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Gluten Free Taco Seasoning

Gluten Free Taco Seasoning

This gluten free taco seasoning is perfect for giving instant flavor to chicken, fish or vegetables. Avoid any unsafe fillers and make it yourself!

Gluten free taco seasoning in jar, with a teaspoonful beside the jar.

How I use gluten free taco seasoning

I use it in place of the spices in our recipe for chicken Parm meatballs to transform them into Mexican-style meatballs. I use it on sauteed vegetables to make fajitas.

I even use this spice blend in place of the individual spices in our recipe for red enchilada sauce. That’s the sauce you see drizzled on the chicken tacos in the photos.

The chicken in the tacos pictured below is made by slicing skinless boneless chicken breast into thin slices. Then, I toss them with cornstarch and our homemade gluten free taco seasoning and allow them to sit for at least 30 minutes and up to a day in the refrigerator.

To cook the chicken, I simply saute it in a neutral oil with a relatively high smoke point. Peanut oil and grapeseed oil work great, but so does canola oil (*gasp*).

Why isn’t all taco seasoning naturally gluten free?

Since taco seasoning is simply a blend of dried spices, you might assume that all taco seasoning is naturally gluten free. But like most anything else packaged, there is always the possibility that there’s a gluten-containing ingredient added.

Some spice mixes have added gluten in the form of malt for flavoring, or even wheat flour as a binder or thickener. The same goes for packaged sauces.

I assume these brands began adding these flavoring or fillers long before there was any sensitivity to something gluten-containing. Back in the early 2000s, I barely even knew what gluten was, much less how to avoid it!

Now their taco seasoning blend is what it is, and it’s not worth reformulating. Think about Rice Krispies and their added malt syrup.

It’s easy to check the label of spice blends to see if they contain any suspicious ingredients. If you’re unsure, don’t use the blend.

You’re unlikely to get even trace amounts of gluten from a single ingredient spice, like those you use to create this homemade gluten free taco seasoning. But of course it’s possible.

Chicken tacos made with gluten free taco seasoning, with taco seasoning in the background.

What brands of spices are gluten free?

Most brands of individual spices, such as those made by McCormick, are labeled gluten free, but don’t contain any certification. McCormick’s “taco seasoning” blend is also labeled as “gluten free.”

A “gluten free” label means that the product doesn’t contain wheat, barley, or rye, but it goes beyond that. As of 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that any product labeled “gluten free” must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

There are 3 private organizations that provide a designation of “certified gluten free.” Among the 3 certifying organizations, only the Celiac Support Association (CSA) requires that the product contain less than 5 parts per million for certification. The other two require 20 parts per million, like the FDA.

The Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO) is established by the Gluten Intolerance Group, and is probably the certified gluten free label that’s most familiar to us in the U.S. Spicely Organics spices are certified gluten free by the GFCO.

Image of a teaspoonful of gluten free taco seasoning.

How do I make sure my homemade taco seasoning is gluten free?

The only way to really make sure that every ingredient that goes into your homemade gluten free taco seasoning is 100% safe is to use a gluten sensor. That’s such a personal decision, and it goes way beyond the scope of this gluten free baking blog.

If it helps you feel more comfortable, Nima sensor has a great list of spices they’ve tested and found completely safe. I tend to use McCormick’s brand spices, but also use Trader Joe’s brand spices, and Whole Pantry brand, from Whole Foods.

Chicken tacos made with gluten free taco seasoning, with taco seasoning.

Ingredients and substitutions

Since you’re making this spice blend yourself, you should of course customize it to your tastes. This is the blend that I use that tastes the most well-rounded to me. Here are a few thoughts about some of the ingredients, if you’re thinking of replacing them:

Smoky spices: If your family simply doesn’t care for the smokiness of smoked Spanish paprika or ground cumin, you can use regular paprika and leave out the cumin. But the flavor of the spice blend will seem rather flat.

Chipotle chili pepper: I like to use chipotle chili pepper in cooking because I like chipotle chilis, and it’s a single spice (powdered chipotle chilis). Chili powder is typically a blend of spices (often, with cumin).

