Satisfy your taste buds with this quick and easy ground beef taco meat recipe featuring juicy ground beef cooked in classic Mexican spices. It’s so hearty, full of flavor, and it makes for great leftovers!
At any given moment, you can probably expect to find at least 2-3 packages of ground beef in our fridge. That’s because we cook with it on a nearly daily basis, and one of our favorite ways to cook it is in our favorite Mexican dishes.
Lately, my go-to dishes are taco soup and Mexican pizza, but of course, neither of these dishes would be complete without having the best taco meat recipe. The meat stays juicy and absorbs every ounce of flavor from my homemade taco seasoning. Plus, it’s easy to make and cooks up in minutes.
Table of Contents
- Foolproof. Simply add the beef and aromatics to the skillet, let them cook, then pile on the seasonings, and voila! In less than 20 minutes, you have perfectly cooked taco-seasoned meat.
- Makes great leftovers. I usually make a double batch of meat just so I can toss it into my meals throughout the week. It tastes great cold but reheats easily.
- Versatile. Pile it on tortilla chips for the perfect nachos, or stir it into beanless chili. There’s no end to what you can do with this recipe.
Aside from the beef, the rest of the ingredients you’ll need are common kitchen and pantry staples. Here’s exactly what you’ll need:
- Ground beef. I prefer to use lean ground beef since it has a good texture from the fat, but it’s not overly greasy. Anything labeled “ground hamburger” will also work, but it will be a bit fattier so you’ll want to drain the excess grease.
- Salt and black pepper. To taste.
- Garlic and onion. Essential aromatics.
- Seasonings. No, we are NOT using the store-bought seasoning packets. I used smoked paprika, chili powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder, but you can also use my homemade taco seasoning blend.
Find the printable recipe with measurements below.
How to make taco meat
Step 1- Cook the beef. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the ground beef. Break it apart with a spatula and cook until it begins to brown.
Step 2- Add aromatics. Add the chopped onions and minced garlic to the skillet. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef is fully browned and the onions soften.
Step 3- Add seasonings. In the skillet, sprinkle the salt, pepper, smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder. Stir the seasoning into the meat mixture.
Step 4- Simmer. Simmer over medium heat for 5-10 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Then, serve as desired.
What to serve with this recipe
My favorite way to use this taco meat is to turn it into juicy tacos. We usually set up an assembly line with corn tortillas or crispy taco shells and all the fixings, and then everyone takes turns building their tacos. You can also use it in my taco salad or taco bowls.
Recipe tips and variations
- Make it spicy. Add a dash of cayenne pepper or hot sauce for an extra spicy kick.
- Drain the grease. Before serving, I like to carefully drain the excess grease or soak it up with a few paper towels. Typically this only happens when I use ground beef with a higher fat content.
- Add more liquid. Depending on the type of ground beef I use, sometimes I’ll add a little extra water, chicken broth, or even tomato sauce to prevent it from drying out.
- Make sure the meat is fully cooked. Once you add the seasonings, the meat may look like it’s done, but you’ll want to let it simmer for the full time to ensure it’s completely cooked.
To store: Leftover taco meat can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.
To freeze: Allow leftover meat to cool completely, then transfer it to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. Let the meat thaw overnight in the fridge, or add more reheating time.
To reheat: Microwave leftover beef in 30-second intervals until fully reheated.
Frequently asked questions
The best way to prevent taco meat from drying out is to use ground beef with a high enough fat content, usually 70% lean 30% or 80/20. The leaner the beef, the more likely it is to dry out, so you’ll want to add extra beef broth or water as it’s cooking.
Yes! Taco meat can be made up to several days in advance and reheated in the microwave right before serving.
Yes, if you’d rather skip the ground beef, you can use this same recipe with ground chicken, ground turkey, or a plant-based substitute.
More recipes using ground beef
- Stuffed pepper soup– An easy one-pot soup my family won’t stop raving about.
- Air fryer hamburgers– Juicy burgers made in half the time as grilling.
- Salisbury steak– Seasoned beef patties smothered in a homemade mushroom gravy.
- Air fryer meatballs– Tender, juicy, and incredibly versatile.
- Or any of these healthy ground beef recipes.
Taco Meat Recipe
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the ground beef. Break it apart with a spatula and cook until it starts to brown.
- Add the chopped onions and minced garlic to the skillet. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef is fully browned and the onions are softened.
- Sprinkle salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, chili powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder evenly over the meat mixture. Stir the seasoning into the meat mixture, ensuring the spices are well distributed.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the taco meat simmer for an additional 5 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed.
- Serve in bowls, tacos, etc.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website.