Available for any seasoning combination you can dream up...taco, chili, ranch, brown gravy, hollandaise, fajita, spaghetti and so many more. They are easy, convenient, and marketed as "no-hassle" and seasoning that will add the "perfect flavor."
Before our REAL food journey, we will admit, we had a collection of these "flavor packets" in our pantry.
One package of onion soup mix was all we needed to jazz up chicken in the slow cooker, and a package of Hidden Valley Ranch mix had endless possibilities...or so we thought! As we began to explore new flavors and spices, we learned these pre-mixed packets were not just loaded with extra (unhealthy) ingredients, but they were also preventing us from knowing what flavors and spices went with certain foods -- talk about kitchen helplessness! We found ourselves unable to know how to flavor our meals without the packets of mysterious pre-mixed seasonings.
Then, the day arrived when we finally paid attention to the ingredient labels.
As you can imagine, this was an eye-opening experience. The majority of these seasoning packets are loaded with preservatives, anti-caking agents, added sodium and sugar and other mysterious unrecognizable ingredients! Here is an example of the ingredients in a store brand packet of taco seasoning mix (this one is even low sodium!):
Dextrose, Spices Including Paprika, Yellow Corn, Salt, Onion, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Cocoa Processed With Alkali, Contains Less Than 2%: Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Yeast Extract, Caramel Color, Gum Arabic, Maltodextrin, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate.
Some of these packets - like the infamous Hidden Valley Ranch Dip Mix - include the controversial ingredient MSG (monosodium glutamate). MSG is a flavor enhancer that is "generally recognized as safe" by the FDA, but has been linked to inflammation, cell damage, headaches and a number of not-so-pleasant symptoms.
The ingredients in the ranch dip mix include: Maltodextrin, Salt, Monosodium Glutamate, Onion (Dried), Spices, Garlic (Dried), Modified Food Starch, Less than 2% of: Calcium Stearate, Natural Flavor.
Needless to say, we decided it was time to kick these pre-mixed seasoning packets to the curb!
By this time, we had learned how important the right flavors and seasonings were for delicious and nutritious meals.
So, what did we do?
You guessed it...we started making our own...using REAL ingredients! Instead of the taco seasoning packet, we came up with a homemade REAL food version that includes:
1 Tbsp chili powder + 1 tsp ground cumin + 1 tsp sea salt + 1 tsp black pepper + 1/2 tsp dried oregano + 1/2 tsp paprika + 1/4 tsp garlic powder + 1/4 tsp onion powder + 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes + 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
As we began to make our own taco, fajita, Cajun, chili and other seasonings, we realized there is no need for anything you can't easily find on the spice rack at the store.
And the flavor? So much better!
We were making chili for dinner one night, and my dad had just made a batch of his chili the week before using the store-bought chili seasoning packet. Since they graciously let us take over the kitchen while we are visiting, I made a batch of the Classic Beef Chili, using individual spices like chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika (remember the tip we mentioned about planning ahead and bringing your own spices if necessary?!). Everyone loved the chili, and my dad even commented, "WOW, this chili has so much more flavor than mine!" They are now believers and have even added smoked paprika to their list for the next trip to the store!
If homemade spice mixes aren't already part of your routine --
give it a try!
There are so many benefits to making your own!
- Always on hand! You can mix up the spices ahead of time and store them in a mason jar or air-tight container for easy-to-grab convenience.
- No more unhealthy mystery ingredients! You know EXACTLY what you are getting.
- You're in control! This is also the best way to control the sodium, sugar and even the level of kick. (We once purchased a pre-mixed taco seasoning that our kids thought was too spicy - by making our own, we can easily customize the kick, even making up a "kicked up" version and a "spice-friendly" version.)
Here are a few of our favorites:
(We have included a moderate amount of salt in each seasoning mix recipe, lower than the amount you will find commercially, but feel free to reduce or omit it if you wish -- remember, you are in control!)
Taco Seasoning: 1 Tbsp chili powder + 1 tsp ground cumin + 1 tsp sea salt + 1 tsp black pepper + 1/2 tsp dried oregano + 1/2 tsp paprika + 1/4 tsp garlic powder + 1/4 tsp onion powder + 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes + 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional). Simply use 2 to 3 Tbsp per one pound of meat. Perfect for meals like the Stuffed Squash Taco Boats or the Mexican Lentil Tacos.
Ranch Seasoning: 2 Tbsp dried parsley + 2 tsp dried dill + 2 tsp garlic powder + 2 tsp onion powder + 1 tsp dried basil + 1 tsp black pepper + 1 tsp salt + 1/3 cup buttermilk powder. Store seasoning mix in the refrigerator (because of the buttermilk). To make dressing, add 1 Tbsp of seasoning mix with 1/3 cup of mayo and 1/3 cup of milk. Or, to make a dip, replace the milk with yogurt or sour cream. (3 Tbsp of this mix will equal one store bought seasoning packet.)
Jerk Seasoning: 1 Tbsp ground allspice + 1 Tbsp onion powder + 1 Tbsp dried thyme + 1/2 Tbsp salt + 1/2 Tbsp black pepper + 1 tsp garlic powder + 1 tsp nutmeg + 1 tsp ground ginger + 1/2 tsp cayenne red pepper (or adjust to your level of kick). Try it in the Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderloin and the Grilled Jerk Vegetables.
Garlic Herb Steak Rub: 2 Tbsp dried oregano + 1 1/2 Tbsp sea salt (coarsely ground) + 1 Tbsp dried thyme + 1 Tbsp dried rosemary + 2 tsp garlic powder + 2 tsp pepper (freshly ground) + 1 tsp ground cumin. This would go great with the Strip Steak Over Shaved Brussels Sprouts or the Caprese Grilled Steak.
Cajun Seasoning: 4 tsp paprika + 2 tsp garlic powder + 1 tsp dried oregano + 1 tsp dried thyme + 1 tsp onion powder + 1 tsp salt (more if desired) + 1/2 tsp cayenne red pepper + 1/2 tsp black pepper (more if desired). Perfect for the Tropical Salmon Sandwich and the Crazy Cajun Quinoa!
We frequently hear from our Eat REAL America members that they are now using spices like they never have before. We have even been told "my husband will say, this is an Eat REAL recipe isn't it?! I can tell because of the flavor!"
As we have learned, flavor is the key to making REAL food taste absolutely amazing!
Please share with us if there is a homemade combination you want us to help you create!