Best Ground Beef Tacos

TACOS
The Spruce / Diana Rattray
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 20 mins
Servings: 4 to 5 servings
Yield: 8 to 10 tacos
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
402 Calories
20g Fat
27g Carbs
28g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 5
Amount per serving
Calories 402
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 20g 26%
Saturated Fat 6g 32%
Cholesterol 81mg 27%
Sodium 284mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 27g 10%
Dietary Fiber 4g 16%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 28g
Vitamin C 4mg 18%
Calcium 86mg 7%
Iron 4mg 23%
Potassium 615mg 13%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

These classic beef tacos are super easy to prepare, and they're ready in a remarkable 20 minutes, from start to finish. You won't have to run to the store to buy a packet of taco seasoning because these tacos are made with a simple homemade spice mixture. This is a fabulous kid and family-friendly recipe that you can make for lunch or dinner any day of the week.

Tacos hail from Mexico, and they've become a popular dinner option in America. There's even a day of the week set aside for tacos in the US, "taco Tuesday." This version is distinctly American with Southwestern influence. And while they aren’t what you’d find at an authentic taqueria, they are easy, quick, affordable, and delicious. Serve your tacos in soft flour or corn tortillas, or hard taco shells.

The taco recipe is easily scaled up, making them an excellent choice for a game day crowd or party. Make a "taco bar" with warm taco meat and tortillas along with bowls of various toppings and Mexican sauces. Supply the plates, utensils, and napkins, and let your guests serve themselves.

When it comes to side dishes to serve with tacos, there are many possibilities. Serve tacos with a tossed salad with ranch dressing, hot cooked rice, Mexican street corn, grilled vegetables, avocado slices, black beans, raw vegetables, or refried beans.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1/2 cup water, or stock

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 8 to 10 corn tortillas, or flour tortillas, or taco shells

  • Shredded cheese, optional

  • Tomatoes, diced, optional

  • Lettuce, shredded, optional

  • Pico de gallo, optional

  • Avocado, diced, optional

  • Quick-pickled onions, optional

  • Red onions, sliced, optional

  • Cilantro, optional

  • Lime wedges, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    ingredients for best tacos
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  2. Heat the cooking oil over medium-high heat.

    skillet
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  3. When the oil is hot, add the ground beef and onion; use a spatula to break up the beef and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the beef is no longer pink and the onion is softened. At this point, if desired, drain off any excess fat.

    cooking the ground beef for tacos
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  4. Add the garlic to the beef and onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add the chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Continue to cook for 1 minute.

    cooking taco meat, ground beef
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  5. Add the tomato paste along with the water or stock and stir to blend. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 4 minutes, or until the mixture is reduced and thickened. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

    beef tacos in a skillet
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  6. Serve the beef mixture in warm tortillas or taco shells with the desired toppings. 

    homemade beef tacos ready to eat
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

Tips and Variations

How to Store

  • Refrigerate leftover beef taco filling in an airtight container within 2 hours and eat within 4 days.
  • You may freeze taco meat filling for longer storage. Transfer the leftover taco meat to zip-close freezer bags or freezer containers and freeze it for up to four months. Thaw frozen taco meat in the refrigerator overnight.
  • To reheat taco meat, put it in a pan with a small amount of water and reheat it over medium-low heat until it reaches 165 F, which is the USDA recommended safe temperature for leftovers.

Recipe Variations

  • Counting carbs? Turn the taco mixture into a salad. Toss the seasoned meat with lettuce, halved grape tomatoes, and other vegetables, and top the salad with some quick pickled onions, shredded cheese, and sour cream or guacamole. Or swap out the standard tortillas with homemade keto tortillas or cauliflower tortillas.
  • If you are short on time, skip the chopping and mincing and add about 2 teaspoons each of garlic powder and onion powder along with the chili powder.
  • Replace the ground beef with ground turkey or ground chicken, preferable dark meat or a mixture of dark and white meat.
  • Add a can of drained and rinsed black beans or pinto beans to the meat mixture along with the tomato paste and water.
  • For a spicier meat mixture, add a dash of cayenne pepper or about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.

What Ground Beef Lean-to-Fat Ratio Is Best for Tacos?

For tastier tacos, use a ratio between 80/20 and 90/10. A higher percentage of fat produces more moist and flavorful meat.

How Do You Keep Ground Beef Moist for Tacos?

To keep the meat mixture moist, use ground beef with a higher fat percentage and avoid draining it.