Learn how to make taco meat that is juicy and flavorful and comes together in 25 minutes. This easy, no-fuss recipe starts with cooking ground beef on the stove, then flavored with taco seasoning and tomato sauce for the most mouthwatering goodness. Elevate your taco game and make the best ground beef taco recipe!
I know the struggle of figuring out what to make for dinner when time is tight and hunger is looming.
But worry not, my friends. This ground beef taco meat recipe is the perfect solution and it will become your go-to protein on repeat.
The juicy and flavorful taco meat comes together quickly, making it an ideal choice for those busy weeknights when you need a quick and delicious meal.
You won't regret making this delicious taco meat recipe.
- Why Learn How to Make Taco Meat
- Ingredients for the Best Taco Meat Recipe
- Substitutions and Variations
- Make it Nutrient Dense
- How to Make Taco Meat
- Helpful Tips for the Best Ground Beef Taco Recipe
- Tools to Make Ground Beef Taco Meat
- Serving Suggestions
- Storage and Reheating Instructions
- Printable Recipe
Why Learn How to Make Taco Meat
Easy weeknight dinner - Homemade taco meat calls for 3 simple ingredients and takes only 20-25 minutes to prepare; and most of it is hands-off anyways, freeing you to prep the toppings.
Fits any budget - All you need is a pound of meat, but from there, the spectrum on quality and price point varies. You can start with the cheapest lean meat from your grocery store or go with an ancestral blend of regeneratively grown grass-fed beef from a local rancher. Do what works best for your family.
Versatile serving options - There are so many ways to serve this taco meat, such as classic tacos, refreshing salads, or loaded sheet pan nachos, giving you endless possibilities to satisfy your cravings.
Kids and adults love it - This is the best taco meat recipe for both young and old, making it the perfect family-friendly meal for any occasion.
Easily bump up the nutrition - We're all about making meals as nutrient dense as possible and this one doesn't disappoint. There are so many ways to elevate taco Tuesday.
💭Fun Fact: Ground beef taco meat was popularized in the United States during the 1960s, with the rise of Tex-Mex cuisine. And we're all happier for it.
Ingredients for the Best Taco Meat Recipe
Learn how to make ground beef for tacos, nachos, or burritos with 3 basic ingredients. This easy recipe takes only 30 minutes.
- Ground beef: This forms the base of the taco filling. You'll need a pound of ground beef with moderate fat content, typically labeled as 80/20 or 85/15 for best flavor and texture.
- Tomato sauce: Adds a tangy and slightly sweet element to the taco meat and also enhances the overall taste and consistency. Tomato sauce also helps the spices to adhere to the meat and adds that red hue that is associated with good taco meat.
- Taco seasoning: A mouthwatering blend of spices, including chili powder, minced garlic, ground cumin, minced onion, oregano, and red pepper flakes, adds the perfect balance of heat and zest to the meat. If you love Mexican food as much as we do, make a double batch of taco seasoning to always have on hand.
See the recipe card for exact quantities.
Substitutions and Variations
- Meat - Swap the beef with another ground meat such as ground turkey, ground chicken, or even ground pork. If you use lean ground beef, turkey, or chicken, I recommend adding healthy fat like tallow or butter to the taco meat for flavor and rich texture.
- Tomatoes - if you don't have tomato sauce, use tomato paste and thin it out slightly with a liquid like beef broth, chicken broth, or water. You can also use tomato juice to give it acidity and moisture.
- Seasoning - If you don't have any taco seasoning on hand and you're short on time, do this: add 2 teaspoons of chili powder, followed by one teaspoon ground cumin, garlic powder, oregano, and onion powder.
Make it Nutrient Dense
Staying true to the heart of what Prepare and Nourish is all about, the best taco meat recipe has the maximum nutrition. Even though it's an incredibly simple recipe as is, you can take purposeful steps to turn this into a nutrient-dense meal.
Add ground organ meats. Increase the nutrient profile of this taco meat by using ancestral blend grinds, which include grass-fed beef and organ meats like liver and heart.
Organ meats like beef liver, kidneys, and heart are a great source of bio-available vitamins and minerals that can't be readily found in plant foods. Including them regularly is essential to supporting health. And adding small amounts of organ meats to grinds is an easy way to boost nutrition. Force of Nature makes this part easy with their pre-packaged ancestral blends that already include organ meats.
Use homemade taco seasoning. I'm partial to homemade taco seasoning because it ensures quality and freshness without unnecessary additives. Make a large batch of your own taco seasoning so you're always prepared by using the recipe for this whole30 taco seasoning, and avoid sweeteners and starches in your tacos.
Don't drain ground beef fat. One of the greatest benefits of using grass-fed beef is that it's not necessary to drain the grease when cooking ground meat. In grass-fed and grass-finished beef, the cattle graze more than conventionally raised cattle and that already produces leaner grind. Additionally, fat in ground beef only enhances the overall flavor.
How to Make Taco Meat
The complete printable recipe is below in the recipe card for your convenience.
The ground beef taco meat recipe has only 4 ingredients: ground meat, tomato sauce (or canned diced tomatoes), taco seasoning, and sea salt. And yet, it produces the most delicious, authentic, juiciest, and flavorful taco meat. Learn how to cook taco meat on the stove in just 4 simple steps.
Step 1. Heat
Heat a cast-iron skillet (or stainless steel pan) over medium-high heat. Add ground beef to the skillet, breaking up the meat and stirring occasionally.
