Ground Beef Taco Meat Recipe

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The best taco meat recipe! Learn how to make savory taco meat with ground beef in a single skillet in just 20 minutes. Use it to make tacos, nachos, and more! 

Overhead photo of ground beef taco meat in a stainless steel pan and wooden spoon.

The Best Taco Meat Recipe

Learning how to make taco meat is so easy even the kids can do it! However, once you have your tacos recipe down, you never go back. 

With a cook time of about 15 minutes, this dish is one of our favorite family meals. Plus, leftovers store and reheat well to enjoy for days. 

For this version, we use our homemade taco seasoning for lots of warm flavor. Then, we sneak in extra veggies. 

It might sound strange, but we’re confident you’re going to love it as much as we do. More importantly, the kids will, too! 

Ingredients You’ll Need

Raw ground beef on a plate surrounded by bowls of taco seasoning, salsa and water.
  • Lean Ground Beef – Feel free to substitute lean ground turkey, ground venison, ground bison, or even ground chicken. 
  • Taco Seasoning – Use homemade taco seasoning or a store-bought taco seasoning packet. Feel free to add an extra dash of chili powder or red pepper flakes if you prefer more heat.
  • Salsa – Use your favorite red salsa. Just make sure it’s not too chunky, or it won’t mix into the beef! 
  • Optional Veggies – We love to add chopped onions, bell peppers, or zucchini for extra nutrients and bulk. Chop them finely, and the kids won’t even realize they’re there! 

How to Make Taco Meat with Ground Beef

  1. Brown the beef. Heat a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the beef, and cook, breaking it into pieces until it’s no longer pink. 
  1. Drain. If needed, drain any excess fat. 
  2. Season. Return the skillet to the stove over low heat. Stir in the salsa, taco seasoning, and water. 

NOTE: Some people like to use tomato sauce in place of water to add more flavor. However, because we use salsa, we don’t find it necessary!

  1. Simmer. Allow the mixture to simmer until the sauce thickens and absorbs into the meat. 

Can I Use Frozen Ground Beef? 

We highly recommend thawing it first. Cooking meat frozen in a skillet is likely to dry it out, and it won’t absorb the seasoning or salsa well. 

Ways to Serve Ground Beef Taco Meat

The classic way to serve taco meat is in corn tortillas or soft taco shells. Don’t forget to add your favorite taco toppings like sour cream, shredded lettuce, black beans, or shredded cheese!

However, it’s also great with: 

  • Burritos 
  • Nachos
  • Tacos Salads
  • Loaded Baked Potatoes
  • Pasta
  • Mac and Cheese
Up close photo of ground beef taco meat in a metal stovetop pan.

How to Store, Freeze, and Reheat

  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. 
  • Freeze leftovers for up to three months. 
  • Reheat thawed taco beef in a skillet over medium heat, adding a splash of water as needed. Or, warp it in the microwave. 

Common Questions About This Taco Meat Recipe

How do Mexican restaurants get their beef so fine?

Most Mexican restaurants boil their meat before cooking it. This brings the internal temperature of the meat up slowly, preventing it from clumping!

What is the thickening agent for taco meat?

Most store-bought taco seasoning mixes contain cornstarch, which acts as a thickener. However, it’s not necessary to add to the homemade seasoning. Just allow the mixture to simmer!

Why is my taco meat dry?

Taco meat dries out when it is overcooked. This is normal because taco meat cooks extremely thoroughly. However, to avoid it, remove the beef from the heat as soon as the liquid thickens.

Ground beef taco meat in a stainless steel pan and wooden spoon.

Taco Meat Recipe

Learn how to make taco meat with just four basic ingredients and the option to add veggies for a boost of nutrients your picky eaters won’t notice!
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Tex-Mex
Keyword: how to make taco meat, taco meat, taco meat recipe
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 210kcal
Cost: $5.00


  • 1 lb lean ground beef or ground turkey, ground venison, ground bison
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 2 Tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 1/4 cup water


  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef. Break the beef up with a wooden spoon while cooking. Cook the ground beef fully, until browned and no longer pink.
    1 lb lean ground beef
  • If needed, drain any excess grease from the skillet. Then return to the stove and reduce the heat to low.
  • Stir in the salsa, taco seasoning, and water until combined.
    2 Tablespoons taco seasoning, 1/2 cup salsa, 1/4 cup water
  • Allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Use the ground meat as desired in tacos, burritos, salads, or nachos.
  • Store cooled meat in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


We love to add veggies like chopped onion, bell peppers or zucchini to the meat will it browns. Taste once cooked and add more taco seasoning or salsa, if needed. 
This recipe easily doubles to feed more people or freeze half for later.


Serving: 4ounces | Calories: 210kcal


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