Enjoy this flavorful homemade gluten-free taco seasoning that’s perfect for tacos, burritos, and other Mexican-inspired dishes. It’s dairy-free too!
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If you’re a big taco fan, you may be wondering how to make sure the tacos you make at home are safe for your gluten-free diet. The best place to start is with gluten-free taco seasoning.
In this post, we’re going to discuss what taco seasoning is, if most brands are gluten-free, and why all taco seasoning isn’t gluten-free. We’ll also go over some recommended gluten-free taco seasoning brands, so you can find an option for your gluten-free diet at the grocery store.
We’ll wrap this whole post up with a homemade gluten-free taco seasoning recipe, because the cheapest and easiest way to ensure your homemade tacos are gluten-free is to make your own seasoning mix at home.
But hey, if you aren’t a taco lover, you may still want to check out this post, because you can use the taco seasoning recipe for more than just tacos! Try it with chili, fajitas, in soup, in homemade dips, or even with beans for an extra flavor boost to your favorite recipes.
What is taco seasoning?
Taco seasoning is a mix of cumin, paprika, chili powder, garlic, onion powder, oregano, and salt used to season meat, like chicken or ground beef, to make tacos or other Mexican dishes to give them loads of flavor in a delicious sauce.
Taco seasoning is a great addition to your Mexican dishes, because it can turn simple ingredients of meat and tortillas (or other ingredients), and give them a brand new bold flavor profile.
Different brands and recipes will call for different ratios of ingredients to make their own unique blends of taco seasoning. The common thread is a slightly spicy, savory flavor that brings to life your tacos, burritos, or other protein source.
Is there gluten in taco seasoning?
Many premixed seasonings and spices that you’ll find at the grocery store have a high potential for containing gluten.
This is because many seasonings that are pre-mixed contain thickeners or gluten-containing ingredients in the form of preservatives. Of course this is also true of taco seasoning.
You may find gluten in taco seasoning when you buy a store-bought taco seasoning packet or bottle taco seasoning in the spice or seasoning aisle.
Gluten is usually found in taco seasoning when it is used as a preservative or thickener, like wheat flour or yeast extract.
It’s not always straightforward to find gluten in taco seasoning mixes, so it’s important for you to look for hidden ingredients in the ingredients lists or be on the lookout for a gluten-free label.
Another place that gluten may come into contact with taco seasoning if you buy it from the grocery store is from cross contamination.
Many times the manufacturers use the same facilities and processing equipment that they do for other seasoning mixes, and these may contain wheat or gluten.
If you’re buying from a brand that also manufactures gravy mixes or breading for meat, you want to be sure that you’re looking at the ingredient list so that you can avoid gluten.
Read on: Is yeast extract gluten-free?
Why isn’t all taco seasoning gluten-free?
Not all taco seasoning is gluten-free, because some brands add in thickeners or preservatives that contain gluten. These might be obvious in the ingredient list under names like wheat flour or enriched flour, but they might also be obscure.
You will have to look a little bit harder for them. Gluten could be under the name of bouillon, barley, malt these, yeast extract, or autolyzed yeast extract.
These ingredients might add some flavor or serve a purpose to the recipe the brand is using, but they are also hidden sources of gluten.
When it’s not obviously spelled out that a product contains gluten, it can be easy to miss.
Your best bet is to always look at ingredient lists. Look for hidden sources of gluten and the names of gluten so avoid them when you find them.
You can also look at labels on the front or back of the package. Many times you’ll be able to find if a product is gluten-free by looking for the “certified gluten-free label” or a note on the packaging that says “gluten free.”
The FDA requires that a product can only have a gluten-free label if the product contains less than 20ppm of gluten.
Of course, the safest way to have gluten-free taco seasoning is to make it yourself using gluten-free spices and herbs that you have in your pantry.
Use the spices and herbs that you use for other cooking that you have already researched and know are gluten-free for your gluten-free taco seasoning mix.
Gluten-free Taco Seasoning Brands
If you’re looking for a gluten-free taco seasoning brand to pick up next time you’re at the store, check out one of these. Many of these blends are subject to change recipes at any time so be sure to check ingredients lists carefully before buying.
Many of these blends are not certified gluten-free and many don’t even have a gluten-free label. I’ve noted those that do contain a gluten-free label, so you can be certain it is gluten-free.
