The absolute BEST Taco Meat! Made with a homemade blend of taco seasonings and tomato sauce, this makes the most flavorful and juiciest taco meat EVER! This easy recipe comes together in just 15 minutes and is the perfect base for Tacos.
Serve up this perfectly seasoned taco meat as traditional tacos, in taco salad, as a layer in Instant Pot Mexican Lasagna, on top of taco pizza, or stuffed in baked sweet potatoes, for an easy and delicious family meal.
One family meal that never disappoints is Tacos. My family loves just about every version of tacos I can think up to serve--Buffalo Chicken Tacos, Lentil Tacos, Honey Lime Chicken Tacos, and the list goes on....
However, our absolute favorite version of tacos have to be classic tacos made with ground beef. There is just something about taco meat piled on a taco shell and then loaded with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream. It is a simple meal that never disappoints!
In order to have the BEST tacos, you need to start out with a really good taco meat. And this is the BEST recipe for taco meat--PERIOD!
Ground meat is coated with a perfectly spiced tomato sauce that tastes just like taco meat you get from your favorite taco place. Just this recipe for taco meat has no added MSG, gluten, and is MUCH lower in sodium.
Bottom line--this recipe needs to be a staple at your house. It is inexpensive, simple, kid-friendly, and while this taco meat taste amazing on tacos, it can be used in numerous ways so you will never tire of it!
Ingredients for Taco Meat
- Ground meat--Use any ground meat you like for homemade tacos. Beef, turkey, chicken, or pork all work well.
- Tomato Sauce--Really good tacos have a saucy tomato base, and by adding in a little bit of canned tomato sauce, you can easily replicate the taste of authentic tacos and keeps this taco meat super moist.
- Taco Seasoning--I use my homemade taco seasoning that I prepare in bulk which I love having on hand. But you can simply use the spices listed in the recipe card instead of using the homemade blend.
How To Cook Taco Meat
Homemade taco meat is one of the first things my mom had me make when I was learning to cook because it is so SIMPLE. But let me share a few tips to make this truly the best taco meat.
- Heat a large non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium high heat. If using a stainless steel skillet, add in ½ tablespoon oil to prevent meat from sticking.
- Add in ground meat and begin to break up in small chunks as the meat browns, stirring frequently to evenly brown the meat.
- Once the meat is browned, drain off excess grease, if you have any. You can even blot with a paper towel to absorb more grease, if desired.
Pro Tip: If you want to prepare taco meat like Mexican Restaurants, get out your food processor and pulse the browned up up meat until very small crumbles form. Be careful to not process. you simply want to pulse a few times to break the meat down. Return the skillet and proceed with the recipe.
- Return drained meat to skillet and add in tomato sauce, ¼ cup water, and the seasonings.
- Simmer over medium heat until liquid from tomatoes has been absorbed, about 5-7 minutes.
Ways to use Taco Meat
Of course it is traditional to serve this taco meat on soft or hard taco shells and top with your favorite toppings like cheese, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and sour cream. BUT, there are so many more creative ways to use taco meat.
- Taco Salad --Make a simple taco salad by starting with a base of lettuce then topping with taco meat, diced tomatoes, olives, onions, corn, cheese and of course some tortilla chips.
- Nachos--Spread out tortilla chips and top with this recipe for taco meat and cheese. Melt for 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven and then top with all the fresh toppings.
- Taco Pizza--Top homemade pizza dough with refried beans, taco meat, and cheese. Bake and top with all the taco toppings.
- Taco Pasta: Taco meat is used as the base of this super easy, one-pot pasta meal.
- Wonton Taco Cups--wontons are baked and served as mini taco shells.
- Stuffed Potatoes--I love to use perfectly baked sweet potatoes or russet baked potatoes as a healthy option for serving my taco meat. Simple, hearty, and always a winner at my house!
Using Frozen Meat
A lot of people ask me how to make taco meat using frozen ground beef or frozen ground chicken or turkey. I do not recommend trying to cook frozen meat in a skillet or defrost in a microwave. However, you can cook frozen meat in your instant pot for Instant Pot Taco Meat.
