For Taco Tuesday hard-shell tacos, DUH.
Mexican and Indian are my true all the time, tried and true, even love the leftovers, favorite cuisines of all time. We eat a variation of each at least once per week, and I love that Mexican food specifically lends itself to so many different types of foods, uses for extra veggies, all of the good stuff. Plus: flavor. condiments. cilantro. All good stuff.
Recipe Notes and Variations
This Mexican ground beef is super basic and probably not very authentic at all. It tastes a lot like ground beef found in hard shell tacos, and is made WITHOUT a taco seasoning packet. The meat is simple to make, gluten free, and taco meat leftovers are delicious for a few days in the fridge.
Pro Tip: Some taco seasoning packets have gluten in them as a filler or anti-caking ingredient, so I especially like using this homemade taco seasoning recipe when cooking for friends of ours that have Celiac or other auto-immune disorders that cause gluten to make them sick.
I use the same spice blend with crumbled tofu, ground chicken, even fish flaked for tacos, and the results are delicious and adored each time. How you use the beef is up to you - hard shell tacos are so fun and easy, but this is great on salads, in burritos, or as a part of any other Mexican meal you enjoy.
I love making a batch of this at the beginning of the week and using it several ways for a few meals. Taco meat leftovers are the best kind of leftovers, imo.
Officially, ¼ pound is about how much to portion per person. I find that 1 pound of meat does well for 4 people that are eating other stuff (guac, beans, etc), but if you have big eaters or want leftovers definitely double or even triple this recipe. This is a great ground beef recipe for big crowds!
Honestly, sort of! Chili powder blends often have some onion powder, garlic powder, and cumin right in the spice blend. I like adding more of each, and really like the measurements of this particular seasoning blend. But, if all you have is chili powder that will work too, just be sure you add enough salt to flavor the meat.
This is a verrrryyyy personal thing, but honestly I love a very plain taco - lettuce, cheese, tomatoes. Other things that we sometimes add are pickled jalapenos, chopped onion, sour cream, salsa, and black beans.
Homemade Taco Seasoning Ingredients
You need ground beef, any kind you like. The spices are seasoned salt (or regular salt if you don't keep seasoned salt around), chili powder, cumin, onion powder, and garlic powder.
The beef is cooked in a combination of oil and butter and we simmer it with some water for just a few minutes before serving.
**Note that some recipes use cornstarch or flour to thicken the ground beef during the water simmering phase. This is a yummy thing to do, gives kind of a gravy texture to the whole dish. HOWEVER, I couldn't be bothered, and not using flour ensures that this is a gluten free ground beef recipe, aka EVERYONE GET IN ON THIS.**
Step By Step Instructions
How To Cook The Ground Beef For Tacos: To start, heat a skillet over medium-high heat with the oil and butter. When the skillet is very hot, add the beef and break it up with a spoon.
Let the beef sit for about a minute between stirring each time to develop a crust on the outside. After about 5 minutes, add the spices to the skillet and stir them into the beef.
Let the spices cook for two minutes, then add the water and simmer for about three minutes to make a teensy bit of a sauce and meld the flavors.
Taste the beef and add any more of the spices that you'd like. You can also sprinkle in some hot sauce or cayenne pepper if you like things spicy!
While the beef is cooking, gather up taco shells and anything you'd like to top your beef tacos with.
Beef Tacos Topping and Serving Ideas
Now, to serve. The serving options and topping ideas for a simple Mexican beef recipe like this are endless.
- Usually we use this beef for hard shell beef tacos, old school, with just lettuce, tomato, cheese, and sour cream. SO GOOD.
- Another of our favorite dinners is a batch of red Mexican rice, this beef, and any toppings we can quickly grab out of the fridge. Sometimes I make some quick skillet fajita veggies, sometimes we cut up a bunch of lettuce and tomatoes and make quick burrito bowls bowls.
- This is a great ground beef recipe for low carb taco salads as well!
Make Ahead and Storage
- To meal prep this, make the entire recipe and let it cool, then store the ground beef in the fridge for up to 5 days or freezer for...until you eat it.
- I often make a double batch and have some the week I make it, then freeze the rest for the next time we need a quick weeknight Mexican dinner.
Add this to your weeknight arsenal - it's so versatile that the meals you use it in will feel different each time, and you'll never have to force the taco meat leftovers on anyone (if there even are any).
Easy Ground Beef Tacos Without Taco Seasoning
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt or kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ cup water
- Preheat a skillet to medium-high heat with the oil and butter. When the skillet is hot, add the beef and cook for about 5 minutes, breaking it up with a spoon as you go.
- Add all of the spices to the skillet and stir to combine for 2 minutes. Pause between stirring to allow the beef and spices to toast together.
- Add the water to the skillet and let reduce until there is just a bit of sauce left in the skillet. Taste the beef and season additionally with any of the spices as desired.
- Serve in tacos, burritos, over rice, or with salads. Excessive toppings encouraged. Enjoy!
This recipe was originally published in April, 2018, and has been updated with more clear instructions.