Easy Ground Beef Tacos

updated Apr 10, 2020
Easy Ground Beef Tacos

These easy ground beef tacos are a winning weeknight dinner loaded with moist, flavorful beef and your favorite toppings.

Serves4 to 6

Prep15 minutes

Cook25 minutes

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Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot

When I was growing up, taco night was my favorite night of the week. My mom would buy those all-in-one boxes that included everything but the beef — vibrant yellow taco shells, an envelope of taco seasoning, and a sleeve of tomato salsa — and I’d scarf those tacos down in record time. I still crave this very Americanized take on a classic shredded beef taco, if only for the childhood nostalgia.

I’ve got two kids myself now, and I love serving them dishes from my childhood. So I set out to create my own version of my mom’s crispy ground beef tacos, featuring the same prepared taco shells partnered with a from-scratch beef filling. Here’s how I do it.

Easy Crispy Beef Tacos at Home

The centerpiece of any beef taco is, of course, the seasoned beef filling. For these tacos, you’ll start by browning lean ground beef and seasoning it with your favorite taco seasoning. Making taco seasoning from scratch doesn’t take long (and you can make a big batch in one go), but if you’ve got a store-bought packet on hand you can use that, too. You’ll also add a half cup of salsa, which makes the filling incredibly moist. You can make your own salsa using this blender method, or choose a smooth jarred tomato salsa in mild or medium. Skip chunky salsas or pico de gallos for this recipe.

You’ll also notice that these tacos are assembled and baked sort of like a casserole. The reasons for this are threefold: Baking packaged hard-shell tortillas helps them taste fresher, for one, but time in the oven also melts the cheese, and allows both the cheese and beef to soften the taco shells ever so slightly. All of this makes for tastier tacos that are easier to eat, too.

As for topping your tacos, my personal preference is a combination of shredded iceberg lettuce and chopped fresh tomatoes, but use whatever you’ve got — pickled red onion, sliced jalapeños, or a quick carrot slaw would all be great.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Easy Ground Beef Tacos

These easy ground beef tacos are a winning weeknight dinner loaded with moist, flavorful beef and your favorite toppings.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes

Serves4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 12

    crispy taco shells

  • 4 ounces

    sharp cheddar cheese, preferably yellow

  • 1

    small head iceberg lettuce

  • 1

    medium tomato

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1 pound

    lean ground beef

  • 3 tablespoons

    taco seasoning

  • 1/2 cup

    blended tomato salsa (see Recipe Note)

  • Serving options: sour cream, pickled jalapeño slices, pickled red onion

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 375ºF. Arrange 12 crispy taco shells with their opening facing up in a 9x13-inch baking dish.

  2. Grate 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese on the large holes of a box grater (about 1 cup). Divide the cheese between the taco shells, 2 to 3 tablespoons per shell.

  3. Thinly slice 1 small head iceberg lettuce into fine shreds. Cut 1 medium tomato into small dice.

  4. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add 1 pound lean ground beef and cook, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until cooked through and browned, about 8 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons taco seasoning and 1/2 cup salsa and cook until the sauce is thickened, about 3 minutes.

  5. Spoon the beef mixture into the taco shells, about 1/4 cup per shell. Bake until the cheese melts and the shells are heated through, about 10 minutes. Top the tacos with shredded lettuce and tomato. Top with sour cream, pickled jalapeños, and pickled onions if desired.

Recipe Notes

For the salsa: Choose a smooth tomato salsa in mild or medium. Skip chunky salsas or pico de gallos.

Storage: Leftover taco meat can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.