings are in this jar. I probably should have counted it for the sake of this post, buuut I didn't. (Who has time to scoop tablespoons of taco seasoning for math reasons? lol Not I.) 

If I (loosely and very inaccurately) add up the measurements of my recipe, I can make an educated guess that I'll be able to use my jar of mix 18 times. 

That comes out to $1.04 per taco night.

I buy these types of groceries from Target, where the prices seem to be the lowest and I get 5% off with my redcard. If I buy a 3-pack of Ortega Taco seasoning, subtract my discount, and divide it by three - it costs me $.92 per taco night.

It looks like the packets win, yeah?

Well - the next time I make my seasoning mix, I already have the jar and I'm only missing two seasonings. I'll only have to spend $6.78 next time, which would make two batches of homemade seasoning mix come out to an average of $12.80. Making it $.71 per taco night.

So the long and short of it is: to make it cheaper, you have to pull a Costco and really make it in bulk. Like, cover a solid 36ish taco nights. And I have no idea if this mix will stay fresh and yummy that long - jury's out.

Claim: It creates less waste.

My opinion: I truly don't know.

The little seasoning packets come in like a lined paper pouch. I would assume the paper breaks down more easily and is better for the environment overall, but I don't know what the liner is made of or it's environmental impact.

I do know, however, that most of my spices came in plastic containers. A few came in glass jars - the nice organic ones I was able to find. But many of them didn't. And if I end up tossing 5 or 6 plastic containers every 35-40 taco nights, is that less waste? I feel like it isn't - considering plastic is relentless. 

I'm sure there are ways to get around this if this is the piece you are most passionate about. You could possibly find the spices in bulk somewhere, or refuse to buy anything that doesn't come in glass, but you will pay more and that may increase your cost per taco night.

I don't know enough about this to make a claim one way or another, but those are some thoughts that crossed my mind. 

Claim: Soo...should I do it or not?

My opinion: you do you, boo.

Based on the most important aspect of making the seasoning for you (the taste, the cost, the health, the waste) - try it (or don't!) if my findings helped you figure that out at all. Overall? I think the taste is better, the cost is better if you make enough of it, the health might be better, but I really have no clue about the environmental impact. Do what you will with that! haha

But do let me know if you make it!

I'd love to hear if you like it better, too, or if there's anything else that surprised you about this. Mixing up your own taco seasoning seems to be suggested so frequently, but some of these things surprised me!

Here's a pin so you can come back to the recipe!

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