Here’s a taco meat recipe that has all the right spices you would love in a perfect homemade taco. There’s no need to buy one of those $1.25 packs of taco seasoning at the grocery store. It’s made with a taco seasoning mix of spices you probably already have in your pantry.
Why This Recipe Works
Besides having a great blend of spices to season the meat, there is an additional step to making these tacos Restaurant Style. That’s what I’m calling it anyway.
After the meat is browned in your skillet, you are left with inconsistent chunks of meat no matter how hard you try to break it up. If you leave them this way, the chunks have a tendency to fall out of your tortilla shell because they don’t stay together properly.
So the Pro Tip is to throw the meat into a food processor and pulse it 5 or 6 times to break the meat into small, consistent pieces that hold together once they are prepared.
This technique is a total game-changer. It makes the tacos easier to eat for one. And the smoother texture makes for a superior mouthfeel. The difference is remarkable.
What Ground Meat To Use
The meat you use is totally up to you as any ground meat can be seasoned for tacos. I tend to prefer ground beef or ground pork.
The meat I used for this recipe was a 50/50 blend of pork and beef. The beef was ground chuck that was an 80/20 lean-to-fat blend. The rendered fat gets skimmed off once the meat is browned.
You can use lean ground beef too, but I think that the added fat gives the meat more flavor and that’s why I use it in this recipe.
Also, ground chicken or turkey could be used.
The spices for the ground meat are simple. The chili powder I used was McCormick’s brand Dark Chili. The salt I use all the time is Diamond Crystal Kosher salt. And the remaining spices are from Penzey’s.
The only other thing going into the meat is tomato paste and water.
Here’s another Hot Tip. Tomato paste comes in those little 5 or 6-ounce sizes and a lot of the time the whole can doesn’t get used. When that is the case, I use a small scoop and place balls of paste onto a baking sheet. Then put the sheet into the freezer to harden the paste. Once the tomato paste is frozen, it goes into a freezer bag. Stored in the freezer, it is easy to take out the amount needed for your next recipe.
Preparing the Taco Meat
Use a large skillet on medium heat to brown the meat you are using. This will take 5 to 7 minutes.
Tilt the skillet slightly and push the meat to one side and the rendered fat will run to the bottom. Use a spoon to scoop out and dispose of the fat.
Then, carefully place the browned meat into a food processor and pulse the meat 5 or 6 times to break it into small pieces.
Put the ground meat back into the skillet on medium-low heat and add the tomato paste and the spices.
In the photo below you can see the frozen tomato paste that has been added to the ground meat.
The spices were measured with totally level amounts. No rounding of the ingredients. This will ensure that this spice mixture in the meat can be duplicated exactly.
Once the spices are added, pour in one cup of water and fold the meat with a spatula to combine. Keep the heat on low and simmer until most of the water has evaporated.
This will result in meat that is totally combined with the spices and with the addition of the water will hold together well when added to a taco shell.
Before you serve this taco meat recipe be sure to give it a taste test. You may want to add more salt, chili powder, or cayenne pepper. Or you may say that this is absolutely perfect.
Putting It All Together
Now that the taco meat is cooked and seasoned there is only one thing to do…and that is Make Tacos!
There are lots of toppings for tacos and you probably already have your favorites. I keep the toppings pretty simple and generally have shredded cheese, chopped lettuce, onion, tomatoes, black olives, chopped cilantro, taco sauce, and sour cream.
Other ideas: Hot sauce, lime juice, guacamole, salsa, refried beans, jalapenos, pico de Gallo, and chopped scallions.
Finally…your choice of taco shell or wrapper. Will it be flour or corn? This is totally personal preference. I use flour tortillas that have been browned on a griddle. You may like the hard shell corn ones or even a combination of flour and corn.
However you make your tacos, I hope that you enjoy this taco meat recipe. Leave a comment below telling me how it went for you.
Here are some more South-of-the Border recipe ideas:
- Mexican Rice
- Mexican Street Corn Salad
- Homemade Jalapeno Taco Sauce
- Wicked Good Fish Taco Recipe
- Spicy Grilled Shrimp Tacos
Easy Restaurant-Style Taco Meat Recipe
- 1/2 lbs. ground beef, 80/20 or 85/15
- 1/2 lbs. ground pork
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 cup water
- 2 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- Using a large skillet on medium to medium-high heat, add the ground beef and pork to brown. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to break up the meat. This should take 5 to 7 minutes.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and push the meat to one side then tilt the skillet at an angle and let the rendered grease pool in the bottom of the skillet. Use a spoon to scoop out the liquid and discard it. Then carefully place the browned meat into a food processor and pulse the meat 5 or 6 times to make small granules of ground meat.
- Place the meat back into the skillet on medium-low heat and stir in the tomato paste and the seasonings. Then add the water and continue to fold the meat to combine the seasonings well. Simmer until most of the water has evaporated. This will take about 10 minutes.
- Taste the meat and adjust the seasonings as desired. Then assemble your tacos with your choice of fixings.
- Level spoon measurements were used for all of the spices.
- The nutrition facts are for the taco meat only using an 80/20 blend for the ground beef. That is 4 people getting 2 tacos each. A taco shell and fixings will add 125 to 150 calories per taco.
- Leftover taco meat can be stored refrigerated in an air-tight container for 3 days. You can also freeze the leftover meat in a sealed, air-tight container for up to 3 months.
- Make additional taco seasoning mix and store it in a shaker container to season hamburgers, pork chops, or chicken. It is especially good for grilling.