Taco Potion #19

Taco Potion #19

This mixture of spices and thickeners will turn ground meat into a flavor fiesta … and yes, I just said “flavor fiesta.” Why number 19? Because there were 18 formulas before that didn’t quite reach my “fiesta” standards. Although I use this predominantly on beef, it works just as well with ground turkey.  

Taco Potion #19

  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds (freshly toasted and ground)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  1. Put all the ingredients in a small jar and shake to combine. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month. To use, break up a half pound of ground beef in a wide skillet over medium heat. As soon as it starts to sizzle, sprinkle on a tablespoon or two and continue stirring. As moisture cooks out of the meat and simmers, it will be thickened by the cornstarch. It’s a darned tasty trick.

Makes 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons


Add yours
  1. 1

    This recipe is intended to be taco seasoning. The absence of onion and garlic is not an issue for me as I chop fresh onion and garlic to saute before adding the meat.

    I have run into the too salty issue before. I think it was due to the chili powder I used having salt in it. I have just ordered Penzey’s Medium Hot Chili Powder (no salt) and cannot wait to try it with #19. Even knowing that the chili powder has no salt, I’ll still cut back on the salt a bit.

  2. 2

    On Alton’s show…. Taco mix #19 as above. 2 TBSP peanut oil in skillet. Medium chopped onion 3-4 minutes. Then add two cloves fresh chopped garlic, one teaspoon kosher salt, and 1# ground SIRLOIN. 3-5 minutes until meat is browned. Add entire dose of taco mix #19 and mix well. Add 2/3 cup beef broth, bring to a simmer. Simmer 2-3 minutes. Done.

  3. 3

    First time I made it this was super salty as well. Turned out the chili powder had salt in it as well. Next time had a better chili powder and it was wonderful.

  4. 4
    Joe Eck

    There seem to be a number of questions regarding what exactly is the chili powder AB is referring to. Just based entirely on watching his shows over the years, and specifically his chili show, he clearly emphasizes the differences between chili (with and i) and Chile (with an e). Since the recipe calls for chili powder with an i, I presume this is the spice blend known as chili powder and not nut a bunch of ground up Chile peppers. Just my thought.

  5. 5

    I found it really odd that this recipe doesn’t call for garlic powder. It tasted flat without it, so in went 1 tsp of granulated garlic. I used chili powder (which is just ground up California or Pasilla peppers and can be found at any super market). It’s what I always keep on hand as that’s what most recipes actually call for. We’re vegetarians, so I used 2 tbs of this seasoning with about 2 1/2 cups of already hydrated tvp (added extra 1/4 cup water in the pan since tvp doesn’t secrete juice like meat). It’s a decent recipe. Mr. Brown often over does it with salt, so you may want to try a little less and add more to taste as you cook. Try adding a smidgen of cocoa powder too.

    • 6
      Sandra Ainsworth

      Angela, I’m probably not the first to say this, but Chili Powder usually has much more than ground chiles in it. I don’t like it because it usually has way too much cumin. Alton’s recipe it’s an alternative for chili powder.

      • 7

        NO IT’S NOT!!!!!!!!!!!! THIS IS A RECIPE FOR TACO SEASONING!!!!!!!!!!!

        Alton does however have a recipe for chili powder, just go to foodnetwork.com
        and search “chili powder” and it is the first thing to come up.

  6. 8

    I strongly suggest to try adding 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon (already grounded or you could ground it from a stick).
    that was the ingredient which definitely added the “fiesta” to my tacos/burritos (and the others were pretty much the same of your recipe)
    enjoy! 🙂

  7. 10

    I made this over a month ago and have been waiting for taco night (don’t ask lol). It should still be good right? It’s been in my fridge stored in a small glass jar.

  8. 11

    I was concerned about salt content, since 2 tablespoons of kosher salt made my mixture way too salty. Is it OK to leave out the salt when initially making the mixture, and then after adding it to the ground beef, adding salt a little bit at a time to taste?

    • 12

      The recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of salt, not 2 tablespoons. That’d probably be why yours was too salty. I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t just add the salt to taste while cooking though as long as you do add at least some salt.

