There are two recipes that I make at the drop of a hat from what’s in my pantry. They always please us and also provide leftovers or extras for company. These recipes are tacos and Sloppy Joe’s (see my unprocessed version of the latter here). I know that everyone is pretty familiar with making tacos. But here’s the great news … you don’t have to use a packaged taco seasoning mix or even a homemade mix made of tons of ingredients when you make tacos. Really. Making your own Homemade Taco Seasoning is so easy. It’s also naturally gluten free.
For years now, I’ve been using a recipe that I slightly adapted from my old Betty Crocker cookbook. It has very few ingredients—four to be exact—and when combined with the ground meat of choice provides a simple base that makes the fillings “shine.” And you don’t even have to make it up ahead of time. I don’t know about you, but I love that factor! I’m a “spur-of-the-moment, no planning needed” type gal most of the time. And with only four ingredients for the seasoning, there’s less to remember to have on hand and the recipe is more economical than not only ready-made mixed, but it’s less expensive to make than even most homemade recipes.
I’ll admit the first time I made tacos using this recipe, none of us were too sure we were going to like the seasoning (or the tacos) since we were so accustomed to those bright reddish-orange seasoning mixes that came in packets. Those packets were often full of a lot of other stuff though and while most taco seasoning mix is gluten free (please always read ingredients, of course), those other ingredients are often ones that I don’t care to eat. Ingredients like anti-caking agents, hydrogenated soybean oil, and sulfites. And to be honest, after eating this taco seasoning for years, now other ready-made taco seasonings taste just plain weird. This recipe really does make the best tacos!
And here’s a potentially dinner-saving (dare I say lifesaving?) tip for you. Have you ever gotten ready to start dinner and realized that you didn’t have your ground beef, ground turkey, etc. thawed out? Well, guess what … it’s really easy to thaw out ground meat by just adding water to your skillet until it reaches a depth of about an inch and bringing that water to a boil, paying close attention to it until it reaches that state. Then you reduce the water to a simmer and carefully add your frozen meat. Then you just stir that frozen block of meat ever few minutes, even turning the block over with tongs if needed early in the process. I usually use a wooden spoon for this task as it breaks up the meat nicely. One really doesn’t want hockey pucks for taco meat or Sloppy Joes and this method works great to brown meat for both!
A former roommate taught me this tip before I was married. It’s truly never a big deal to thaw frozen meat with this method.
You can do this task while you’re doing other chores nearby in your kitchen.
If you’re making tacos, you can either drain all the water at the end of this task or you can guesstimate how much water remains and adjust the amount of water with the other taco seasoning ingredients. Enjoy!
Homemade Four-Ingredient Gluten-Free Taco Seasoning Recipe
Homemade Four-Ingredient Taco Seasoning---That You Don’t Make Ahead---for Easy and Tasty Tacos
Who wants to worry about having packages of gluten-free taco seasoning on hand all the time? Instead, make this Homemade Four-Ingredient Taco Seasoning on the spot. No need to make it ahead of time!
- 1 pound ground meat (ground beef, ground venison, ground turkey, etc.)
- 2/3 cup water
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- 2 cloves garlic, minced, or 1/4 tsp garlic powder (or more to taste)
- ½ tsp onion powder (optional, more to taste)
- Brown and drain ground meat.
- Stir in water, chili powder, salt, cumin, and garlic.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
- Continue simmering the meat mixture uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until no water remains.
You can use ready-made gluten-free taco shells or gluten-free tortillas, or make and use one of the 30 tortilla recipes in this amazing roundup (which even includes grain-free and paleo options). Fill tacos shells or tortillas with a small amount of your seasoned meat and then add your other favorite fillings.
Adding onion powder to your taco seasoning can also be a nice option if you don’t want to chop onions (or are out of them), but still want some onion flavor. The only time I add onion powder to my taco meat is when I don’t have an onion on hand to chop and use as one of our fillings.
Our standby fillings are just shredded (or torn) lettuce, diced onions, and shredded cheddar cheese (dairy free is fine), because these are ingredients I always have in my “pantry.” But Mr. GFE really loves sliced mushrooms in his tacos. Admittedly, that's not very traditional, but we just like to fill our tacos with ingredients we personally like and have on hand.
We have also enjoy chopped sweet bell peppers and avocado slices as fillings on occasion … or really anything that’s in the fridge and sounds good. I’ve added leftover tabouli, pico de gallo, hummus, and all types of leftover veggies before.
And here’s a potentially dinner-saving (dare I say lifesaving?) tip for you. Have you ever gotten ready to start dinner and realized that you didn’t have your ground beef, ground turkey, etc. thawed out? Well, guess what … it’s really easy to thaw out ground meat by just adding water to your skillet until it reaches a depth of about an inch and then bringing that water to a boil, paying close attention to it until it reaches that state. Then you reduce the water to a simmer and carefully add your frozen meat. Then you just stir that frozen block of meat every few minutes, even turning the block over with tongs if needed early in the process. I usually use a wooden spoon for this task as it breaks up the meat nicely. One really doesn’t want hockey pucks for taco meat or Sloppy Joes and this method works great to brown meat for both!
Originally published June 17, 2014; updated May 10, 2022.
kathleen conner says
Thanks for this–I might try it tonight!
Hi Kathleen–I hope you like it when you try it! 🙂
It’s great to have recipes using ingredients that most people have on hand. Thanks!
Susan–Working with what I have on hand is my normal way to go! It just makes life so much easier I think, and there’s no compromise on the results, so it’s a win-win IMO. 😉 Thanks for taking the time to comment, dear!
Tia @ Glugle Gluten-Free says
Perfect! We do taco bowls a lot, but I always have to have separate meat so it’s not too spicy for the boys. This made it so I could make it as spicy as I wanted. Everyone gobbled it up.
And I was making it as Max was watching the Lego Movie, so I kept hearing about Taco Tuesday, even though it was Wednesday.
Thanks, Shirley. Not buying taco seasoning again.
Tia–Your comment makes my day. Truly! Thanks you so much. If I could, I’d reach through the screen and give you a hug! No kidding! 🙂 You make such a great point about controlling the spiciness with this simple recipe. And too fun on the Lego Movie with Taco Tuesday references in the background! 😉
My son LOVES tacos and this recipe is perfect because I can adjust the spice level for him. He and his sister are off to a two week sleep away camp in Yosemite and this is one thing he will miss while he is gone. (This camp is wonderful at managing gluten free. Out of four years, there was only one tiny snafu.)
I am going to make this for a surprise for when he comes home. Thanks for sharing this recipe Shirley.
Sandi–Since Son is 26 now and spiciness is not a recipe deterrent any longer, I never thought of that specific benefit of this recipe, but it’s a great one for sure. I’m envious of your son’s and daughter’s camp experience! Yosemite is pretty awesome! And how wonderful that the camp “gets” gluten free right 99% of the time. 🙂 I sure hope he enjoys his “welcome home” tacos! 😉
Rebecca Holt says
i can’t wait to try this recipe. And what an awesome idea to thaw meat!
Hi Rebecca–Welcome to gfe! 🙂 We loved our tacos per usual tonight and I hadn’t planned ahead, so I used that method of thawing my ground meat (venison in our case). It worked like a charm as always and took little time while I attended to other tasks in the kitchen. 😉 Hope that you enjoy the recipe and find the thawing method to be a help at times!
Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and welcome to the world of blogging as I see you’re still relatively new to it. 🙂