Best Ever Ground Beef Taco Meat

This recipe for taco meat using lean ground beef, tomato sauce, ranch powder, and homemade taco seasoning is the tastiest and easiest to make ever. Ready in just minutes and so full of crowd-pleasing flavor, this family favorite recipe is affordable, approachable, kid-approved, and weeknight perfect. Make for meal prep lunch bowls or weeknight taco night dinner for the whole family.

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ground beef taco meat atop veggies and rice topped with ranch dressing
white bowl with taco meat, veggies, lettuce, brown rice, and a lime wedge

Why this recipe works

This recipe is everything you want ground beef taco meat to be. It is quick to make, uses pantry staple ingredients (minus the meat of course), and is as dependable a recipe as ever existed.

The key to the delicious flavor in this taco meat is 1) making our own homemade taco seasoning blend, which only takes a minute or two, 2) adding tomato sauce instead of just water, and 3) the secret ingredient / extra special touch: ranch seasoning powder. Sounds random but trust the process. This taco meat is creamy tasty in a glistening perfect sauce.

Taco meat is literally perfect for meal prep for the week – lunch or dinner. Make in tortilla wraps with lettuce and veggies. Serve in burrito bowls with veggies and rice. Stuff peppers or even layer on nachos. The possibilities are endless for this insanely versatile recipe.

About the ingredients

  • Lean ground beef. You can use whatever ground beef you like or that is within your budget, but I prefer lean ground beef.
  • Yellow onion. Alternatively, white onion may be used, but since white onions are larger, just use half if it is big. I do not recommend using a sweet or Vidalia onion, nor a red onion. If I don’t have a yellow or white onion, I will use 2 tablespoons dried minced onion instead.
  • No salt added tomato sauce. The taco seasoning brings ample salt and using regular tomato sauce pushes the sodium too far for even my salt-loving taste buds.
  • Taco seasoning. I prefer homemade for the superior flavor and because it literally takes a minute to make. The hardest part is just gathering the spices together. That said, if you opt for store-bought, then I recommend using 2 (1 oz) reduced sodium taco seasoning packets, and in this case omit the cornstarch.
  • Ranch seasoning powder. Just trust – this bit of ranch brings flavor, a little zing, and helps thicken the sauce.
  • Corn starch. Since, unlike store-bought packets, my homemade taco seasoning does not contain corn starch, I add a little to thicken up the sauce and make it perfect. This is optional.
collage of 2 photos showing raw then cooked beef and onion in skillet
collage of 2 photos showing seasonings and tomato sauce added, then mixed, into cooked ground beef

How to make taco meat

Whether I am using my own taco seasoning or store-bought packets, I always do this one thing: use tomato sauce rather than just water. This simple little trick is one of my tricks to making saucy, rich taco meat.

First, we ground the beef with the onion. Once the meat is cooked, we drain off the liquid. I do this be pushing the meat to one side, tilting the pan, and spooning off the juice into the sink.

Second, we add the tomato sauce and seasonings. We also add some water. Simply use the empty can from the tomato sauce and add about ~ a can and a half worth of water.

Simmer for 5-10 minutes, then add the corn starch (dissolve the corn starch in a bit of cool water first). Simmer another 10 minutes or so until sauce thickens up and it’s all yummy.

prepared taco meat in skillet with wooden spoon

How much taco meat per person?

Typically, people load about 2 ounces of taco meat per taco. Adults usually eat 2 to 3 tacos, and kids eat 1 to 1-1/2 tacos. So per adult, figure about 1/3 lb each to be generous (in actuality, it is 1/4 to 1/2 lb depending on the appetite, so 1/3 lb splits the difference) and 1/8 lb per kid.

For 2 adults and 2 kids, this is about a pound. For 4 adults, this is roughly a 1.25 to 1.5 lbs. If cooking for a lot of people, calculate 2 ounces per person. Plus I always through in a little extra because there is always that guy that can seriously put away some tacos.

How long does taco meat last?

Prepared ground beef taco meat will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Store in a sealed container, preferably glass. I don’t recommend storing in a plastic container as the tomato sauce and seasonings will stain the plastic. Leftover meat can be reheated on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Can taco meat be frozen?

Prepared ground beef taco meat freezes very well. I recommend putting in a resealable container and layering a piece of plastic wrap right on top. This protects the meat to prevent freezer burn before putting on the lid. Another option is to put the taco meat in a resealable freezer bag. This way it will lay flat in your freezer. Taco meat can be frozen for 2 to 3 months.

What to do with leftover taco meat?

Here are some recipes I found from fellow bloggers that can all use leftover taco meat for easy meals.

Suggested side dishes

Want tacos but don’t know what to serve with your tacos? Here are a couple of my own recipes that would just love to saddle up next to your tacos.


How much meat should be cooked per person?

An adult will each 2-3 ounces of taco meat, or 2-3 tacos. If cooking for more people, plan 2 ounces per person, but add in a buffer to ensure you have enough.

How long will taco meat keep?

Prepared and cooked taco meat will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator and 3 months in the freezer.

What is the best way to store taco meat?

Store cooked taco meat in a glass container with a lid or in a resealable bag (where it can lay flat). Plastic should be avoided since the tomato sauce and seasonings will cause stains.

Can purchased taco seasoning be substituted for homemade seasoning?

Yes. Use 2 packets of taco seasoning. I prefer reduced sodium since they still have plenty of salt to season the meat.

Can ground turkey be used instead of beef?

Yes. Use ground turkey and proceed with the recipe as written.

Is this recipe gluten-free?

Yes this is a gluten-free recipe provided my taco seasoning is used. I can’t vouch for purchased taco seasonings.

taco meat, veggies, and rice on top of spinach tortilla wrap topped with ranch dressing

Be sure to check out my recipe archives for Taco Night for more taco inspiration.

ground beef taco meat atop veggies and rice topped with ranch dressing

Ground Beef Taco Meat

This recipe for taco meat using lean ground beef, tomato sauce, ranch powder, and homemade taco seasoning is the tastiest and easiest to make ever. Ready in just minutes and so full of crowd-pleasing flavor, this family favorite recipe is affordable, approachable, kid-approved, and weeknight perfect.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican-inspired
Keyword: ground beef taco meat
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Authur: Erica
Servings: 8
Calories: 201kcal




  • Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and onion, and cook, stirring often and breaking up the meat until no longer pink. Drain juices.
  • To the meat and onion mixture, add the tomato sauce, taco seasoning, and ranch seasoning powder. Use the emptied tomato sauce can to add ~1-½ cans worth of water to the skillet. Stir to combine.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer ~10 minutes. Stir occasionally and reduce heat if necessary to keep at a gentle simmer.
  • Dissolve the corn starch in 1 Tbsp cool water and add to the skillet. Continue to simmer 5-10 minutes until mixture thickens and sauce glistens.


If not using my taco seasoning, I recommend using 2 packets of reduced sodium taco seasoning and omitting the corn starch.
Regarding the corn starch, I prefer to add it to get the sauce more saucy. It can be omitted; however, longer cook time may be required to condense the liquid.


Calories: 201kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 70mg | Sodium: 376mg | Potassium: 112mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g

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