Ground beef for tacos is something I make nearly once a week in my house. It's a great skillet summer dinner recipe, and stores great in the freezer, too!
I’m going to preface this recipe by saying that I’m from Texas; I know a thing or two about tacos. We’ve been doing Taco Tuesday since we were tots—way before it was cool.
I’ve eaten quite literally thousands of tacos in my life. And while I grew up on a healthy mix of crispy ground beef tacos, soft chicken tacos, tiny taquitos, and puffy tacos, I have to admit that crispy beef tacos are my favorite. Side note: if you’ve never heard of a puffy taco, please click over and let Lisa educate you—you’re quite welcome.
Puffy tacos are something I don’t dare to make at home, even though I love frying. Have you ever read my manifesto on frying food on my Pork Schnitzel recipe? I don’t mind the splatter or smell of frying in my house—I don’t bring fear with me into the kitchen. But there’s just something about holding a taco shell in the perfect place to make it fold over that keeps me from making puffy tacos at home. I do eat them out around town in Dallas and Austin quite a bite—ask me for a puffy taco restaurant recommendation, I dare you.
Ground beef for tacos:
Anyway, crispy beef tacos taste like home to me. The shells must be super thin and crispy, and the toppings must be ice cold. Thinly shredded lettuce, thick-grated cheddar cheese, and big scoop of pico de gallo or finely diced tomatoes are my choices. Sour cream is optional on top, but I’ve never loved the way it cools down my whole taco.
This brings us to the spicy beef at the bottom. It’s the first thing we put into a taco, and the first thing we taste.
Ground beef for tacos should be moist, subtly spicy and have a strong enough flavor to carry itself. Great ground beef for tacos is welcome to be rolled into a corn tortilla, drenched in sauce and baked into enchiladas. Perfect ground beef for tacos is spiced not with a packet of taco seasoning! I make my own homemade taco seasoning with dried spices I always have in my pantry: garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, cumin, and chili powder. Of course I add pink salt and freshly ground black pepper, and if the toddler isn't eating with us, I add red pepper flakes, too!
I usually add a small squirt of tomato paste to the pan, because I buy tomato paste in tubes and it's super easy to add. I don't want you to open a can of it just for this recipe, though--the ground beef is great with simply the spices.
In short, don’t trust people not from Texas to make you ground beef for tacos. However, if your life is lacking a texan, please, let me be the Texan to share my recipe with you.
How to upgrade your taco (free tips from a Texan):
-smear refried beans in the taco shell before adding the fillings
-smear refried beans on the outside of the taco shell, and then wrap it in a soft flour tortilla
-preheat your taco shells in the oven (never the microwave) before adding the fillings
-find the smallest, thinnest taco shells you can find (this is the brand I like)
-keep the taco shell and ground beef hot and the rest of the fillings cold
One final taco tip: if you have leftovers, the best way to reheat is to scrape out the cold fillings, re-heat the shell and meat, and then pile the cold fillings back inside.
Ground Beef for Tacos
Perfect ground beef for tacos; recipe from a real Texan!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef (80% or 90% lean is perfect)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- Preheat a 10" cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the olive oil and heat until shimmering.
- Add the ground beef, tomato paste, and all spices to the skillet.
- Cook over medium-high heat while breaking it up with a spoon occasionally. After about 7-9 minutes, the beef will no longer be pink in the middle.
- Serve immediately in crispy taco shells with taco toppings, or store in freezer-safe plastic bags for up to 3 months until ready to eat.*
*To reheat frozen taco meat, place it in a hot skillet with a few tablespoons of water and heat through.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 236Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 67mgSodium: 450mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 21g
Emily G says
I was searching for a non-packet taco seasoning and this one is good, but I have an extra step that I added to this recipe. I used always use 94% lean ground beef, so I don’t get a lot of extra grease when I brown it, but I still drain the grease before I add the seasonings and tomato paste. I love the tomato paste in here! I might try two tablespoons next time! Thanks!
Wow, these are amazing! The spices are spot on. Thanks for the pro tips about the sour cream and letting the tiny humans fix their own. My son is a little picky but he happily ate his taco after building it.
Carol Peterson says
VERY good! The best taco meat I've tried. I did add about 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon (personal taste).
I’ve been making this recipe since you posted it years ago. We just love everything about it - the spice blend and the ease of preparation are perfection. I usually freeze half of the prepared meat for a future meal. So easy. It also makes a great meal for Meal Train. I’ve prepared it several times, included toppings, Spanish rice, and a dessert. It’s been well received every time. Thank you!