Fajita and taco seasoning are two spice blends that both have their origins in Mexican cuisine and are combinations of the most widely used Mexican spices. They serve as an easy way to add traditional flavor notes to popular Mexican dishes and are often viewed as interchangeable. If you are trying to decide which one to use, it is important to understand a few things about them like their differences and whether they will provide the same effects when one is used in place of the other. We will consider these factors as we compare fajita and taco seasoning in this SPICEography Showdown.
How do fajita and taco seasonings differ in flavor?
The first thing to note is that fajita seasoning and taco seasoning are more alike than they are different. The main difference has to do with their respective levels of acidity. Fajitas are made from skirt steaks, which are naturally tough. In order to soften them, Mexican cooks often use a source of acidity to help break down the muscle fibers. In traditional fajitas, that acidity comes from the use of lime juice to marinate the meat. In the effort to replicate the true taste of fajitas, makers of fajita seasoning often add a souring agent such as citric acid or tomato powder to their blends. Taco seasoning does not have a souring agent and is therefore similar to chili powder in that it is not acidic at all.
If your recipe calls for one, can you use the other in its place?
The short answer is yes. They are both largely the same, with the same list of ingredients that includes 100% chili powders (like cayenne), cumin, and Mexican oregano. As a result, you can use them in the same dishes and get a somewhat similar effect from each. However, the acidity may make a difference for some people. If you are using fajita powder in place of taco seasoning and do not want tart notes in your dish, you may want to tone down the acidity by adding a little baking soda or a small amount of sugar to the dish. If you are using taco seasoning in place of fajita seasoning, you may need to increase the acidity with the addition of lime juice or vinegar.
What is the best way to use fajita seasoning, and what is the best way to use taco seasoning?
Aside from the obvious applications, fajita seasoning works best in preparations where its acidity will complement the dish. For example, you could sprinkle it on fish before grilling it or use it in place of the chili powder in a chili recipe. Since many chili con carne recipes include tomatoes and some fajita seasoning blends have tomato powder, it can provide the same benefits as chili powder and more. It would also bring both the red color of tomatoes to the dish, along with their flavor and acidity. Use taco seasoning as an all-purpose spice blend. It works well as an alternative to adobo seasoning, Cajun seasoning, or even Creole seasoning. Use it to flavor dry rubs, barbecue sauce or the breading for deep-fried fish or chicken.