Taco Meat

5 from 2 votes
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This taco meat recipe is about to become a staple in your household. Ground beef seasoned with warming cumin, smoked paprika, garlic, and more is browned up in a pan and then simmered with a little tomato sauce for a rich, flavorful outcome.

Stuffing a flour tortilla with taco meat.


Homemade taco meat is one of those things you can make a big batch of and just use in everything throughout the week because it’s just so good! Load it into tacos, enchiladas, salads, burritos, etc. Throw it on top of some nachos or in a burrito bowl. Regardless of how you use it, it’s always a welcome addition.

Why This Is The Best Taco Meat Recipe

  • Full of flavor. Ground beef, perfectly seasoned with cumin and smoked paprika, is browned in a skillet and then simmered in a rich tomato sauce. Savory, smoky, and tangy, it’ll give any taqueria a run for its money.
  • Endless uses. You do not have to limit yourself to only using this meat in tacos. Use it to fill burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and more.
  • Customizable. Whether you want to use a different protein, add some veggies, or some extra spice, this recipe is super easy to tailor to your taste buds.
Labeled ingredients for taco meat.

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Olive oil: Used for cooking and flavor, but can be replaced with any cooking oil.
  • Yellow onion – A white onion would also work.
  • Ground beef – I like 80/20, but you could use something leaner if you’d like.
  • Spices – I season my taco meat with cumin, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano. Feel free to add a little cayenne to the mix for extra spice.
  • Tomato sauce: Adds tanginess and juiciness to the meat.
  • Water: For more flavor, you can use beef broth instead.

How to Make Taco Meat

Ground beef is a convenient and affordable protein. Here’s a quick overview of how to make taco meat with it, but scroll to the recipe card further down the page for detailed instructions.

  • Sauté the onions. Saute the onions in olive oil over medium heat.
  • Brown the ground beef. Add the ground beef to the skillet, season with the spices, and cook, breaking it apart as you go, until browned and crumbly. Drain the grease from the pan.
  • Make it saucy. Stir in the tomato sauce and water, bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Taco meat along with other popular taco ingredients.

Recipe Tips And Variations

  • Don’t crowd the pan. For the beef to brown properly, it needs enough room to breathe in the skillet. Try to use a skillet large enough for the beef to be broken up into one layer across the surface.
  • Drain the beef. After browning the beef, drain the grease from the pan so you don’t have a greasy mess.
  • Patience. Simmer the tomato sauce and water with the taco meat until the liquid is all but gone.
  • Try a different protein. You can use ground chicken, turkey, or pork. Impossible Meat would be great for vegetarian diets.
  • Experiment with spice. Dice a jalapeno and saute it with the onion, or add a little cayenne in with the rest of the seasoning for a spicier taco meat.
  • Add veggies. I sometimes will add diced bell peppers to the skillet while I saute the onions. You could also mix in drained canned corn at the end.
  • Add black beans. Make this a heartier affair by stirring 1/2 a cup or so of drained canned black beans into the meat before serving.
Close-up photo of a taco stuffed with taco meat, cilantro, and red onions on a tray lined with parchment paper.

Ways to Use Homemade Taco Meat

The most straightforward way to use taco meat is to stuff it in corn tortillas, flour tortillas, or hard taco shells with some avocado, sour cream, and pico de gallo. Don’t stop at tacos, though. You can use this spiced ground beef in enchiladas or burritos, to top nachos, or as part of the filling for this Taco Casserole. I use it in these Taco Bowls, too.

How to Store & Reheat Leftovers

  • To store. Allow the beef to cool to room temperature before sealing it in an airtight container. It will stay good in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • To reheat. Thaw the leftovers in the fridge (if applicable) before heating a little olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and then adding the homemade taco meat. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until heated through (you can add a splash of broth or water if it gets too dry). You could also heat the taco meat in a microwave in 30-second intervals until warm.
Flour tortillas stuffed with taco meat, cilantro, and red onions and arranged on a brown parchment paper.

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5 from 2 votes

Taco Meat

This taco meat is so quick and easy. Browned ground beef is seasoned with warming cumin, smoked paprika, garlic, and more and then simmered with tomato sauce.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ medium yellow onion,, diced
  • 1 pound 80/20 ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup water
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  • Sauté the onions. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes or until translucent.
  • Brown the ground beef. Add the ground beef to the skillet and break it apart with a wooden spoon. Season the beef with cumin, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano. Cook the meat, breaking it apart as you go, until it’s thoroughly browned and nice and crumbly, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Drain. Drain the grease from the pan and return the pan to the heat.
  • Make it saucy. Stir in the tomato sauce and water, bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 7 minutes or until much of the liquid has evaporated.


  • For storage, let the beef cool down to room temperature, then transfer it into an airtight container. It can be refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for as long as 3 months


Serving: 4ounces | Calories: 342kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 807mg | Potassium: 473mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 644IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.

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  1. Carrie says:

    Question- (forgive ignorance- I’m not much of a cook) Wouldn’t adding spices before draining the grease cause you to lose a lot of flavor?

    1. Katerina says:

      The reason we add spices before draining is to ensure that the meat absorbs the flavors during the cooking process, which helps develop a deeper taste.
      You can always do a taste test after draining and adding a bit more of the spices, especially salt if needed. This way, you can adjust the flavor to your liking.