  9. 15

    Do you have a favorite hot smoked paprika? I have some McCormick smoked paprika but I have not seen a hot smoked paprika in my local store. I think I may need to order and would appreciate a recommendation.

  10. 17
    Sandra N.

    Is there a substitute for the cornstarch? I have allergies to corn and gluten… could you replace it with some tapioca starch??? Please help… trying to discover new options.

    • 19

      The only reason I can think of that corn starch would be imperative would be for velveting, which of course requires an entirely different process than one would use for taco meat. This mix uses corn starch as a thickener only, so any kind of starch would do.

    • 20

      Use tapioca flour (starch) that is in the baking aisle of the store. Bob’s Red Mill has it. Just increase the amount from 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon. Works like a charm.

    • 22

      Any Of us …as we get older and are now cooking for 2 instead of 5 …and …Still despise left overs or wasting food
      only need to cook a Half a Pound.

  11. 23

    I’m surprised Alton didn’t suggest also roasting and grinding the coriander. It’s as easy as the cumin to do…and the roasting does add a nice depth of flavor.

  12. 24
    John smith

    When you say chili powder do you mean a prepare blend of chilis and other spices or do you mean dried chili blended into a powder?

    • 25

      One can presume he intends powdered dried chilis to be used for this blend. I say this because the product labeled “chili powder” in the store is a combination of most of the ingredients listed in this recipe. This recipe makes a hybrid chili powder/taco seasoning. Take away the thickening agent (cornstarch) and you have chili powder. Add dried bell pepper, onion, and garlic, and you have what they sell in packets at the store as taco seasoning. Of course, this homemade version will soar above the store bought in terms of flavor.

  13. 26

    In the absence of cumin seeds, I’m hoping to sub ground cumin…how much would I use? 1 Tbsp? 1 tsp? Or something in between? I’ve never ground my own cumin seeds, so unsure of the yield. thx!

    • 27

      It’s worth buying some cumin seeds to grind your own. The flavors of purchased ground spices are insipid compared to freshly ground…plus it sounds cool when you mention it during cooking conversations…and it’s super easy. For example, last night I used ginger powder I bought a while ago plus only half the quantity of clove powder the recipe called for because I had roasted & ground the cloves myself…the clove flavor shone through while the ginger was barely noticeable…yes, it makes that much difference.

      As for your question – Try it with 2 teaspoons ground and then add more if it’s not strong enough. This is the nice thing about making your own spice mixes – you’re in control not McCormick 🙂

    • 28

      In my experience when you grind a seed, whether it be coriander, fennel, cumin, etc…, you end up with approximately 60-70% of what you had when it was a seed. Go by that for a rough estimate.

    • 29

      I used the same amount. I had ran our of coriander and subed dried cilantro leaves. Did not have any smoked paprika so subed sweet paprika. My husband cannot eat anything hot so I omitted the cayenne pepper. It is fabulous and seems to be very forgiving as long as you sub similar items. I kept the amounts abt the same.

  14. 30
    Mike M

    I’ve got some chili powder made by following the Good Eats chili episode. I may try this with that. Oh, if you do try to make the chili powder the way he does in the chili episode, make it the way he makes it. I.E. OUTSIDE. I filled our house with pepper gas doing this one. The chili powder is great, though. I love it!

  15. 31
    Rob K

    I just made this the other night, my only complaint was that the smoked paprika tended to overpower the other seasonings and made it taste less like taco meat and more of a smokey flavor.

    • 32

      How would you define “taco meat”? Meat which you usually flavor with store bought “taco seasoning”? Or do you usually just shake some chili powder into it? I ask because the answer will help others determine if they need to adjust the spice levels for their personal tastes.

    • 33

      Some people have a lower tolerance to the strength of the smoky taste, so next time you make it, cut the amount of smoked paprika in half and sub regular paprika for the other half. Or go 1/3rd of the total paprika amount in smoked, the other 2/3rd in regular. The beauty of food chemistry is that, once you have some basic rules down, mixing, matching and adjusting for individual taste is a snap.

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