If you grew up in the USA, there’s a good chance you grew up eating ground beef tacos. It’s a classic, family-friendly dish that kids and adults can eat together. There’s a reason Taco Bell sells millions of ’em. But you can make them a lot better yourself at home, with no mystery ingredients!
Lots of people use pre-made taco seasoning, and I have it in my pantry as well. In fact, it’s a key ingredient in two of our most popular recipes: Best-Ever Mexican Black Beans and Five-Ingredient Mexican Rice. I just don’t love it for making tacos. I wanted to make ground beef tacos from scratch for a more complex, balanced flavor. I played around with this combination of chipotle chiles, tomato sauce, and traditional Mexican seasonings, and I think it’s a winner!
My husband and 14-year-old son could not stop eating these tacos. We had them for dinner two nights in a row, as I was testing the recipe and taking photos, and no one complained! Our grown daughter who’s a nurse was also happy to see there were some left over when she got back from a long night shift in labor and delivery. She deserves a little comfort food after taking care of mamas and babies all night!
This recipe uses canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. Chipotle chiles are jalapeños that have been smoked, so they are a dark, reddish brown color. They’re medium spicy, with a distinctive, smoky taste. If you’re hesitant about spicy food, remove the seeds from your chipotles, and start with half the amount called for in the recipe. You can always add more if you want more heat.
There are eight or so chiles in each can, an amount you could never use for one recipe! Instead of throwing away the leftovers, I usually chop up the whole can of chipotles, mixed with the adobo sauce from the can, and put about 2 tablespoons of this mixture in each compartment of an ice cube tray. You can use a food processor to chop the chiles, or just use a knife. Make sure to wash your hands after handling any kind of hot pepper. Freeze the chopped chiles, then pop out the cubes and store them in a ziploc bag in the freezer. They will stay fresh in the freezer for a year.
Making these ground beef tacos from scratch is a simple three-step process. The first step is to cook ground beef, onion, garlic, and salt together in a skillet, then drain away the excess fat. Next, return the meat mixture to the skillet add chopped chipotle chiles, chile powder, oregano, and cumin. Cook and stir until the seasonings are well incorporated and starting to get toasty.
The third step is to simmer the seasoned ground beef with tomato sauce, water, and a touch of agave nectar or honey. The simmering process develops the flavor of dried herbs and spices. Simmer the taco filling long enough to evaporate most of the water, so your tacos aren’t soggy.
While the taco meat is simmering, taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking. Sometimes I’ll add a touch more salt, garlic salt, oregano, or agave. It’s easy to make a double batch of this taco filling, using three pounds of ground beef. You can divide it into two or three portions, depending on the size of your family, and keep some in the freezer to use on a night when you don’t have time to cook.
When it comes to tacos, some people are team hard shell, and others are team soft shell. Choose your favorite. For ground beef tacos, I like crunchy corn shells. You can also use this filling for tostadas, burritos, nachos, rice bowls, or taco salad. Serve your ground beef tacos with lots of toppings, like shredded cheese, pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, diced tomato, diced white onion, or chopped fresh cilantro. Elevate your classic ground beef tacos with this from-scratch recipe, and you won’t be sorry!
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases. Nutrition info is for prepared taco meat only.
Serving Size: 2 oz. prepared taco meat
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 151Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 51mgSodium: 288mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 17g
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Nutrition info is for prepared taco meat only.