Great Mexican for all. The absolute best ground beef taco meat you can make at home. Perfect for nachos, salads, or even tacos. So easy and good, you will never use store-bought seasoning again. And you made it from scratch with these easy step by step photo instructions.
There is nothing like taco Tuesday or a full plate of nachos. This is a greatly modified and simplified Cooks Illustrated recipe that tastes better than any ground beef taco meat you ever had. Use it for the best tacos, on nachos, or a salad.
You will never open an envelope of taco mix again. For about the same work and just using what you already have in your pantry, you can do this in less than 25 minutes.
An easy 5. I have done it over and over. And it is very hard to stop eating and save the leftovers for tomorrow.
I have changed the method over time but retained the great taste, so it is time for an update.
The original recipe started with cooking the onion then adding the spices to "bloom" them. It had a little effect, but that added taste was lost in the drainage from ground beef that was added and cooked after the blooming. One extra step eliminated.
I now cooked more traditionally with the onion and meat browned, drained then the spices and tomato sauce added.
The original recipe had two teaspoons of brown sugar, and a tablespoon of vinegar add near the end. I don't find that is needed and have removed that. But if you use a cheap tomato sauce, it will help some.
The original recipe called for lower fat ground meat since the spices would decrease in the drainage. But the lower fat burger tends to be a bit dry. I suggest a standard 80/20 ground beef.
Since the spices are intense in this recipe, if you use another ground meat like turkey or chicken, most people will not know unless told.
This is about a 6/10 spicy when using 2 teaspoons of cumin and the ½ teaspoon of cayenne. Adjust to your taste.
I suggest using fresh onion and garlic if you can for this recipe. If you must, use onion powder, about 1 tablespoon for a medium to a large onion. And ½ teaspoon of garlic powder for the 4 cloves of garlic.
The quality of the tomato sauce is important. The cheaper generic sauce tends to be very acid tasting, and you might need a teaspoon or two of sugar to counter that.
An easy recipe to adjust to the amount you want but I frequently do 3 pounds but it stores well.
It is good in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days and freezes well for 3 to 4 months.
🖼️Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
Note: Images are from a number of days so the pans may vary.
This is what you need plus your meat, onion, and garlic.
Chop a medium onion.
Add the meat and the onion to a large frying pan over medium-high heat. While the meat and onion are cooking, prep the garlic, and measure the spices.
Cook until the burger has no pink, which is usually 8-10 minutes. Push the meat aside in the center of the pan and add the garlic and cook 1 minute to bloom the garlic. Drain well.
Add the spices and tomato sauce. Turn the heat to medium and cook another 5 minutes until the sauce is incorporated.
Serve in tacos, nachos, or on a salad.
The Best Ground Beef Taco Meat
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1 onion - medium diced
- 2-4 cloves garlic
- 4 tablespoons chili powder
- 1-2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper - optional
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 8 oz tomato sauce
- Chop a medium onion.
- Add the meat and the onion to a large frying pan over medium-high heat. While the meat and onion are cooking, prep garlic, and measure spices.
- Cook until the burger has no pink which is usually 8-10 minutes. Push the meat aside in the center of the pan and add the garlic and cook 1 minute to bloom the garlic. Drain well.
- Add the spices and tomato sauce. Turn the heat to medium and cook another 5 minutes until the sauce is incorporated.
My Private Notes
- Adjust to the amount you want in the serving area of this recipe card.
- I now use 80/20 ground beef for this. I feel it gives the best results.
- You may use ground turkey or chicken. Of course there will be a slight taste difference but the spices in this meat will dominate.
- I suggest making a large amount and freezing.
- This is about a 6/10 spicy when using 2 teaspoons of cumin and ½ teaspoon cayenne. Adjust to your taste.
- Good in the refrigerator for 3-4 days and freezes well for 3-4 months
My Old MethodThe previous version of this recipe. Fussier with slightly different taste.
- Cook onion in 2 teaspoons oil until clearing.
- Add the garlic and dry spices. Cook for 1-2 minutes to bloom the spices.
- Add the meat, break up and cook until no pink. Use a lower fat meat to decrease drainage.
- Add tomato sauce. 2 teaspoons brown sugar and 1 tablespoon vinegar. Cook about another 5 minutes until encorperated.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Originally Published May 6, 2011. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.