Using taco seasoning as a dry rub for meats is a quick and easy way to add lots of flavor. The combination of spices like chili powder, cumin, garlic, and onion makes taco seasoning a perfect blend to use before grilling or roasting. There are a few considerations when using taco seasoning as a rub, but overall it can be a tasty alternative to traditional barbecue rubs.
What is taco seasoning?
Taco seasoning is a blend of spices and herbs typically containing:
- Chili powder
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
This combination gives taco seasoning its signature Tex-Mex flavor profile. The proportions may vary between recipes, but the core ingredients tend to be chili powder, cumin, garlic, and onion.
Pre-made taco seasoning mixes are widely available at grocery stores. You can also easily make your own by combining spices like:
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
Making homemade taco seasoning allows you to customize the flavors to your taste and control the amount of salt. It also costs just a fraction of the price of store-bought packets.
Benefits of using taco seasoning as a dry rub
Using taco seasoning as a meat rub has several advantages:
- Lots of flavor – The blend of spices in taco seasoning packs a flavor punch. Chili powder, cumin, garlic, and onion give it a Tex-Mex zing.
- Easy to use – Taco seasoning mixes are ready to go. Just sprinkle them on and rub into meat. No need to pull out all your spices and measure everything out.
- Great on beef, chicken, and pork – Taco seasoning complements the flavor of various meats like steak, chicken, and pork chops.
- Hands-off cooking – The spices penetrate the meat, so you can just set it and forget it on the grill or in the oven.
- Family-friendly flavor – Kids and adults alike tend to love the taste of taco seasoning. It’s familiar and appealing without being overly spicy.
Using something already in your pantry helps cut down on ingredients needed. Taco seasoning mixes provide a shortcut to big flavor with minimal effort required.
How to use taco seasoning as a dry rub
Using taco seasoning as a dry rub is simple:
- Pat meat dry and place on a plate or baking sheet.
- Sprinkle generously with taco seasoning, covering all sides.
- Gently rub the seasoning blend into the meat to distribute it evenly and help it adhere.
- Allow meat to marinate for 15-30 minutes for more flavor penetration.
- Cook as desired, by grilling, broiling, roasting, or pan-searing.
Use about 1-2 tablespoons of taco seasoning per 1 pound of meat. You can use lean cuts like chicken breasts, pork tenderloin, flank steak, or sirloin. The spices will give lean meats a flavor boost.
If marinating for longer than 30 minutes, store seasoned meat covered in the refrigerator until ready to cook. Remove from fridge about 30 minutes before cooking to allow it to come closer to room temperature.
Taco seasoned meat is perfect for grilling. The heat helps the spices develop even more richness. Use a two-zone fire and move meat over direct heat just long enough to get grill marks and caramelization.
Try seasoning these meats with taco seasoning before grilling:
- Chicken breasts or thighs
- Pork chops
- Fish like salmon, halibut, or snapper
Brush grilled meat with a little olive oil first to help the rub adhere and prevent sticking.
Taco seasoned meat also excels when roasted in the oven. Roasting uses dry indirect heat to cook food evenly while intensifying flavors.
Follow recipe cooking temperatures and times for various meats. In general roast seasoned meat at 400°F until it reaches an internal temperature of:
- 145°F for beef
- 160°F for pork
- 165°F for chicken
Roasting is perfect for making tacos with shredded meat or topping salads and bowls.
You can also cook taco seasoned meat right on the stovetop using methods like pan-searing, sautéing, or stir frying. Try it with steak, pork chops, chicken breasts, shrimp and more.
Just use a hot pan with a little oil and cook a few minutes per side until done. The spices will infuse the meat with lots of zesty flavor.
What meats pair well with taco seasoning?
Taco seasoning goes great with these meats:
The spices in taco seasoning complement beef perfectly. Use it on cuts like:
- Flank steak
- Skirt steak
- Hamburger patties
- Ground beef
For steak, marinate 1-2 hours for the most flavor infusion. Grill over high heat for a nice char.
For burgers and ground beef, mix the taco seasoning right into the meat before forming patties or sautéing in a pan.
The border-inspired blend also pairs deliciously with chicken. Use it on bone-in chicken legs and thighs or boneless skinless breasts. You can grill, roast, sauté or bake seasoned chicken. Some great options include:
- Chicken breasts
- Chicken thighs
Try roasting chicken that’s coated with taco seasoning and hot sauce at 400°F until cooked through and crispy outside.
Spice up pork chops, tenderloin, shoulders, and more with a dry taco rub. The spices complement the milder flavor of pork. Excellent choices are:
- Pork chops
- Pork tenderloin
- Pulled pork
- Pork ribs
For quick cooking cuts like chops, a 30 minute marinade is enough to infuse lots of flavor.
Taco seasoning also jazzes up firmer fish like salmon, cod, halibut, and mahi mahi. Simply coat fish fillets with the rub and grill, broil or bake until opaque in the center.
The spices form a tasty crust on fish without overpowering the delicate seafood flavor.
In addition to meat, peeled and deveined shrimp can be tossed with taco seasoning before grilling or sautéing. It adds warm Tex-Mex flavor to the sweet seafood.
