Taco Seasoning Substitute: 5 Simple, Tasty Alternatives

Everyone would love to enjoy a casserole with taco seasoning. Don’t use a whole seasoning packet for a casual dinner. Keep some on hand to relish it again when the cravings are at work. Don’t miss out on shredded chicken roasted with onions, or green chilies with the taco spice mix.

What do you do when you don’t have taco seasoning on hand? What can you use instead of taco seasoning?

This article examines the best taco seasoning substitutes you can use in a pinch and also explains a little about its uses and flavor profile.

What is Taco Seasoning?

Taco seasoning is a blend of dry spices that include chilies, cumin, oregano, and pepper. Generally, the seasoning mixed with ground meat or vegetables is used as fillings for tacos and other savory dishes.

It’s a quintessential spice blend for a taco. Its roots go back to traditional Mexican cooking, but it is currently popular across the world. If you are a fiery food fan, then this spice blend is a must-have ingredient in your pantry.

In every possible scenario, you can easily buy taco seasoning packets from any good grocery store or online. If not available, finding a quick substitute for taco seasoning is not difficult.

What does taco seasoning taste like?

The taste of taco mix can vary slightly according to the customized blends sold by different brands. At the forefront, the earthy and herbal notes of oregano and cumin remain dominant. The heat of chilies and pepper forms the background notes. Overall, it lends a spicy, pungent kick to tacos and other dishes.

Essentially, taco and chili seasonings are quite the same, with minor differences in ingredients and flavor.

How to use taco seasoning in cooking?

A taco is a traditional Mexican dish consisting of a small, hand-sized corn or wheat tortilla topped with a filling. Obviously, the delicious taste and aroma of a taco are immensely dependent upon the taco seasoning used in it. It’s the secret behind the delicious taste of taco meat.

Besides taco casseroles, use a packet of seasoning per pound of ground beef, chicken bacon, or vegetable dishes. You can use it in burgers, micheladas, vegan party dips, barbecues, and more. Add it to a simmering pot of beans, canned tomatoes, or viola.

Taco is a versatile seasoning blend that can help you prepare quick and easy weekday meals. This blend is a suitable substitute for different chili seasonings.

Best Substitutes for Taco Seasoning

The authentic taste of tacos heavily depends on the genuine taco seasoning used in them. There won’t be any difficulty in finding this seasoning in the US and Mexico. In case, you don’t have it or have just run out of it, finding a simple substitute for this spice blend is easy. Choose one of the following alternatives:

1. Use Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

When you don’t have store-bought pre-mixed taco seasoning, it’s easy to whip up your own spice mixture. Once you learn to make it, you’ll never buy it again from a shop. Here is the best homemade taco seasoning recipe:


  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cayenne pepper (optional)

In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients; after blending them, transfer them into an airtight container. Store your homemade version of taco spice in a cupboard. Use about 2 tablespoons of DIY taco seasoning for every pound of meat.

Usually, one packet of taco seasoning is equivalent to 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons, usually used per pound of meat. Use 2-3 tablespoons of seasoning for every 1 pound of beef or chicken.

Modify the ingredients in this mix according to your recipe or your taste preferences. Balance the ratio of salt and pepper according to your taste. Most brands of taco seasoning also contain tomato powder for the sake of adding acidity and rendering a red color to meat recipes. You may use tomato powder or paste if needed in your homemade seasoning.

2. Chili Powder

Chili powder is a mixture of hot spices that originated in Texas and was invented by a Texan named Willi Gebhardt, in the early part of the 19th century. It’s a lot similar to taco seasoning in composition and utilized for recreating the flavors of traditional Mexican spice mixes.

The core ingredients in chili powder are cumin and oregano, along with a base of dried and ground chili peppers. A home cook can customize chili powder with additional ingredients according to the needs of the recipe.

Chili powder is a wonderful substitute for taco seasoning because it contains similar ingredients. Also, see if any of the chili powder substitutes can fit into your recipes.

