There are a number of excellent tips to follow when preparing homemade taco seasoning. Although the ingredients for taco seasoning are all dry, one important consideration is ensuring they are as fresh as possible. Ingredients and recipes for this seasoning mix vary considerably, and cooks may adjust the contents and quantity freely. For best results, the seasoning should be mixed by hand in a large bowl, and stored in an airtight container.
The first tip when making homemade seasoning for tacos is to use the freshest ingredients possible. This may be confusing, considering that the ingredients are all dried and powdered spices, but the fact is that they do lose their strength and freshness after sitting on a shelf for a long period of time. Whether one buys spices in bulk from a farmers’ market or other specialty store, or mass market bottled spices, most have “sell-by” dates that can give the consumer an idea of their freshness.
The ingredients for homemade taco seasoning are all dry and generally powdered. Spices like cumin, chile powder and garlic powder are common to nearly all recipes, as are table salt and sea salt. Sugar, powdered oregano, black pepper and onion powder are present in some. Some recipes call for cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to add spiciness. Some cooks add flour in small quantities to add a measure of richness to the seasoned beef.
Some recipes, especially when prepared for the very first time, should be followed faithfully. This is not the case with homemade taco seasoning, however. Cooks should begin with a recipe with ingredients they like and let their own tastes inform their work, adding or adjusting ingredients as seems appropriate.
Most recipes for taco seasoning specify small quantities of the ingredients, just enough to season a pound of ground beef. If the quantities are increased, though, a large quantity of seasoning can be prepared ahead of time. This is one of the keys to saving time and money.
Once the various spices are gathered, they’re simply measured out, tossed into a bowl and mixed together. It’s best to use a large bowl so that the spices can be mixed vigorously with a fork or a whisk without tossing quantities overboard. Cooks should resist the temptation to use a blender, though, because the heat generated by running a blender without liquid might degrade the spices and even damage the blender mechanism.
After it’s properly mixed, homemade taco seasoning should be stored in a tightly-sealed container in a cool, dry place. It’s not necessary to refrigerate it unless whole-grain flour has been used. As with all seasonings, it’s best always to open the container just long enough to spoon out the amounts necessary, and then immediately re-cap it and return it to its storage place.
A final tip for preparing homemade taco seasoning is not to be restricted by it. Many cooks add additional ingredients like fresh onions, peppers and garlic, finely chopped, to the meat when it's cooking. Some add the seasoning mix to the pan with the browned beef and let the taco meat cook fairly dry, while others will use a small amount of water, wine or broth to make the sauce a bit more liquid. If the beef generates a good amount of grease when cooking, though, it’s best to drain it off before adding the taco seasoning. Otherwise, if it’s drained after the taco seasoning is added, the act of draining the grease will also remove a good amount of the seasoning.