Once you have followed my directions for Instant Pot Frozen Ground Meat, release pressure, drain fat and then turn Instant Pot to saute function. Add in seasonings and tomatoes, water, and saute for 5 minutes or until warmed through. Serve as desired.
How to Freeze Taco Meat
Let me give you some advice--double, better yet triple, this recipe and freeze for the base for an easy dinner ready and waiting for you! If you follow these tips, you can have frozen taco meat ready to pull out of the freezer for busy nights--and these tips will help you prevent freezer burn on your meat!
- Prepare the recipe as directed, doubling or tripling the quantities used, and allow it to cool fully.
- Portion the prepared taco meat out into 1 pound or ½ pound servings.
- Place each portion into a freezer-safe storage bag. Squeeze out excess air from the bag and seal until only a small opening remains. One way to do this is to place a straw into the small opening, being sure the bag is sealed around the straw. Suck the air out of the bag through the straw and watch the bag collapse around the meat mixture. Remove straw and seal quickly.
- Label the bag and store it in the freezer for 3 months.
- To Thaw, place in the refrigerator night before needed and reheat in a microwave-safe dish. You can also thaw in the microwave, but a slow thaw is better.
Side Dishes for Tacos
- Pina Colada Smoothie
- Mexican Grilled Corn
- Cilantro Lime Rice
- Mexican Quinoa Salad
- Instant Pot Refried Beans
If you tried this recipe for taco meat out, please be sure to leave a comment and review below.
- 1 pound of lean ground sirloin or ground chicken, turkey or pork
- ½ cup tomato sauce
- ¼ cup water
- ½ tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon oregano
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Brown up the ground sirloin over medium-high heat, crumbling the beef up into small chunks. Once completely browned, drain off any excess fat and blot with a paper towel to get any residual grease.
- Return meat to heat and add in tomato sauce, water, and spices. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5-7 minutes.
- Serve as desired.
- Feel free to use any ground meat (chicken, pork, turkey, etc) for this Taco Meat recipe.
- In place of the spices, feel free to use 2 tablespoons Homemade Taco Seasoning.
- Omit the salt to control the sodium in these homemade tacos.
- Slow cooker Taco Meat: Brown the meat and place in slow cooker along with tomato sauce and taco seasoning. Add in ½ cup of water and cook on low for 4 hours.
- Store leftover cooled taco meat in a sealed container or storage bag for 3 days in the refrigerator and up to 3 months in the freezer.
We absolutely love this taco meat recipe! I have been making it by the recipe provided. I think I would like to make up a batch of your taco seasoning recipe to use in other dishes too. How much of that taco seasoning mix would you use in this recipe?
Thanks Beth! I would use 2 tablespoons of my homemade blend.
This is super simple and tastes amazing!
Kris from Florida
This was an awesome recipe! The only things I did different was added a beef bouillon cube into the water and I used tomato paste instead of sauce, ohhhh yummy! Thanks so much for sharing!
I am so glad you enjoyed! Thanks for sharing your modifications.
`I'd like to suggest a modification I just tried....instead of making a mess in a food processor, I used my metal bench scraper (which is very sharp actually) to break up the hamburger when it is RAW-...horizontally AND VERTICALLY.... IT WORKS really WELL TO BREAK UP THE MEAT and its WAY less messy.
Thank you so much for sharing Kay! That is a great tip!
I have tried many '5 star' taco meat recipes that often need a few tweaks to get the spices/sauciness I want. This is the one that required the least tweaks and gave exactly the amount of 'sauciness' that I prefer. I think I just added a tiny bit less salt based on other reviewers (would've probably been fine if I hadn't) and did half paprika/half smoked paprika. Loved this so much and the rest of my family enjoyed it too. My toddler even ate 2 whole tacos! THANK YOU!!! A true 5 star worthy recipe!
Thanks Lauren! So happy to hear that you enjoyed this taco meat so much!