As a kid we would always host "Taco Night" at our house. Every time, this meant the same thing: crispy, U-shaped hard shell tacos filled with spiced ground beef, cheese, lettuce, sour cream, and our weird family addition — black olives. Sure we could go out to eat at some of the many local and more authentic Mexican restaurants, but there was something so comforting about this tradition.
What made these American-style tacos so good? I've always felt the key to the success of a classic American taco — whether crispy or soft — to be that little seasoning packet for the meat. Growing up it was always Williams or later, actually the Taco Bell brand, but across the board it was pretty similar. Super salty, slightly sweet, heavy on the paprika, and not too spicy for the average American's taste buds.
As I got older and became an avid cook, I leaned towards finding something more authentic and fresher in what I cooked. It was important to me to learn about individual spices and flavors, and what I could create on my own in the kitchen without the help of something pre-made. Cooking many recipes over the years, I've experimented with variations on this spice blend and branched out to make more offbeat tacos with curried vegetables or ubiquitous combinations like the pineapple and pork of tacos al pastor.
A few months back though, the taco seasoning packet reentered my kitchen by a stroke of luck, as a grocery attendant mistakenly placed another customer's purchase in my bag. Unwrapping the groceries at home, I figured I'd just keep it around in case I needed it. The reality? I found myself sprinkling this mix on everything! How had I ever abandoned this stuff?
With it being so convenient to have around, I've resolved to keep a homemade version on hand, as it's simpler, to the point, and bypasses all those questionable, unpronounceable ingredients in many a store bought variety.
→ Looking for your own taco seasoning recipe? The Kitchn's got you covered with a great version here: How To Make Your Own Taco Seasoning