I’ll admit it, I love a good shortcut here and there. Who doesn’t? It’s almost too easy not to pass up those pre-made spice packets that seem to litter grocery store aisles nowadays. But there’s something so fulfilling about making your own spice mixes from scratch- from a taste and cost perspective.
I know that it can sometime seem a little expensive to have a full pantry with all kinds of spices on hand. However, I would highly recommend investing in at least the basics:
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- garlic powder
- dried oregano
- dried thyme
- sugar (brown, granulated, and powdered)
…as well as a few other spices like curry powder, cumin, cayenne, and crushed red pepper flakes. I find myself using these all the time in my kitchen, and once you buy some, you’ll have lots to use whenever you want.
Of course, there’s always that one weird spice in the ingredients list of a recipe that you might be hesitant to go out and buy- like cream of tartar or cardamom. At that point its a judgment call- are you going to make this recipe a lot in the future? If so, I’d recommend making the investment- especially if you can find the spice or herb in bulk. I’m of the mind, though, that I can never have enough spice in my life, and I love experimenting with different flavors.
I did the math, and these tacos cost us total $10.51. This recipe makes 12 tacos. Assuming you have the spices on hand, that’s around $0.88 per taco!!! I know- there are costs associated with the spices I had on hand, which I’m not counting here. But I’ve used these same spices in so many recipes before that I think the law of diminishing returns is in effect here. Or something. I’m not a math major, people.
In this case, I did happen to have all the ingredients on hand in my pantry- another reason why having a well-stocked kitchen will save you money in the long run.
And oh yeah- the flavor was totally kick-butt! A lot of depth comes from the classic combination of cumin and chili powder- with some nice kick from the pepper flakes and garlic powder. Plus, you’re able to control how much spice and salt you want this way- which can be a big problem with storebought spice mixes. It’s totally worth the extra 5 minutes it took to throw this spicy, smokey taco mix together!
- 1.5 lbs ground beef, 80% lean
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ¾ cup water
- 10 hard taco shells
- Shredded lettuce
- Fresh tomatoes, diced
- Shredded cheese (we used a 4-cheese Mexican blend from Kraft)
- Pre-heat oven to 325, and warm up frying pan over medium-high heat. When a couple of drops of water sizzle in the pan, you’re ready to brown your beef.
- Add beef to the hot pan, and let cook for 6-8 minutes or until all the beef is brown and cooked. Drain the beef of fat, then place beef back in the pan, keeping over heat.
- Add ¾ cup water, and seasoning mix. Stir and bring to a boil, and continue simmering for another 5-6 minutes.
- While beef is cooking, heat up taco shells in the oven for 5 minutes.
- Assemble tacos as you like them!
My favorite way to assemble a taco is to first place a layer of cheese in the bottom of the taco shell, spoon in some ground beef, then layer with shredded lettuce and tomatoes and a final sprinkling of cheese.
… or, just throw it all together in a taco salad!