What are the best taco recipes using dry seasoning as a rub?
Here are some of the tastiest recipes using dry taco seasoning as a meat rub:
Taco Spiced Skirt Steak
Marinate flank or skirt steak with taco seasoning, garlic, lime, and oil for 1-2 hours. Grill to medium rare over high heat. Slice and serve in tacos or over salad.
Taco Chicken Thighs
Coat bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs with taco seasoning, brown sugar, and olive oil. Roast at 400°F until crispy and cooked through, around 30-40 minutes.
Taco Pork Tenderloin
Rub a pork tenderloin with taco seasoning, cumin, and brown sugar. Roast at 425°F until just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Let rest before slicing.
Top salmon fillets with taco seasoning and blackening seasoning. Grill 4-5 minutes per side until opaque in center. Serve in tacos or over greens.
Toss peeled shrimp with taco seasoning, lime juice and olive oil. Grill or sauté just until opaque. Serve in tacos, over rice, or on salad.
What are the best side dishes with taco seasoned meat?
Serve your taco spiced meat with classic Mexican flavors like:
- Rice – Cilantro lime, Mexican, or tomatillo rice
- Beans – Black, pinto, or refried beans
- Corn – Grilled corn or elote (Mexican street corn)
- Tacos – Warm tortillas, lettuce, pico de gallo
- Quesadillas – Cheese stuffed and grilled flour tortillas
- Roasted Veggies – Peppers, onions, sweet potatoes
- Salad – Greens, peppers, corn, avocado, cotija cheese
Having some traditional sides enhances the taco-flavored meat. Building tacos or burrito bowls are also great ways to serve it.
Should you use the seasoning packet or make your own blend?
You can use store-bought or homemade taco seasoning with good results either way. Here’s a comparison:
Taco seasoning packets
- Convenient and easy
- Consistent flavor
- No measuring required
- Includes anti-caking agents
- Higher in sodium
- Less customizable
- Customizable spice blend
- Adjust salt to taste
- No preservatives
- Cost effective
- Requires gathering ingredients
- Measuring and mixing
- Takes more effort
Whichever method you choose, using taco seasoning as a dry rub infuses food with the classic Tex-Mex flavor combo of chili powder, cumin, garlic, and onion.
Should you use extra ingredients besides the seasoning?
For even more flavor, you can add a few extra simple ingredients along with the taco seasoning rub:
- Oil – A drizzle of olive, vegetable, or avocado oil helps the seasoning stick to the meat better.
- Lime juice – Fresh lime juice adds brightness.
- Cilantro – Chopped cilantro gives freshness.
- Hot sauce – A dash of hot sauce like Cholula can provide a spicy kick.
- Honey – A teaspoon of honey balances seasoning with subtle sweetness.
- Garlic – Extra minced garlic doubles down on flavor.
Keep additional ingredients minimal so the taco seasoning remains the star. A little acid, freshness, and sweet can enhance the blend.
What’s a quick and healthy taco meat recipe using dry seasoning?
This fast lean ground turkey taco meat is super quick, easy, and healthy but still packed with tons of taco flavor thanks to dry taco seasoning:
- 1 lb ground turkey (93% lean)
- 1 tbsp taco seasoning
- 1/4 cup water
- Optional toppings: shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, salsa, guacamole
- Heat a skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add ground turkey and cook for 5-6 minutes, breaking it into small crumbles as it cooks. Drain any excess grease if needed.
- Stir in taco seasoning and water. Continue cooking for 2-3 minutes until blended and heated through.
- Serve taco turkey in tacos, burritos, bowls, or salads topped with desired toppings.
This simple turkey taco meat comes together in less than 10 minutes. It’s much lower in fat and calories than ground beef but still packs big Tex-Mex taste.
What are some taco night tips and how to plan the meal?
Here are some great tips for planning taco night at home:
Pick your protein
Choose a taco-seasoned protein like ground beef, shredded chicken, steak, or pork carnitas. Or make a mix like ground beef with shredded pork.
Cook meat ahead
Cook your seasoned meat the day before and store in the fridge. Then you can quickly reheat and assemble tacos on taco night.
Chop, dice, shred, and prepare toppings ingredients like lettuce, tomato, onion, cilantro, lime wedges. Store them in individual containers in the fridge.
Consider making a side like Mexican rice, beans, elote, or quick-pickled veggies to serve.
Set up a taco bar
Lay out warmed tortillas, meat, toppings, salsas, and sides so everyone can DIY their own tacos.
Have taco night fun
Play music, use colorful decorations, and let everyone get creative with their tacos. Themed taco nights can also be fun.
With a protein, lots of toppings, and some sides, it’s easy to put together a fun taco bar at home for a crowd-pleasing meal.
Taco seasoning delivers a flavor punch and can be used to easily transform proteins like chicken, beef, pork, fish, and shrimp into Mexican-inspired meals. Pre-made packets provide convenience while homemade blends allow you to customize the spices to your taste. Dry taco seasoning excels as a rub on meats before grilling, roasting, sautéing or baking. Use it to put together easy backyard cookouts, weeknight dinners, or fun taco nights with family and friends.