Simmered in a three-chile sauce, this spicy taco meat recipe will take your Mexican dinners to the next level. Perfectly spiced and served in warm tortillas, this simple recipe makes the best beef tacos, quesadillas, nachos and more!
Why You’ll Love This Taco Meat Recipe
Served in a bunch of different ways and super family-friendly, this ground beef dinner will earn a place in your regular meal rotation.
- Quick. It’s ready in less than an hour and takes even less time to throw together if you prep ahead.
- Easy. There are no complicated steps involved. If you can blend a sauce, brown some beef, and mix them together, this recipe will be a breeze!
- Authentic. Packed with dried chiles and traditional spices, there’s no questioning that this taco meat recipe is the real deal.
- Versatile. You can use it to make tacos, taco bowls, burritos, nachos, gorditas, and tostadas. You’ll never get tired of it.
- Family-friendly. With or without veggies, spicy or mild, you can adjust this recipe to your family’s taste so everyone enjoys it.
All you need are a couple of dried chiles and simple spices. Check the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post for full ingredient amounts.
For the Sauce
- Guajillo Chiles: Dried guajillo chiles give your taco meat a great smokey flavor with a medium amount of heat.
- Ancho Chile: If you do not have dried ancho chiles, you can swap them for more guajillo chiles.
- Water: Or beef broth.
- Chipotle in Adobo: You will only need one chipotle in adobo out of the can. Freeze any leftovers for another time!
- Black Pepper
For the Meat
- Vegetable Oil: Corn and canola oil work great too.
- Ground Beef: You can substitute this for any kind of ground meat you prefer. I used lean ground beef.
- Ground Cumin
- Dried Oregano: Feel free to leave this out if you aren’t an oregano fan. For extra authenticity, use Mexican Oregano.
- Black Pepper
How to Make Taco Meat
Learning how to make taco meat requires nothing more than blending a sauce and pouring it into the beef. It’s easy! Check the recipe card at the bottom of the post for more detailed instructions.
- Soak Chiles: Place the guajillo and ancho chiles in a heat-proof bowl with boiling water until they’re completely submerged. Let them soak for 10-15 minutes, or until soft. Strain the chiles and reserve the liquid.
- Blend Sauce: Add the soaked chiles, chipotle, salt, and pepper to a blender or food processor. Pour in 1/2 cup of the chile’s soaking liquid. Process until smooth. Strain the sauce and set it aside.
- Brown The Meat: Saute the ground beef for 8-10 minutes, until browned and crumbled. Sprinkle in the cumin, oregano, paprika, salt, and pepper. Mix to combine.
- Simmer: Reduce the heat to medium-low and pour the blended sauce in. Mix well. Let it simmer for 15-20 minutes, but don’t let the sauce be completely absorbed so keep an eye on the stove. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Remove it from the heat and serve.
Ways to Serve It
If you fry the tacos, you can make crispy beef taquitos and top them with shredded lettuce, Mexican crema, and your favorite salsa — my favorite is this easy restaurant style salsa. Finally, serving it over Mexican rice is perfect for a taco bowl dinner with guacamole, sweet corn, Mexican beans, etc.
Tips for the Best Taco Meat
Making the best taco meat recipe is easy when you know how to play around with the ingredients to make it more filling and even reduce the heat.
- Play with the chiles. You can use all-guajillo or all-ancho chile for this recipe. Feel free to use a combination of them. Swapping the chipotle for chile morita is a yummy alternative too.
- Swap the meat. Ground chicken, pork, or turkey make amazing taco meat. Make this recipe as usual but you might need a little more salt and pepper so season accordingly.
- Add veggies. Fresh, frozen, or canned veggies like corn, carrots, and peas can be mixed into the taco meat to make the meal more filling. If using frozen, make sure they’re thawed. If using canned, rinse and drain them well.
- Reduce the heat. Omit the chipotle and reduce the guajillo to only 5 or 6 chiles. This will tone down the heat.
- Prep ahead. Blend the sauce in advance to save some time throughout the week. You can also freeze the sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 6 months. I often make a double batch to have on hand for next time.
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
Once fully cooled, refrigerate the leftovers of this taco meat recipe in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Keep it away from heat and sunlight when on the counter for reheating and serving.
To reheat it, sprinkle in 1 teaspoon of water and microwave it for up to a minute. You can also heat it in a pan over medium-low heat for 6-7 minutes.
Can I Freeze Extras?
Absolutely! Place it in freezer-friendly bags or containers in serving-size portions. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw it overnight in the fridge before reheating as usual.
What To Do With Leftover Taco Meat
More Mexican Recipes to Try
- Rajas (Creamy Roasted Poblanos)
- Salpicon (Mexican Chilled Beef Salad)
- Carne en su Jugo
- Nopales Asados Tacos
- Carne Molida
- Instant Pot Cochinita Pibil
- Mexican Carne Guisada
Spicy Taco Meat
For the Sauce
For the Meat
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 ½ pounds ground beef
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano, or Mexican oregano
- ¼ teaspoon ground paprika, or smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Place the guajillo and ancho chiles in a heat-proof bowl. Pour the water over them until they're completely submerged. Let them soak for 10-15 minutes, until soft. Strain the chiles and reserve the liquid. Set them aside.
- Add the soaked chiles, chipotle in adobo, salt, and pepper to a blender. Pour in 1/2 cup of the chile's soaking liquid. Process everything until you get a smooth mixture. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Strain the sauce and set it aside.
- Place a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil and let it heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the ground beef. Let it cook for 8-10 minutes, until browned. Use a spatula to break up the meat as it cooks.
- Sprinkle in the cumin, oregano, paprika, salt, and pepper. Mix to combine.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and pour the blended sauce in. Mix well. Let it simmer for 15-20 minutes, but don't let the sauce be completely absorbed so keep an eye on the stove.
- Season with more salt and pepper, to taste. Remove from the heat and serve as desired.
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