Make your own taco seasoning: you control how spicy or mild it is, naturally low sodium and much cheaper than buying packets. And I prefer the flavor!

Make Your Own Taco Seasoning

One of the first things I learned aboard Que Tal was that packaged seasoning mixes don’t mix well with the typical humidity on a boat.  The previous owners had left several packages of taco seasoning and I got one out to use the first week we were aboard.  Imagine my surprise as I opened it to find it all globbed together and moldy!

Hmm, time to learn to make my own! (Learning how to store spices and packets was also a priority.) And as we cruised Mexico and Central America, I almost never saw packaged taco seasoning — Mexican tacos are actually quite different from what we call tacos in the US.

Over time, I experimented with my seasoning mix and actually like it better than what comes in the packets.  Three other benefits:

  • It’s much cheaper to make my own,
  • I can control how spicy or mild the mix is AND
  • It’s low sodium without sacrificing taste.  The recipe itself doesn’t have any salt in it, but most chili powders do have some, so just exactly how “low sodium” the mix is will depend on your chili powder.
Unlike the packaged mixes, this does not contain any cornstarch and you don’t need to add water as you’re cooking the taco meat.  With ground beef, I generally just sprinkle the seasoning over the meat as I’m browning it.  For chicken or fish, I put the seasoning and the meat in a plastic bag and shake to coat it all before cooking.

You can use it in other recipes just as you’d use a packet of seasoning.

Taco Seasoning


  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano OR Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (omit for milder version)
  1. Mix all ingredients.
  2. Makes enough to season 1 pound of meat.

Make as mild or spicy as you desire by changing the amount of chili powder and cayenne.

If you use the full amounts of the chili powder and cayenne, this is spicier than most packaged mixes. It probably won’t make tears come to your eyes, but it’s definitely spicy. I like it, but I like things spicier than most Midwesterners (those used to eating Tex-Mex probably won’t find it overly hot).

If using with ground beef, sprinkle over meat as it’s browning.

If using with fish or chicken, coat meat before cooking.

Do not add any water to the meat.

Use in other recipes in place of one packet of taco seasoning.

Want more boat-friendly recipes? Check out The Boat Galley Cookbook with over 800 recipes or get a free PDF sample of it with 30 recipes:

  • Waterwoman
    Posted at 14 January 2012 Reply

    Hi Carolyn, I have been making my own seasoning mix for a few years and make enough to store in a pint jar. You are right, it is so much better than packaged and doesn’t have the ingredients we don’t need.


  • MaryJo Boyle
    Posted at 12 June 2012 Reply

    I happened to check the label on my taco seasoning and was surprised to find wheat flour as one of the ingredients! Good thing I checked because we have a guest coming who is on a gluten free diet.

    • bb
      Posted at 02 June 2015 Reply

      Yes, the wheat in commercial taco seasoning packets was of concern to me too, because we are also having a gluten-sensitive (non-celiac) guest later this month. She swears she isn’t “that” sensitive, and her husband LOVES any kind of tacos, but I didn’t want to take any chances (with digestive upsets) and was revisiting this recipe. Am glad it came up again on the newsletter. Thanks, Carolyn!

  • John Norris
    Posted at 26 February 2014 Reply

    This is great seasoning. Love the ability to control the amount of salt.

  • Nancy Orloski
    Posted at 26 February 2014 Reply

    Thanks for the recipe, always good to have something that’s good and saves money too.
    What sauce is on top in the picture that you have in this post? It looks really good!

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 26 February 2014 Reply

      It’s the one in the Fish or Chicken Tacos recipe — click link (it’s NOT in the cookbook). I love them!

      • Nancy Olroski
        Posted at 26 February 2014 Reply

        I will definitely give it a try, thanks.

  • Beth Browne
    Posted at 03 June 2015 Reply

    Absolutely *love* this idea and will definitely try it. I hate all those nasty ingredients in packaged mixes. Thanks!

  • Jan Bogart
    Posted at 12 February 2016 Reply

    Thanks… do you keep garlic powder from solidifying?

    • Cork Lillick
      Posted at 12 February 2016 Reply

      Use fresh garlic. Forget garlic powder.

    • Jan Bogart
      Posted at 12 February 2016 Reply

      Yeah, it only lasts a few days for us. Haven’t bought it in years.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 13 February 2016 Reply

      I use beans instead of rice since they’re bigger and won’t go through the shaker holes. But the bigger thing is to never shake the garlic powder over a hot pan — the steam gets in the jar and then the garlic powder turns to concrete!

  • Frances Liz Fernandez
    Posted at 13 February 2016 Reply

    Thanks. I’m going to try it out

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