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How to Make the Most Delicious Taco Meat

Epicurious logo Epicurious 7/11/2017 Emily Johnson

© Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Anna Stockwell
When we think about how to make taco meat, our minds go to those Tex-Mex ground-beef tacos our moms made on Tuesday nights growing up. Sure, they bare no resemblance to any sort of authentic Mexican cuisine, but that's not the point. (You should totally learn to make real Mexican-style tacos, like carne asada, and tacos al pastor, and tinga de pollo, too!) But, as a guilty-pleasure or a trip down memory lane, nothing will do quite like spicy ground beef in a hard shell. Maybe your mom made her taco meat with a taco seasoning mix. No offense to her, but you can do a little better. Adding your own seasoning will satisfy that nostalgic craving for Tex-Mex, but taste way more delicious.

Making taco meat simply involves combining ground beef with Tex-Mex seasonings. The formula we give here is based on a recipe from Tex-Mex food authority Robb Walsh’s Tex-Mex Cookbook and is on the spicy side. You can adjust it by skipping or cutting back on the serrano peppers.

WATCH: Taco Seasoning

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Here's how to make taco meat at home:

1) Start with Sautéed Onions

A savory base of sautéed onion starts it all off. Cook chopped onion with a bit of oil in a skillet for a couple of minutes, just until wilted.

2) Add the Ground Beef and then the garlic and chile

At this point, add ground beef to the pan and cook, using your spatula to break the meat apart into small pieces and move it around. Keep breaking up the meat and stirring it (this will get easier as it cooks) until all of the pink color is gone. Next, add minced garlic and a bit of fresh chile to add even more depth and a hint of spice. Cook just until the garlic is soft, about another 2 minutes.

3. Add Tex-Mex Flavor to Your Taco Meat

Now it's time to make your own blend of spices. This will make your taco meat fresher, more flavorful, and more customizable than anything those sort of lame taco packets offer. Walsh's basic formula includes chili powder, ground black pepper, and ground cumin. Like more flavor? Up the chili powder. You could also up the amount of cumin if you love that taste, or boost the heat with red-pepper flakes or cayenne. You can also add paprika, garlic, and onion powder.

4. Cook the taco meat until well blended

Add the spice blend to the skillet with salt to season and a bit of water to help disperse the seasonings. Stir all of this together and let it cook until well blended, about 2 or 3 more minutes. And that's it! In the blink of an eye, your taco meat is ready to eat.

Now that you know how to make taco meat, make tacos! Duh. For a classic Tex-Mex taco, put this ground beef filling in a hard taco shell. Top it with whatever ingredients you like—shredded "Mexican" cheese blends, iceberg lettuce, sour cream, and tomatoes are the not-at-all authentic, but somehow-still-classic toppings. Want to have the very best taco experience you can possibly have? Why not go full mash-up and top them with fresh cilantro and avocado, pickled jalapeño, and maybe some fresh cheese, like cotija? When it comes to taco meat, there is no wrong.

Get this recipe: Ground Beef Tacos

GALLERY: 27 Recipes for Mexican Food That Aren't Tacos

<p>Mexican food might be the most crave-inducing cuisine out there. There's cheese, spice, crunch, rich sauces, delicate herbs, fresh vegetables. Oh, and avocado. So much avocado. Cinco de Mayo is the perfect occasion to expand out of your taco truck state of mind and try something other than a cheese quesadilla. Here are 27 recipeideas, from enchiladas to posole—and yes, guacamole.</p> 27 Recipes for Mexican Food That Aren't Tacos
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