Those products in the list that don’t have this label have no gluten-containing ingredients, but have not been tested to find out if they have less than 20ppm of gluten, as required by the FDA in order to have that label.
Since I also follow a dairy-free diet and you may too, the taco seasonings that are also dairy-free have been marked with an asterisk (*).
- Frontera Ground Beef Original Taco Mild Skillet Sauce*
- Frontera Chicken Taco Chile Skillet Sauce*
- Frontera Key Lime Shrimp Taco Skillet Sauce*
- Frontera Steak Taco Skillet Sauce*
- Frontera Veggie Taco with Roasted Tomato & Green Chile Skillet Sauce*
- Great Value Taco Seasoning Mix
- McCormick Gluten-free Taco Mix (gluten-free label)
- McCormick A Hint of Sea Salt Mexican Taco Truck Seasoning*
- McCormick Chicken Taco Seasoning Mix
- McCormick Organic Taco Seasoning Mix* (gluten-free label)
- McCormick Original Taco Seasoning Mix*
- McCormick 30% Less Sodium Taco Seasoning Mix*
- McCormick 30% Less Sodium Mild Taco Seasoning Mix*
- McCormick Taco Seasoning Mix*
- McCormick Mild Taco Seasoning Mix*
- McCormick Hot Taco Seasoning Mix*
- McCormick Street Taco Baja Fish Seasoning Mix*
- McCormick Street Taco Pork Carnitas Seasoning Mix*
- McCormick Street Taco Southwest Ranch Chicken Seasoning Mix*
A few of these contain “yeast extract,” which can sometimes be a hidden name of gluten as it is derived from barley.
However I looked through the McCormick brand’s website and found their official responses to questions asking if their products were gluten-free before adding them to this list.
McCormick will cite gluten or wheat in their products, as to not surprise anyone. For example, if they have maltodextrin listed on an ingredient list, it will have wheat listed in parentheses, so you know where it was derived from.
It will look like this: “Maltodextrin (WHEAT)” on a label, so you can easily find it and avoid it. See more information on their stance of allergen reporting here.
Read on: Is yeast gluten-free?
This brand doesn’t have gluten-free labels, however most of their taco seasoning mixes do not contain any gluten-containing ingredients.
- Old El Paso Taco Seasoning Mix, Original*
- Old El Paso Taco Seasoning Mix, Less Sodium*
- Old El Paso Al Pastor Taco Seasoning Mix*
- Old El Paso 25% Less Sodium Taco Seasoning Mix*
- Old El Paso Cheesy Taco Seasoning Mix
- Old El Paso Hot and Spicy Taco Seasoning Mix*
- Old El Paso Chorizo Taco Seasoning Mix*
- Old El Paso Taco Seasoning Mix, Mild*
- Primal Palate Taco Seasoning* (gluten-free label)
- Riega Organic Taco Seasoning* (gluten-free label)
- Spicy Taco Seasoning Mix* (gluten-free label)
- Spice Islands Premium Taco Seasoning* (gluten-free label)
Questions about your favorite taco seasoning brands
Some folks have used the same taco seasoning brands for years, and wonder if they are gluten-free and safe to continue eating on this diet. Here are the top three brand questions I get about taco seasoning, so I’ll do my best to answer them!
Is there gluten in Old El Paso Taco Seasoning?
From my deep dive research into gluten-free taco seasoning, I’ve learned that most of Old El Paso’s taco seasonings do not contain gluten-containing ingredients.
That said, they also don’t put gluten-free labels on their products. This means they haven’t done any testing to ensure there is less than 20ppm of gluten in their taco seasoning, or they are aware of the potential for cross contamination at their facilities.
If you can tolerate minimal amounts of gluten, in the case of cross contamination, then this brand is probably safe for you to enjoy. See the list of the flavors that contain no gluten above in the list.
Is McCormick taco seasoning gluten free?
Out of all the popular brands of taco seasoning you can buy at most grocery stores, I’d say after doing my research, I trust them the most to be honest about what’s in their products.
The reason for this is that they are committed to labeling products with any hidden sources of food allergens that people may be avoiding.
For example, they know that many people who avoid gluten are looking for certain ingredients, like “maltodextrin” as a hidden source of gluten.
