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.Print
AIP Taco Seasoning (nightshade & seed spice free)
- Yield: 1/2 cup / 55 g 1x
- 1/4 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
- 1/2 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.
You can easily substitute dried thyme leaves for the cilantro leaves if you can’t find those. Just don’t use cilantro seed, since that’s not approved for the AIP elimination phase!
Can’t wait to try this! I see a trip to Kalustyan in my near future! Have you ever used Indian Amchur or Amchoor powder (powder of dried unripe mangos.) I wonder how the two compares?
I haven’t tried that mango powder, I’ll have to look for some! I suspect it will be more sour than the ground lime and I’d love to play around with it.
So I made the spice mix as-is with the persian lime. Its a delicious spice mix! I am not sure if “taco” is the right label, but I’m loving it! Thank you!!
I’m glad you’re enjoying it! Taco seasoning without nightshades and seed spices is tough! I think this comes close to the complexity of flavors that I miss in the more usual garlic and oregano mixes, but, yeah, it’s never going to be quite the same without the kick of traditional recipes. I promise this does work really well in Mexican style dishes and it’s a great stand in for recipes like chili that I really missed when I first went AIP. I’ve got some other good blends coming to the site over the next few weeks, so hopefully you’ll find some others you enjoy 🙂
Woohoo! I found the fenugreek leaves and dried lime at a local ethnic market, I had all the other ingredients, so I didin’t have to wait to order and receive it via online shopping. I made the seasoning and a similar version of the loaded nachos. It, of course, isn’t the same as a seasoning with cumin and chili, but darn, it was good and I enjoyed a very satisfying dinner. Thank you!
If I could wave a magic food wand, it would definitely be to give us all magical nightshade free nightshades. I miss those things, but they hate me. Sigh. I know it’s not quite the same, but I do think this version is more interesting and satisfying than the garlic-oregano blends I’ve tried in the past! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂 And keep hold of the fenugreek and lime, I’ve got some good uses for those in future seasoning blends to come! (Weirdly, fenugreek is really good in burgers. My go to right now is garlic, fenugreek and a pinch of cinnamon. Sounds weird, but it works so well with beef!)
I cannot find dried lime anywhere, even at local Asian markets and I live in a country with very strict import laws so I can’t order it. Could I sub Kaffir lime leaves instead?
It might be easier to try out using some dried lemon zest / peel, since you could substitute that 1:1 for a little citrus note. I don’t think kaffir lime will work because in general the dried leaves are inedible and usually removed from dishes before serving. It will still be tasty without the dried lime if you want to simply omit it 🙂
I feel a little silly now because of course that would work. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. Thank you 🙂
No feeling silly allowed! 🙂
Sue if you click on the link, it’ll take you to the recommended product on Amazon. Go to a Middle Eastern store and show them a printout of that item. It is not an Asian product but rather persian.
Do I use dried lime or dried lime leaves? It’s hard to find dried lime powder so that challenge makes me wonder if you mean lime leaves.
Oh, I see where you’ve addressed this already!
Yay, glad you found it! It’s an odd ingredient to keep to hand unless you cook a lot of middle eastern dishes, so you can leave it out. I like to add it to make up for not being able to use cilantro seed, but it’s not essential if you can’t find any 🙂
How much of this seasoning mix do you use for a pound of meat? Sorry if I missed it in the post.
About a tablespoon or so. It’s really up to you in terms of how seasoned you like things — you’ll probably use a little more for beef, but less for say pork or chicken 🙂
Thank you so much for all those experiments ! You’re the best AIP resources for me because it looks like we have the same cravings for no-no food ! Thanks, thanks thanks !
I’m trying this tonight !
This is, by far, the best seasoning mix I’ve ever tasted!! Even if I can ever go back to the usual taco seasoning, I’m not sure I want to. After this, I’m not missing those nightshades at all. As my children ate this they kept saying, “this is heavenly,” and I quite agree. Thank you.
This is such a wonderful compliment, thank you so much! It is a little more complicated than other nightshade free taco seasoning blends that I’ve come across, but I think it’s worth it for the flavor complexity 🙂
This is by far the best nightshade-free taco seasoning I’ve tried. Thank you! My husband and I both liked it! I used the seasoning with ground beef and also made cassava flour tortillas and nightshade-free salsa.
I wouldn’t say this tastes like Mexican food, but the seasoning is amazing! I also squeezed fresh lime on it – delicious!
Hi there! I am new to AIP, although I have been eating Paleo for a while. Every Tuesday is Taco night here so I was happy to find a seasoning mix that I could use! However, I am a little confused by the fenugreek leaves. I ordered them to make this and I was looking on another site and they are on the spices to avoid list. Then I investigated more and found them on several lists of herbs to avoid. Just wondering what your thoughts are on this. Thanks!
Hi Cristie, that’s a great question and I’m glad you asked it, because although I’ve written about fenugreek in other places, I should have added that info here, too. So, fenugreek is usually on the AIP “no” lists because the part of the plant usually used, bottled and sold in the US as a spice is the fenugreek seeds. And seed spices are a no-no for the elimination phase. However! The same plant’s leaves – which is what I’m using here, also known as methi – are also a herb that can be used to season dishes and, since they’re leaves and not the seed part of the plant, they’re totally fine for the AIP elimination phase. I tried to differentiate them from the seed spice by referring to them here as “fenugreek leaves”, but I can totally see why that’s still a bit confusing.
This is just the same as how cilantro leaves are fine for the AIP, but the same plant’s seeds (coriander) are not allowed, since they’re a seed spice. I hope that helps and please let me know if you have any other questions!
Thank you! I just saw Fenugreek on the no list. There was no specification to leaves or seeds. I am excited to try this and happy I can use the leaves I bought! 🙂
Yay! They’re really great in curry style dishes or with roast vegetables like this recipe from Healing Family Eats. It’s nice to discover new things and I’d never heard of this seasoning before AIP, either 🙂
Hi. I am so excited to try this! However, I have a food sensitivity to ginger. Do you suggest I make the recipe without it, substitute it with something else, or just forget the recipe altogether because i will be too compromised? Thanks so much!
I would leave out the ginger and perhaps reduce the cinnamon by half or it may overpower everything. Do you have a problem with galangal? It’s a similar root with a more peppery flavor but I’m not sure off the top of my head what botanical family it’s in. If it’s not something that you might also have a sensitivity to, being able to keep that around in your pantry would work in savory situations where ginger is normally used 🙂
6 weeks on AIP and I wasn’t finding anything that tasted good to me. I LOVE Mexican food, so decided to try your taco
seasoning mix. SO. GOOD. I might have to have it every day. 😂 I didn’t have cilantro, avocado or radish on hand so I decided to wrap up my amazingly seasoned beef in a turmeric coconut wrap with romaine, your nacho cheese sauce and a squeeze of lime. DEAD. Thank you so much for renewing my hope to enjoy food again!
This worked really well with leftover chicken. I just put it in the frying pan with some avocado oil until it just started to brown. Then we made nachos! They were great and such a treat after eating AIP for quite a while.