3. Fajita Seasoning

Fajitas are tacos filled with grilled meat instead of the braised ground meat used in taco filling. Fajita seasoning is a popularly used spice mix used for adding traditional flavor to Tex-Mex foods.

Most ingredients in Fajita seasoning are the same as those used in taco seasoning. The core ingredients in this seasoning are cumin and chili peppers, making it a good substitution for taco seasoning.

Fajita seasoning has an acidic ingredient that gives it a sour citrus flavor, like tomato powder, which is used in some blends of taco seasoning. Citric acid is the most commonly used ingredient for citrusy flavor.

The citrusy flavor of Fajita seasoning won’t be an issue in most taco recipes. Note, the acidification of some ingredients in tacos may not be good in some cases.

4. Sriracha

Sriracha is a hot sauce, a manageable taco seasoning substitute in a pinch. This sauce has heat and flavor similar to taco seasoning with a wonderful garlic note. In fact, your taco would taste great with the slightly sweet, spicy, and garlicky taste of Sriracha sauce. Adding a little chili powder and ground cumin to Sriracha sauce is another brilliant idea to make it taste like taco seasoning. If you don’t have it, Harissa chili paste is a good alternative to consider.

5. Chili Pepper and Cumin

If you don’t have all the necessary ingredients to make taco seasoning, you can still save your taco with a mixture of ground chili pepper and cumin alone. This mixture is just sufficient to impart heat and earthiness to your taco, the two dominant flavors of a standard taco seasoning.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you substitute taco seasoning for chili seasoning?

Yes, taco seasoning can replace chili seasoning in recipes. They're similar, but taco seasoning usually contains more cumin and chili powder. For chili recipes, just add extra chili powder to adjust the flavor.

Is tones taco seasoning gluten free?

No, Tone's taco seasoning is not gluten free. It contains wheat flour as one of its ingredients.

Is Old El Paso taco seasoning vegan?

Old El Paso taco seasoning isn't vegan because it has natural flavor, possibly from animal sources, and sugar that might be refined using bone char.

What's the difference between taco seasoning and chili seasoning?

Taco seasoning has more cumin, giving it a warm, earthy taste, while chili seasoning has more chili powder, making it hotter. Both include spices like onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, and salt, but differ in cumin and chili powder amounts.

Is mild or original taco seasoning hotter?

Original taco seasoning is usually spicier than mild because it has more chili powder, the main heat source in tacos. Mild seasoning has less chili powder and might include ingredients like sugar or tomato powder to soften the heat.

Can you use taco seasoning on steak?

You can definitely use taco seasoning on steak. It's a popular way to add flavor for tacos, fajitas, or similar dishes. Apply it directly or marinate the steak in it before cooking.

Is taco seasoning low FODMAP?

Many store-bought taco seasonings aren't low FODMAP because they have garlic and onion powder. But you can make your own low FODMAP version with ingredients like cumin, chili powder, paprika, oregano, and smoked paprika.

Does taco seasoning cause diarrhea?

Taco seasoning, especially its chili powder content, can cause diarrhea in sensitive individuals due to stomach irritation. Consider using milder versions, less seasoning, or avoiding it to prevent digestive issues.

Can you use expired taco seasoning?

Using expired taco seasoning is safe and generally okay, but it might not taste as strong. Over time, the spices lose their strength. Just ensure it's stored in a cool, dry place and check for mold or color changes.

How to use taco seasoning on chicken?

To use taco seasoning on chicken, either cook it with seasoning in a skillet until browned, then add water and simmer, or marinate it. For marinating, mix seasoning with oil and extras like lime juice, then marinate for 30 minutes to overnight.

Final Thought

Certainly, it’s easy to use a store-bought taco seasoning packet for a taco. When you run out of the pre-mixed blend, with the available spices, you can make your own taco seasoning. Chili powder or fajita seasoning is also a workable replacement for taco seasoning.

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