If you have a favorite chili powder, use that here. If you really don’t like anything spicy, use much less. If your family loves spice, add as much as you like. Just remember that although you can always add more, you can’t dial it back.

Sugar: The granulated sugar helps round out the kick from the chili powder. You can certainly replace it with coconut palm sugar, for a quick Paleo substitution.

You can leave out the sugar entirely, of course. But rest assured that the blend does not taste at all sweet with the sugar.

Aromatics: Aromatics like onion and garlic powder are staples in savory cooking. It’s really hard to cook food that has much flavor at all without them.

If you don’t have onion powder versions, you can use twice the volume of minced dried onions. If you only have garlic salt, and not garlic powder, reduce the amount of kosher salt accordingly.

Oregano: Oregano is my desert island spice. I love it in everything. If you don’t, leave it out. It’s really not necessary.

If you do plan to use oregano, make sure it’s fresh-tasting. If your jar of dried oregano doesn’t smell much when you open it, just press the leaves in your palm with the fingers of your other hand before adding it to the blend. That will help release some of its natural oils.

 
Image of both spoonful of homemade gluten free taco seasoning and chicken tacos made with the seasoning.

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Yield: 1/4 cup seasoning mix

Ingredients

2 teaspoons chipotle chili pepper (or more, to taste)

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon onion powder

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

  • In a small bowl, place all of the ingredients and whisk to combine. Transfer to a glass container with a tight-fitting lid and store in a cool, dark pantry until ready to use.

  • Measurement note: The measurements given are by volume, and not by weight. If you are concerned about accuracy, don’t be. This recipe doesn’t require the precision that baking demands. If you live outside the U.S. and don’t use our same teaspoons, think of seasoning recipe like a ratio. Use the same set of volume containers for measuring all the ingredients and your blend will be properly balanced.

Love,
Nicole

  • Laura
    May 12, 2020 at 4:21 PM

    Hi, Nicole. I’d love to add a Southwestern vibe to my cooking but I’m not only gluten intolerant but intolerant to onions and garlic as well. Any substitution suggestions for these ubiquitous ingredients? BTW I’m trying the Brazilian cheese bread rolls to go with a broccoli soup for dinner tonight.

    • Nicole Hunn
      May 12, 2020 at 4:56 PM

      Haha I want to help you get that Southwestern vibe, Laura, but as you already seem to know it’s so hard without onions and garlic. Garlic in particular is really important. I did some google searching, and couldn’t find anything helpful. I would recommend just eliminating those ingredients, increasing the salt a bit, and the chipotle chili powder as well a bit to compensate for the flavor, which will be less well-rounded. I would smell as you go, since most of the taste of spices is through smell, so add until you like the smell. I hope that’s helpful!

  • Ann Knapp
    May 6, 2020 at 8:48 AM

    I would very much like to purchase the GF shoestring book can I buy it on this site ?
    Thank you
    ANN

    • Nicole Hunn
      May 6, 2020 at 9:00 AM

      Hi, Ann, since I published the book with a traditional publisher, I don’t sell it myself directly. You can find the second edition of my first book, Gluten Free on a Shoestring, anywhere books are sold. That includes online sources, like Amazon.com. Thank you for your interest!

  • Christine
    May 5, 2020 at 12:02 PM

    Hi, Nicole. I usually use Penzeys’ taco seasoning and can’t get it right now, so would love to try this on ground beef for our usual Taco Tuesday! Wondering about how to use cornstarch for thickener. Would you mix it with the spice blend? I notice that for sliced chicken you toss it with the cornstarch separately, but that probably wouldn’t work for ground beef. Thanks!

    • Nicole Hunn
      May 5, 2020 at 12:44 PM

      Hi, Christine, if I remember correctly, I looked up Penzey’s and they won’t promise that their spices are GF. I would actually create a cornstarch slurry using a bit of liquid (maybe stock, depending upon what you’re making) and add it that way.

