Taco Seasoning Ingredients: What’s In That Packet?

What’s a family dinner tradition without a taco night? The crunch, the sauce, and the mildly-spicy beef all add up to a fun and tasty eating experience. But there’s always been one mystery about taco night for me…what are the taco seasoning ingredients really? What spices are in taco seasoning that make it taste so good?

Well, like most store-bought things, there’s more than you’d like to be there. Here’s the typical ingredients found in store-bought taco seasoning packets (Old El Paso is the example), along with what each ingredient brings to the table. Looking for a seasoning mix  for your tacos that doesn’t include so many science-y words? Shop the labels in the seasoning aisle. Some varieties may lean more towards all-natural ingredients. Or try making your own homemade taco seasoning. It’s easy to do, and all it takes is some common spices that you likely have around the house.

  • Chili Pepper (this one is self explanatory, but rather vague in our book)
  • Salt (for taste)
  • Maltodextrin (an artificial sugar with a milder taste)
  • Spice (again expected, but not specific. As a base, taco seasonings typically contain chili powder, cumin, paprika, black pepper, garlic, oregano, and onion)
  • Onion Powder (for taste)
  • Corn Starch (a thickener)
  • Yellow Corn Flour (for taste and texture)
  • Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil (contains trans fats which raise cholesterol)
  • Silicon Dioxide (an anti-caking agent, but you’ll know it better by its other name – sand)
  • Sunflower and/or Cottonseed Oil (for taste)
  • Natural Flavor (very general – this could be anything)
  • Ethoxyquin (a preservative, but it’s also used as a pesticide)

As you can see, we don’t get much information on the spices, and to help taco seasonings last on store shelves, there are a lot of things added that aren’t exactly natural. Plus some ingredients here do have notoriety among food experts, like partially hydrogenated soybean oil and ethoxyquin. Most store-bought processed foods contain these types of ingredients, so you’re not getting anything worse here. For something so easy to make, though, it’s definitely worth checking out a homemade taco seasoning recipe.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on September 5, 2019 to include new content.
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