Step 2. Brown
Break up the meat with a large paddle spatula and brown the meat. You'll notice it will start to release liquid/fat almost immediately.
💭Pro tip: To brown ground beef properly, allow it to cook undisturbed for a few minutes before turning it.
Step 3. Cook
Continue to cook the meat on medium-high heat for most of the juices to evaporate.
Step 4. Season
Add taco seasoning, sea salt, and tomato sauce, and cook for a few minutes or until the ground beef taco meat has thickened.
💭Pro tip: If the taco meat is a little too runny after adding the seasonings, keep the skillet uncovered on medium heat to allow the moisture to evaporate and the fat to be reabsorbed back into the meat.
Helpful Tips for the Best Ground Beef Taco Recipe
Use room-temperature beef - Pull the meat from the fridge and let it come to room temperature for 30 minutes.
Start with a hot pan - Heat your cast iron skillet or stainless steel pan for a few minutes first before adding the meat. This will help it cook and brown properly.
Brown properly - Don't disturb the meat as it cooks and browns, only occasionally when necessary. Stir and give time to brown again.
Season last - Salt pulls moisture and creates steam and will produce rubbery, dry taco meat. Instead, wait until the ground beef has been browned to add seasonings and tomato sauce.
Use minced garlic and onion - When re-hydrated from the tomato sauce and ground beef, these small flakes of alliums create amazing flavor and texture. I would not suggest subbing them with powdered garlic and onions.
💭Meal Prep Suggestion: Make taco seasoning ahead of time and store it in the spice cabinet until ready to use. Make a big batch of the ground beef taco meat recipe and have enough to last you all week for tacos, nachos, burritos, salads, and more.
Tools to Make Ground Beef Taco Meat
Below are some affiliate links that may be helpful to you as you make this recipe. You can find some of these items cheaper at your local store, but having a link helps you know what you're looking for.
- Tools: stainless steel skillet, cast iron skillet, large wooden spatula (you don't need a separate tool that breaks up ground beef - just any flat spatula will work)
- Ingredients: unrefined sea salt, taco seasoning (my first option is homemade because most store-bought taco seasonings have a small amount of sugar), tomato sauce in glass jars.
Ground Beef Taco Meat pairing suggestions
Storage and Reheating Instructions
How long does ground beef taco meat last in the refrigerator?
To store: Store leftover taco meat in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 6 days. If you anticipate not consuming the leftovers within that time, it's best to freeze it to extend shelf life.
Storage containers: These glass snap containers are perfect for leftovers.
To freeze: Transfer completely cooled ground beef taco meat to freezer bag and remove excess air to avoid freezer burn. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
To reheat: To reheat taco meat while preserving its flavor and texture, transfer the refrigerated meat to a small saucepan with a lid. Add a few tablespoons of water or broth, cover, and heat on low-medium. Stir and break up the meat until warmed through, then remove from heat promptly.
To season the ground beef well, use 2 tablespoons for one pound of meat. If that seems too much to you, start with 1-½ tablespoons and work your way up.
I don't include salt in my taco seasoning to give me more control over the salt content meal so if you're using storebought seasoning, check the ingredients. Additionally, tomato sauce may also have salt, so you want to watch how much you are adding. Always start low and work your way up.
Use meat with higher fat content as it adds flavor and moisture to the meat. And hold off on seasoning until after the meat has been browned first as salt pulls moisture and creates steam. Lastly, mind the heat. High heat tends to dry out the meat, so try to turn it down and gently cook the meat.
The great thing about ground beef is that it's a versatile protein that can be transformed into various delicious dishes. Reheat the meat mixture to and add it to taco bowls, hearty quesadillas, or burrito bowls. You can also make an easy taco salad in just a few minutes.
Looking for more easy dinners? Here are some ideas:
Did you make this? Please leave a ⭐ recipe rating in the recipe card below and leave a review in the comments. Thank you!💚
Best Taco Meat Recipe
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 cup tomato sauce or canned diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
Taco Seasoning (if needed)
- Mix: If you don't already have taco seasoning prepared, combine chili powder, minced garlic, ground cumin, minced onion, oregano and red pepper flakes together in a small bowl.
- Heat: Heat a large cast-iron skillet or stainless steel pan over medium heat. If using stainless steel, add a tablespoon of avocado or extra virgin olive oil.
- Brown: Add ground beef and break it and cooking until thoroughly cooked and browned, approximately 6-8 minutes.
- Season: Add taco seasoning, salt and tomato sauce over the meat, reduce heat to low. Stir to combine, breaking up the diced tomatoes if using.
- Simmer: Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until slightly thickened and moisture absorbs into the meat, approximately 3-4 minutes.
- Taste: Taste for salt and add if necessary. Enjoy immediately in tacos, salads, or nachos.
- Use room-temperature beef - Pull the meat from the fridge and let it come to room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Start with a hot pan - Heat your cast iron skillet or stainless steel pan for a few minutes first before adding the meat. This will help it cook and brown properly.
- Brown properly - Don't disturb the meat as it cooks and browns, only occasionally when necessary. Stir and give time to brown again.
- Season last - Salt pulls moisture and creates steam and will produce rubbery, dry taco meat. Instead, wait until the ground beef has been browned to add seasonings and tomato sauce.
- Use minced garlic and onion - When re-hydrated from the tomato sauce and ground beef, these small flakes of alliums create amazing flavor and texture. I would not suggest subbing them with powdered garlic and onions.