Learn how to make the most tender and flavorful meat for Ground Beef Tacos! These tacos are the perfect weeknight meal, taking less than 30 minutes to prepare, and are easy to customize to please your whole family.
Growing up we had ground beef tacos almost weekly at our house. It was a basic ground beef recipe, just ground beef, onions and garlic. These days we still enjoy tacos with ground beef, just a little fancier.
Tacos are one of the easiest meals because these are delicious, easy to make and so easy to customize. Everyone gets to add their own favorite toppings. I am a purist and usually just add lettuce and cheese to mine, while my husband adds cheese and tomatoes. No one complains when ground beef tacos are on the menu for dinner!
Up your Taco Tuesday game with my easy tips and tricks for the best taco night ever.
THE BEST GROUND BEEF FOR TACOS
There is some controversy surrounding this topic believe it or not. Too much fat and your tacos are overly greasy. Too little and the meat is too dry.
The best ground to use for taco meat is an 85% lean. The meat has enough fat to make it juicy and flavorful, yet it’s not overly greasy, plus you will drain the grease out of the pan after it cooks.
THE BEST TACO SEASONING
As I mentioned, taco night at our house was, while still delicious, admittedly a little boring in the flavor department. Adding the right taco seasoning can completely change your taco game. There are a few tips to keep in mind when seasoning yout ground beef tacos.
Add the seasoning after cooking the meat. As the ground beef cooks, fat is rendered. Seasoning your meat too soon results in flavor lost when you drain off the excess grease.
Simmer the meat in the seasoning. This allows the meat to soak up that flavor and create a thick sauce that coats the meat.
Skip the packets and make your own seasoning blend. Once the meat is fully cooked and drained, add whatever seasoning your like, whether it’s a simple salt and pepper or my Homemade Taco Seasoning. The packets work in a pinch but the are full of salt and preservatives and making your own is incredibly simple.
For spicier taco meat, add a ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper. I usually do this with shredded beef because I prefer ground beef tacos a little milder, but it’s a personal preference.
HOW TO MAKE GROUND BEEF TACOS
PREP. Start by making your seasoning blend for the meat. We use a combination of chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder and dried oregano. Chop onion, mince garlic and gather other ingredients.
COOK. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add ground beef, onion and garlic. The fat that is released from the meat is enough to coat the pan and keep the meat from sticking, as well as cook the onion and garlic. Use a metal or silicone spatula to break up the meat as it cooks and break up into small bit or larger chunks, depending on preference.
DRAIN. Ground beef releases a lot of grease. The higher the fat content, the more liquid is released. There are 2 options for draining. You can transfer the meat to a paper towel lined plate using a slotted spoon and then pour out the grease. Or, the method I use is to simply push the meat to one side of the skillet and gently tilt the skillet to the opposite side and soak up the grease with paper towels using tongs.
SEASON AND SIMMER. Stir the seasoning into the meat, along with a couple tablespoons of tomato paste and some beef broth. Water can be used in place of the broth if you wish. The tomato paste amps up the flavor a bit but you can leave it out if you don’t have any on hand. the meat only need to simmer for about 15 minutes; just long enough for the sauce to thick and reduce and coat the meat.
Whether you’re planning a simple taco night or an all out fiesta, how you serve your tacos is up to you. I usually set up a serving station, with small bowls filled with toppings like diced tomatoes, sliced olive, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce and sour cream. For the shells, we use pre-packaged taco shells or sometimes I’ll fry them up.
Homemade taco shells are my favorite. Heat a little bit of vegetable or canola oil to a skillet and lightly fry corn tortillas for a few minutes per side. Use metal tongs to lift them out, careful not to tear them. Drain them on paper towels to soak up the oil. Lightly frying the tortillas will make them a little crispy but still pliable enough to fold for stuffing.
I purchased taco holders a while back and my family loves them. They make stuffing your taco super easy so you don’t have to hold the tortilla and lose all that yummy filling.
Leftover ground beef taco meat should be stored in an airtight container once cooled. It will remain fresh in the fridge for up to 4-5 days, and in the freezer for up to 6 months. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.
Add ground beef, diced onion and minced garlic to a large skillet over medium high heat. Break up beef with a spatula and stir often until no longer pink; 5-7 minutes. Drain grease or soak up with paper towels and discard.
To the cooked beef mixture, stir in tomato paste, beef broth or water, and all seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until sauce is thickened and reduced; about 10-15 minutes.
While the meat is cooking, prep taco toppings and heat tortillas.
Once the meat is reduced, let sit 5 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to fill taco shells. Add your favorite taco toppings like lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, sour cream and salsa. A squeeze of lime is a great finishing touch!
Nutritional information is for the meat only and does not include optional toppings or serving vessels such as taco shells or tortillas.Serving size is approximately ¾ of a cup of taco meat which will fill 2-3 tacos.
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Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.