Whenever I decide to make my own spice blend I do an analysis of the recipes for that blend that others have posted. By comparing ten to twenty different ideas about what goes into a spice blend I get an inspiration about how I should create my own blend. It should be similar, but unique.
What I found surprising about taco blends was their uniformity. The ratios of the key ingredients were, for the most part, fairly close. Praise here to Momtastic, while here spice ratios were out of the norm, she truly striped the recipe down to its four basics—two types of chili, an herb, and a spice: chili powder, paprika, oregano, cumin. The ratios all of the recipes tended to be around 2 tablespoons of chili power, 1 tablespoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of oregano and 1 teaspoon of cumin.
Note: Her recipe is very short, compared to others, on the hot chili. From her site, I get the impression she is cooking for small children who probably do not like the “burn.” What can I say you cook to your audience.
All of the recipes had at least two types of chili, usually “chili power” and paprika. The chili powder is to add the chili flavor and the heat. While the paprika adds a smoky flavor, it is used more for the red color it imparts to the finished dish.
I have always wondered what chilies are in “chili power.” None of the recipes specified a particular chili power and many of the things sold commercially as “chili power” are actually spice blends. I have decided to go with blend of Ancho Chili powder and a pinch of Indian chili power. The Ancho chili has a good chili flavor and the Indian chili packs both flavor and the heat. Smoky Spanish paprika is the obvious choice for a Hispanic dish.
All of the recipes listed oregano, but only a few called for Mexican oregano. For a Mexican dish, that seems obvious. The cumin is another standard Mexican choice.
Almost all of the recipes called for onion and garlic power. Here I agree with Momtastic, these do not belong. Unless you are making a dry rub, avoid using powered onions and garlic. The flavor and the nutrients are better if you use fresh.
Salt is another common addition. As I have said before, add it to the dish not the spice blend. The same is true for those recipes that call for adding sugar.
Here is where the recipes start to diverge. Coriander, some recipes say, yes. Others leave it out. I like its warm flavor and it goes well with the cumin. So I say, yes. The same is true for the black pepper. If I left the black pepper out my family would notice and complain.
Another addition to several of the recipes was some form of starch. This could be arrowroot, corn starch, potato starch or flour. When you brown the meat or add vegetables to the dish some liquid escapes and settles to the bottom of the pan. These starches turn that liquid into a sauce that coats the meat, instead of getting left behind in the pan. If you are not on a Ketogenic diet you may choose to add something like this. Since I am not sharing this dish with my son-in-law I am going to add a touch of cornstarch. Do not add too much thought or your dish will turn “pasty.”
A few weeks ago I made the mistake of looking closely at my favorite Chinese chicken salad spice packet. Sand does not belong in dressing. I have always used McCormick’s taco seasoning in the past and I was hesitant to examine the package too closely. To my pleasant surprise the ingredients were pretty unobjectionable. The two “odd ball” ingredients were citric acid and whey.
Citric acid is just natural vitamin C. It is added to keep the spices from turning an unsightly brown, just like you would add lemon juice to avocado. You can always use more vitamin C in your diet. You don’t want to get scurvy, do you?
I am not sure what the whey is doing there, unless it is being used as an “anti-caking” element. When spices are packaged, especially if there is just a little moisture left, they will fuse into a solid block. “Anti-caking” additions keep the spices in a powder form. As long as you are not lactose intolerant, whey is far preferable to sand for this purpose.
A Final Note: Praise also to A Farmgirl’s Dabbles for running away from the crowd and sharing something unique.
Karl’s Taco Seasoning
1 Tbs. Ancho chili power
1 tsp. smoky Spanish paprika
½ tsp, Mexican oregano
½ tsp. cumin seeds
½ tsp. coriander seeds
¼ tsp. black pepper, cracked
Pinch Indian chili powder
1. Toast the cumin and coriander in a small skillet on medium low heat for a minute or two, until fragrant.
2. Place all of the ingredients into a spice grinder and pulse it a few times to mix and break up the whole spices a bit. Your finished blend should be a bit coarse.
Tip: You are not trying to turn the cumin and coriander into powders. You may also use a mortar and pestle for this.