Since maltodextrin can be sourced from a variety of different carbohydrate sources, those of us who are gluten-free are looking out for a sign that the maltodextrin used in a product is in fact gluten-free – or not, so we know to avoid it.
McCormick makes sure to list ingredients like maltodextrin with a note of its source, like “Maltodextrin (WHEAT)” so it’s easy for you and I to find products that are safe and those to avoid.
They also do this with milk products, which is helpful if you avoid dairy products as well, like I do.
You can read more about their labeling under the FAQ on their website: “How does McCormic label for gluten?”
Is Ortega taco seasoning mix gluten free?
Ortega taco seasoning mix is not gluten-free. I’ll tell you, I went on a deep dive to prove myself wrong here, because I was certain this brand was gluten-free.
After checking and rechecking the ingredients lists against what else I know about gluten-containing ingredients, and the hidden names of gluten, I was sad to realize this brand actually does contain gluten.
You can find it under “yeast extract” in most of their taco seasonings. Yeast extract is derived from barley, which is a source of gluten.
The only one of their products that had no gluten-containing ingredients was their fish taco seasoning mix, however that wasn’t labeled as gluten-free either.
The bottom line when it comes to buying gluten-free taco seasoning is that there are only a few good options and brands, and even fewer if you’re looking for that gluten-free label.
The best and most simple way to ensure what you’re eating is gluten-free (because companies change recipes all the time) is to make your own gluten-free taco seasoning at home from scratch.
How To Make Gluten-free Taco Seasoning
The most effective way to ensure your taco seasoning is gluten-free is to make it at home using your own spices and herbs.
This way you can be sure that you’ve done your research on the ingredients that will go into your seasoning mix and know that everything is gluten-free.
To make gluten-free taco seasoning, you’ll want to combine a few essential ingredients that make your tacos come to life.
To prepare your taco seasoning, all you need to do is combine the spices and herbs in a bowl, then transfer them to an airtight jar with a lid for use later.
What spices do you need to make gluten-free taco seasoning?
Most taco seasonings are made from just a few ingredients, and it couldn’t be easier to put together.
Depending on the brand you buy or the ratios you use, your taco seasoning can have more spice, heat, or smokiness. You get to choose the ratios, but I’ll share the most popular spices and herbs with you here.
- Chili powder
- Ground cumin
- Garlic powder
- Onion Powder
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Dried oregano
- Smoked paprika
- Black pepper
Be sure you’re using gluten-free spices to make your homemade gluten-free taco seasoning. I prefer the Simply Organic and McCormick brands, but any brand that has single ingredient spices and herbs will work.
How to use gluten-free taco seasoning
You can use this recipe for homemade gluten-free taco seasoning by adding anywhere between two and three tablespoons of the mix, plus a half cup of water, to one pound of ground beef or chicken to make tacos or any other Mexican-inspired dishes.
Bring the mixture up to a simmer, then reduce it to low heat for about five to ten minutes and the water has absorbed or evaporated. This will leave you with a very flavorful meat sauce, perfect for tacos.
You can also use this taco seasoning to add flavor to lentils, beans, or even homemade dips.
Or try one of these recipes:
How to store gluten-free taco seasoning
Store this homemade gluten-free taco seasoning in a glass jar in your pantry for up to six months. I like to use the Ball brand jelly jars that hold four or eight ounces. Keep this taco seasoning in your pantry away from a heat source to keep it fresh.
Depending on how much taco seasoning you want to have on hand in your pantry, you can double or triple this recipe to store extra.
How long will homemade gluten-free taco seasoning last?
This gluten-free taco seasoning will last about six months in an airtight container in your pantry without any heat exposure.
How much taco seasoning per pound of meat?
I like to use about 2 tablespoons of this gluten free taco seasoning per 1 lb of ground beef or per one pound of chicken when I’m making tacos.
If you like a little bit more flavor, you can add an extra half or full tablespoon.
If you’d like a little less heat, use a half or full tablespoon less of seasoning.
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion Powder
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
- Stir to combine.
- Transfer to a jar with an airtight lid. Store in the pantry for up to 6 months.
- To use, combine 2 tbsp of taco seasoning plus ½ cup water to one pound of cooked ground beef or chicken. Simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, then serve with your favorite taco ingredients.
You can scale this recipe up or down depending on how much you'd like to have on hand in your pantry.
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Want more? Check out all my Gluten-free Dairy-free Recipes!