  • CAROL DEUTENBERG
    May 3, 2020 at 1:52 PM

    Since I do suffer from Celiac I am very careful about things. Domino’s Pizza claim they have a gluten free pizza. But they have a disclaimer in very tiny print that states these pizzas are made where other regular pizzas are made. I took the chance. NEVER again. Suffered the side effects so there is gluten. Not to mention the pizza was smaller and far more expensive. I’ll stick to using your recipe for the pizza dough.

    • Nicole Hunn
      May 3, 2020 at 2:34 PM

      I would never trust any gluten free baked goods that were baked alongside conventional baked goods. Domino’s actually made it pretty clear from the beginning that it was more like “low gluten” than safe for celiacs because of the likelihood of cross contamination.

  • Diane
    May 3, 2020 at 11:29 AM

    I was just looking through my recipes last night for a homemade taco seasoning that I had used in the past but couldn’t find it! How perfect that this popped up in my emails today! Thank you! And thanks for the reminder to marinate chicken before cooking. I used to do it all the time but as life got busier I guess I just started taking shortcuts. Appreciate the added tips!

    • Nicole Hunn
      May 3, 2020 at 11:41 AM

      I’m so glad this recipe is so timely for you, Diane! Shortcuts are necessary, for sure. Even when we’re spending more time at home, we still get busy and distracted. I do find that marinating chicken (even here with cornstarch and this taco seasoning) makes for a much more tender result—and chicken that cooks quickly.

  • Marilyn Sellar
    May 3, 2020 at 10:51 AM

    When someone asked for the delicious looking tacos, your answer was not helpful. It does not tell you how you made the internal taco ingredients.. love the taco dry ingredients, but the tacos look wonderful.please give us the recipe!

    • Nicole Hunn
      May 3, 2020 at 11:40 AM

      Marilyn, here is the quote from the post about how I made the internal taco ingredients. I try my best not to repeat myself when someone asks a question about something that was already covered in the published post, which I why I simply referred to that when I was asked:

      The chicken in the tacos pictured below is made by slicing skinless boneless chicken breast into thin slices. Then, I toss them with cornstarch and our homemade gluten free taco seasoning and allow them to sit for at least 30 minutes and up to a day in the refrigerator.
      To cook the chicken, I simply saute it in a neutral oil with a relatively high smoke point. Peanut oil and grapeseed oil work great, but so does canola oil (*gasp*).

  • Susan T. Bushey
    May 2, 2020 at 7:42 AM

    I did a search for your recipe for the awesome looking Chicken Tacos you show twice in this taco seasoning recipe but couldn’t find it. Any help you can give me? My family is loving all the GF items I’ve made from your website Nicole. Keep em’ comin’!

    • Nicole Hunn
      May 2, 2020 at 10:39 AM

      I don’t have a separate recipe for them, Susan! Just read through the post and you’ll find a description of how I make them. It’s so easy!

  • Teri
    May 1, 2020 at 1:01 PM

    I was just looking for taco seasoning made at home. Is this equivalent to 1 seasoning packet? Thank you,

    • Nicole Hunn
      May 1, 2020 at 3:15 PM

      I actually think that a package of store-bought taco seasoning is typically 2 tablespoons of seasoning. So that would be half this recipe, Teri!

  • Amanda
    May 1, 2020 at 12:04 PM

    Is smoked paprika the same as smoked Spanish paprika?

    • Nicole Hunn
      May 1, 2020 at 3:14 PM

      Hi, Amanda, believe it or not it depends! There are various types of smoked paprika, but smoked Spanish paprika is generally more mild in flavor than Hungarian. When a spice just says “smoked paprika,” it’s usually at least very similar to Spanish. As long as it’s not ‘hot,’ you should be fine to use it.

  • Kathleen
    May 1, 2020 at 11:20 AM

    Is this recipe equal to 1 packet of store bought taco seasoning?

    • Nicole Hunn
      May 1, 2020 at 3:12 PM

      I actually think that a package of store-bought taco seasoning is typically 2 tablespoons of seasoning. So that would be half this recipe, Kathleen!

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