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Building a Better Burrito: Taco Potion #19

Empires have been built on packaged seasoning mixes. There are packets for everything from chili to spaghetti sauce to tacos to meatloaf. I grew up on those packets! Steadily over time, I’ve learned to make those dishes from scratch, but there’s been a hold out, one last packet standing in my pantry — Lawry’s Hot Taco.

Building a better burrito, even a gringo one, starts with the meat and its seasoning. I tried but just could not come up with the right combination of spices to duplicate or surpass the Hot Taco packet (and eliminate all the ingredients I couldn’t pronounce). More salt? Was it the chili powder? Is it cocoa that’s missing? What about garlic powder? Oregano? I looked it up on copycat recipe sites, I tried the taco mix from Marketspice, a great spice and tea shop in Seattle. No joy. So we just kept on with the packet for our everyday tacos and burritos. Until…

Good Eats. American Classics VIII: Tacos.

These aren’t “authentic” tacos, well, I guess you could call them authentically Americanized. Either way, I think I can safely say Alton Brown’s Taco Potion #19 may be the last taco seasoning recipe you will ever need. Whatever the formulations in the previous 18, number 19 hits it on the nose. I generally halve it for 1 lb. of ground beef and mix it up just before I start browning the meat. The beef broth is key. I’ve made it with water, a la the packet instructions, and it’s ok, but get a box of beef broth. Maybe I’m overselling this, but after you’ve had this Taco Potion, there’s no lookin’ back. It’s buh-bye, packet.

No Lookin’ Back Burritos
Serves 3-4

1 lb. ground beef
Half a batch of Alton Brown’s Taco Potion #19
2/3 c. beef broth
2 t. olive oil
1 red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into 1/4 in. slices
1 medium zucchini, cut in 1/2 in. disks
1/2 medium red onion, cut into 1/8 in. slices
1 c. (or more) shredded cheddar cheese
1 pkg. burrito-size tortillas
Salt & pepper

Yogurt/Sour Cream
Romaine lettuce

In a large nonstick skillet, brown the ground beef over medium heat. Strain off any excess fat. Add the Taco Potion and beef broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the sauce thickens.

Heat another skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the peppers, onions and zucchini and saute until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Warm the tortillas, sweeping them over a gas flame until charred to your liking. Add ~1/4 c. of meat to the center of the tortilla and top with cheese, vegetables, and other toppings. Fold and you’re ready to go.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Laurie #

    I really enjoy most of Alton Brown’s recipes, but I don’t often find myself watching TV or remembering to look up AB’s recipes when I have a specific need. What lead me to open your post from Tastespotting was the tortilla, though. Is that homemade? It looks fantastic – as if it would be perfectly thin, stretchy and chewy.

    June 9, 2011
    • You know, Laurie, I haven’t actually tried tortillas at home yet. Wish I could take credit, but believe it or not, those are just the regular flour tortillas from Trader Joe’s! They are thin and chewy, and the shelf life is only a few days, so you know they’re pretty clean as far as ingredients go. Thanks for stopping by!

      June 9, 2011
  2. Don’t you love it when you find that key spice mixture? This sounds like a winner to me, and can’t wait to have these burritos =)

    June 9, 2011

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