I was lurking in the Mexican aisle of the grocery store, surreptitiously photographing packages of taco mix. At any moment, a store employee might tap me on the shoulder and ask me to leave.
My goal? To create taco-seasoned ground beef that had the deliciously gummy texture and slight sweetness of the packaged taco mixes, but with no added sugars. To stay Paleo, which means avoiding grains, I planned to serve the spiced taco meat in lettuce leaf cups.
After a bit of experimentation, I had something pretty close to the original. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
Stuff you need
- 2 lb. ground beef, preferably free-range
- 1 cup water
- Lettuce leaves to serve in (I used romaine)
For the taco spice mix:
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 4 tsp onion powder. This adds some natural sweetness from the onion. All the taco mix packages I looked at had sugar in them; also, they all called for dried onions – win-win solution! Note: Be sure to use onion powder, not onion salt.
- 2 tsp paprika
- 4 tbsp sugar-free chili powder (read the package!)
- 3 tsp arrowroot starch — this adds the slight sticky texture that we see in taco meat. If you’re very low-carb, you could leave this out.
- 1 tsp salt. I use sea salt, because regular salt has (of course) sugar in it.
For the garnishes:
Prepare small bowls/plates with some or all of the following:
- Finely grated cheddar (I use the finest holes on my grater; this makes fine threads of cheese that simply mellllt into the meat)
- Finely chopped lettuce
- Finely chopped tomato
- Guacamole or chopped avocado
- Salsa (all the store-bought taco sauces had sugar in them, but not all salsas do)
- Sliced black olives
- Anything else that strikes your fancy
- Brown the ground beef in a large pot over medium heat, breaking up lumps frequently. I used my Le Creuset Dutch oven (Looove! I got it for a serious discount at Winner’s because it was a factory second, but I’ve never been able to find the flaw.) Anyway…
- When the meat’s nicely browned, add the spice mix and stir briefly.
- Add the water and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes, stirring now and then
- During the simmer, rinse and pat dry the lettuce leaves and prep your garnishes (see above)
- To serve, put some meat in a lettuce leaf and top with some or all of the garnishes. If they want to, non-Paleo diners can use (the horror!) a taco shell or a grain-based wrap.