It’s safe to say that I didn’t grow up eating Mexican food, since my first “Mexican food” experience was post-college and a good five thousand miles away from Mexico City. Unsurprisingly, it involved the saddest approximation of a burrito you can imagine, filled with a hodgepodge of indeterminable ingredients. “Ingredients” might be too generous here, since what I really remember is a variety of different smears that tasted utterly indistinguishable and a few bland beans scattered haphazardly around. It was the food equivalent of my first fumble with a boy, which left me with pretty much the same questions: is that IT? Is that REALLY what all the fuss was about? Eh, no thanks!
Fast forward a few years and I had thankfully discovered what the big deal was when it came to flavorful, authentic Mexican food. (Note to self: you probably won’t find it on a conveyor belt like set up in Europe.) I taught myself to make my favorite dishes from scratch and adored just how simultaneously beautifully layered and yet satisfyingly simple the seasoning was in these recipes. Now fast forward even more years, to the day that I realized that I was both elated to realize that the Autoimmune Protocol might be the key to my healing… but also gutted that meant that so many of my favorite ingredients – seed spices! chiles! tomatoes! anything with heat! – were now going to be off limits. I was back to that fumbling feeling: meh, this food is just not doing it for me at all.
Over the years since then, I’ve tried a lot of AIP taco seasoning recipes, but the garlic and oregano heavy blends just didn’t come close. They were too flat; one-note in a way that simply called attention to what was missing. The earthiness of cumin. The citrus scent of cilantro seed. That back-of-the-nose tingle of dried chiles. The straight up contradiction that is the spicy sweetness of smoked paprika. You see what I’m saying when I’m like: “nope, this oregano blend just ain’t cutting it”? What a snooze fest. Wake me up when you’re done!
When I was writing my cookbook, Nourish, I was on a mission to kick these types of not-quite-doing-it-for-me recipes in the face. I didn’t want to make food that tasted “Good. You know, for AIP food”. (I digress: I still want to punch the girl at school who commented on my B in French with a tart “That’s really good. For you“. Ugh.) But anyway! I wanted honest to goodness, “how the hell is this AIP?!” food.
A case in point were the Mexican-inspired recipes. Given my love of authentic spice and my husband’s 30 years plus of eating Mexican food all over Texas, New Mexico, California and, yes, Mexico, I wasn’t going to settle for an “almost there” AIP Taco Seasoning. I think I can safely say that Mr Meatified was the most vociferous tester of these dishes – the chili, the fajitas, the no nightshade salsa – than any other. And they are all the better for the fact that he relentlessly told me, “nope!” until I got them right!
Don’t worry, I’m not telling you all about this to rub it in your face if you don’t have a copy of my cookbook. I just want you to know how important it was for me to get these recipes right. To really honor them and get as close as I could to the original recipes, in an inventive, real food way. So, AIP Taco Seasoning: it took a while!
Today I’m sharing with you a very slightly tweaked version (I, apparently, cannot leave well enough alone) of the Taco Seasoning from Nourish as a little “thank you” to you guys that will arrive juuuuust in time for you to add to your Cinco de Mayo recipes! It has a few unusual ingredients in it, but they’re really what draw it all together. They may be new-to-you ingredients, but they’re all easy to find online or in an international market if you’re lucky enough to have access to one.
The fenugreek leaves add a natural sweetness with a lovely bitter note that, combined with the earthy turmeric, evokes the absent cumin. The dried lime stands in for the citrusy-sour notes of the cilantro seed I used to love. The cilantro leaves stop that overwhelming oregano note from taking up all of our attention and the combination of cinnamon, ginger and mace all help to build a warm, sweet yet spicy flavor that fills the chile gap. When you bring all of these flavors together, you get back those nuanced, layered flavors that Mexican food needs to really touch the heart. (You can read more about the fenugreek and ground lime – and how to use them – in this post here.)
You can whip this up just by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl and then transferring it to an airtight container. However, I prefer to pop all the ingredients into my spice mill and give it a little whiz until everything is a nice no-bits powder. (Seriously, that thing is less than twenty bucks and so great for making your own, inexpensive spice blends. Because paying through the nose for glorified garlic powder is just nuts.)
I like the consistency of a smoother, milled blend because it whirls all the flavors together, decimates any of the “woodier” dried herbs like thyme or fenugreek leaves and is easy to shake all over your favorite foods as you cook. This batch makes just over a 1/2 cup (55 g), which sounds like a lot, but it’s great to have to hand and keeps for weeks in an airtight container. Here’s a photo where you can see both the milled and unmilled versions next to each other for comparison.
You can use this AIP Taco Seasoning mix to make all your favorites: tacos, fajitas, cauli rice bowls, taco salads and so much more! Check back here at the weekend when I’ll be showing you how to use this blend to make AIP nachos using my Dairy Free Cheese Sauce and some other goodies as part of this new AIP Spice Blend Series!
Each week I’ll be sharing a brand new, 100% AIP Spice Blend recipe, then following that post later in the week with an example of an easy recipe that uses the featured blend of that week. If you have any suggestions about some of the blends you’d like to see, I’m all ears – leave me a comment on this post with your ideas!
Use this blend here: Ultimate Loaded Nachos.
Next week in the AIP Seasoning Series: Dairy Free Ranch.
- ¼ cup / 12 g dried oregano leaves
- 2 tbsp / 6 g dried cilantro leaves (see notes)
- 2 tbsp / 20 g granulated garlic
- 2 tsp / 8 g onion powder
- 2 tsp / 2 g ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp / 4 g ground ginger
- 2 tsp / 1 g dried fenugreek leaves
- 1 tsp / 1 g ground dried lime
- 1 tsp / 1 g ground mace
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- MIX: Measure all of the ingredients into a bowl and stir to combine evenly.
- MILL: For a smoother, more even texture: add all ingredients to a spice mill or coffee grinder, then pulse until you have an even blend with no noticeable "bits". That's it!
- STORE: Keep in an airtight container at room temperature.
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