Looking for a quick and delicious ground beef taco recipe that can be made in about 15 minutes? Look no further! This easy recipe can be made with a variety of ground meats, making it a versatile option for any meal. Plus, it's perfect for meal prep, as it reheats well and freezes well for later. Let me show you how to make taco meat.
If you've been searching recipes for ground beef tacos, try this. It's a mainstay lunch and dinner recipe at our house. Whether you're gluten-free or low-carb (or don't care about either), this ground beef taco recipe can be served in a variety of ways. Keep reading for how to make this super easy and delicious taco meat recipe.
Why You'll Like This Recipe
- Taco meat is easy and fast, great for busy weeknights.
- A family-pleasing recipe, make it fun with your favorite toppings.
- Works for either soft tacos, crisp tacos, lettuce wraps, or taco salads.
- Make a big batch and freeze half if you love Mexican food.
- To stretch a pound of lean ground beef, add a can of rinsed and drained black beans or pinto beans.
- It's a low carb recipe with ground beef.
For another taco recipe try these spicy shrimp tacos.
- Ground meat: choose either ground beef (80/20 ground beef or 15/85 ground beef). Another options is ground turkey (93%), ground bison, or ground dark chicken. The meat needs some fat, and a higher fat content is fine.
- Onion: use either white, brown or yellow onion, for flavor and moisture.
- Oil: olive oil, avocado oil, or a neutral oil like this, they all work. Don't use vegetable oil, it's really unhealthy for you. If you have it, toss it.
- Garlic: use fresh cloves of garlic for the best flavor.
- Taco meat seasoning: make a batch of my homemade taco meat seasoning recipe. The store-bought taco seasoning packets work, but they are super high in sodium and added preservatives. Homemade is way better and it's controllable. If you never done it, make your own homemade seasoning.
- Tomato paste: tomato paste adds a rich, savory flavor to taco meat. Swaps below.
See recipe card for measurements.
Ground meat is so versatile and economical. For another dish with ground meat, try these baked turkey meatballs. Serving options and sauce ideas in the post.
Homemade Taco Meat Seasoning (optional)
You can use a taco seasoning packet but homemade taco seasoning is much better and you control the ingredients. Homemade is gluten-free, no mystery ingredients, and no cornstarch or crazy high sodium. Plus it's good with shrimp, chicken and other dishes too, not just tacos. It's got bold flavor with just a little heat. You need:
- Dried oregano
- Ancho chili powder
- Ground cumin
- Ground coriander
- Smoked or regular paprika
- Granulated garlic (sub garlic powder)
- Chipotle chili powder (optional for heat, or sub cayenne pepper)
- Ground black pepper
Please see recipe card for measurements.
For another terrific homemade spice blend, try this all-purpose dry rub. I use it on ribs, chicken, rotisserie, salmon, and shrimp.
Chef's Tip: When opening dried herbs and spices, be sure to date the jar. For the best flavor use within 6 months. For storage, place in a cool, dark place like a drawer or pantry, away from the heat of the stove and out of the light. Both degrade the flavors.
Substitutions and Variations
- If you're out of tomato paste, use ketchup or tomato sauce. You may need a bit more, use the taste test.
- Add mild green chiles, either a small can of green chilies or fresh finely chopped chili such as a mild Anaheim or a green bell pepper.
- Add hot chilies for heat with jalapeno chilie or serrano chile, or use your favorite hot sauce.
Step 1: Over medium heat, sauté onions in oil until soft and lightly golden in a large skillet, 1-2 minutes, then add garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Watch your heat and turn down if needed to not burn the garlic.
Step 2: Stir in the taco meat seasoning plus a tablespoon of water and cook 1 minute.
Step 4: Add the tomato paste and stir. If needed add another tablespoon of water.
Step 5: Add the ground meat and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, cooking until meat is no longer pink inside. The entire cooking process takes 12-13 minutes. If meat seems a little dry at the end, stir in a tablespoon of water.
Chef's Tip: Get your ground meat out of the refrigerator 45-60 minutes ahead of time if possible. It is safe to do so and the meat breaks up easier when cooking and cooks a little faster because it is softer and not so cold.
What makes a good taco? It's personal preference. Serve taco meat in corn tortillas or cassava tortillas for soft tacos, or butter lettuce leaves for a low-carb or paleo approach.
For using taco meat burrito-style, use flour tortillas. Taco meat is super for burrito bowls and taco bowls too. Its versatile!
For taco garnishes try:
- Grated cheese (jack, cheddar, or a Mexican cheese)
- Chopped cilantro
- Chopped tomato
- Chopped green onions
- Thinly sliced cabbage or lettuce
- Diced or sliced avocado
- Homemade salsa verde
- Sliced radishes
- A dollop of sour cream
- Pico de gallo
- Pineapple-mango salsa
And don't forget a wedge of fresh lime juice to squeeze over the top.
Make taco meat ahead on a Sunday to use during the week. Leftover meat holds up to 4 days refrigerated and freezes great. Great for Taco Tuesday!
It's better to not drain any rendered fat after cooking the ground beef, because fat carries flavor. It adds flavor and juiciness. A good fat level for ground beef for making tacos is 15% fat. There really isn't' any excess fat.
Typically a taco provides approximately 2 ounces of cooked meat, along with optional garnishes such as grated cheese, finely sliced cabbage or lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and fresh cilantro.
You can do it either way. Many recipes added the taco seasoning after cooking the meat. I add it before the meat, after cooking the onions in oil, to allow the spices to release their flavors and "bloom".
More Mexican-inspired Recipes
For another great family recipe with ground meat try my bison bolognese meat sauce.
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Ground beef taco recipe
- ½ white or yellow onion chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or avocado oil
- 2 large garlic cloves finely chopped or zested
- 1 ½ tablespoons taco seasoning mix homemade or store-bought
- 1 pound ground beef 15% lean dark turkey 93% or bison
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste or ¼ cup ketchup
- ½ teaspoon sea salt skip if you use a store packet
- 2-3 tablespoons water as needed
No-salt Homemade Taco Seasoning (or use store-bought)
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 ½ teaspoons ancho chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin ground
- 1 teaspoon coriander ground
- 1 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic sub garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon chipotle chile powder optional, or sub cayenne
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
For Tacos and Optional Garnishes
- 8 corn tortillas or cassava, or lettuce leaves
- 1 cup thinly sliced green cabbage
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 4-8 ounces grated cheese
- 1 avocado diced or sliced
- 2 limes cut into wedges for squeezing over tacos
Taco seasoning (makes extra, doubles easy)
- Add all ingredients to a jar with a tight lid and shake well. Label and date the jar.
- Heat a large saute or frying pan over medium heat. Add oil, then add the onion, cooking onion until softened, 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Add 1 ½ tablespoons of the seasoning mix and a tablespoon of water, stirring so it is coated in the oil and onion and cook 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook 1 minute. Add another tablespoon of water if needed to keep it juicy.
- Add the meat to the pan. Cook meat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and stirring until it is no longer pink, about 8-10 minutes. If it's dry add a tablespoon of water. Stir to heat through, then serve. To make tacos, heat tortillas and fill with approximately a ¼ of a cup per taco filling. Garnish as desired. Makes 8 tacos.