We love tacos in our household. There’s nothing like the combination of warm tortillas filled with fish, shrimp, meat and veggies, topped with cheese and sour cream (and I’m not talking about Taco Bell tacos). I’m perfectly happy that we love tacos so much because not only are they awesome in flavor and you eat plenty of veggies, they are also fast to make.
Tacos are one of my go to meals for when I’m running behind or just need something fast. I generally can make tacos from start to finish in 30 minutes or less. The trick to preparing tacos is doing the prep for the meat before getting started cooking and then prepping for the toppings after the meat is in the pan cooking.
Now I make my taco seasoning from scratch and it works for ground beef, turkey, chicken or pork and chicken tacos because I don’t like the extra additives that come in the taco seasoning packets (this of course would be a shortcut for those who don’t want to make the seasoning up fresh but the fresh does taste better). It doesn’t take long to make and uses ingredients found in most people’s spice rack (or at least the rack of those that cook). It’s also not expensive because I get my spices in bulk at local ethnic markets (the spices are fresher and cheaper). Another advantage is you can make up a large batch of the mix and have it ready to go ahead of time.
Homemade tortillas are also a nice touch to pair with the tacos but here in Denver we have access to awesome fresh tortilla makers that usually sell them cheaper in the stores than I can make them and using the same ingredients I would use, so I tend to take the shortcut of buying them. While I usually get them at my local store, I must admit, it smells so good going into a shop that makes tortillas (kinda the same thing as going to a bakery), hummm, I smile just thinking about it. Probably because I also tend to pick up an empanada or two while I’m there as well.
The kind of tortillas also makes a difference in the flavor with the tacos. Having grown up on the East Coast, they tend to use flour tortillas for everything. The authentic approach is to use corn (soft or hard is okay but the authentic uses soft) as I found out after moving to Denver. I can also see why because the flavor of the corn is so much better with the food but I do sneak in a flour one now and then with my taco to remind me of North Carolina.
Toppings for my tacos include finely chopped cabbage, pico de gallo, cucumber (sometimes), tomatoes, cheese and sour cream. Lettuce is a common addition instead of cabbage for many Americans but I learned the authentic Mexican approach uses cabbage and tried it out. The flavor combination is better with the cabbage but do eat what you like, after all one advantage to eating tacos is so many fresh veggies.
Today, I’m going to give you my recipe for the taco seasoning mix and I included pictures of my chicken tacos using this mix blended with some fresh jalapeno. The amounts in this mix are good for 1 pound of chicken or 1 pound of hamburger. I also like to mix in 1 15oz. can of black beans (drained and rinsed) and about two cups of fresh corn (you can use canned or frozen) with the hamburger when making tacos. Black beans and corn are just natural flavor combos with the hamburger. I also tend to throw in chopped onions, garlic and fresh Serrano chilies and fresh lime juice to wake up the taste buds. The advantage to tacos is that it can be all about you and the flavors you like. So add what you want to your tacos! It’s all about enjoying the flavors of life in your own way.
Taco Seasoning Mix
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp. corn flour (masa harina)
4 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. white pepper (can be left out)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 beef or chicken bouillon cube (depends on if you’re making chicken or beef tacos)
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (can adjust to your tastes)
Mix spices together and you are ready to make tacos.
Directions for cooking tacos:
If using ground beef, turkey, chicken or pork: Add 1 pound of lean ground meat to a large hot skillet, stir to break apart. Once meat has browned, remove from pan, rinse and drain with hot water to remove addition fat. If using onions, garlic and peppers place in skillet to cook until soft then add meat (also time to add beans and corn if using) back to skillet with 1 cup of water and taco seasoning mix. Cook on low until water simmers out and serve.
If using chicken: Slice 1 pound of chicken into about 1/4″ thin, bite-size pieces. Mix the taco seasoning mix with the chicken. Add a few squeezes of fresh lime juice. Heat a skillet to sizzling then add chicken in batches, stirring to cook on all sides and removing when browned. Do not add all of chicken at once because it will produce too much liquid and will simmer instead of browning. Chicken should only be in the hot pan about 30 seconds to a minute, as not to over cook it and make it tough.